Monthly Archives: March 2017

Mariner’s Mile

Latest news: The Planning Commission’s recommendation to the City Council about City staff’s proposed “Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan,” which had been expected to come on May 18, seems to be on hold until at least June or July, apparently to allow staff to resolve whether the Commission’s Chairman is barred from voting due to a business conflict. Meanwhile, the “Mariners Mile Hwy Configuration/Land Use Review” budget item (project ID No. 15T06), dating back to the FY2014-15 budget, remains, with $90,631 of residual funding, in the Capital Improvement Program component of the City’s FY2017-18 budget. That account appears to be the one used to fund the “revitalization” efforts. The proposed CIP also includes a “re-budget” of $49,944 toward the City’s long-delayed reconfiguration of the Old Newport/PCH intersection (see Recent Events, May 5, 2017, below). The budget is expected to be approved by the Council on June 13.

Overview: According to the City’s website, Mariners Mile (oddly spelled Mariners’ in the proposed new Master Plan despite existing road signs to the contrary) has been identified as an area needing revitalization. With completion of a study evaluating roadway capacity requirements for West Coast Highway, the City is evaluating existing land use policies and regulations, which it says may inhibit “revitalization” of the area. The “Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan” is ostensibly intended to identify potential refinements and barriers to revitalizing the area.

Why We’re Watching: The City contracted with PlaceWorks in May of 2016 to assist in these efforts. According to the City, the plan they develop will provide an implementation strategy to improve the area. But PlaceWorks is the same outside consulting firm (and in this case the same principal consultant) that coordinated the City meetings that led to 2014’s ill-conceived Measure Y.  PlaceWorks also prepared the environmental analysis for Uptown Newport and the recently rejected Museum House high-rise residential development project.

PlaceWorks’ odd decision to change the spelling of Mariners Mile from Mariner’s to Mariners’ seems indicative for their general disregard for the existing Mariner’s Mile Strategic Vision and Design Framework adopted, after considerable effort, in 2000.

Concern about the outside planners’ disconnect with the history and spirit of the place is exacerbated by the fact that a good portion of Mariners Mile (the so-called “Haskell/Ardell properties” and the adjacent Duffy Boat sales/rental office) has recently changed hands and will likely be the subject of major projects and proposals. As residents, we expect these projects and proposals to adhere to our General Plan rules in order to avoid spot zoning exceptions which pave the way for excessive heights and density. And as residents, we need to raise these concerns during the earliest phases of project planning.

Opportunity to Join Voices with Other Concerned Citizens: A group of residents, business people and business property owners, concerned about recent City planning decisions affecting Mariners Mile and the future direction of the new “revitalization” effort, including the renewed push to widen Coast Highway, has banded together as the Coalition to Preserve Mariner’s Mile. The group is completely independent of SPON, but has chosen to associate with SPON for purposes of tax-deductible fundraising.

The Coalition hopes to increase citizen awareness of and  influence over the City’s current planning effort and future planning decisions affecting Mariners Mile.

On May 5, 2017, the Coalition launched a  website which articulates their efforts and concerns.  Visit it for further information, including an opportunity to sigh their petition of concern.

Upcoming:

June 5, 2017:  Last day to submit comments on Caltrans’ environmental study of their Arches Intersection improvement proposal.  See May 5, 2017, below.

Recent Events:

Planning Commission Recommendation on “Master Plan” (May 18, 2017): A formal hearing before the Planning Commission was expected on May 18, at the end of which City staff expected the Commission to make a recommendation to the City Council about the proposed Revitalization Master Plan.  However, that meeting was cancelled. The matter will apparently be brought back at a later date after City staff resolves whether Commission Chair Kory Kramer can participate in the recommendation (see notes about his conflict under April 20, below).  That process could apparently take anywhere from 30 to 60 days.

City “Development Review Committee” (May 11, 2017): City staff’s “Development Review Committee” is expected to hold a “Pre-Application & Project Review” meeting regarding a proposal for the former Ardell Property (site of A’maree’s and the boat storage area across PCH).  The meeting is not likely to be open to the public.

PMM Community Awareness Event (May 6, 2017):  On Saturday May 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Coalition to Preserve Mariner’s Mile held a  “Community Awareness Event” at Cliff Drive Park in the upper picnic area between Riverside and Redlands.

Caltrans releases Arches Intersection plans for public comment (May 5, 2017):  The City, in collaboration with Caltrans, wishes to make changes to the “Arches Intersection” where Old Newport, PCH and the Newport Blvd. bridge come together.  Before proceeding with the project, Caltrans, on May 5, released the required environmental “Initial Study and Negative Declaration” for 30 days of public review and comment. This project has been in the City’s Capital Improvement Program budget since 2012 (the “FY13 CIP“) and curiously the CIP adopted in 2016 and the proposed CIP set for adoption in 2017, in which it is listed as “Old Newport Blvd/West Coast Hwy Widening (15R19),” say the design and environmental review has been “completed.”  In fact, the City seems to have passed the review responsibility for this over to Caltrans.  However that may be, the City’s Public Works staff has said they have been unable to obtain grant funding for this project, so its fate is uncertain even if it obtains Caltrans approval.

