Costa Mesa, California

Costa Mesa (/ˌkstə ˈmsə/) is a city in Orange County, California. Since its incorporation in 1953, the city has grown from a semi-rural farming community of 16,840 to a suburban area including part of the South Coast Plaza–John Wayne Airport edge city, one of the region's largest commercial clusters, with an economy based on retail, commerce, and light manufacturing. The population was 109,960 at the 2010 United States Census.

Costa Mesa, California
City of Costa Mesa


"City of the Arts!"
Location of Costa Mesa in Orange County, California
Costa Mesa
Location within Greater Los Angeles
Costa Mesa
Location in California
Costa Mesa
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 33°39′54″N 117°54′44″W
Country United States
State California
County Orange
IncorporatedJune 29, 1953[1]
  City Council[2]Mayor Katrina Foley
Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens
Manuel Chavez
Sandy Genis
Andrea Marr
Allan Mansoor
Arlis Reynolds
  City ManagerLori Ann Farrell Harrison [3]
  Total15.81 sq mi (40.93 km2)
  Land15.72 sq mi (40.72 km2)
  Water0.08 sq mi (0.21 km2)  0.29%
Elevation98 ft (30 m)
  Rank8th in Orange County
54th in California
  Density7,175.60/sq mi (2,770.43/km2)
Demonym(s)Costa Mesan
Time zoneUTC-8 (PST)
  Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)714/657/949
FIPS code06-16532
GNIS feature IDs1652692, 2410239


Members of the Gabrieleño/Tongva and Juaneño/Luiseño nations long inhabited the area. After the 1769 expedition of Gaspar de Portolà, a Spanish expedition led by Junípero Serra named the area Vallejo de Santa Ana (Valley of Saint Anne). On November 1, 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano became the area's first permanent European settlement in Alta California, New Spain.

In 1801, the Spanish Empire granted 62,500 acres (253 km2) to Jose Antonio Yorba, which he named Rancho San Antonio. Yorba's great rancho included the lands where the communities of Olive, Orange, Villa Park, Santa Ana, Tustin, Costa Mesa and Newport Beach stand today.

After the Mexican-American war, California became part of the United States, and American settlers arrived in this area and formed the town of Fairview in the 1880s near the modern intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Adams Avenue. However, a flood in 1889 wiped out the railroad serving the community, and it shriveled.

To the south, meanwhile, the community of Harper had arisen on a siding of the Santa Ana and Newport Railroad, named after a local rancher. This town prospered on its agricultural goods. On May 11, 1920, Harper changed its name to Costa Mesa, which means "coast table(land)" in Spanish. This is a reference to the city's geography as being a plateau by the coast.

Costa Mesa surged in population during and after World War II, as many thousands trained at Santa Ana Army Air Base and returned after the war with their families. Within three decades of incorporation, the city's population had nearly quintupled.[7]


Costa Mesa is located 37 miles (60 km) southeast of Los Angeles, California, 88 miles (142 km) north of San Diego, California and 425 miles (684 km) south of San Francisco, Costa Mesa encompasses a total of 16 square miles (41 km2) with its southernmost border only 1 mile (1.6 km) from the Pacific Ocean. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.7 square miles (41 km2). 15.7 square miles (41 km2) of it is land and 0.05 square miles (0.13 km2) of it (0.29%) is water.


Costa Mesa has a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSh) with mild temperatures year round. Rain falls primarily in the winter months, and is close to nonexistent during the summer. Morning low clouds and fog are common due to its coastal location.

Climate data for Costa Mesa, California
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 70
Average low °F (°C) 47
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.07
Source: Weather Channel[8]


Historical population
Est. 2018113,615[6]3.3%
U.S. Decennial Census[9]


The 2010 United States Census[10] reported that Costa Mesa had a population of 109,960. The population density was 7,004.0 people per square mile (2,704.3/km²). The racial makeup of Costa Mesa was 75,335 (68.5%) White (51.8% Non-Hispanic White),[11] 1,640 (1.5%) African American, 686 (0.6%) Native American, 8,654 (7.9%) Asian, 527 (0.5%) Pacific Islander, 17,992 (16.4%) from other races, and 5,126 (4.7%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 39,403 persons (35.8%).

The Census reported that 106,990 people (97.3% of the population) lived in households, 2,232 (2.0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 738 (0.7%) were institutionalized.

There were 39,946 households, out of which 12,298 (30.8%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 16,478 (41.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 4,369 (10.9%) had a female householder with no husband present, 2,392 (6.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 3,013 (7.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 281 (0.7%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 10,963 households (27.4%) were made up of individuals and 2,775 (6.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68. There were 23,239 families (58.2% of all households); the average family size was 3.30.

The population was spread out with 23,682 people (21.5%) under the age of 18, 12,847 people (11.7%) aged 18 to 24, 38,211 people (34.7%) aged 25 to 44, 25,106 people (22.8%) aged 45 to 64, and 10,114 people (9.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 103.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.7 males.

There were 42,120 housing units at an average density of 2,682.9 per square mile (1,035.9/km²), of which 15,799 (39.6%) were owner-occupied, and 24,147 (60.4%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.2%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.9%. 42,517 people (38.7% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 64,473 people (58.6%) lived in rental housing units.

