The Costa Mesa City Council voted early Wednesday to add a turnaround space at Fairview Park as a potential compromise to a proposed parking lot, which had been opposed by residents.
But a vocal group of people attending the nearly seven-hour council session weren't happy with that decision either, contending that the city should be hands-off and keep the park natural.
The 3-2 decision — with Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece dissenting — overrode the Parks and Recreation Commission's design approval for a 10-space lot within the park's southwestern quadrant.
Mayor Jim Righeimer suggested the motion, which also keeps a proposed playground area next to the turnaround space at the end of Pacific Avenue. The matter was brought to the council after Genis filed an appeal of the commission's Aug. 22 approval of the lot.
Righeimer tested the idea of a turnaround without any parking during a Meet the Mayor session last week at a residence on Pacific Avenue. Many of those in attendance seemed to like the idea, though others expressed disapproval following the gathering.
Righeimer also asked staff to come up with a "proper looking" park entrance for the end of Pacific Avenue, a residential street of single-family homes, condominiums and apartments.
The park's master plan calls for a 10-space parking lot at the end of Pacific Avenue, as well as the playground. The plan was approved in the mid-1990s and modified through the early 2000s. A majority of the parks commissioners cited the conformance with the master plan, which was publicly vetted and debated, in their approval of the parking lot.
The lot was originally designed to have 42 spaces, but that was changed after city officials realized the master plan called for only 10.
The turnaround would be available to the Fire Department in an emergency, though interim Fire Chief Fred Seguin said Pacific Avenue is more of a secondary entrance to the park for firefighters, who are more likely to enter from nearby Canyon Drive.
People attending Wednesday's council meeting, including some who live along Pacific Avenue, universally opposed all the plans, even the mayor's compromise.
"The voice of the community has been overwhelming to keep the park natural," said Anna Vrska, a member of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee. "I would urge that you respect that."
Leece noted that "nobody came tonight who is demanding that we have a tot lot and a turnaround." She called the land "the last piece of rural area in Costa Mesa."
Genis said a turnaround might be OK, though she said there's probably a better space for a playground in the 208-acre park.
Sylvere Valentin, an archaeologist from Long Beach, said the project would harm the area's rich Native American significance. He alluded to the Fairview Indian Site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz said the city is not aware of any archaeological sites in that area of Fairview Park and added that an archaeologist would be present during the construction process.
Kim Hendricks, who was part of a group that started a petition against the lot, said she talked with more than 1,000 people citywide who opposed it.
"I've always informed them who they should vote for in the next election," Hendricks said. "The citizens do feel you guys aren't being upfront with us. ... I think we need to take some science classes if we don't appreciate biodiversity and the importance of it in our ecosystem."
Costa Mesa native Kevin Nelson, who now lives in San Clemente, called Fairview Park "a miracle" that enhances visitors' mental health.
The citizens advisory committee will look to see where 10 spaces can be added elsewhere in the park, Munoz said.
The council is not scheduled to review the matter again until it's time to approve construction contracts. The turnaround will replace a guard rail and basic signage at the end of Pacific Avenue.