Wake Up! Newport presentation (May 4, 2017):  Community Development Director Kimberly Brandt was expected to speak about the Revitalization Master Plan (among other topics) at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s “Wake Up! Newport” meeting.  Like the April 11 presentation, the meeting  was video recorded and should be posted (under that date) on the City’s streaming video page

Planning Commission study session (April 20, 2017): The Planning Commission held a study session on the Master Plan on April 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, with a minimum quorum of four Commissioners in attendance (PC Chair Kory Kramer appears to be permanently recused from this item due to his management interest in the Balboa Bay Club & Resort, Commissioners Zak and Hillgren had excused absences).  The consultant made a presentations about the proposed Master Plan and City staff made one about the eventual widening of Coast Highway through Mariners Mile to six lanes. After extensive public input, the Commissioners seemed skeptical about the desirability of widening the highway and uncertain as to whether they would be able to make a positive recommendation on May 18. Staff persisted in asserting that the widening issue was separate from the Master Plan, and the latter needed to be pushed through to completion.

Good Morning CdM presentation (April 13, 2017):  Newport Beach Community Development Directory Kimberly Brandt and Public Works Director Dave Webb gave a reprise of their April 11 SUN presentation to a smaller Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce breakfast group.  Their presentation prompted questions, not very well answered, about the meaning and significance of a “Master Plan” and how it relates to other planning documents such as the City’s General Plan.

Speak Up Newport presentation (April 11, 2017):  City staff made a presentation about the Master Plan and PCH widening proposals at the monthly Speak Up Newport meeting at City Hall.  The presentation was video recorded and should be posted (under that date) on the City’s streaming video page

Release of draft Master Plan (April 11, 2017):  A 163 page draft of the “Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan” has been posted for public review on the City website, here.

District 2 Town Hall (March 27, 2017): Mariners Mile was announced as one of several topics to be presented at a “District 2 Town Hall” conducted by Councilman Brad Avery in the Mariners Branch Library community room, and intended to inform the public of City activities impacting residents of District 2. However, discussion was largely deferred when the level of public interest proved such that Councilman Avery declared it a topic needing a meeting of its own.

Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan Community Meeting (January 2017)
The third public “workshop” was held at Marina Park on January 26, 2017, at 6:00 pm. Although comments were entertained at the end, this was primarily a presentation by PlaceWorks, the outside firm preparing the new Master Plan. A SPON-produced video of this third public meeting is available here.

AutoNation Proposal Withdrawn (November 7, 2016): At its October 6 meeting, the Planning Commission recommended denial of a massive AutoNation Porsche dealership proposal, which which was not part of the revitalization planning and caught many nearby residents by surprise (see SPON video for August 18 Planning Commission meeting). Cut back into the bluff, it would have occupied the entire north side of PCH from the largely-vacant new Mariner’s Pointe building at Dover Drive to McDonald’s, with roof-top parking and elevator shafts towering 50 feet above the highway. An appeal by AutoNation was expected to be heard by the City Council at a special Monday evening meeting on November 7, 2016. However, impacted neighbors had been circulating a petition against the project and it was announced that AutoNation had withdrawn their application.

Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan Community Workshop (September 2016)
The second public workshop was held as a noticed Planning Commission study session on Monday, September 26 at 6:00 pm at Marina Park. Attendance was good, despite it being a presidential election debate night. A video recording of this second Community Workshop is available here.

Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan Community Workshop (July 2016)
The July 25 Community Workshop was literally standing-room only for the crowd that attended the event. It obviously attracted many more people than the organizers had planned. Attendees were split into groups and asked to share ideas for the area. A video recording of this first Community Workshop is available here.

City Staff unveils drive for “revitalization” of Mariners Mile (May 24, 2016)
At a sparsely attended May 24, 2016, City Council afternoon “study session,” following an OCTA presentation on the results of the OCTA/Caltrans “Pacific Coast Highway Corridor Study” (agenda Item SS4), the City’s Public Works staff conducted (as agenda Item SS5) a “West Coast Highway / Mariners’ Mile Capacity Discussion.” At the regular evening meeting, the Planning Division presented as agenda Item 8, and the Council approved, a contract with the outside land use consulting firm PlaceWorks, and one of its principals, Woodie Tescher, to “develop a Revitalization Master Plan for Mariners’ Mile.”

City staff has apparently been meeting with the developers and initially said it planned to submit a draft master plan to the Planning Commission in October and to the City Council by the end of the year. Sound like a rush job?

