Friday, October 13, 2023

My Correspondence Regarding The Proposed EOC at Fairview Developmental Center Sent To The State Via Email 10/13/23

Sent via email to:

Ms. Terry Ash, Senior Environmental Planner
℅ Dudek                                                                                                                                                                
California Department of General Services                                             
Real Estate Division, Project Management and               
2635 North 1st Street, Ste. 149 
San Jose, California 95134

SUBJECT: Proposed Emergency Operations Center at Fairview Development Center

Dear Ms. Ash,
Recently I attended a meeting at the Fairview Developmental Center (FDC) in Costa Mesa, along with nearly 100 of my neighbors, to present our concerns about the proposed establishment of a Southern Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on 15 acres of the more than 100 acre Fairview Developmental Center site.  I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, of us came away disappointed.

This meeting was poorly advertised, hence the small turnout from a city of more than 112,000 souls.  The venue was inadequate for this meeting.  Because of the layout - wide instead of deep - only about a third of the attendees could actually see and read the slides in the presentation.  It was attended by a few former elected officials, some “regulars” at city events and a large number of newcomers - residents who lived nearby and had just heard about the meeting a day or two before.  Also in the audience were current elected officials - Mayor John Stephens and Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Harlan - as well as appointed officials like Planning Commission Chairman Adam Ereth and many members of the city senior staff.

It’s my view that much of the disappointment felt by members of the audience was because there were very few - I hesitate to say “no” - answers provided to members of the public who spoke.  I counted 34 - 35, if you count Mayor Stephens, who was sandbagged into speaking by a constituent.  Most of the speakers didn’t really know enough about the project to present clear, concise concerns and questions were seldom answered.

As a 50 year resident of Costa Mesa and one who has followed (and written about) city issues for more than two decades, I came away from this meeting very concerned about the plan as explained to us by Laura Masterson of Dudek.  Some of my concerns are listed below.  

 1-THE STATE GIVETH….The State has declared the Fairview Developmental Center as “surplus”, and made it available for potential much-needed housing in Costa Mesa.  In fact, the State recently provided $3.5 million to Costa Mesa to help with the planning - zoning, etc. - for the site for future housing development.  Since the State also saddled Costa Mesa with RHNA requirements demanding we plan for 11,760 new dwelling units in a city 99% built-out, the availability of the FDC for some future housing was good news, and the City is moving forward with the plans for the site.

2-….AND TAKETH AWAY.  The proverbial “other shoe” dropped when we learned the State decided to take away 15 acres of the site for a proposed Emergency Operations Center and that this center would include a 35,000 square foot office building, a 20,000 square foot warehouse/garage PLUS a helipad and 120 foot illuminated communication tower!  In my view, none of these facilities are compatible in any way with the housing that will be planned for that site.  The presentation showed the flight path footprint for the helipad as well as the proposed location of the communication tower.  Well, as a man who has flown helicopters, I can tell you that the presence of that helipad so close to residential uses is unacceptable!  And the communication tower is problematic, too.  Nobody will want to open their curtains to view the sunset over the golf course with the blinking red lights on that tower ruining the view.  

3-WHAT IT MIGHT BECOME.   This more than 100 acre site could go a very long way to helping meet our City (and State, for that matter) requirement for additional housing.  There are those who view this location as a kind of “Village of Fairview” within the boundaries of Costa Mesa.  It’s a site surrounded on 3 sides by a municipal golf course and is about a mile from our Civic Center and the Orange County Fairgrounds.  Given the opportunity to plan for it, that site could be the home of, for example, several high-rise buildings providing true “affordable housing” in a region that drastically needs such housing stock.  It could become a model of forward-thinking planning, with playgrounds and other park areas with walking and bicycling paths, and services, like a market, pharmacies, entertainment venues, etc. spotted throughout the site.  Depending on the number of housing units built, there might even be a need for an elementary school on the site.

4-INCOMPATIBILITY The creation of the EOC as planned would make the housing plans described above untenable.  The EOC would have to be staffed 24/7/365, which means cars and large trucks moving to and from the site.  In the case of an “emergency”, this would be magnified many-fold.  Of course, the helipad makes any kind of housing, much less affordable housing, a non-starter.  As one speaker at the meeting said, (paraphrasing), "This is just another example of people who have no options - poor people in those “affordable” housing units - getting the shaft!”  Yes, it’s true - nobody who can afford to live elsewhere would even think of living in the flight path of large, military transport helicopters.  This is a GREAT opportunity to demonstrate that a community of affordable housing units doesn’t have to be a slum-in-waiting, with people packed cheek-by-jowl!  This could be a place where we all would point to with pride - but not if it’s saddled with the EOC as currently planned.

5-ACCESS.  Another of the problems viewed by many of us at the meeting was access to the site.  Yes, the map showed a route from Harbor Blvd. along the perimeter of the of the FDC to the location of the proposed EOC.  If this site is chosen, the intersection at Harbor Blvd. - Costa Mesa's de facto “Main Street” -  will require major modification.  Also, there really is no other acceptable access route unless one is carved through the golf course.  Is that the plan?  You can’t really have an Emergency Operations Center with only one way in and out, can you?

6-WATER ACCESS? I have not reviewed the complete Draft EIR, but am told by those who have that there is a reference to the FDC site having “access to waterways”.  Well, if you’re looking for a way to bring people and supplies to the site via water, you’re pretty much out of luck.  The closest “waterway” would be the Santa Ana River, which runs, such as is is, within about a mile of this site.  However, it is NOT navigable - it’s barely a trickle most of the year.  If Newport Harbor was the intended source of water access, it’s at least 5 miles away, is a small boat harbor and certainly not adequate to deliver large quantities of supplies to the site because it lacks the space and depth to accommodate large craft.

7-A PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE.  During the presentation, “alternatives” were discussed.  “Alternative 3” - 24 acres a few miles away at the corner of Red Hill Avenue and Victory Road in Tustin, was described as “environmentally superior”.  Why, then, is THAT site not the preferred location for this new EOC?  It’s a larger chunk of land, currently undeveloped, in a commercial zone.  It’s much closer to freeways, providing essential travel venues in case of an “emergency” and the surface streets surrounding that site make it much more practical for an EOC location.  
When compared to the proposed site at the FDC, the Tustin site wins, hands-down!  It’s much larger, not surrounded by incompatible uses and is MUCH closer to freeway access.

8-TIMING AND CONSTRUCTION.  We understand from sources at the Department of General Services that the FDC EOC would cost north of $180 million and would take well into 2027 to complete.  This timing would certainly conflict with any proposed housing construction planned for the FDC site.  I doubt any builder would choose to arm-wrestle with government contractors over the use of access roads simultaneously as we tried to meet other State requirements to build more housing.

Thank you for considering my view, and those of my friends and neighbors who also took the time to write to you on this very important issue.  We hope Governor Newsom will see this plan as a hindrance to his goal of more affordable housing.  We are told Mayor Stephens intends to personally address this issue with him in the very near future.  Please abandon the plan for the EOC at the FDC.

Geoff West
1973 Aliso Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92627


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