The action would give the council sole authority over divisive development projects.
At a July 19 Costa Mesa city council meeting, city councilmembers appeared to do a “bait and switch” to effectively eliminate the 2016 Measure Y. The measure requires voter approval on large high density projects. The council sought approval of a ballot measure that would increase the council’s authority over the approval of 11,760 high density apartment units in Costa Mesa.
Eliminating the Measure Y would bring in 4,700 low income housing units. However, the actual ballot measure did not have any requirement for affordable units to be built. What it did allow is developers an easier approval process on high density projects.
If the 11,760 apartments are built, it would add an estimated 31,752 residents to a city of 110,000. Many residents have complained about high density housing projects, noting they would prefer to preserve single-family neighborhoods, restrict commercial and industrial growth from local neighborhoods, and maintain local control in any future planning decisions.
Measure Y was approved by 68%, but Mayor John Stephens along with council members Andrea Marr, Jeff Harlan and Arlis Reynolds have indicated they want the council to have final say on developments instead of residents. Councilmember Manuel Chavez indicated he wanted even more authority than the proposed ballot measure provided.
Certain councilmembers appeared to have made a coordinated effort to gain approval for the ballot measure. “Talking points” were provided to all councilmembers prior to the meeting. Likely a Brown Act violation, Councilman Don Harper, who opposed the ballot measure, called the action inappropriate.
“I’ve never [received talking points] before an item is voted on to promote an item, and almost every one of the talking points I’ve heard already here through a series of questions [by councilmembers.]
“I’ve just never seen that done in council before…It seems inappropriate, frankly, for an issue we have not voted on to give all the councilmembers the same talking points,” he said.
Should the city council have increased control over high density planning in Costa Mesa?