Need for “Citizens Advisory Panel” stealthily removed (May 26, 2015)
In the Council’s May 26, 2015, budget approval for FY2015-16, in which an unspent $222,299 was “re-budgeted” for the same project described below (now known as “Project No.: 15T06“.  In the project description, the tense was changed and the word “possibly” inserted before “Citizens Advisory Panel” : “Staff is working with Mariners Mile property owners and possibly a Citizens Advisory Panel to review the ultimate street configuration and multi-model use of Coast Highway through Mariners Mile. Corresponding land uses and parking requirements of the adjacent properties also are being reviewed.” [emphasis added]

Council budgets money for “Mariners Mile Configuration and Land Use Review” (June 10, 2014)
The City budget for FY2014-15, as approved at the Council’s June 20, 2014, meeting included a $300,000 capital improvement project (“CAP15-0017“) with the above title, and the following description: “Staff will work with Mariners Mile property owners and a Citizens Advisory Panel to review the ultimate street configuration and multi-model use of Coast Highway through Mariners Mile. Corresponding land uses and parking requirements of the adjacent properties will also be reviewed.”  [emphasis added]

Helpful Links

Press Links

General Plan update

General Plan Update  . . .  as of April, 2017

Project Overview:  While details remain sketchy, Mayor Kevin Muldoon has announced the initiation of an update of the city’s General Plan as a major objective for the current City Council term.

Why We Were Watching:  Although SPON has repeatedly called for the development of “comprehensive” plans for specific areas of the city, such as Mariners Mile, West Newport Mesa and the Airport Area, this city proposal is different and could have worrisome consequences.   In 2006, the General Plan update process was used, without the full understanding of most residents, to expand and “reset” the Greenlight development thresholds throughout the city.  By by approving the update, voters in effect gave the “Greenlight” to future projects they assumed they would be given a second chance to vote on, such as the two recently erected high-rise office towers (PIMCO and Irvine Company) in Newport Center and the massive 524-unit Villas Fashion Island apartment project at the corner of Jamboree and San Joaquin Hills Road.

With greater public awareness, a similar, but even more fast-tracked and developer-driven General Plan update effort in 2013-2014 was overwhelmingly rejected when approval of the land use changes was placed on the ballot as Measure Y.

While city staff has indicated the present update may not even touch the critical land use limits needing voter approval, Council members have mentioned hoping to see the matter on the November 2018 ballot — which implies that it will.

Whatever the process turns out to be, for the sake of “our town” close watchfulness will be needed to ensure the General Plan modifications are resident-driven rather than developer-driven.

Recent Events:

City Manager Dave Kiff described his proposal for the update process in a PowerPoint slide presented at the Council’s February 14, 2017, study session.

It is expected that funding for the update ($1 million in the first year and another $1 million later) will be requested in the budget year beginning July 1, 2017.

The most recent indications from senior planning staff are that the actual work will not start until “late” in the calendar year.  This makes it seem unlikely staff expects to place any major changes in land use limits on the November 2018 ballot for Greenlight approval, as was done with Measure Y.

News Coverage

Helpful Links

Koll Center Residences

Koll Center Residences . . . as of January, 2017

Project Overview:  This is a proposal to add 260 condominium residences in three 150 foot tall towers in what is now the surface parking lot of an office campus near the corner of Jamboree and Birch in the Airport Area.  See the city webpage for further details.

Why We Were Watching:  This project raises multiple issues about height, density, compatibility with neighboring uses, as well as the viability of the General Plan’s vision for adding residential to the Airport Area, and whether it is being properly implemented.

Recent Events:

A scoping meeting for the project’s Environmental Impact Report was held on January 18, 2017, with comments due by February 2.  The EIR is presumably now being prepared.

News Coverage

Helpful Links

 

Museum House Update

Petition successful — Council repeals approvals — Court challenge pending

Latest news:  Court Hearing set for Monday, May 22, on motion to dismiss OCMA litigation

May 22 @ 1:30 pm Museum House Trial
Main County Central Justice Center Courthouse in Santa Ana, Courtroom C32 (ninth floor)

As explained below, the Orange County Museum of Art has brought a suit against the City and its residents seeking to invalidate the Museum House referendum petition, and all the Council’s actions based on it, citing alleged technical violations in the petition’s form and content.

On his May 22 afternoon docket, the Honorable Geoffrey Glass, the judge in the case, will be hearing an “anti-SLAPP” motion brought by the Line In The Sand PAC seeking to dismiss OCMA’s filings as a meritless “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” Barring appeal, success in this would end OCMA’s case and end all doubts about the validity of the Council’s repeal of the Museum House approvals. Public attendance is welcome and encouraged.

The purpose of anti-SLAPP motions is to prevent vengeful suits, brought without any legal chance of success, to punish persons exercising their constitutionally-protected rights of free speech and petition. SPON and LITS feel strongly that OCMA has no chance, in the end, of convincing the judge that the alleged minor technical deficiencies in the petition were enough to justify his invalidating the petition.  However, the success of the anti-SLAPP motion hinges on two highly technical questions raised by OCMA:  (1) whether LITS is the proper entity to be bringing the motion, and (2) whether challenges to technical deficiencies of petitions are subject to anti-SLAPP motions (there being one previous case suggesting they are not, and another suggesting they are).

If the anti-SLAPP motion fails, the litigation will continue, with a hearing at some future date to determine the merits of whether the technical deficiencies of the petition were sufficient to justify its invalidation.

In the unlikely event that the petition is invalidated as a result of that later trial, a separate case remains pending.  That case contends that the City Charter’s “Greenlight” provision separately requires the Council’s approval of the General Plan Amendment making the Museum House possible, if left standing, to be submitted to the voters before it can become effective — essentially reviving the referendum, but without the need for a petition.

