Orange County Superior Court Judge Tully H. Seymour said Tuesday that he will rule by the end of the week on whether the controversial One South Coast Place commercial complex in Costa Mesa was approved in accordance with state environmental laws.
Meanwhile, Costa Mesa city officials and the developer, C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, were studying Seymour's decision of last Friday that directed "the city to set aside and vacate approval" of the 16-acre project east of Harbor Boulevard and north of the San Diego Freeway.
Work on the project had stopped before the court's ruling and has not resumed, according to Tom Santley, director of public affairs for Segerstrom. The firm planned a press briefing on the issue at 10 a.m. today.
Seymour's ruling essentially found that the city's general plan is inadequate because it does not set population density and square footage standards for the site and that the project is inconsistent with zoning established for the area. The tentative ruling is expected to become final in about a month.
12- and 20-Story Towers
As proposed, the complex includes 12- and 20-story office towers, a parking structure, a child-care center and a 50,000-square-foot pavilion on 16 acres of a larger 98-acre area known as Home Ranch.
The ruling was a major victory for Costa Mesa Residents for Responsible Growth, a citizens' group that sued the city alleging that the general plan was inadequate and that environmental laws had not been followed.
The group opposed approval of the project, maintaining that it would contain too great a concentration of offices for the site and would create congestion.
Seymour's ruling Friday also included a permanent injunction barring the city from issuing construction or development permits pending full compliance with the state's environmental and zoning laws.
"There's still an issue on the environmental impact report on whether there was compliance or not," Seymour said Tuesday. "I haven't really completed my analysis."
Seymour said his ruling last week does not force the city to revise its general plan, which is a type of blueprint for development. But, he said, the inadequacies of the plan prohibit the Segerstrom project from being built.
It appeared Tuesday that a revision of the general plan may be in the offing.
Councilwoman Mary Hornbuckle said the lack of square footage standards in the general plan "allows us to set different standards for that zone and plan a large piece of property rather than just one particular building. But the court apparently has told us what we have defined . . . is not adequate."
The city attorney said he needed more information.
"There will be a period of time before we actually know the details of the judge's decision," Costa Mesa City Atty. Tom Wood said at Tuesday night's council meeting. "At this point we don't know the details of the court's ruling. I think I need to know that before I could advise you."
Perry Valentine, assistant city development services director, said Tuesday: "The city was of the opinion that our land use element was complete. . . . The judge did not agree, so we will have to go back and remedy that at least as far as this project.
"The upshot is we are going back and take some remedial action." Valentine added: "The project can't proceed until we've remedied some things."
However, Valentine stressed before Tuesday night's City Council meeting, "We haven't yet determined what it is we will have to do."
Letty Belin, attorney for the group, said Tuesday that "the ball's pretty much in (the city's) court."