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Costa Mesa’s future still taking shape

Costa Mesa’s citywide effort to update its general plan continued Tuesday with a joint study session of the City Council and Planning Commission.

A majority of officials agreed that efforts to revitalize the portion of Harbor Boulevard south of Wilson Street should be a priority.


Parcels along the thoroughfare are vacant, or appear blighted, in comparison with the rest of the city, they contended, and incentives should be created to encourage development there.

The study session also focused on examining land uses in other areas, including the business district near John Wayne Airport, the area northwest of the 405 Freeway and the Westside.


However, members of the council and commission expressed concern about adding residential properties near the airport, citing airplane noise and approval hurdles.

Officials noted that one housing development is in the works for the airport area, on East Baker Street adjacent to the 55 Freeway. A 236-unit apartment complex is planned for the nearly 4-acre site, replacing an underutilized, 66,000-square-foot office building built in 1974.

Mayor Jim Righeimer said the Baker Street parcel is probably one of the few in the area that could successfully contain residential housing.

The city’s paid consultants offered potential development ideas for northwest Costa Mesa, including mixed-use projects with businesses on the bottom floor and residences or work spaces above them.


The area is designated for industrial uses, and a change to the designation allowing for homes could create a “24-hour environment” sought by young workers, according to the city consultants.

For the Westside, the consultants suggested more mixed-use projects at higher densities than what is allowed, possibly as high as 30 units per acre.

Councilwoman Sandy Genis said she had concerns about losing affordable senior housing at mobile home parks — should they be converted for other purposes — and the notion of adding more high-density housing.

The latter point, she noted, was also made by residents at previous general plan meetings.


All of the city officials said they worried about creating traffic problems, with Commissioner Colin McCarthy adding that “traffic isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you can find ways to manage it.”

Genis and former Councilman Jay Humphrey said they wanted to make sure park space increases with the increasing population.

Humphrey also said he was worried about Costa Mesa becoming increasingly urbanized and losing the small-town, suburban feel that convinced many to move there in the first place.

The general plan, a state-mandated document updated about once a decade, acts as a guide for development decisions in Costa Mesa.

Costa Mesa’s effort to update its general plan began in June 2012. Officials have dubbed the effort to gain public input the Great Reach. To date, more than 15 meetings with various stakeholders have taken place to discuss it.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece was absent Tuesday, as were Commissioners Robert Dickson and Jeff Mathews.