Demolition of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn is complete and soon construction will begin on a new apartment complex. It’s about time. But why did it take so long?
The apartment complex was approved three years ago, in November 2015. Not unexpectedly, in early 2016, a lawsuit was filed against Costa Mesa and the developer by an affordable housing advocacy group, the Kennedy Commission. In May 2017 the judge in the case reversed the council’s approval of the project, ruling that the project did not conform to state law. Then in July 2018, a settlement of the lawsuit was reached between the three parties.
The primary issue during the 2015 council meeting and in the subsequent lawsuit, was whether to provide affordable apartment units within the project. It is standard practice for cities to receive an accommodation in return for granting an exemption. In this case the accommodation was affordable units, and the exemption was higher-than-allowable density.
Council members Katrina Foley and Sandy Genis were in favor of having the developer provide affordable units in exchange for the higher density. The very pro-developer council majority of Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensigner and Gary Mohahan voted against affordable units. Theirs was an ill-advised and costly vote. In the end, as part of the settlement, Costa Mesa agreed to affordable apartment units and in addition pay $1.3 million, mostly for plaintiff attorney fees. Add to this the money the city spent for its attorney fees, plus employees’ time and effort.
Make no mistake, this was a self-inflicted wound. This was preventable. If the three council members had agreed to affordable units originally and voted yes, they would of saved the residents of Costa Mesa a lot of money, and the project would have been completed long before now.
After the settlement was announced, and quoting from a July 2018 Daily Pilot story, now-Mayor Foley said it best. She hoped “we can avoid this type of costly litigation in the future by working more collaboratively with interested stakeholders.” I believe this will happen in the future with our recently elected City Council.
Museum tile project provided a foundation
Re “Laguna Art Museum basement shines with new renovations,” Feb. 8: Approximately 20 years ago, I dreamed up the idea of selling floor tiles in the lobby of the Laguna Art Museum. In contrast to the $1.50 Frank Cuprien originally paid to have his name inscribed on the floor of the museum’s basement gallery in 1934, the 108 tiles we laid down in 2000 cost $1,000 each.
The idea of recognizing LAM’s earliest supporters, especially during the Great Depression, has paid dividends to Laguna’s art community for decades. My hope is the sponsors who generously underwrote the costs of the museum’s newer lobby tiles will be celebrated 30, 40 or 50 years from now.