Costa Mesa to rescind claim housing element could threaten airport buffers


Costa Mesa officials on Tuesday dismissed an objection to the city’s recently finalized housing element that claimed certain height allowances identified in the plan, if made, could encroach on a buffer zone designed to protect the space. navigable air near John Wayne Airport.

The members of the Council considered in the first of two public hearings a decision made last month by the Airport Land Use Commission, an advisory body designed to ensure compatibility between local land use and development and that of nearby airports.

Commissioners found that nine of the 99 potential housing projects outlined in the new Costa Mesa housing feature, if built to maximum height tolerances, would interfere with an “imaginary horizontal surface” – set by the Federal Airline Administration at 206 feet above sea level – which aims to protect aircraft path near runways.

The latest version of the housing element outlines how the city would accommodate, through zoning and land use, an additional 11,733 residential units by 2029, as required by the state.

The nine proposed sites are in the northeast end of the city near John Wayne Airport and the 405/55 freeway interchange on portions of Anton Boulevard, Bristol Street, Sunflower Avenue and Park Center Drive. Built to maximum specifications, their encroachment would be 3 to 5 feet.

Scott Drapkin, deputy director of city development services, explained that although the Airport Land Use Commission has the power under the state Utilities Commission to review any what influences its own planning areas, its determination is not set in stone.

“ALUC is an advisory agency, and the final determination of land use rests with the city,” he told the city council.

Drapkin, who appeared before ALUC members at a March 17 meeting, said the commissioners used topographic data compiled by Google Maps to determine how many feet above sea level the buildings of a specified height would be located.

“[That] is clearly not accurate at 3 to 5 feet,” he said. “When the staff were introduced to the commission, we suggested it might not be as big an issue as they thought it was.”

Pro Tem Mayor Andrea Marr clarified that any potential inconsistencies with ALUP’s own land use plans would come back for discussion by city officials if at any time the proposed sites move to the construction phase.

“In reality, when a shot comes back for one of those places, it’s probably going to come back to the exact same process,” she said. “This [decision] it feels like it’s superficial enough to get a housing element certified.

Council members agreed, ultimately voting 6-0 (Councillor Arlis Reynolds was absent) to move to overturn the commission’s decision, giving the agency 30 days to respond before a second hearing, which is to be scheduled 45 days after Tuesday’s decision.

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