The Orange County Superior Court case number for the present case, “Orange County Museum of Art vs. City Council of Newport Beach,” is 30-2017-00896448-CU-PT-CJC.

The Central Justice Center is the high-rise courthouse building at 700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana.

Other recent news:

On January 25, 2017, the Newport Beach City Clerk received word from the Orange County Registrar of Voters that enough signatures had been validated on the Museum House referendum petition to qualify it for action by the City Council.  In fact, based on the sample tested by the Registrar, it appears that in less than two weeks the circulators obtained more than twice the required number – representing nearly a quarter of all registered voters in Newport Beach.  This is particularly remarkable in view of the campaign of deception and intimidation waged by the developer against the petition.

The certification result was presented to the City Council as Item 21 at their February 14, 2017, meeting.

As Item 15 on their February 28 agenda, the Council voted 5:2 to begin the process of repealing all their previous Museum House approvals, with the exception of the certification of the EIR, by introducing a proposed ordinance.   This is a less costly option legally available to the Council — chosen, presumably, because the result of holding an actual election seemed to them a foregone conclusion.

The actual adoption of the repeal ordinance was completed with a second reading as Item 5 on the Council’s March 14 “consent calendar.”  The repeals will become effective 30 days thereafter.

This is with an understanding that OCMA is contesting the validity of the petition in the Orange County Superior Court.  On March 8, the court denied OCMA’s request for an order preventing the Council from taking further action on the petition.  Unless the court ultimately finds the petition invalid, the repeals will stand and state election law will bar the Council, for the following year, from considering a General Plan amendment for the OCMA property similar to the defeated Museum Tower proposal.

For further details on the status of the Museum House referendum please visit the LITS website at LineInTheSandPAC.com.


Project Overview: The Museum House is a proposal for a 25-story, 295 foot tall, 100-unit luxury condo tower to replace the one story Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Center.

Why We’re Watching: We feel the project would, in fact, violate both the letter and spirit of Greenlight and are making a case for it to be put to a vote. You can watch the video recording of the April 7 study session which is included in SPON’s Video Library.

The Greenlight issue revolves around 79 residential units (out of the 100 allowed without a vote).  An earlier City Council, without processing a General Plan amendment, already allowed units above and beyond the voter-approved General Plan limit for Newport Center.

However, City staff and the current City Council refuse to accept this, forcing residents to reclaim their right to vote by circulating petitions for a referendum on the Council’s approval.

Project history:

The Notice of Preparation (NOP) was issued in March.  The NOP identifies issues that should be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  SPON submitted comments on the NOP, which you can read here.

A standing-room-only crowd attended an April 7, 2016, Planning Commission Study Session on this proposal. The applicants were present, but spent most of their time explaining why the project is consistent with a plan presented for Fashion Island in the 1960s and does not require a Greenlight vote.  Read an extract of Public Comments here.

The City Council requested an April 26, 2016, discussion (Agenda Item #14) of the competing applications for new residential development in Newport Center (Museum House and 150 Newport Center).  At it, City staff skirted  the Greenlight issue, insisting it doesn’t exist.

The Draft EIR was released for a 45-day public review period beginning August 17 and ending September 30, 2016.  See announcement here.

The developer made a presentation at the August 20 meeting of Speak Up Newport (SUN).  The SUN meeting video is available on the city’s website as “Residents Speak Up About Museum House”.

During that time, the Planning Commission held a second study session on September 1, 2016, which can be reviewed on the SPON video channel.  At the study session proponents outnumbered opponents.  It might be noted that the proponents see this primarily as a fund-raising opportunity for OCMA, which hopes to build a new museum in Costa Mesa using the profits from the rezoning. Fund-raising, however well intentioned, is not necessarily good planning.

The Planning Commission ultimately disposed of the application in a single hearing on October 20, recommending approval without any modifications, and the the City Council did the same on November 29, with only Council member Tony Petros dissenting.  Technically, only the General Plan land use change from “Private Institutional” to “Multiple Residential — 100 units” and the Environmental Impact Report were given final approval on November 29, with the remaining items approved on the Consent Calendar at the Council’s largely ceremonial December 13 meeting (prior to the three newly-elected Council members taking their seats).

Immediately following the November 29 vote, Line in the Sand, an independent Political Action Committee that supports many of SPON’s objectives, prepared to circulated a referendum petition demanding the Council’s decision be revisited in a citywide public vote.  The start of signature gathering was delayed by burdensome conditions gratuitously placed on the petition by the Council, and the actual gathering was vigorously obstructed by the developer.  Despite those obstacles, more than twice the required number of signatures was collected in less than two weeks, as detailed above and below.

The City Council is expected to receive notice of the adequacy of the petition on February 14, at which meeting they will have to choose between repealing their November 29 approval or placing it on a future ballot for the public to decide.

Next Steps: 

There’s no question that most residents have had ENOUGH.  Wouldn’t it be nice if developers stopped wasting their time (and ours) proposing projects that are totally outsized and detrimental to the neighborhoods that surround them? We’re not there yet, and it will be a challenge – but “Our Town” is worth the effort it is taking to get there.

