Commentary: A few points of clarification about Fairview Developmental Center

Councilmember Andrea Marr writes to say that Costa Mesa City Council did not vote to displace developmentally disabled people from Fairview Developmental Center, build another homeless shelter or rezone the property without public input.
(File Photo)

On Jan. 21, the Costa Mesa City Council voted to approve a preliminary concept for future use of Fairview Developmental Center. The issue is complicated and unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation out there.

Contrary to what you may have heard on social media, we did not vote to displace developmentally disabled people, build another homeless shelter or rezone the property without public input.

None of those are true. Please allow me to clarify.

The state Legislature approved a shutdown plan for Fairview back in 2016. There are currently only two patients there.

Since 2016, a lot of different ideas have been floated. I heard a state official wanted to sell the land to developers while former council members talked about the potential development of luxury homes on the golf course.

In 2018, state Sen. John Moorlach and county supervisors wanted to use the site to house the entire Orange County homeless population. Last summer, I learned that Cal State Fullerton was interested. And mental health advocates have had their eye on the site as well. It seems everyone has a proposal.

Thanks to the efforts of our city manager, Lori Ann Farrell Harrison, we have begun a constructive dialog with the Department of General Services, the lead agency responsible for the property. With all of the history and politics in the mix, DGS wanted to know: What does the city of Costa Mesa want?

As I said during the council meeting, if we don’t have a seat at the table, we’ll be on the menu. This is our chance to get that seat. But DGS gave us a pretty short window to respond.

The proposal we put forward struck a balance between Gov. Gavin Newsom’s focus on housing and homelessness and what is good for Costa Mesa. I believe that we need more reasonable housing — not $1 million boxes on the Westside and not luxury golf course mansions. Fairview provides an opportunity for both market rate and workforce housing, if we do it right.

With approximately 300 beds, we could solve veterans homelessness in Orange County. Imagine that: a warm place to sleep at night for every person who was willing to give their life for this country. As a veteran, that’s a proposal I endorse.

This council has been working hard on the issue of homelessness; we have housed over 100 formerly homeless individuals through our efforts. But our biggest hurdle is the lack of available housing for folks who need a little extra help.

There are excellent nonprofits doing incredible work with “permanent supportive housing.” I support putting a small amount of that type of housing at Fairview.

So that’s the plan approved by council: solve veterans homelessness, build more housing and create some permanent supportive housing. All together, we proposed in concept 1,500 new units.

This is non-binding; we have not spent any taxpayer money. We have not rezoned the property. We have not made any permanent commitments. But we are letting DGS know that we want to be a part of the solution.

Andrea Marr is a Costa Mesa councilmember.

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