Noticeable changes afoot in Westside community

Miguel Perez began noticing positive changes to his Shalimar Drive neighborhood about a month ago.

"The houses before were dirtier," he said.

A fresh coat of paint now covers many multi-family apartment complexes in the struggling neighborhood.

That's in part because the city of Costa Mesa began targeting the Westside last summer with its Residential Neighborhood Enhancement Program.

The collaboration between the Planning Commission and City Council was started in January 2011 to address a reduction in code enforcement employees, said Principal Planner and Zoning Administrator Willa Bouwens-Killeen.

Since July, the city has issued 82 fix-it tickets for deteriorating pavement, fading trim, dry rot, decaying balconies, illegal structures and other problems in an area stretching west from Pomona Avenue to Placentia Avenue and south of West 18th Street to Shalimar Drive, according to the city map.

The city voided 24 tickets after owners complied with the changes, the city CEO announced in his message to residents this week.

The months-long effort is expected to wrap up in two to four weeks.

The project is the city's third. The other two were applied to single-family home neighborhoods, with one near Placentia Avenue and West Wilson Street and the other west of Harbor Boulevard and south of Baker Street.

Shalimar was the first multiple-family home project, Bouwens-Killeen said.

"They are pretty intensive," Bouwens-Killeen said. "They take between six and nine months each. We really are looking at everything."

Perez wasn't the only neighbor to notice the changes.

Maria Alvarez, who sat on a Shalimar Park bench with Letty Gonzalez on a recent sunny afternoon, said she noticed repairs being made and homes being painted in wintertime.

Construction worker Juan Rodriguez said he noticed many homes with new windows, painted apartments and carports, cleaned garages and fixed fences.

It is unclear whether the city will perform another project as part of the program.

Code enforcement hires in the city CEO's office in the last six months to a year may serve the same purpose as the targeted neighborhood projects, Bouwens-Killeen said. The new hires focus on specialty enforcement.

The Planning Commission will review whether or not to perform another enhancement project in April, Bouwens-Killeen said.

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