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Resistance remains as Fountain Valley Crossings' environmental report heads to council vote

Resistance remains as Fountain Valley Crossings' environmental report heads to council vote
Tom Gergen displays a map of the Fountain Valley Crossings area to other skeptics of the area's possible redevelopment during a gathering Thursday. (Hillary Davis | Daily Pilot)

Tom Gergen thinks the Fountain Valley City Council has made up its mind about the Fountain Valley Crossings rezoning plan that could allow the redevelopment of 162 acres in the southwest portion of the city.

The council wants it, he said. He doesn't.

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He acknowledged that he doesn't think he'll change any minds. But he wants city leaders to know, in advance of a council vote Tuesday on certifying the final environmental study on the plan, that not everybody is keen on the idea of letting a largely industrial area — bordered by Ward Street, Talbert and Ellis avenues and the Santa Ana River — morph into a diverse blend of retail and entertainment venues and up to about 500 homes.

Gergen and about a half-dozen other like-minded residents huddled at picnic tables Thursday evening at a city park off Ellis Avenue, just outside the proposed Crossings boundaries, to swap criticisms of the plan.

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Crossings opponent Kim Constantine reminds the City Council of her disapproval during the public comment session at every council meeting. She organized Thursday's get-together, as she has several others at the park, and has walked neighborhoods and commercial centers to spread her view and gather feedback.

"Some people ask me, 'Kim, what's the main reason you don't want this?' " she said.

She paused.

"There's so many reasons."

Like the others who sat around her, she worries about parking woes, increased traffic and burgeoning enrollment burdening nearby schools. She worries that some property owners will be tempted to evict small-business owners so they can sell their land to developers.

Opponents also have concerns about a potential increase in crime and the demolition of homes and other buildings to widen roads to handle increased activity.

Constantine is a seasoned critic of local initiatives, including the sales tax increase that city voters approved last fall and a large LED billboard that had been proposed along the 405 Freeway near Euclid Street in 2015.

On Thursday, she and Gergen propped open a box holding hundreds of crisp copies of a flier explaining their position and set out a stack of petition forms they plan to forward to the City Council. They referenced plan maps filed neatly in plastic page protectors in a green binder.

Gergen, who heads an anti-Crossings group called Fountain Valley United, held up a multicolored map showing the various use districts within the Crossings boundaries. They include residential, office, retail and industrial.

"Could we have created anything more convoluted, more complex?" he said.

The Crossings would follow form-based code that concentrates on features such as buildings' architectural elements, size and mass. It's an alternative to traditional, use-based zoning.

That isn't to Gergen's liking either.

"It's just not compatible with our city," he said.

City officials have said no redevelopment is imminent. The projected build-out is in 2035.

The 162-acre Crossings area is in the southwest part of Fountain Valley, bordered by Ward Street, Talbert and Ellis avenues and the Santa Ana River.
The 162-acre Crossings area is in the southwest part of Fountain Valley, bordered by Ward Street, Talbert and Ellis avenues and the Santa Ana River. (Courtesy city of Fountain Valley)

"The FVCSP [Fountain Valley Crossings Specific Plan] is a zoning tool that has a 20-year horizon," city planning and building director Matt Mogensen wrote in a report for Tuesday's council meeting. "Adoption of the FVCSP will not cause overnight changes to occur in the district, but it will likely foster future changes."

The city Planning Commission certified the plan’s environmental impact report in May, with some caveats, particularly on limiting the housing in the mixed-use “activity core” to 491 units. Residents both for and against redevelopment packed the commission meeting.

Supporters said they want higher-end shopping and dining, more housing options, more potential revenue streams and a lively “city center.” They praised the city for being forward-thinking.

Augie Lascola is skeptical that the centralized, pedestrian-centric live-work-and-play concept for the Crossings’ village-like activity core would take hold. He also said the city hasn’t offered a detailed “dollars and cents” fiscal analysis of how much property and sales tax revenue redevelopment would yield.

“They’re spinning a dream,” Lascola said.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Fountain Valley City Hall, 10200 Slater Ave.

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD

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