The Costa Mesa City Council on Tuesday approved an agreement between the city and EF Education First to improve infrastructure around Trinity Broadcasting’s former headquarters to accommodate pedestrian and transit needs, paving the way for company to set up a for-profit English language program. school on the property.
The 6-1 decision came after Stacy Swanson, owner of property adjoining the venue, withdrew her appeal of the Planning Commission’s November 25 approval of EF Education’s plans.
In his Dec. 2 appeal to City Council, Swanson expressed concerns about vehicular traffic, vehicle exhaust and noise from the campus parking lot and recreation area. But she spoke with company vice president Shawna Marino in the days leading up to the board meeting about the school’s plans to address those concerns.
Although Swanson withdrew the appeal, the board’s agenda included an item on whether to accept proposed infrastructure improvements and accept $1.8 million from EF Education to address them.
EF Education First, founded in Sweden, plans to transform the 6.19 acres of 3150 Bear St. into a school that can accommodate 627 international students living on site and 720 living with host families within a 45-minute drive from campus .
Since international students are not permitted to own or drive vehicles per the school’s code of conduct, students would be dependent on walking, cycling, and public transportation, which would require street improvements around of the site.
The company agreed to invest the $1.8 million over 15 years. He will pay the city $300,000 before the permit is issued, followed by annual payments of $100,000.
Some of the money will go towards building a crosswalk, a pedestrian-activated HAWK signal and handicap-accessible ramps along Bear Street. The remainder will address other concerns and projects in the vicinity of the school at the city’s discretion, including improving transportation.
Marino said she discovered while planning that public transportation in Costa Mesa was not full.
While board members spoke favorably of the project as a whole, one point of contention was the demographics of EF Education First’s high school scholarship program.
The company plans to post a prompt related to science, engineering, technology, or math. Students would compete in teams to find the best solution to the prompt. Up to five high school students and two chaperones will win a full scholarship to travel to a destination that models the subject.
EF Education intended to open the contest to public high school students in Costa Mesa, but some board members wanted it to be open to all Costa Mesa resident high school students.
Mayor Katrina Foley has pleaded for public high school students to be given priority. She said private secondary schools have an advantage over public schools based on access and resources.
“It’s been happening in public schools for decades,” Foley said. “We don’t have the resources that other schools have, so other schools have a competitive advantage. It’s a fact.”
Councilman Allan Mansoor advocated for the inclusion of all high school students in Costa Mesa, saying it was wrong to limit or exclude certain students from the competition. He said some students from low-income families attend private schools on a scholarship.
Marino suggested changing the wording to make the “scholarship open to all high school students in Costa Mesa, as determined by the city council.”
Mansoor cast the only dissenting vote because the changed wording caused him to pause.
“It’s something a lawyer would put in place to give some leeway,” he said. “My concern is with the direction that this majority of the board has expressed that they want to give preference to one student over another when it really should be open to all equally.”
The board will determine scholarship eligibility when the company is ready to host the competition.
Police Department Upgrades
Funding to replace CCTV around police department headquarters, car hire contracts for unmarked vehicles and broadband service won unanimous council approval on Tuesday.
The decision is part of a three-year plan approved to fund law enforcement projects after a dispute in which police chief Rob Sharpnack sent a memo in May, criticizing the city’s proposed budget, saying the police department was wronged.
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