A shorthanded Costa Mesa City Council on Monday approved changing the zoning of a 2-acre commercial site in Mesa Verde to make way for planned new homes on the property, but only after making sure current tenants will be allowed time to find space to relocate.
The council voted 3-0, with members Katrina Foley and Gary Monahan absent, to adopt a general plan amendment and modify the zoning at 2850 Mesa Verde Drive East to change the land use from commercial to low-density residential.
This week’s meeting was rescheduled on account of an event at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts honoring Julianne and George Argyros that was scheduled for the council’s typical Tuesday night time slot. Some council members planned to attend that event.
Developer Pinnacle Residential is proposing to replace the existing 24,267 square feet of office buildings on the Mesa Verde Drive property with 11 two-story single-family homes.
Specific plans for that development would have to be submitted to the city for consideration.
Several people spoke against the proposal Monday, saying some businesses might have to close for good if they can’t find suitable space to relocate. The center, they said, is home to successful small businesses that provide needed services to the neighborhood.
Jim Turrell, a pastor whose church, the Center for Spiritual Living Newport-Mesa, has an office in the complex, was among those who urged the council to deny the proposal.
“It would be a huge mistake to the community,” he said. “It might put 11 new homes there, but it would put people out of work and change the entire structure of the community.”
Other speakers questioned how the new homes would affect traffic in the area and whether the city may suffer economically from the loss of the businesses.
Pinnacle representative Peter Zehnder said the center is nearing the end of its economic life.
The office buildings were constructed in 1963 and 1985.
The site is adjacent to a 10-home tract called Miraval, which Pinnacle is building along with Collective Housing Supply.
Zehnder called the new proposal “a great project for Costa Mesa” that “really does meet the intent of what the city would like to see.”
He said the applicants are willing to work with existing tenants to help them relocate.
“I will guarantee you that I personally will do everything that I’m legally allowed to do to help tenants and employees,” Zehnder told the council.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer said he isn’t deaf to the tenants’ concerns but thinks there’s enough office space available in town for them to move — though perhaps not at the rents they’re paying now.
As a condition of approving the rezoning request, council members required that tenants be allowed to remain in the center at least nine months and up to a year.
“I don’t want anyone to lose their jobs, and part of them not losing their jobs is finding another location,” Councilwoman Sandy Genis said.
Genis also asked that the business center’s history be documented before demolition, given how long it’s been around.