COSTA MESA — With baked snacks, soda to spare and lots of fold-out chairs, more than 60 Costa Mesa residents huddled in Michelle Simpson's Westside backyard Tuesday night to figure out how to stop the area's proposed developments.
"It's going to be a long slog, so prepare yourselves," said Bonnie Copeland, the unofficial leader of Tuesday's meeting. "The more people we can get to meetings, the better we are."
Their grassroots fight: protesting the proposed 19th Street Bridge that would link Costa Mesa to Huntington Beach and the development of Banning Ranch.
Residents were caught by surprise in October when the Daily Pilot reported that talks about the bridge were alive and well. Newport Beach's Sunset Ridge Park includes a road off West Coast Highway that would run into Banning Ranch, which critics argue could be used as an excuse to build a larger road into Banning Ranch and encourage development.
"We're fighting a ghost. We don't know at what angle they're going to come from," Copeland said.
To that end, residents Tuesday began hatching a counterattack to future development. Participants are going to "go viral" with their cause and start a website to keep the public informed. Residents will form committees to keep pressure on local city councils and the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Others are tasked with informing Newport-Mesa residents and local business owners.
"Everything that's going to happen is going to happen in this room," said Costa Mesa resident Greg Ridge. "This is the tip of the spear."