Costa Mesa gives final OK to tear down Motor Inn and build luxury apartments

The Costa Mesa City Council has approved a redevelopment plan for the Costa Mesa Motor Inn property. The motel will be demolished and replaced with 224 luxury apartments.

The Costa Mesa City Council has approved a redevelopment plan for the Costa Mesa Motor Inn property. The motel will be demolished and replaced with 224 luxury apartments.

(BRADLEY ZINT / Daily Pilot)

The Costa Mesa City Council gave its second and final approval Tuesday on a plan to demolish the Costa Mesa Motor Inn and replace it with hundreds of high-end apartments.

The 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Sandy Genis dissenting, paves the way for the motel’s owner, Los Angeles-based Miracle Mile Properties, to turn its 4.15-acre property at 2277 Harbor Blvd. into a 224-unit apartment complex.

Mayor Steve Mensinger said Costa Mesa resident Larry Haynes, executive director of Mercy House, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit that provides homeless services, volunteered to help the motel’s long-term tenants with relocation assistance.

Haynes’ assistance would be in addition to the relocation packages, worth up to $5,500, offered by Miracle Mile and another $200,000 the company is giving directly to the city toward that effort.

Though the two ended up voting on the same side, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilwoman Katrina Foley butted heads.

Righeimer, who helped facilitate the project for more than two years, said the city will benefit because the blighted motel is a source of criminal activity and prostitution.

Righeimer said while affordable housing is not in the works for this project — much to the dismay of some local activists who staged rallies against the plans — he would support other affordable-housing projects if they came to the dais.

Addressing Foley and Genis, “I will do whatever I can to help you bring the next deal in the city ... but I’d like to see you two actually do something and bring something.”

Foley interjected, calling Righeimer’s statement “extremely rude.”

“The point is,” Righeimer continued, “you bring something forward, you get something we can vote on, you bring 20% affordable [housing], and I’m all for it.”

He added that previous councils stopped projects when facing opposition.

“We literally, on this council, had motels get voted to become affordable housing,” Righeimer said, “when no child should be dumped with that. Those properties should have been torn down ... but I’m here to clean up the community, get rid of the drugs, get rid of all the issues over there that have been pushed aside for 20-some years, 25 years in the city, and to get it done.”

Foley countered that Righeimer “acts like he’s the only one that’s ever done anything good in the city as a City Council member. It’s just ridiculous.”

Foley said she spoke with a developer who’s willing build affordable housing north of the 405 Freeway, but that Righeimer told that developer he wouldn’t support it.

“So don’t say you’re ‘going to be supportive of affordable housing. Bring me a deal.’ That is just grandstanding and you know it,” Foley said.

Foley blamed the Motor Inn’s issues on Miracle Mile for allowing criminal behavior to occur there and that the council is now rewarding the company housing density bonuses worth “millions and millions” of dollars.

She said she did not think the “behind-the-scenes deals” by Righeimer, a former Mercy House board member, and Mensinger were in the “best interest of our community.”

Mensinger accused Foley of impugning Haynes and Mercy House, which Foley denied, saying he was “a good community guy” but that she didn’t trust the councilmen’s “machinations” for the project.

“I’m kinda dumbfounded,” Councilman Gary Monahan said of Foley’s remarks. He pointed out that Haynes has long worked alongside city staff on homeless issues and commended him for approaching Mensinger to help Motor Inn residents.

“Larry Haynes and Mercy House offered to help at no cost ... why wouldn’t we accept it?” Monahan said to Foley. “Why is there something dirty behind it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have anything in front of me,” Foley said, adding that she didn’t like how it came up during the meeting without her prior knowledge. “I just am concerned about the process in how [suddenly] we’re deciding that it’s this individual.”

Monahan replied, “No, we’re not deciding anything, because the money’s not going to him. He’s offered to help us for free.”