Local Coastal Program Amendments . . . as of May 4, 2017
Project Overview: The Newport Beach Local Coastal Program sets policies and detailed rules for issuing Coastal Development Permits, which are the main mechanism for ensuring compliance with the California Coastal Act. Effective January 30, 2017, finally (some 45 years after passage of the voter-enacted precursor to the Coastal Act) and for the first time, the City of Newport Beach obtained a fully certified Local Coastal Program authorizing it to process and issue such permits.
Why We Were Watching: The ink was barely dry on the LCP, when it was discovered that a raft of apparently staff-generated amendments was being rushed to approval with very little public awareness. SPON is very concerned both with the process and with the substance of the proposed amendments. In particular, City staff is seeking major changes to the Coastal Land Use Plan’s policy declaration regarding the City’s long-standing building height limitations, which would, among other things, exempt so-called “planned communities” from the considerations that apply to other properties.
As most recently presented to the Planning Commission (see May 4, below), and going to the City Council, the current amendment package consists of three (or eleven, depending on how one counts) completely unrelated items:
- a Balboa Village Parking Management District plan (eliminating off-street parking requirements for most businesses in that area)
- an East Oceanfront Encroachment Program (allowing private improvements on the first 15 feet of the public beach in front of most ocean-facing homes in Peninsula Point from E Street to the Wedge)
- a “Implementation Plan Clean-up” package (itself consisting of nine unrelated insertions and changes to the Coastal Land Use Plan and the Implementation Plan)
Whatever one may think of the merits of staff’s proposals, the proposals themselves are deeply flawed:
- As indicated in a SPON letter, the Parking Management plan prioritizes resident-serving commercial uses over marine-related ones, in contradiction of Coastal Act policies.
- The Encroachment Program introduces new regulations into the Implementation Plan that permit development in areas where it is explicitly prohibited by the governing Land Use Plan.
- The “Clean-up,” among other contradictions, deletes the Coastal Commission approved Land Use Plan policy exceptions that allowed the Lido House Hotel (being built at the old City Hall site) to rise to 65 feet in a 35-foot height limitation zone, but retains the Implementation Plan regulations allowing such excess heights (now without explanation or justification).
On a separate track, City staff has proposed amending both the Zoning Code and the LCP to accommodate what they say are changes required by new state laws in the City’s rules for “Accessory Dwelling Units” (small rental units) in single-family neighborhoods. That was first seen (and initially rejected) as Item 2 at the Planning Commission’s May 4, 2017, meeting.
- The date of the City Council hearing on these important amendments has not been announced.
- If the Council approves staff’s flawed proposal, it will be submitted to Coastal Commission staff for a hearing before that body. If it is like what happened with the original Implementation Plan, the package will be presented to the Coastal Commission with proposed changes developed by Coastal and City staff with little or no public awareness of what has been negotiated, or why.
- May 4, 2017: The amendments were re-noticed for a hearing before the Planning Commission as Item 3 on May 4. At that hearing, it seemed apparent most of the Commissioners either had not reviewed the item in advance of the meeting, or were not interested in it. Despite the many flaws pointed out to them (see above under “Why We’re Watching”), on a 5:1 vote (with Commissioner Lawler absent and Commissioner Weigand voting “no”) the Commission, without any substantive comment or any revisions at all, recommended the Council approve all the amendments as submitted. The Commission showed more interest in the separate Accessory Dwelling Unit amendments, which they voted to continue until they had more time to study them.
- April 11, 2017: With little to no prior public awareness, action by the Council on the LCP amendments was scheduled for a public hearing as Item 18 on the April 11 agenda. As a result of reminders from the public that Council action was not legally allowed without a Planning Commission recommendation (as required by Table 21.50-1 in the newly certified Implementation Plan), the item was withdrawn.
- none so far
- Explanation of Local Coastal Program on City’s website.
- Original Notice of Availability of review copies of amendment texts
- New Notice of Availability of review copies of amendment texts