SPON and the Line in the Sand Political Action Committee continue to follow the process closely.  Please visit the LITS website for further details and a complete timeline of the referendum process.


Press Coverage:   Your letters and newspaper articles continue to appear in both the Daily Pilot and the Newport Beach Independent.  Here’s a slightly out-of-date sampling in case you missed them.  For links to more recent coverage, visit the LITS website.

Opponents of Museum House condo tower vow referendum effort to overturn Newport council’s OK  … Daily Pilot November 30, 2016
Residents Speak Up About Museum House . . . Newport Beach Independent August 12, 2016
Letter Exchange . . . Newport Beach Indy April 8, 2016
Museum House Needs a Greenlight Vote . . . Newport Beach Indy March 26 2016 
Condo Tower at Odds with Residents . . . Newport Beach Indy March 26, 2016
When in Drought . . . Newport Beach Indy March 26, 2016

and also
Museum’s Future Hinges on Condo Tower . . . Newport Beach Indy April 15, 2016
Conflict of Interest . . . Newport Beach Indy April 10, 2016
A Race to Avoid Public Vote . . . Daily Pilot April 10, 2016

Keep the dialog open in the press.  Continue sending your letters to editors and let them know we continue to oppose projects such as the Museum House which require General Plan Amendments and violate the character of “Our Town.”  Be sure to include your name, city of residence and phone number (not for publication; for editors to check with you if questions)


Past Update History Below

Museum Tower Petition Drive Succeeds a Week Ahead of Schedule – Signatures Being Counted!

Our understanding is that the Line in the Sand political action committee, through an extraordinary team effort by principals, volunteers and supporters, was able, in less than two weeks, to obtain nearly twice the number of signatures needed for a successful referendum.  Having determined their goal had been far exceeded, LITS decided to submit the completed Museum Tower Referendum petition books (constituting nearly two tons of paper!) to the City’s Elections Official (the City Clerk) this morning, December 21 — a full week earlier than legally required.

It is now up to the City to verify that the requisite number of signatures was indeed obtained.  They have about six weeks for that, after which the City Council will be required to either withdraw their approval of the land use change, or put it to a citywide public vote.

For further details, photos and video of the petition delivery, and still more information about what’s next for the Museum House — all soon to be posted — visit the LITS website at LineInTheSandPAC.com.

Although IRS constraints prevented SPON for participating directly in the later phases of the petition effort, SPON commends this remarkable outpouring of volunteerism, and this exceptional demonstration of the tremendous interest the public in general has in the quality of life in Newport Beach.

Congratulations to all!


December 21, 2016 . . . referendum petitions submitted for approval

Important update: the start of signature gathering for the Museum House Tower referendum was delayed by a City Council action on November 29 adding thousands of pages of documentation to the paper petitions on which the signatures have to be affixed to legally request a citywide vote on the Council’s controversial decision– thereby significantly shortening the already very short time in which signatures have to be collected. Meanwhile forces aligned with developer have been engaging in a number of questionable practices intended to confuse and distract potential signers.  The true 10-pound paper petitions that need to be signed by the end of the year just began becoming available from the printer on Wednesday, December 7, and initial supplies are limited.

Please visit the Line in the Sand PAC website for the most current information on where and how to sign this important petition.  Every signature counts!

Latest update (Dec. 21):  Realizing it had reached nearly twice its signature gathering goal in less than two weeks, LITS submitted the completed petition books a full week ahead of the legal deadline.  It is now up to the City to certify the referendum.  Barring legal challenges, the City Council will then have to either repeal the General Plan land use change that made the Museum Tower possible, or put it to a citywide public vote.  Stay tuned…


Focus on the Goal!

Over this last weekend, the Museum House developer (Related California) and its affiliate (OCMA Urban Housing LLC) have employed a myriad of tactics to create confusion and false information about the referendum and signature-gathering process.

For those of you who intend to support the Referendum, please remember this: We must all stay focused on the goal of collecting the required number of validated signatures to qualify the Referendum for a vote. Line in the Sand PAC has just three weeks to do this, and these opposition tactics divert our time and attention from our goal.

Our LITS volunteers and supporters are razor-focused on the goal of collecting 8,000 signatures for validation by the Registrar of Voters before the end of December. We ask that you stay focused too.

For more information about the Referendum, including dates, times and locations where you can go to sign the petitions, please visit LineInTheSandPAC.com .

SPON


Council approves “Museum House” Tower — referendum begins

Important update:  the start of signature gathering for the Museum House referendum has been delayed by a City Council action on November 29 adding thousands of pages of documentation to the paper petitions on which the signatures have to be affixed to legally request a citywide vote on the Council’s controversial decision– thereby significantly shortening the already very short time in which signatures have to be collected.  Meanwhile forces aligned with developer have been engaging in a number of questionable practices intended to confuse and distract potential signers. Please be patient.  The true paper petitions that need to be signed by the end of the year are expected to begin becoming available from the printer on Wednesday, December 7.  However, initial supplies may be limited.

