Recycling center canned

After the Planning Commission revoked Garcia Recycling Center's conditional use permit, owner has 3 months to shut down or relocate.

November 27, 2010|By Mona Shadia,
  • Eli Rodriguez, left, and Jorge Elizalde process plastic bottles and aluminum cans at Garcia Recycling in Costa Mesa.
Eli Rodriguez, left, and Jorge Elizalde process plastic… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

COSTA MESA — Putting in 17 hour days as a young man, Jesse Garcia had a vision to be his own boss.

Fast forward 21 years. Garcia, now 49, owns four businesses in Orange County. But one of them, a recycling center at 739 W. 19th St. in Costa Mesa where customers exchange bottles and cans for cash, is threatened with closure after two decades in operation.

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission recently voted 4 to 1 to revoke the Garcia Recycling Center's conditional use permit, which grants a business permission to operate in the city. The City Council voted 4 to 1 earlier this month to uphold that recommendation.

But the way in which his original license was revoked has perplexed Garcia, his lawyers and City Hall observers.

It all began when Planning Commissioner Steve Mensinger called up the Garcia Recycling center on 19th Street for a review. Mensinger argued that the location can no longer handle the intensity of the business, which handles 4.2 million pounds of recyclables a month.


"I have to take the emotions out of it and say, where's the balance?" said Mensinger, adding that he personally admires Garcia for his entrepreneurial spirit. "We're running out of space, and when uses exceed the capacity of the site, then these kind of problems happen. It's really up to the businessperson to decide what they are going to do to manage that or the community and the city will respond."

There are generally two reasons a business can lose a conditional use permit: violating the permit's terms or creating a public nuisance.

For 20 years Garcia has operated without any violations in an industrially zoned area. And while the recycling center is surrounded by businesses, including a Smart & Final and a nightclub, there are residences nearby.

When city code enforcement went out to investigate complaints about the center, allegedly related to noise, the center was not found to be in violation of its permit.

Yet when it was time to revoke Garcia's license, noise was cited as an issue after resident Steve Chan showed the City Council a home video.

After a few hours of debate Aug. 8, and a lengthy staff report on the issue, at least two commissioners said they could find no reason to revoke Garcia's license.

While a motion was still on the floor to revoke the permit, Mensinger asked the commission to take a break.

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