Costa Mesa commission approves new event venue and delays decision on mixed-use project in Sobeca district

Costa Mesa planning commissioners voted Monday to pump the breaks on the Plant, a mixed-use development proposed by the company that developed the Camp and the Lab, saying more work is needed to address the project’s parking situation.

However, the commission didn’t see parking concerns as enough of a roadblock to reject an event venue, Alleylujah, also pitched by Costa Mesa-based Lab Holding LLC in essentially the same area.

On a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Carla Navarro Woods opposed, the commission signed off on plans to open the venue at 2955 Randolph Ave.

Alleylujah will have about 2,300 square feet of indoor space, plus a sizable outdoor area to give visitors more room to mingle and relax, according to plans submitted to the city. It will be used for business meetings and other private events.

The commission’s decision is final unless appealed to the City Council within seven days.

This is the second new event venue the commission has approved in as many months. On Nov. 13, commissioners approved plans to open a facility called the Harper on the city’s Westside.

As is seemingly always the case with projects proposed in Costa Mesa’s Sobeca district — a 39-acre zone that includes the Camp and the Lab commercial centers on Bristol Street — the major concern raised about Alleylujah on Monday was whether there is sufficient parking available to accommodate it.

To meet city parking requirements, Alleylujah would tap spots available at two other Lab Holding properties: 2991 Randolph Ave. and 765 St. Clair St. Valet services would be used, and the venue’s operations would be designed to minimize effects on other businesses, officials said Monday.

“We’re trying to be responsible and sensitive and not encroach on others,” said Linda Sadeghi of Lab Holding. “The parking that’s required, we have met.”

Woods, however, said she doesn’t think the proposal fits the area.

“I just don’t see how this will work,” she said.

Even commissioners who supported the venue expressed frustration that the city has yet to develop strategies to sufficiently address parking concerns throughout the Sobeca area.

“We seem to be floundering with respect to finding a permanent solution to parking for the whole district, and I’m losing patience,” said commission Vice Chairman Byron de Arakal. “At some point — and I don’t know when it’s going to be — I have to start saying ‘no’ until we find a parking solution.”

Barry Curtis, Costa Mesa’s economic and development services director, said city staff is working to develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle parking issues in Sobeca.

De Arakal and his colleagues did find parking to be a big enough concern to delay a vote on the Plant.

Though commissioners were largely complimentary of the project — which would redevelop about 2.3 acres at the corner of Baker Street and Century Place to create new housing, retail and restaurant space — a major sticking point was the idea of using 27 on-street spaces to help the project meet its parking requirements.

That kind of arrangement hasn’t been done before in the city, according to staff.

”Moving forward, how can you say, ‘Well, for this applicant we’re going to allow that,’ but for the next applicant we’re going to say ‘no.’ … I’ve got problems with that,” said commission Chairman Stephan Andranian.

The spaces in question would be along Century Place — partially in the public right of way and partly on Lab Holding’s property.

“We’re just basically giving 10 feet of our property away so that we can have better street parking for everyone,” said Lab Holding founder Shaheen Sadeghi. “It’s really a compromise.”

However, commissioners weren’t sold on the concept. They delayed voting on the project and directed city staff to explore other parking options.

The Plant development would renovate four existing commercial buildings to create 21,990 square feet of retail and restaurant space surrounding a central garden.

The project also calls for a new 520-square-foot greenhouse structure and a new four-story building with a mix of residential and office space above a two-level, 158-stall parking structure.

That building would have 48 apartments with studio, one- and two-bedroom floor plans and an additional six units designated as live/work.

It’s not yet known when the proposal will return to the Planning Commission.

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