Residents voice concerns about apartment complex's plans

COSTA MESA — A gym and community center proposed for an apartment complex would hurt the view and lower home values in the surrounding Mesa Verde neighborhood, residents and a longtime real estate agent argued this week.

The proposed 44-foot-tall fitness and community center in the Villa Venetia apartments off Adams Avenue and Mesa Verde Drive East was approved by the city Planning Commission earlier this year. The building's proposed height exceeds the city's 27-foot limit for the property, so the owner needed approval from the Planning Commission.

In addition to the new building, the firm's proposal includes an underground parking garage with an entrance off Golf Course Drive, a street that is barely two cars wide in either direction.

The City Council will review the project in January.

Peak West Development, the Colorado-based firm tasked with improving the 468-unit complex, planned to construct the center on the complex's southeast side at the edge of Golf Course Drive. The project would eliminate a large portion of Villa Venetia's lake and its view from the street.

Peak West Principal Gary Polodna said the property owner, UDR, wanted to add the amenities so it could stay competitive with newer complexes.

Among the project's most fervent opponents are residents of the Upper Bird community — a neighborhood north of the city golf course, between Mesa Verde Drive East and Placentia Avenue, whose streets are named after birds.

"The addition of the recreation center and parking structure will greatly detract from the worth of the Upper Birds neighborhood," longtime Realtor Valerie Torelli wrote in a letter to the City Council earlier this week.

"I usually stay out of this kind of stuff (except for) when something's really obvious," she said in an interview Friday. "I have sold the most amount of houses in the Upper Birds. You get a feel for what attracts people to the neighborhood. It's the beauty of driving in, the quietness of the neighborhood, the isolation."

Golf Course Drive is one of two entrances to Upper Birds. The other is Oriole Drive, which is off Placentia.

Peak West met with the Mesa Verde Homeowners Assn. on Thursday night to hear residents' concerns. Many said the meeting was the first they'd heard of the project.

"You're coming to the community and asking for a favor, but giving us nothing in return," Upper Bird resident Ray Ott told a Peak West representative.

Villa Venetia tenants at the meeting said they moved into the complex because of the lake; they said the plans to replace it could create an eyesore that no one would use.

Residents pleaded with Polodna and UDR area Vice President Cindy Shepardson to reconsider the project. Residents said if the company can move the building to preserve the lake view and realign the parking entrance, most of them will be happy.

Polodna said he will relay the community's concerns to his superiors.

The City Council is expected to consider approving the project at its second meeting in January.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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