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Development: Yes on H and I

November 04, 1988

One of the most complicated issues on the Tuesday ballot involves plans to develop 18 acres of land in Costa Mesa. Our own close study of the development plan suggests that yes votes on both Measures H and I are in the best long-term interests of the community.

Measure H would approve a development plan in which two buildings--one 20 stories tall, the other 12--would be built north of the San Diego Freeway between Harbor Boulevard and Fairview Road, adding 3.1 million square feet to Orange County's supply of commercial space. Disgruntled Costa Mesa homeowners who want to kill the development put it on the ballot after the Costa Mesa City Council approved the plan.

Measure I would approve a scaled-back version of the development project, which was originally offered to the council by C.J. Segerstrom & Co., as a fallback plan in the event that Measure H was defeated. The protesting homeowners promptly qualified the scaled-back plan as well.

On development issues we look for a balance between the rights of a landowner to develop property in accordance with the community's general plan and the risk that development will adversely affect the community. The proposed Segerstrom Home Ranch plan meets the balance test. The project will increase traffic around the new buildings but, according to engineering studies, road improvements will actually improve the flow. For example, traffic on Fairview Road is now at 107% of the street's designed capacity. It would drop to 81% of capacity with the planned addition of new traffic lanes. Further, a lane would be added to the southbound San Diego Freeway off-ramp at Harbor Boulevard to bypass Harbor and take traffic directly to the new complex.

Of the $300 million that developers would spend on the project, $30 million would be to improve local streets and the freeway, with an additional $4 million for the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor. Under the plan approved by the council, leases would require tenants to reduce rush-hour traffic with staggered work hours and programs to encourage ride-sharing, van pools and the use of buses.

As an added bonus, the campus-like development, which would house IBM's regional offices as its main tenant, would provide 14 acres of public open space and house a branch of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

We support the original plan, and therefore hope to see Measure H approved. Because the most attractive features of the plan would not be scaled back under the fallback proposal, we also support Measure I. The question is not whether the valuable Segerstrom acreage is going to be developed, but how. The Segerstrom company plan, revised to make either version as acceptable as possible to the landowner and the community, is a good deal. It deserves acceptance with yes votes on Measures H and I.

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