Builders won't pay fee for leaving lowcost housing out of projects, council majority decides.
By Alicia Robinson
Buildings at the Lakes Pavilions mall on Anton Boulevard will be demolished to make way for two 25-story buildings.
COSTA MESA — More than 1,200 new residential units and 241,000 square feet of office and retail space along with the Orange County Museum of Art may be coming to town, but the swath of new developments planned for the northern part of the city won't include affordable housing.
The museum and homes are part of plans for five high-rise projects in North Costa Mesa that cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when the City Council unanimously approved them. The developers still must bring back final plans for four of the projects.
"I have a distinct sense the projects before us tonight are going to create energy and excitement in Costa Mesa and are going to be good for the city," City Councilwoman Linda Dixon said.
But in three successive votes that split the council, 3-2, council members opted not to charge developers fees to pay for affordable housing, public art or libraries. Dixon and Councilwoman Katrina Foley were on the losing side of those votes.
Several members of the recently formed Costa Mesa Housing Coalition, a group of community members, gave a presentation pointing out the disparity between housing costs and some public employee salaries. "It would be difficult for a teacher or city staff to even afford a one-bedroom apartment in our community," coalition member Crissy Brooks said.
The presentation included a list of other cities — such as Irvine, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach — that require developers to pay a fee if they don't build affordable housing
But Mayor Allan Mansoor, Councilman Eric Bever and Councilwoman Wendy Leece said the city shouldn't compel developers to pay for affordable housing.
"I don't believe that it's our duty as government to impose another burden on them to solve the housing problems," Leece said. "I believe the market can do that."
The council's decision overrode the county Airport Land Use Commission's rejection of the plans in December.
City Manager Allan Roeder noted that Federal Aviation Administration and John Wayne Airport officials have signed off on the projects.
The Californian at Town Center, 580 Anton Blvd., is the farthest along in planning and won final approval Tuesday. It will replace the Lakes Pavilions Retail Center with two 25-story towers.
Of the five projects, the Pacific Arts Plaza likely would be the tallest. A high-rise building at 685 Anton Blvd., the plaza can go up to 320 feet above mean sea level, just a foot shorter than Center Tower on Town Center Drive, which is the tallest building in the city, according to the planning department.
For a city that doesn't have a proper downtown, this could become it. The buildings will be clustered around what is already a major cultural center that includes the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the new Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
"I think there is that sort of dynamic," said Paul Freeman, a spokesman for C. J. Segerstrom & Sons, which has proposed the Segerstrom Town Center, an office and residential complex at 3400 and 3420 Bristol St.
With retail, arts and dining spots already in the area and new residential thrown into the mix, Freeman said, "it has a lot of the characteristics of a downtown."
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