Commission: Education needed on converted garages

COSTA MESA — The Costa Mesa Planning Commission on Monday backed away from restricting garages at apartment complexes after concerns about them being converted into residences arose.

Initially proposed as a three-phase program — which included certifying garages aren't being used as residences, limiting future garage inspection and increasing community education — the commission whittled it down to an education-only effort.

"I think education is going to be the only way that anything constructive is going to come of that," Commissioner Sam Clark said. "It doesn't matter how many regulations we put out there."

City officials for years have wanted to address renters and apartment complex owners who allowed their garages to be turned into residences for extra money. After Newport Harbor High School student Luke Upton died in a converted-garage fire earlier this year, the issue took on more urgency.

The commission had considered allowing only carports in future apartment construction, and requiring property owners to submit paperwork certifying their garages are up to code, but some residents and commissioners found it to be too invasive.

The commission also dismissed proposed changes to the city's ban on LED lights, a hot-button issue last year with proposed signs at Triangle Square. Commissioners said the city's policy is fine, as it allows for specific, valid exemptions to go forward while cases like Triangle Square's would still get stopped.

The board decided to send the issue up to the City Council for consideration instead.

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