COSTA MESA — They brought in an artist rendering of their ideal recycling center, submitted paperwork to get it approved at a new location a block away, and by Mayor Gary Monahan's own assessment, they made progress toward moving the business.
Despite all that, the Costa Mesa City Council in a 4-1 vote turned down Garcia Recycling Center's request to extend its stay at 739 W. 19th Street past Feb. 14, its deadline to close shop.
Councilwoman Wendy Leece cast the dissenting vote and unsuccessfully recommended a 30-day extension.
Outside the council chambers, Garcia Recycling Center's attorney, Patricia Chen, seemed surprised at the decision and said she was disappointed.
At the Nov. 16 meeting, the council revoked Garcia's business permit, but with a caveat: "If Garcia Recycling is unable to find a suitable alternative location within 90 days, but has made diligent efforts and/or substantial progress toward relocation … then the 90 days' stay may be extended."
Monahan pointed out Tuesday night that the caveat wasn't a promise — a point made clear when he and other council members acclaimed Garcia's progress toward a new location.
Garcia Recycling already has plans to relocate to 2025 Placentia Ave., where a deal is imminent, assured Placentia Avenue property owner John Morehart.
But what Garcia Recycling Center could be and what it is are separate issues, Councilman Jim Righeimer said. He argued residents should not have to endure another nine months or more of noise, homeless-related issues and smells emanating from the center.
"I can guarantee there'll be litigation [over this], and I want to get that over as soon as possible," he said.
Before the council voted, Chen made a case for leaving Garcia Recycling open until the facility can build a new indoor center with drive-through capabilities.
"We will do whatever the City Council wants," Chen said. "We just want to maintain operation at the site. If we have to modify some operations, we can do that."
It's too little, too late, Monahan said. If there were ways to appease neighborhood complaints, Garcia Recycling should have done them already, Monahan told Chen.
In November, the City Council revoked Garcia's business license it has had for 20 years at the location.
The business flourished more than other recycling businesses in Costa Mesa, handling 4.2 million pounds of recyclables each month. At the behest of residents, council members concluded that Garcia Recycling had outgrown its location and was becoming a nuisance.
"As the council is aware, many individuals rely on Garcia Recycling, and Garcia Recycling believes it has a responsibility to continue to serve the community and keep its employees employed until it is able to relocate," read Chen's request letter to the city.