Public storage and RV storage facilities near downtown Costa Mesa are set to give way to 38 new townhomes following a unanimous City Council decision Tuesday night.
Seal Beach-based Olson Co. can move ahead with its plan to develop a residential community on about 1.86 acres it owns north and south of Ford Road at Newport Boulevard.
The new homes are to be three stories tall and feature Spanish Colonial architecture. Units range from 1,288 to 1,814 square feet with two or three bedrooms.
Haggai Mazler, director of development for the Olson Co., said the project will bring much-needed housing to Costa Mesa, increase walkability in the area and clean up a run-down corner.
“For Costa Mesa, we believe it’s the beautification of a blighted area,” Mazler said.
The “thoughtful design” of the project “balances the concerns of all the parties involved — maintaining access while calming traffic,” he added.
Access has been the primary question surrounding the proposal since it was publicly unveiled last year.
Originally, the development called for closing a portion of Ford Road near Newport Boulevard to through traffic — an idea that drew concerns and criticism from some residents, particularly in nearby mobile-home parks, who said Ford Road provides a crucial cut-through to Harbor Boulevard that skirts the traffic headache where the 55 Freeway ends at 19th Street.
After a series of community meetings in the past year — more than 50, according to Mazler — the developer revised the project to include a one-way, privately owned access road from Newport Boulevard that would be open to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists. Vehicles would use Ford Road to exit the site.
“I am very appreciative that we’ve found a way to keep the street open for the mobile-home people but not have a two-way throughway for the people who are on Ford Road who are looking for a little more peace and quiet,” said Mayor Sandy Genis. “I do believe this project will be an asset.”
Not everyone was as convinced. Some speakers Tuesday said the planned 16-foot-wide access route more closely resembles a driveway than a proper road and should be redesigned to make it clearer that it’s open for public use.
Others said they worried that the project’s building height and proximity to the adjacent Rolling Homes mobile-home park would threaten the privacy of residents there. Some questioned whether the project provides sufficient open space.
However, many speakers — including some residents on or near Ford Road — praised the project, saying they think it will markedly improve an area that isn’t visually appealing and struggles with safety issues stemming from crime, loitering and drug use.
“Overall, it will be far better than what’s there now in terms of eliminating the haven for transients and definitely in terms of beautification,” said Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor. “It’s going to be an improvement; it’s going to increase our tax base; it’s going to beautify our city.”
Councilwoman Katrina Foley said she believes the project reflects “a great deal of community outreach” and will transform the area into a “quality neighborhood community.”
“It will actually benefit the mobile-home park residents because they will now have an area they can walk though safely,” she said.
Mazler said construction is expected to start in the spring and be completed in two years or less.
In a separate move Tuesday, council members voted unanimously to create a new city committee aimed at addressing issues and concerns in local mobile-home parks.
The panel will consist of nine members: three park owners or their representatives, four mobile-home residents and two people unaffiliated with mobile-home parks.
Overlay decision delayed
As their meeting crawled toward midnight, council members delayed deciding the fate of the city’s “residential incentive overlay,” which permits development of up to 40 housing units per acre at select sites along Harbor and Newport boulevards.
The overlay was created as part of the 2016 update to the city’s general plan and, though it’s never been used, opponents have said it would permit haphazard and overly dense development at the expense of part of the city’s commercial base and worsen traffic along the already bustling roads.
Supporters have said the overlay could encourage redevelopment of blighted, outdated or undesirable properties, particularly some motels.