Local Coastal Program Amendments . . . as of July 2017
Latest News: City staff has separated what it calls the “clean-up” portions of its proposed Local Coastal Program amendments (as heard by the Planning Commission on May 4 — see below) from the rest. A first noticed hearing on these was held before the City Council on July 11, 2017. At that meeting, the Council declined to accept staff’s claim that since 2010, the so-called “planned communities” — even in the Shoreline Height Limit Area — have been free of any height restrictions. Without further review, a revised “clean-up” supposedly eliminating that provision seems to have been submitted to the California Coastal Commission as part of City Council Resolution No. 2017-45. The Peninsula Point Oceanfront Encroachment proposal, and the one for Accessory Dwelling Units, were similarly approved for submittal at the next meeting, with Council Resolutions No. 2017-50 and 2017-51. If amended by the Coastal Commission, the Council would have to agree to the amendments or abandon the proposals.
The Balboa Village Parking Management District plan portion of the amendments has not been scheduled for a Council hearing. However as Item 12 at its July 25, 2017, meeting, the Council approved a proposal for staff to begin work on incorporating the LCP for Newport Coast (currently administered by the County) into the City’s LCP. Considering the large quantity of unbuilt allocations in Newport Coast (according to the staff report, 182 homes, 1,046 hotel rooms and 75,933 square feet of commercial development, but no longer protected by any development agreement with the City), this would seem a major effort, and one SPON is watching with concern.
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 City Council hearing on the proposed East Oceanfront Encroachment Program for Peninsula Point has been noticed for July 11. A revised “clean-up” package will likely be presented at the same meeting. The hearing date for the Balboa Village Parking Management District proposal has not been announced.
- If the Council approves staff’s flawed proposals, they 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.
- July 11, 2017: The City Council heard the “clean-up” portion of the proposed LCP amendments, including a provision that would have exempted planned communities from the City’s longstanding height limits, even in the so-called 35′ Shoreline Height Limit Area. The Council questioned that proposal and asked staff to come back with a revised “clean-up” eliminating that proposal.
- May 18, 2017: At the Corona del Mar Residents Association‘s monthly meeting, the City’s Community Development Director, Kimberly Brandt, and Deputy Director, Brenda Wisneski, gave a presentation entitled “Local Coastal Plan Amendments (Shoreline Properties) & future General Plan Update Project” (see the agenda). Regarding the LCP Amendments, Ms. Wisneski indicated that despite the Newport Beach Planning Commission’s action on May 4 (recommending Council approve the flawed amendment package exactly as presented by staff), instead of sending the proposal directly to the City Council, City staff is working with the Coastal Commission staff in Long Beach to figure out what might actually fly (before it becomes effective, whatever amendments the Council approves have to be certified by the Coastal Commission, which looks to their own staff to spot problems with them). She anticipated this process might take several months, but did not explain exactly what would happen at the end of it. That is, would a revised set of amendments be brought back to the Planning Commission for public re-consideration? Or (as happened with the original LCP) would the Council adopt City staff’s (flawed) package, but with a forewarning (based on the staff discussions) of what parts the Coastal Commission would likely change or reject? Apparently time will tell.
- 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