Apartment complex project going before the council again

A proposed 240-unit apartment complex about a half mile from John Wayne Airport in Costa Mesa goes before the City Council again Tuesday.

Last month the council postponed a decision on the project at 125 E. Baker St. at the request of its developer, Irvine-based Red Oak Investments, and city staff. Since then, inconsistencies in the project's environmental impact report have been addressed.

The primary change relates to the projected recreational needs of the proposed complex's 346 residents, who, it was determined, would require an additional 1.47 acres of parkland even while placing increased demands on nearby Del Mesa Park.

To compensate for the need, the report now credits the complex's $3.28 million in onsite recreation amenities: 38,000 square feet of usable open space that includes a dog park, pool, fitness center and clubhouse.

It also takes into account $250,000 the city will receive from the developer for any future public infrastructure projects.

With that combined $3.53 million, the project is now considered a "less than significant" impact to city parks. City staff said the money exceeds what the city would have received had the project been an ownership development, such as condos, instead of an apartment complex.

Red Oak is also paying for a new traffic light at Baker and Pullman streets, which would dramatically improve the intersection's traffic rating from an "F" to an "A."

Constructing an apartment complex on the 4.2-acre site would mean removing a 66,000-square-foot office building, built in 1974, that has several vacancies.

Some businesses along Briggs Avenue, adjacent to 125 E. Baker, have opposed the plans, contending in part that apartments would be incompatible in an area dominated by business and light manufacturing. They have also cited traffic and noise concerns.

In contrast, Red Oak has said the project's business supporters from the area far outnumber dissenters, and that professionals have determined that the apartments will have a negligible effect on air quality, water use and traffic.

Red Oak points to about 10 letters of support from nearby business owners, including correspondence from former Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen and Shaheen Sadeghi, the developer of the popular shopping centers The Camp and The Lab Antimall on nearby Bristol Street.

Hansen wrote that he backs the construction of the apartments, even though he would have to relocate his business once the office building is demolished.

If approved, the complex, a $75-million investment, would the first residential development east of the 55 Freeway in Costa Mesa's airport-adjacent city limits.

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