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The owner of Costa Mesa’s Triangle Square has been pushing the city to allow him to put digital signs outside the shopping center that he hopes will attract business and revenue.

But for many residents in Costa Mesa the signs would make a dangerous intersection only more treacherous and they worry what they call “Las Vegas style billboards” will be aesthetically unpleasing. 

The issue has popped up before the city’s Planning Commission for almost a year now.

On Monday the body will again consider the hot-button project that would allow LED advertisements at Triangle Square months after it first received an application. 

Located at Harbor Boulevard, 19th Street and the 55 freeway, the shopping venue was intended to be a hub of shopping activity, but has instead experienced a steady decline since the 1990s. 

The planned signage has been proposed as part of a development agreement between Triangle Square and the city. Accepting the application would require the adoption of a new ordinance, since the proposed square footage exceeds the city’s current limits.

As part of the agreement, Tyler Mateen is offering the city 25% of the ad revenue on a quarterly basis from the signs, starting three years after the deal is signed. Costa Mesa will have control of 10% of the annual content on the signs.

The proposed signage would install over 4,960 square feet of directional, tenant, and advertising signs at the center with hopes to increase traffic to businesses, according to the staff report.

Supporters – many of them employees or business owners at Triangle Square – praise efforts to revitalize the shopping center while creating new opportunities and jobs during the pandemic. However, opponents fear the digital signs will cause distractions for drivers.

The Planning Commission met Feb. 8 and heard from Mateen and several residents. City staff recommended the commission suggest to the City Council approval of an ordinance that would permit the proposal. 

“This hearing is the single greatest event in Triangle Square’s history, because if approved, it gives us the tools we need to cement our place as a viable entertainment center,” Mateen said at the meeting.

The matter was first brought to the Planning Commission last April, with the panel continuing the item without discussion on a 4-3 vote.

As of March 1, 692 people have signed a petition against putting up digital signs at Triangle Square.

Mateen has made adjustments to his proposal but some residents are still not happy. 

“Approving this proposal would constitute gross negligence on the part of the city and in this case a serious accident could leave the city with huge liability claims,” Joseph W. DeCarlo, a former Planning Commissioner, wrote in a letter to the body.

Along with safety concerns, some residents worry about what approving the digital signs proposal could mean for advertising in other parts of the city.

“If the development agreement is approved, nothing will prevent Metro Pointe and SoCo from revisiting their development agreements to include signs similar to the proposed Triangle Square signs,” resident Cynthia McDonald commented in an email to the commission.

Clayton Benton, general manager of the 24 Hour Fitness in the center, voiced his support for the plan at the commission’s Feb. 8 meeting.

“This will greatly help our business from a marketing and traffic perspective, as well as, add a more attractive look to the city of Costa Mesa,” Benton wrote in an email to the panel.

According to the proposal, large advertising signs would be constructed on each of Triangle Square’s three corners. 

Some commissioners expressed concern over the language used in the application, requesting clarity on revenue agreements and advertisement content that will be allowed.

“If it’s not crystal clear in the agreement, that’s something that there will be a reckoning, potentially, at some time,” Commissioner John Stephens said at the Feb. 8 meeting.

Stephens received a $249 contribution to his City Council campaign in 2020 from Mateen.

“And I think many thousands of  dollars in contributions over the years from people who have expressed opposition – members of the public – to the application,” Stephens said at the Feb. 8 meeting.

The Planning Commission voted 6-1 to continue the public hearing. Commissioner Russell Toler dissented, but could not be reached for comment.

If the panel approves the project on Monday, it will advance to the City Council for review. The public can find the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. via Zoom, as well as archived meetings on the city’s website.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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