Monday night was an opportunity for those against the proposed Home Ranch residential, retail and office project in Costa Mesa to make their case.
But the council chambers had far more empty seats than filled ones.
The opponents who did show up warned of more traffic, pollution and the lack of affordable housing.
The meeting was part of a lengthy public hearing process that the City Council is conducting before voting on the project.
The next meeting will be Nov. 5; there also could be two more in November.
The Home Ranch development would include an IKEA store, offices and homes on what's now 93 acres of lima bean fields bounded by Sunflower Avenue, the San Diego Freeway, Fairview Road and Harbor Boulevard.
The developer is C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, which built South Coast Plaza, the Orange County Performing Arts Center, the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel, South Coast Repertory and several office buildings in Costa Mesa.
The 192 homes included in the proposal are townhomes that would cost about $300,000, and single-family detached homes that would cost $350,000 to $450,000.
Service Employees International Union Local 1877 contends that the project's impact on air quality and traffic is underestimated in official reports, and it sees a lack of affordable housing in the plan.
The developer and others speculate that the union, known for its Justice for Janitors campaign, is publicly opposing the project to get C.J. Segerstrom & Sons to pressure its janitorial contractors to unionize.
Mayor Libby Cowan asked the union attorney pointedly, "This doesn't have anything to do with SEIU's attempt to unionize a company that works for Segerstrom?"
Michael Wall, an attorney representing the union, responded: "No it does not. I am an environmental attorney."
After the meeting, he said that "the union represents the workers and their families. Their concerns represent a wide range of issues."
The union represents 1,100 workers in Orange County. About 60 union families live in Costa Mesa.
One of them spoke to the council through a translator.
"I do not know where all the people employed by this project will live. The rents are already high and our communities are full," said Juana Hernandez.
Wall said the project would supply one housing unit for every 11 jobs it creates.
The union has previously spoken about the need for affordable housing when a few residential projects were proposed in Los Angeles, said union research analyst Anastasia Christman.
Wall said this was the first time he had represented the union. After he spoke, he left to catch a flight home to San Francisco. With him went a dozen or so union supporters.
That left fewer than 35 people to tell the council about their problems with the project.
One of them, Robin Lefler, used beans as an analogy.
Lefler, a member of Costa Mesa Citizens for Responsible Growth, argued that increasing development will inundate the city, and demonstrated that argument by pouring beans from one jar to another until they overflowed into a carton on a table.
Addressing the council with some sarcasm, she warned that Segerstrom was trying to buy off the city.
"They tell us we need their money and that all we have to do is throw away our quality of life. . . . Costa Mesa is not happy . . . and is not buying it," Lefler said.