During 2009–2013, Costa Mesa had a median household income of $65,830, with 15.1% of the population living below the poverty line.[11]


As of the census[12] of 2000, there were 108,724 people, 39,206 households, and 22,778 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,956.3 inhabitants per square mile (2,685.8/km²). There were 40,406 housing units at an average density of 2,585.2 per square mile (998.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 69.48% White, 1.40% Black or African American, 0.78% Native American, 6.90% Asian, 0.60% Pacific Islander, 16.57% from other races, and 4.27% from two or more races. 31.75% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 39,206 households out of which 29.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.8% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.9% were non-families. 28.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.34.

In the city, the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 39.0% from 25 to 44, 18.1% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 105.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $50,732, and the median income for a family was $55,456. Males had a median income of $38,670 versus $32,365 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,342. About 8.2% of families and 12.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.0% of those under age 18 and 6.2% of those age 65 or over.


Measure Y is a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2016. It requires public approval of projects that have a general plan amendment or zoning change and would add 40 or more dwelling units or 10,000 or more square feet of commercial space.[13] The median housing price is $807,000 (that's $505 per sqft) and $3,500 for the median rent per month.[14]


The economy relies heavily on retail and services. The single largest center of commercial activity is South Coast Plaza, a shopping center noted for its architecture and size. The volume of sales generated by South Coast Plaza, on the strength of 322 stores, places it among the highest volume regional shopping centers in the nation. It generates more than $1 billion per year in revenue. South Coast Metro is a commercial, cultural, and residential district surrounding South Coast Plaza in northern Costa Mesa and southern Santa Ana, itself part of the South Coast Plaza–John Wayne Airport edge city.

Some manufacturing activity also takes place in the city, mostly in the industrial, southwestern quarter, which is home to a number of electronics, pharmaceuticals and plastics firms. Business services company Experian is the largest employer in the city, and has its North American headquarters in Costa Mesa.

Ceradyne, El Pollo Loco, Emulex, Hurley, RVCA, Toyota Racing Development, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Vans, and Volcom are among the businesses headquartered in Costa Mesa. A local newspaper, the Daily Pilot, is published by the Los Angeles Times.

Costa Mesa offers 26 parks, a municipal golf course, 26 public schools and 2 libraries.

Top employers

According to the City's 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[15] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of employees
1 El Pollo Loco 3,998
2 Experian 3,700
3 Coast Community College District Foundation 2,900
4 Orange Coast College 1,900
5 Automobile Club of Southern California 1,200
6 Dynamic Cooking Systems 700
7 IBM FileNet 600
8 Sure Haven 550
9 TTM Technologies 500
10 Shurflo 430

Arts and culture

Annual cultural events

The Orange County Fair takes place at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa each July. The Fair receives more than one million visitors each year.

The Annual Scarecrow & Pumpkin Festival was first held in 1938, went on hiatus for seven decades, and then was restarted in 2013.[16]


Adjacent to the Fairgrounds is the Pacific Amphitheatre, which has hosted acts such as Madonna, Jessica Simpson, Steppenwolf, and Kelly Clarkson.

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts and South Coast Repertory Theater are based in the city.

Los Angeles Chargers

Costa Mesa became the home to the NFL's Los Angeles Chargers training center, training camp and cooperate headquarters since 2017. The team agreed to a lease with the facility they moved into prior to their relocation from San Diego.

The building is a former office space, but Chargers players and coaches said it was an upgrade from what the team had in San Diego.[17] The team has a 10-year lease on the building. The team gutted the first floor of the building to make room for team rooms. Construction was more than $3.8 million. Decades prior, the facility was a lima bean farm owned by a Swedish immigrant family who became prominent developers in Orange County.[18]



A general law city, Costa Mesa has a council-manager form of government. In November 2016, voters approved changing the City Council seats from at-large to six voting districts and a directly elected mayor, who acts as the chairperson for the council and head of the government. Day to day, the city is run by a professional city manager and staff of approximately 460 full-time employees.

Management of the city and coordination of city services are provided by:[19]

Office Officeholder
City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison
Acting Assistant City Manager Justin Martin
City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow
City Clerk Brenda Green
Economic & Development Services Director Barry Curtis
Finance Director Kelly Telford
I.T. Director Steve Ely
Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman
Acting Parks and Community Services Director Yvette Aguilar
Fire Chief Dan Stefano
Police Chief Rob Sharpnack[20]

State and federal

In the California State Legislature, Costa Mesa is in the 37th Senate District, represented by Republican John Moorlach, and in the 74th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Cottie Petrie-Norris.[21]

In the United States House of Representatives, Costa Mesa is in California's 48th congressional district, represented by Democrat Harley Rouda.[22]


According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 10, 2019, Costa Mesa has 55,849 registered voters. Of those, 17,920 (32.1%) are registered Democrats, 17,900 (32.1%) are registered Republicans, and 17,019 (30.5%) have declined to state a political party/are independents.[23]

