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General plan proposals about Fairview and motels stir questions from Costa Mesa council members

Though Costa Mesa staff members say the proposed update to the city’s general plan includes few major changes, City Council members raised some big questions during their meeting Tuesday night.

During a public hearing that lasted about four hours, council members combed through the details of the draft general plan — a state-mandated document that acts as a blueprint for future development in the city.

The takeaway from the lengthy discussion is that there are still plenty of questions to be answered and details to be hammered out.

“I think to expect to have this done in one more meeting is really, really kind of pushing it,” Councilwoman Sandy Genis said during Tuesday’s meeting.

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Major changes outlined in the draft plan, which has been in the works for years, include a new land-use designation that would apply to the Fairview Developmental Center and a proposed “residential incentive overlay” that would cover some properties along Harbor and Newport boulevards.

While council members mulled those Tuesday, they also discussed whether the proposed changes should be changed further.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer suggested altering how the Fairview site on Harbor Boulevard could be redeveloped should the center close, as proposed. The state-run facility provides services and housing to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The draft general plan calls for capping the number of dwelling units that could be built at the site at 500 and setting aside a quarter of the site for parkland and open space. About half the site could be used for public or institutional uses.

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Righeimer suggested allowing half the site to be single-family residential housing, with about an additional quarter put aside for institutional purposes. The remaining quarter, he said, would go to park space.

“We need the facility space for ball fields, for soccer fields, that sort of thing,” he said.

Genis raised concerns about substantively altering the general plan this late in the process. The plan is scheduled for possible adoption June 21.

Genis also said the city should look at using the Fairview site for affordable or supportive housing.

“It’s a public piece of property; it should be used for the public good,” she said. “And that’s not just the public getting the most dollars out of it.”

Another point of contention Tuesday was the residential incentive overlay that would allow owners of certain properties along Harbor and Newport boulevards, particularly motels, to have their land rezoned to high-density residential.

Righeimer and Mayor Steve Mensinger said the proposal is aimed at encouraging redevelopment of some motels that they have derided as hotbeds of drug use and criminal activity.

“If we keep doing what doesn’t work, it’s going to continue not to work,” Mensinger said. “It’s a priority of mine to address these crime magnets in our city.”

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Councilwoman Katrina Foley said she doesn’t think adding housing is the only viable option to addressing the city’s motel issues.

“I don’t support a spot-zoning approach,” she said. “I think there are other ways, and I don’t think creating housing on what should be commercial corridors is the solution.”

Foley and Genis also raised concerns about the boundaries of the overlay, since in some areas it would cover not only motels but surrounding properties as well.

Righeimer said some nearby properties were included to make it more likely that motel owners would use the overlay. They could approach neighboring property owners in the overlay area about partnering in a development.

“What you find is that if you just have the motel and you don’t allow them to get other properties around it, it’ll never make any sense for one of these properties to go into a different use,” Righeimer said.

A council meeting will be held June 14, during which members will take straw votes to provide direction to staff on possible changes to the general plan.

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Luke Money, luke.money@latimes.com

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Twitter: @LukeMMoney


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