Planners deny 7-Eleven near Triangle

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission unanimously denied an application for a proposed 7-Eleven near The Triangle on Monday night, citing the area's problems with homelessness and the convenience store's request to sell alcohol.

Their decision was supported by the Police Department and city staff, who also alluded to potential parking and traffic problems, a concentration of 10 alcohol sale permits in the area, and the 7-Eleven's potential to "magnify exiting problems with transiency."

Some nearby residents also spoke out against having the proposed 24-hour store, which would have occupied a vacant building at 1904 and 1906 Harbor Blvd., near West 19th Street.

Ralph W. Deppisch, who was representing the property's owner, Newport Beach-based VMA Harbor Place LLC, said the store would have provided the only 24-hour service in the area other than the 24 Hour Fitness at The Triangle. Such an operation, he countered, could actually mitigate issues, such as loitering, with the addition of aspects like security cameras and lighting.

"This location would be even less of a [magnet] to loiter, perhaps sleep overnight, because of the activity located there," Deppisch said.

He added that 7-Eleven is not a traditional liquor store in that it has healthy offerings and the corporation donates millions that support local, regional and national programs.

Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy said in his time as a planning commissioner, he's never seen a staff report so critical of a project.

Given the store's nearly half-mile proximity to Lions Park — long known as a haven for the city's homeless — it is "just not a good project for this location," McCarthy said.

The city shouldn't "keep the matches next to the dynamite" with this kind of thing, he said.

McCarthy said he's not against the corporate identity of the national convenience store chain, but that overall the other 7-Elevens in Costa Mesa haven't been "good neighbors."

Commissioner Robert Dicksonsupported 7-Eleven as a company — he even worked for one while in college — but said that the store's reliance on the city would create additional problems.

"That concerns me when I have a Police Department and staff telling me very emphatically that this would create work for them, create problems for them," he said.

Commissioner Sam Clark took particular concern with the store's 23 parking spaces, calling it "severely underparked."

Under current standards, it should have 42 spaces, according to city planner Mel Lee.

Deppisch, however, said parking would not likely be a problem because 7-Eleven customers usually shop quickly before leaving.

A few residents from a 32-unit condominium complex at nearby 401 Bernard St. also spoke against the 7-Eleven. Nancy Gwin contended that the area is bad enough with transients, some of whom have even taken residence on their roofs.

"I also don't feel it's a very good idea to have another facility that sells alcohol so close to the other ones, like over at BevMo! and CVS," she said.

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