Costa Mesa city vote
by party in presidential elections
Year Democratic Republican Third Parties
2016[24] 50.95% 21,528 40.75% 17,219 8.30% 3,507
2012[25] 47.66% 18,414 48.60% 18,778 3.74% 1,443
2008[26] 51.88% 20,542 45.32% 17,945 2.80% 1,107
2004[27] 42.91% 16,442 55.55% 21,284 1.54% 590
2000[28] 40.06% 13,733 54.13% 18,556 5.81% 1,990
1996[29] 36.97% 11,949 50.16% 16,213 12.87% 4,161
1992[30] 32.46% 12,702 40.02% 15,659 27.52% 10,769
1988[31] 33.90% 11,849 64.47% 22,534 1.63% 571
1984[32] 26.16% 8,908 72.39% 24,652 1.45% 493
1980[33] 24.67% 7,796 63.38% 20,028 11.95% 3,775
1976[34] 35.51% 9,805 62.16% 17,161 2.33% 643


Institutions of higher learning located in Costa Mesa include Orange Coast College, Vanguard University (affiliated with the Assemblies of God), Whittier Law School (a satellite of Whittier College) and National University (a private university based in La Jolla, California).

Costa Mesa has two public high schools, Costa Mesa High School and Estancia High School. Costa Mesa has two public middle schools; Tewinkle Middle School, which was named after Costa Mesa's first mayor, and Costa Mesa Middle School which shares the same campus as Costa Mesa High School. Costa Mesa also has two alternative high schools that share the same campus, Back Bay High School and Monte Vista High School and another, Coastline Early College High School which is on its own facility.



Costa Mesa is served by several bus lines of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), but most transportation is by automobile. Two freeways terminate here, State Route 73 and State Route 55 (also known as the Costa Mesa Freeway). The San Diego Freeway, Interstate 405, also runs through the city.

Civic Center

The 9.5 acre (38,000 m²) Costa Mesa Civic Center is located at 77 Fair Drive. City hall is a five-story building where the primary administrative functions of the city are conducted. Also contained in the Civic Center complex are Council Chambers, the Police facility, Communications building and Fire Station No. 5.

Emergency services

Fire protection is provided by the Costa Mesa Fire Department. Law enforcement is the responsibility of the Costa Mesa Police Department. Emergency Medical Services are provided by the Costa Mesa Fire Department and Care Ambulance Service.

Notable people

Sister city

See also


  1. "California Cities by Incorporation Date". California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Archived from the original (Word) on November 3, 2014. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  2. "Costa Mesa City Council". City of Costa Mesa. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  3. "City Manager's Office". City of Costa Mesa. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  4. "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  5. "Costa Mesa". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  6. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  7. Money, Luke (March 1, 2019). "Costa Mesa council to screen project that would add 1,057 residential units, office and retail space north of 405". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  8. Weather Channel. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
  9. "Census of Population and Housing". Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  10. "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Costa Mesa city". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  11. "United States QuickFacts".
  12. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  13. Money, Luke (March 6, 2019). "Proposed 1,057-unit residential complex with office and retail space moves ahead in Costa Mesa". Daily Pilot. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  14. "Real Estate Overview for Costa Mesa, CA - Trulia". Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  15. City of Costa Mesa CAFR
  16. Graham, Jordan (October 18, 2015). "Scarecrows face off in Costa Mesa competition". The Orange County Register.
  17. "A look at the LA Chargers training camp" (PDF). 2017. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  18. Jack Wang. "Chargers settling into Costa Mesa after months of relocation – Daily News". Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  19. City of Costa Mesa Website Archived June 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine retrieved June 4, 2009
  20. "Chief Rob Sharpnack". Orange County Register. Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  21. "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  22. "California's 48th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC.
  23. "CA Secretary of State – Report of Registration – February 10, 2019" (PDF). Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  24. "Data" (PDF). 2016. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  25. "Data" (PDF). 2012. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  26. "Data". (PDF)|format= requires |url= (help). 2008. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  27. "Info" (PDF). Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  28. "SOV.xls" (PDF). Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  29. "Statement of vote : California. Secretary of State : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive". Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  30. "Statement of vote : California. Secretary of State : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive". Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  31. Statement of the Vote. Sacramento, Calif. : The Secretary. 1968.
  32. Statement of the Vote. Sacramento, Calif. : The Secretary. 1968.
  33. Statement of the Vote. Sacramento, Calif. : The Secretary. 1968.
  34. Statement of the Vote. Sacramento, Calif. : The Secretary. 1968.
  35. Fadroski, Kelli Skye (July 19, 2014). "Bad Religion has good fun in Costa Mesa". The Orange County Register. p. Life 2.
  36. Kwiatkowski, Elizabeth (August 19, 2013). "'Whodunnit?' Crowns Kam Perez Winner and Unveils Cris Crotz as Killer". Reality TV World.
  37. Schlenker, Dave (July 16, 2010). "Actor James Gammon, who called Ocala home, dies at 70". Ocala Star Banner. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  38. Aimee Berg (July 24, 2008). "The Perfect Mismatch". U.S. Olympic Committee web site. Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  39. "Sister City Program". City of Costa Mesa. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
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