Costa Mesa growth-control advocate files court challenge to ballot argument opposing initiative

A Costa Mesa resident has asked a court to throw out all or part of a ballot argument against a proposed local growth-control initiative, claiming it’s riddled with errors that could mislead voters in November.

Eleanor Egan, a longtime Westside resident and former member of the city Planning Commission, filed papers last week in Orange County Superior Court challenging the document.

When asked what parts of the ballot argument she took issue with, Egan sighed.

“There’s so much,” she said. “I don’t know where to begin.”

The document Egan is objecting to is the rebuttal written by opponents of the initiative sponsored by Costa Mesa First, a political action committee.

The initiative would require approval from local voters, not just the City Council, for any development project that would require a general plan amendment or zoning change and entail construction of 40 or more dwelling units or at least 10,000 square feet of commercial space or generate more than 200 average daily vehicle trips.

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In their rebuttal to the proposal – which they refer to as “Measure Z” – opponents claim it is “overly restrictive” and “likely unconstitutional.” They say it would make local traffic worse and harm churches and nonprofits by subjecting possible expansion projects to citywide votes.

Egan said the document is full of inaccurate or misleading statements, such as claims that 98% of Costa Mesa’s traffic comes from outside the city or that voters should “forget new restaurants anywhere in town – they will require a citywide vote.”

“I’m asking for all the false and misleading information to be deleted,” Egan said.

Her court petition was filed against Costa Mesa City Clerk Brenda Green and Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley. Also named are the people she says wrote the disputed argument – Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Christopher Bunyan, Julie Fowler, Chuck Perry and Lee Ramos.

Costa Mesa city spokesman Tony Dodero confirmed the authors.

The City Council this month voted to put a competing growth initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot. That measure would essentially keep the city’s existing zoning and land-use standards, including a recently approved general plan update.

It also would include a fee applying to new development north of the 405 Freeway and west of Fairview Road, with fee money being used to increase recreation, open space and public park facilities.

Egan said she “did a lot of work circulating” the Costa Mesa First initiative. She also signed the ballot argument in favor of the measure.

Dodero said the city is aware of Egan’s action and “will take the appropriate steps as necessary to address it.”

Opponents and supporters of the Costa Mesa First measure have submitted ballot arguments outlining their cases. Both sides also have submitted rebuttals to the other’s position.

Ballot documents related to the measure have been filed with the city clerk’s office, but the county registrar had not yet received them from the city clerk, Dodero said Thursday.

Arguments need to be filed with the registrar’s office by Aug. 12.


Luke Money,

Twitter: @LukeMMoney