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ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Costa Mesa wants to weigh in on Fairview Developmental Center’s future

Excerpted from Orange County Register

By Alicia Robinson

As the state-owned Fairview Developmental Center prepares to close in coming months, Costa Mesa officials are taking steps to ensure they’re involved in decisions on reuse of the center’s spacious campus in the heart of the city.

A majority of the City Council agreed Tuesday, Sept. 3, to appoint Mayor Katrina Foley and council members John Stephens and Andrea Marr to a special committee that will reach out to state officials, who have the final say over what happens to the 114-acre developmental center property.

The 60-year-old Fairview center now houses about 35 people with developmental or intellectual disabilities, but it was designed for more than 2,600 residents. The state has been relocating remaining clients to smaller, community-based facilities and plans to close Fairview by early next year.

Costa Mesa officials often hear from constituents about the center’s future, some with ideas and others with concerns about what the state may suggest “that’s beyond our control,” Stephens said Friday.

While Costa Mesa is determined to have a say, who at the state level will decide Fairview’s fate appears up in the air.

Assemblywoman Sharon-Quirk Silva recently amended her bill that would create temporary housing for up to 200 homeless people with mental illness at Fairview; the updated version would allow those people to live there until the end of 2025.

But local support for that idea isn’t likely to be forthcoming, Stephens said.

“The idea, quite honestly, of 200 severely mentally ill homeless people from throughout Orange County coming to Fairview Developmental Center to be housed in some yet-to-be-disclosed program is an area of great concern for the citizens of Costa Mesa,” he said.

The expected next step is for the state to declare the property surplus and offer it for sale to various state departments.

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, whose district includes Costa Mesa, wrote a bill now awaiting the governor’s signature that would require a public hearing for community input if more than one state agency wants the land, which she expects.

“I think that there’s a range of really exciting possibilities, and we want to make sure that the future use of the property is doing something good for the people of California and also the people of Costa Mesa,” Petrie-Norris said.

She’s heard suggestions such as a university campus, homes, a park and the second “Be Well OC” center, a campus offering short- and long-term mental health care, substance abuse treatment and other services; the county’s first such center broke ground in August.

Some of those ideas could be explored in a $2.2 million evaluation of the site directed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in his May revisions to the state budget. It’s unclear whether that review has begun; a spokeswoman at the state Department of General Services did not have an answer Friday.

But Stephens and other officials have noted the city zoned the Fairview property in a 2016 for several uses: about half is designated for single-family homes; a quarter is set aside for parks, and the remaining quarter is reserved for institutional uses.

Stephens also said a piece of the site known as Shannon’s Mountain has already been approved for providing independent living facilities for people with developmental disabilities.