Many thanks to all who signed the previous joint SPON/LITS online petition opposing Related Companies’ proposal for the Museum House Tower, a 100 unit, 25-story, 295 foot tall high density condo tower that would replace the current low-rise Orange County Museum of Art galleries at 850 San Clemente Drive in the northwestern part of the Newport Center / Fashion Island area.  A recap of the petition results and comments as presented to the City Council at their special November 29th meeting can be viewed on the City’s website here.

Despite that outstanding effort, the City Council voted 6 to 1 (with Councilman Tony Petros opposed) to change the land use designation of the OCMA parcel from “Private Institutional” to “Multi-unit Residential – 100 units,” as well as a number of other actions allowing use of that new designation to begin construction of the “Museum House” Tower, contingent upon final approval at the Council’s December 13th meeting.

Pursuant to the terms of the Greenlight section of the City Charter, and coming on top of other recent additions to Newport Center, SPON firmly believes this November 29th change to the General Plan should have automatically gone to a citywide vote.  However, the City Council disagrees, forcing residents to reclaim their right to vote by referendum.  That arduous process requires residents to obtain the signatures of roughly 5,600 Newport Beach registered voters on legally correct paper petitions within the next 30 days.

SPON and the Line in the Sand Political Action Committee are in the process of initiating just such a referendum; and it is important to understand these are completely different from any paper or online petitions you may have signed before (as in the recap, above).  If successful, the new petitions will force the Council to either repeal their approval of the land use change, or put it on hold until the voters can affirm or reject the approval at a future election.

To make this a success, everyone will have to help.  Further information on what you can do will follow soon.  But please visit LineInTheSandPAC.com for the most accurate and up-to-date details.

Thank you all again…  the battle has begun!


Project Update – March 18, 2016

Scoping Session Public Meeting Overview: The Museum House project brought a standing room only crowd to the Newport Beach Civic Center Community Room meeting on February 22.  The meeting was a scoping session to elicit comments about what should be studied in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a 100-unit residential tower in Newport Center.  Residents from all parts of the City shared their concerns about this plan to build a 26-story Miami-style condo tower right in the middle of Newport Center.  It is projected to be 315 feet high, replacing the one-story OC Museum of Art which is moving to Costa Mesa.  It would be directly behind the sprawling apartment complex The Irvine Company is building at the corner of San Joaquin Hills and Jamboree Roads (made possible with the approval of the 2006 General Plan Update but kept under the radar until after the Measure Y vote).

Interestingly, the applicants did not introduce themselves, and only provided vague renderings of what the ground floors of the tower might look like.

Comments by participants covered a wide range of issues, from water/energy and public services to aesthetics including views and skylines, noise pollution, traffic and precedent-setting for increasing density and heights.  There were interesting points about unlivable parking situations with existing apartment/condo complexes in Newport Beach and of the possible dangers a tower that size could face from earthquakes and stray JWA departures.

Our Next Steps: The public comment period for the Notice of Preparation (NOP) closed on March 7, 2016.  SPON submitted comments on the NOP, which you can read here.  The NOP identifies issues that should be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) . . . which will have a public comment period as well.  It is important to ensure that the EIR is inclusive of all issues, which is why the NOP is so important.    We encourage everyone to share their concerns about the impact this project would have on our community.

Once the EIR is ready, the public will have 45 days to comment on it. So please check back here starting early Spring.

April 7 Planning Commission Meeting:  At this time, a preliminary review of the Museum House Project, along with a holistic review of Newport Center development proposals,  is being planned for the April 7 Planning Commission Meeting at 6:30 pm in the Civic Center Council Chambers.  Let’s make this another Standing Room Only community meeting.  Watch our website for more details as we get closer to this date.  Review the Initial Study here.

Press Coverage:   Letters and newspaper articles have appeared in both the Daily Pilot and the Newport Beach Independent.  Here’s a recent sampling in case you missed them.

Banning Ranch Development Project

Image of Banning Ranch shared by another organization against its development
(Nature Commission)

Breaking news: March 30, 2017

The California Supreme Court has concluded the litigation described below by issuing a unanimous finding that the City’s environmental analysis was inadequate and misleading.

This effectively invalidates the project approvals granted by the City in 2012.

The courts ruling can be read here (PDF).

Latest Update: September 10, 2016
Great news!  With much anticipation, the California Coastal Commission met in Newport Beach on September 7th to consider the application for development on the Banning Ranch property.   After lengthy debate in a packed City Council Chambers, the Commission, with 1 of its 12 members (Chair Steve Kinsey) recused and another (Wendy Mitchell) absent, voted 9:1 to reject the application – even though it was significantly scaled back from what the City had OK’d in 2012.

According to press reports, if the developer wishes to pursue their project, they will have to wait a minimum of six months, after which they can start over with an entirely new application to the Coastal Commission.  Whether that would require a new City approval is unclear.

Meanwhile, a legal challenge to the City’s original approval, brought by the Banning Ranch Conservancy, remains to be decided by the California Supreme Court (Case S227473, details here).  The conservancy contends the City violated its General Plan in 2012 by granting an approval without first working with state agencies (including the Coastal Commission) to delineate which portions of the property were developable and which were not.

