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City housing plan gets OK

Costa Mesa is meeting its goal of providing space to residents with low to moderate incomes, state regulators say.

July 29, 2008|By Alan Blank

State regulators said they are satisfied that Costa Mesa has provided a sufficient plan to create and preserve affordable housing in the city over the next six years.

California’s Department of Housing and Community Development approved Costa Mesa’s Housing Element, which is a plan that specifically outlines how the city will attempt to build new low-income housing and keep the prices low on existing housing through 2014.

Costa Mesa ended up providing about 57% of the housing the state wanted it to provide during the last Housing Element period, but Principal Planner Claire Flynn said the city was aiming for that result.

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“If they got to 50% that’s pretty good relative to a lot of jurisdictions, because nowadays developing low-income housing requires subsidies that aren’t readily available,” said Paul McDougall, a housing policy manager with the state.

For this Housing Element period, however, state standards have become stricter and Costa Mesa is aiming for full compliance with the housing agency’s demands.

The housing department is requiring much more clear and detailed evidence that cities can do what they say they will, McDougall said.

“This time around the state is really looking for cities to satisfy or demonstrate that they can meet their affordable housing goals. Before it was more their best effort,” Flynn said.

Some of the ways Costa Mesa has put forward to meet its demand for low-income housing are a ways off. A few of the shorter-term projects include a plan to keep 160 apartments in the 18-story Bethel Towers apartment building affordable to low-income seniors through subsidies, and creating 170 units of low-income housing on the grounds of the Fairview Developmental Center, which city officials say could come to fruition within three or four years.

In the longer term, the city is looking to develop 96 units on an “underutilized” Westside site, add 75 low-income senior residences in the parking lot of the Costa Mesa Senior Center and remodel some local hotel and motel buildings for use by low-income families and singles.

“We’re looking at a lot of the hotels around Harbor Boulevard or Newport Boulevard that are already used for extended stays. They’re areas that we’re seeing might be becoming blighted,” said Costa Mesa Management Analyst Hilda Veturis.

If a significant number of these projects aren’t built, and Costa Mesa can’t comply with the state’s housing demands then the city risks losing state and federal funding, and might even face harsher sanctions, but Flynn says that such sanctions are rare.

The housing department was impressed with some of the more innovative ways in which Costa Mesa, a city that has very little open space left, has managed to provide for new low-income housing.

McDougall was particularly impressed with the redevelopment incentives that Costa Mesa is offering to developers in many neighborhoods, calling the incentives “really a step in the right direction.”

Before it’s made official, the City Council must vote for the approved Housing Element.


ALAN BLANK may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or at alan.blank@latimes.com.

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