Small-lot ordinance facing second reading

A proposed ordinance that would ease building requirements for small developments faces its second reading Tuesday before the Costa Mesa City Council.

The Small-Lot Subdivision Ordinance would be applied to projects containing up to 15 units in areas already zoned for multi-family housing.

City staff contends that the law would "promote affordable ownership housing by providing more flexible development standards" and other maintenance issues for underutilized, multifamily residential lots.

Other supporters say the law, which would be a first for any Orange County city, would help meet market demands and have developers seeking fewer variances and deviations to get projects approved.

Hashing out variances and deviations takes considerable time from all parties involved, according to city staff.

Some of the law's provisions include changes to setbacks and eliminating a required minimum distance between buildings. It does not change density levels or parking standards.

The ordinance passed its first reading March 4, with Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece dissenting. The council postponed giving any final approval March 18, when Councilman Gary Monahan was absent.

During the first reading, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger called the changes "cutting edge" and something that, soon enough, "every city is going to do."

The ordinance will help replace older buildings, some of them blighted, with new housing, Mensinger and supporters said.

Leece, Genis and many City Hall regulars were vocally against it, arguing that Costa Mesa doesn't need more development and any of the additional traffic that could come with it.

"It's time that we realize that we are built-out, and we respect the residents," Leece said March 4. "We're smooshing everything and making everything more crowded. It will make things more dense."

In December and January, the Planning Commission discussed the ordinance and recommended it to the council. The council and commission also met in September to discuss it together.

Recent small-lot subdivisions include East Haven on Tustin Avenue, which called for 14 single-family homes on a 1.24-acre plot to replace two 1940s-era houses.


Reward, appointments

The council is set to consider posting a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible in the death of Gary Allen Smola.

Smola, 50, was killed in August 2012 at his Whittier Avenue home. Police believe the $10,000 will enhance their investigation effort, which thus far has been unsuccessful.

"To date, the Police Department has extensively canvassed for any information from citizens and informants, with no new actionable leads resulting," city staff wrote. "Forensic examinations of evidence gathered have also failed to produce any leads to date. Offering a substantial reward will greatly enhance the probability of obtaining the necessary information to bring the investigation to a successful conclusion."

The council will also be making appointments to fill vacancies on the Housing and Public Service Grant, Cultural Arts and Historical Preservation committees, as well as on the Costa Mesa Senior Center's board of directors.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

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