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Costa Mesa Council Race Becomes a West-Side Story

The five candidates differ on the city's role in shaping the industrial, commercial and residential area, which is mostly Latino.

November 03, 2002|Vivian LeTran | Times Staff Writer

Costa Mesa's west side -- an industrial neighborhood mixed with rental housing, shops, street vendors and mom-and-pop businesses -- is the key talking point in the City Council race as candidates debate how large a role the city should play in shaping the area's future.

Five candidates -- two incumbents, two planning commissioners and a county law enforcement officer -- are battling in Tuesday's election for two council seats.

Some candidates, including Mayor Linda Dixon, Planning Commission Chairwoman Katrina Foley and Deputy Sheriff Allan R. Mansoor, have championed improvements in the commercial and residential community west of Harbor Boulevard, an older section of town they believe is blighted.

"I feel strongly about looking at redevelopment and beautification of the area," said Dixon, who wants to see more homes and fewer low-end rental units in the area. Dixon said she has no specific plans for rezoning the area.

The west side neighborhood is a mix of middle-income homeowners, with homes valued at up to $400,000, and rental units. Chains as well as mom-and-pop shops and Mexican-style street vendors make up the retail landscape.

While nearly everyone concedes that street improvements and landscaping are needed, some voters believe the talk of redevelopment is aimed at dealing with the predominantly Latino community living in multifamily units.

"This is a very sensitive issue," because average-income families can't afford the high cost of homes in the city anymore, said Hank Panian, 74, who has lived in Costa Mesa since 1956. Anti-immigrant sentiments have always arisen, he added, especially during elections.

"The race and ethnicity bias is still a big problem in the city," Panian said. "Time and time again, the Anglos-versus-Latinos debates keep creeping into the issues."

Candidate Gary Monahan, a restaurateur and councilman, said the call for improvements is not a veiled way to force out Latinos.

"The Latinos in this community want what we all want: better-quality housing, better services and a neighborhood that's safe," said Monahan, 43, adding that some low-income housing would be provided as part of the redevelopment plan. "If the west side is improved, then all the residents benefit. It has nothing to do with the different cultures."

Monahan and candidate William "Bill" Perkins speak out against ordinances they believe are too restrictive and infringe on personal freedoms.

"We need to work on improving Costa Mesa without heavy restrictions placed on individuals who already do their part," said Perkins, 26, a retailer and planning commissioner.

As an incumbent, Monahan said he has spoken out against Costa Mesa ordinances he views as heavy-handed, such as the strict review of second-story home additions and restrictions on chain-link fences.

"Costa Mesa has always had a less bureaucratic, live-and-let-live attitude," Monahan said. "My campaign is about keeping the overly burdensome government from intruding on our personal rights."

Panian said he will vote for candidates based on how responsive they are to residents' concerns and how they deal with problems that affect the entire city, such as educational and recreational programs for youths.

"I'm concerned about the issues of the city as a whole being dealt with, not just the west side or a specific section," he said.

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