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Small-lot ordinance a virtual certainty

Costa Mesa council approves the measure, which would ease development restrictions on certain plots of land. It is subject to a final vote.

March 05, 2014|By Bradley Zint

In a move that received mixed reaction, a divided Costa Mesa City Council approved on a first vote an ordinance Tuesday that aims to ease restrictions for certain housing developments.

The ordinance is still subject to a second, final vote.

The council majority, developers and a few residents said the Small-Lot Subdivision Ordinance will create home ownership opportunities in Costa Mesa, better utilize available lots and meet housing-market demands.

"Once you get past some of the small misconceptions … it's really cutting-edge," said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger. "It's what every city is going to do."

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Critics, including two council members and several longtime residents, contended that because the law encourages additional building, traffic, noise and density will follow.

The ordinance applies to proposed developments of up to 15 dwellings on small land parcels in areas zoned for multifamily units only. Already-approved density levels and parking standards will not be affected.

The Planning Commission examined the ordinance in December and January. The council and commission also discussed the idea together in September.

The commission ultimately recommended that the council approve the ordinance, which it did on a 3-2 vote. Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece dissented.

"It's time that we realize that we are built-out, and we respect the residents," Leece said. "We're smooshing everything and making everything more crowded. It will make things more dense."

Resident Margaret Mooney said there exists an "impetus to have more residents," despite the desire of those already living here to mainting their standard of living.

Added Eastside resident Anna Vrksa: "Is this a city of and for developers? Or is this a city of and for residents?"

Supporters contended that some of the previously approved small-lot developments aided the community because they replaced older rental housing with new, modern housing and improved parking amenities.

The ordinance would be "affecting the economic impact and allowing people to have home ownership and take advantage of this great community that we have," said developer Peter Zehnder.

Once officially approved, Costa Mesa will be the first city in Orange County to have a small-lot ordinance, according to city staff, who said it resembles similar policies in Los Angeles, Napa, Santa Rosa and Oakland.

Small-lot laws are favored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, staff has said.

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