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Perhaps no one could have foreseen the amazing transformation of Costa Mesa from a sleepy rancho to today’s bustling “City of the Arts.” Along with other Orange County cities, Costa Mesa experienced explosive growth, redevelopment, county bankruptcy, traffic, and environmental issues. While navigating these events, Costa Mesa emerged with its own brand of Southern California cityhood. World War II brought the Santa Ana Army Air Base (SAAAB) to town, along with 125,000 cadets. Postwar SAAAB conversion established the Orange County Fairgrounds, colleges, and housing. After incorporation in 1953, the race was on to achieve critical mass while surrounded by older, established cities. The Segerstrom family led the way to world-class facilities, such as South Coast Plaza and the Orange County Performing Arts Center. These venues shifted the city center from the traditional downtown to north Costa Mesa. Located at the confluence of three freeways and adjacent to John Wayne–Orange County Airport, Costa Mesa faces the future as the center of the South Coast Metro complex.

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