We understand the Sierra Club Banning Ranch Park & Preserve Task Force and Banning Ranch Conservancy – two groups which have for years led the charge on environmental issues related to Banning Ranch development proposals – will be meeting on September 21 and 28, respectively, to review the September 7th Coastal Commission action and consider their next steps (details here).  SPON supports their efforts.

Press reports:

Is Banning Ranch developer’s environmental marketing the real deal? (OC Register, September 17, 2016)

How ordinary folks waged battle against money and power (Steve Lopez, LA Times, September 10, 2016)

Despite vote, Banning Ranch development could still be built (KPPC, September 9, 2016)

Is the Banning Ranch proposal really dead? A look at where the OC coastal project goes from here (LA Times, September 8, 2016)

After rejection of development plan, Banning Ranch owner weighs next move (LA Times, September 8, 2016)

A good day for the Coastal Commission, and conservation, in Newport Beach (Steve Lopez, LA Times, September 10, 2016)

After development rejected at Banning Ranch, activists see a possibility to preserve (OC Register, September 7, 2016)

Banning Ranch project denied by Coastal Commission, ending 20-year battle — for now (OC Register, September 7, 2016)

Coastal Commission Denies Banning Ranch (Newport Beach Independent, September 8, 2016)

More from Google…

Background

Banning Ranch is the last and the largest parcel of privately owned coastal open space remaining in Orange County. It is located at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, nestled between Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa. It consists of more than 400 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent coastal mesa. Having served for oil production for the last 70 years, Banning Ranch has escaped the dense residential development characteristic of the surrounding cities. Over time it has evolved into a private wildlife preserve.

In 2006, the voters of Newport Beach approved a General Plan that made preservation of the entire property as open space the highest priority for Banning Ranch. Yet in July of 2012, Newport Beach City Council approved a Project of development resorting to a “Statement of Overriding Considerations” to rationalize away the “significant and unavoidable” impacts cited throughout the EIR.

In October 2015, the Coastal Commission staff identified the correct acreage of 11.5 acres available for development and recommended denial of the Coastal Development Permit for Banning Ranch. But rather than deny the project the Coastal Commission instructed the developer to work with Coastal staff to work together to come up with a reduced project.

The applicant, Newport Banning Ranch LLC is a partnership between AERA Energy, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil and Shell, and Cherokee Investment Partners, a $2.2 Billion developer from the East Coast. A revised application that has been submitted to the Coastal Commission (hearing May 12) consists of 895 residential units, commercial space and a hotel to be built on the mesa portion of the property in areas where oil wells will be decommissioned. Separately, their oil and gas proxy, Horizontal Development has a filed for a separate Coastal Development Permit for a new Oil Production facility, up to 100 new oil and gas wells and truck bearing maintenance road along the scenic and environmentally sensitive Semeniuk Slough.

The partial list of impacts:

  • Destruction and permanent loss of natural habitats and open space: The property has 200 acres of degraded wetlands with no development potential and 200 acres of coastal mesas and bluffs. This site has more than 225 acres of Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA). It is a nesting and wintering ground to endangered and threatened species (listed at http://savenewportbanningranch.org under Biology).
  • Destruction and permanent loss of sacred cultural sites: California’s Native American Heritage Commission listed Banning Ranch as a sacred site
  • Unknown and unsafe impacts to our environment: The developer plans to excavate and stockpile 2.8 million cubic yards of soil over 10 years to prepare the land for development, destroying the environment and exposing the public to unknown levels of contaminants.
  • Air pollution: Air pollution from construction and traffic will exceed state standards. Greenhouse gas emissions will contribute considerably to the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, accelerating global climate change and rising sea levels.
  • Noise Pollution: Construction and traffic noise will double allowable noise thresholds.
  • Traffic: 15,000+ more car trips on our roads, daily! Expect double and triple commutes, gridlocked intersections.

We urge you to reiterate that this development permit should be denied at the Coastal Commission Hearing at the Newport Beach City Hall May 12, 2016!  The goal for Banning Ranch should be the preservation, acquisition, conservation, restoration and maintenance of the site as a permanent public open space, park and coastal nature preserve.

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Past Update History

Update August 23, 2016: Coastal Commission Hearing & Vote Scheduled for September 7 here in Newport Beach
The Coastal Commission will meet and vote on the Banning Ranch project at its Newport Beach meeting on September 7. The Coastal Commission, the City of Newport Beach and the developer have all agreed on the timing and the location. The Banning Ranch hearing will be heard as Item 14d (Agenda here).  Hearing procedure available here.  For more information, visit the Banning Ranch Conservancy website.

Here are a few immediate and important action items for you to consider:

  • Like and share the newly released Banning Ranch video
  • Read the last Coastal Commission Staff Report from May 2016 when the item was postponed
  • Submit comments to the California Coastal Commission staff using this special email address:  BanningRanchComments@coastal.ca.gov
  • Email, text or call in questions or offers to volunteer to the Banning Ranch Conservancy: Email Address: Info@BanningRanchConservancy.org  or Text/Call 714-719-2148
  • Spread the Word using your personal networks

Newport Banning Ranch Project Documents as of July 2016
All the following documents are available for viewing and/or downloading here.

