September 1, 2022

Initiative to spur Costa Mesa housing, development to go before voters as
Measure K

Sara Cardine, Staff Writer, Daily Pilot


An effort to exempt certain commercial and industrial corridors in Costa Mesa from the mandates of a 2016 initiative requiring voter approval for development projects seeking an excess of entitlements will appear on the November ballot as Measure K.

Supporters claim the new measure will remove some of the hurdles that have historically stood in the way of building projects that could have increased the city’s housing stock.

Opponents, including a contingent of residents who worked to pass the voting requirement six years ago, warn opening the floodgates to developers without an established mandate of affordability will do little to help the housing crisis.

Voters will be asked in November which course to take, meaning both sides have two months to make their cases before the public.

Officials recently posted information on Measure K to the city’s website, including arguments for and against the plan that will be printed and disseminated to voters ahead of Election Day.

A City Council ad hoc committee on housing drafted the ballot language for the measure as well as supporting arguments, in which they claim the earlier initiative, Measure Y, made it costly, difficult and risky for anyone to build new affordable residential units.

“Housing has been a primary issue we’ve been discussing since the first meeting of my first term,” said Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds, who served on the ad hoc committee. “Doing nothing is not an option. We’re here to represent the people of Costa Mesa, and 50% of people are concerned about housing, so we’ve got to address it.”

Members of the political action committee “Costa Mesa First,” who wrote Measure Y and put it on the ballot in 2016, said citizens at the time were fed up with the council approving housing projects that impacted neighbors and cost too much for residents to afford.

“We were trying to give input to the City Council and were basically ignored,” longtime resident and Y co-author Cynthia McDonald said Thursday. “Now, we’re six years down the road and some of the dissatisfaction is still there.”

Too few affordable housing units have been built in recent years — on that, both sides agree. But while council members blame the stringency of Measure Y, its authors point to the city’s failure to pass a housing ordinance requiring housing projects to include low-income units.

Measure K’s language says the initiative will encourage the development of affordable housing for working and middle class families, while revitalizing commercial areas.

“We can address the current housing needs and start to invest in the way Costa Mesa residents really want us to,” Reynolds said of the measure.

But Jay Humphrey, a former City Council member (1990-1994) who helped pass Measure Y, says while the ballot language makes reference to building projects that comply with a council-adopted affordable housing ordinance, such an ordinance doesn’t yet exist.

“There’s nothing requiring affordable housing in Measure K,” he said. “A housing ordinance does not exist, and will it exist before the election?”

Costa Mesa City Councilman Don Harper, the lone city official who opposes Measure K, said it would subvert the power of citizens to have a say in what gets built in their community. He says the city should have worked with residents to envision smart development before easing restrictions.

“[The council] went in the wrong order,” he said. “We just turned the key and opened the door for developers.”

Reynolds maintained Measure K will help the city meet state housing mandates while reimagining run-down commercial sectors into beneficial community spaces.

“This is a housing issue,” she said. “It’s about people in our community who are struggling every day.”

September 9, 2022

A few facts about Y and K


Costa Mesa’s Measure Y by its own terms exempts all affordable housing projects required by law. It does not prohibit any housing projects but only requires a public vote for certain major projects.

Measure Y applies only to projects (residential or nonresidential) that require exceeding the limits of the existing general plan and zoning law. The measure passed by more than a 2-to-1 vote of the people in 2016.

There is no requirement in Measure K, on the Costa Mesa ballot this November, that any new housing be affordable or that would limit the sales price or rent that could be charged for houses, condominiums or apartments.

There is nothing in Measure K that would mitigate the effects of high-density projects on increased vehicular traffic, noise, air pollution and other adverse effects.

Any project the City Council approves under the terms of Measure K would be immune from referendum; the public would have no way to reverse the council’s decision.

Although a new housing project may increase net property tax revenue for the first five years or so, the cost to Costa Mesa taxpayers of providing services to the project every year after that is substantially greater than the revenue.

The people of Costa Mesa must continue to have a say in their city’s future by voting against Measure K.


Eleanor Egan, Costa Mesa

September 2, 2022

Vote 'no' on Measure K 


On Aug. 2, the majority of the Costa Mesa City Council voted to put a measure on the November ballot that will gut Measure Y. (“Will Costa Mesans vote to reduce their say on large-scale projects? Officials hope so,” Daily Pilot, Aug. 3).

During that chaotic meeting, Councilman Jeffrey Harlan made a last-minute substitution for the measure staff had prepared, which befuddled Mayor John Stephens and other council members and required multiple breaks in the proceedings.

Costa Mesa residents will recall that Measure Y, aka An Initiative to Give the People of Costa Mesa Control of Their Future, was voted into law in 2016 by nearly 70% of the voters. It gave us the right to have a say in approving major changes to our existing zoning and General Plan, including the Housing Element that the city is currently revising to satisfy state requirements.

Now the politicians we elected to represent us are trying to take that right away. The council members who proposed deceptive Measure K say they are doing so because the state is requiring the city to plan for housing, but if you read Measure K and look at its map, you will see that the code amendment:

Expands the scope. The areas covered by the measure are on almost all the major corridors of Costa Mesa, versus the few parcels identified on the revised Housing Element’s proposed map scattered around town. Measure K targets large swaths of properties along Newport, Harbor, West 17th, 18th and 19th, Baker, Bristol, and the area North of the 405 freeway for redevelopment but excludes your vote on those projects. On many of those parcels are successful businesses.

Lacks a housing requirement. There is no requirement in Measure K to build housing (affordable or not) for seniors, disabled persons, veterans, or our workforce. Any new development could be high-density, high-cost housing, but it also may be large commercial, office or industrial buildings.

Ignores impacts. There is no provision in Measure K that protects residential neighborhoods from traffic, noise or pollution generated by development. Will this traffic require road widening? What will developments mean for public safety?

Does not protect the environment. There is no requirement that new developments include building new parks, bike lanes or walking paths.

Costa Mesans voted for the right to decide whether a major land use change is worth the impacts on our daily lives. It is going to take another David vs. Goliath effort to battle this measure. The city and developers will outspend our citizen grassroots group, Costa Mesa First, but we intend to fight!

Please talk to your friends, relatives, neighbors and the owners of businesses targeted by the city. Most importantly, when you vote this fall, vote “no” on Measure K!


Cynthia McDonald, Costa Mesa​