The Costa Mesa City Council early Thursday morning voted to delay approval of a massive commercial development along the San Diego Freeway, which is planned to employ 11,000 people, after a majority of the council members concluded they had insufficient information to make a decision.
The majority said that an environmental assessment report supporting the C.J. Segerstrom & Sons Home Ranch project failed to include necessary information about the impact on traffic congestion and possible flooding. The council will consider the issue again at a special meeting on Feb. 11.
About 150 Costa Mesa residents attended the meeting to speak on the pros and cons of such a huge commercial development along the freeway.
"I now live across from an open field, but if this project goes through, I will wake up every morning having to face a 20-story tower," Ruth Rossington, spokeswoman for the North Costa Mesa Homeowners Assn., said at the meeting.
The council was considering an amendment to its general plan that would allow C.J. Segerstrom & Sons to build its Home Ranch project, containing 3.1 million square feet of office space for 11,000 workers.
"I don't want to give you the impression that I am against all commercial development," Rossington said. "I'm not, because I earn my bread and butter as a commercial broker. But we feel this project, which will bring another 46,700 cars a day into the area, will strangle the surrounding residential neighborhood."
But Rossington appeared to be in a minority in the council chambers, judging from a show of hands at the beginning of the public hearing. She was one of just 15 who indicated they would testify against the project, while twice as many hands were raised in support.
One of those supporters was former Costa Mesa Mayor Alvin L. Pinkley. He said Home Ranch will provide jobs and sales taxes for the city and expressed confidence that the developer would solve traffic problems.
"The Segerstroms are investing millions and millions of dollars in this project, and if the roads were going to be clogged and people would not be able to get into the buildings, then the Segerstroms would have a white elephant on their hands," Pinkley said. "They're too good as businessmen to allow this to happen."
The 94-acre Home Ranch--bounded by Fairview Road, the San Diego Freeway, Harbor Boulevard and Sunflower Avenue--will be anchored by One South Coast Place, which contains twin towers on 16 acres that some community groups contend will clog city streets, add to pollution and change the residential character of Costa Mesa, a city of 88,000.
One South Coast Place has received City Council approval once before. But Costa Mesa Residents for Responsible Growth appealed the decision to a judge on the ground that the council considered only the impact of the twin towers and not the impact of the entire project.
In October, Orange County Superior Court Judge Tully H. Seymour blocked construction on One South Place. He said construction on the two towers--one 20 stories high and the other 12--could not resume until the City Council amended its general plan to reflect the commercial development of the entire 94-acre Home Ranch site.
At Wednesday's meeting, the council complied with that order and amended the general plan by specifying that the maximum amount of development allowed on the site would be 3.1 million square feet.
Even if the amended general plan is approved, Segerstrom faces still another legal hurdle, company spokesmen said.
Tully, in another ruling in November, said the project also could not go forward because the environmental impact statement that had been approved by the city had failed to consider alternatives to commercial development.
Tully said the report should have examined the feasibility of residential or other uses for the land.
This revised environmental impact statement, which is being prepared at an estimated cost of $100,000 to Segerstrom, is not scheduled to be presented to the City Council for another two months, officials said.