  • Final Project Transmittal and all attachments
    • Project Description
    • Site Plan
    • Coastal Commission Staff Recommendation
    • Site Conditions
    • Coastal Commission Staff Land Use Recommendations
    • Features

Developer Seeks More Space to Build . . .
Daily Pilot Article: June 29, 2016

Newport Beach Fire Department Analysis for Coastal Commission
“Fire and the resulting products of combustion are a continual threat to the community . . . ” The complete analysis can be read here.

Acreage Comparison Report
Provided to Coastal Commission by Newport Banning Ranch

The full report can be read here.


Update April 28, 2016:  Coastal Commission Hearing on May 12, 2016
The Coastal Commission hearing will be held on May 12, 9:00 am, at the Newport Beach Civic Center, 100 Civic Center Drive, Newport Beach.   This hearing could very well decide the fate of the Banning Ranch. A standing-room-only turnout is needed!  The Coastal Commission Staff Report for the proposed project at Banning Ranch can be downloaded here.

Here are a few immediate and important action items for you to consider:


Update August 1, 2015: Coastal Commission Meeting October 7/8, 2015:
The Banning Ranch Conservancy and the Quality of Life Coalition are urging everyone to attend the California Coastal Commission hearing on the Banning Ranch October 7/8 at the Long Beach City Council Chambers. This Commission could decide the fate of the Banning Ranch. This is it . . . a large turnout is needed! Let this Commission know that the community opposes the Banning Ranch development.

Sign up now for a seat on the bus.   Transportation will be provided.

Sign the online letter to the Coastal Commission.  Better yet, personalize the message to your liking. It only takes 30 seconds!

Don’t trust the Trust! The Newport Banning Land Trust was created and is supported by the developers of the Banning Ranch. Watch this short video to learn more.


Update March 18, 2015:  Presentation to the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club by Banning Ranch Conservancy and SPON:   The Banning Ranch:  Fact vs. Fiction was presented in partnership by Banning Ranch Conservancy and SPON at the March monthly meeting of the Women’s Democratic Club.  A copy of the presentation is here.


Update March 17, 2015:  Caring People, United in a Worthy Cause, Can Make Things Happen! By Suzanne Forster:   On Thursday, March 12, at the California Coastal Commission Enforcement Hearing in Chula Vista, the Commission reached a Settlement Agreement (http://www.banningranchconservancy.org/index.html) with Newport Banning Ranch LLC (NBR), the developer, regarding violations of the Coastal Act charged by the Commission against the developer.  Without admitting guilt, NBR agreed to stop committing the alleged violations and perform actions (restoration, mitigation and dedication of permanent open space) to correct them. The heart of the victory was that the annual mowing of 40 to 50 acres of critical habitat has been stopped allowing coastal sage scrub to return to these areas.

Over 60+ people rode the bus to Chula Vista and many other supporters drove down to carry tables, banners and supplies. This large turn-out sent a powerful message to both the Commissioners and the developer demonstrating that citizens can and do make a difference.

We will never be able to outspend the developer, but with help from supporters, existing and new, we can show that citizens working together will make a difference.  Here’s how —


Original Post February 2015: Petition to Halt Habitat Destruction at Banning Ranch by Suzanne Forster:  The California Coastal Commission Enforcement Staff has cited the owners of Banning Ranch—Newport Banning Ranch LLC and West Newport Oil Company, the oil field operator—with two major violations of the Coastal Act.  The violations are unpermitted habitat destruction and unpermitted oil field operations. The Banning Ranch Conservancy has initiated a petition asking the California Coastal Commission to permanently halt this habitat destruction and to ensure permanent restoration and protection of the degraded habitat on Banning Ranch.  The petition will be presented to the commissioners at the March Enforcement Hearing (details below).  A large number of signatures will tell the commissioners that the public is serious about protecting our finite coastal resources.

Please sign the petition here.

The Enforcement Hearing is expected to be scheduled during the regular monthly Coastal Commission hearing on March 11-13 at the Chula Vista Council Chambers in Chula Vista (meeting information here); South Coast District (future agenda items here).  The exact date of the hearing will also be posted to the Banning Ranch Conservancy website when it’s available.

Newport Banning Ranch LLC and West Newport Oil Company (the oil field operator) were recently cited for two major violations of the Coastal Act. The violations are for unpermitted habitat destruction and unpermitted oil field operations.  The CCC staff’s enforcement action against the Banning Ranch owners could result in a consent order or a unilateral hearing.

A consent order is an agreement between staff and the owners regarding the appropriate restoration and mitigation orders for the violations. Fines can also be levied. If no agreement is reached prior to the hearing, a unilateral hearing will be held, during which the Coastal Enforcement staff will present their case against the owners and the owners’ attorneys or representatives will respond. Interested parties, such as the Banning Ranch Conservancy and other environmental organizations can also make presentations that include expert witnesses. The Coastal Commissioners will hear all the testimony and make their decision.

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