Author Archives: Jim Mosher

Port Master Plan

Port Master Plan — as of March 2018

Project Overview: This is a proposal to amend the state’s Coastal Act to add Newport Beach to the list of “ports” authorized to locally approve permits, via a “Port Master Plan,” for activities over which the California Coastal Commission would normally have jurisdiction, including harbor dredging and and the construction and modification of piers over public waters.

Why We’re Watching:  Whether or not seeking local control of matters the state legislature has placed in the hands of the Coastal Commission is a laudable goal, or not, this proposal raises serious concerns as to both substance and style.  The legislation, how it would function, and its costs and consequences do not seem to have been well thought out, and the bill itself (AB 2464) seems to have been developed privately and introduced without any review by the Council.

And it seems at best a very awkward fit for Newport Beach.

In contrast to our City, the four entities presently authorized to operate under Port Master Plans were all active state-recognized deep-water shipping ports prior to the Coastal Act and were allowed to continue under somewhat relaxed rules precisely to confine such heavy industrial activity to limited areas along the coast. The kind of commercial activity  Port Master Plans were created to regulate simply doesn’t happen here.

Since (aside from the Catalina Flyer) there is little, if any, port-like activity in Newport Beach, the proposal to obtain local control of permitting by adding Newport Beach to the list of California’s major seaports seems fanciful.  But whether intentionally or not, it does hark back to an earlier drive, a century ago, to promote Newport as the shipping center for Orange County, which led to the successful 1919 countywide bond issue portrayed in the handbill at the top of the page (intended to implement a 1917 plan to, among other things, dredge a channel to what were expected to be bustling new County wharves and warehouses at the terminus of a rail line coming down what is now Newport Boulevard).

A few of the problems with AB 2464:

  • As introduced, AB 2464 simply adds the two words “Newport Beach” to a list of major seaports in California Public Resources Code Section 30700 (and also seeks a review of whether the City would be eligible for reimbursement of expenses incurred in implementing the new code).
  • The entities currently listed in Section 30700 (and 30112) are “the Ports of Hueneme, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Diego Unified Port District,” all of which names refer to recognized port or harbor districts created and empowered by state law prior to the existence of the Coastal Act (which this passage is within).
  • AB 2464 adds a reference to a (at present) mythical “Port of Newport Beach” whose boundaries and governance structure are undefined.
  • Among other problems, the addition of a new port contradicts the legislative finding from 1976 (found in the following Section 30701(b)) that to limit the impacts of maritime commerce to a restricted number of sites “Coastal planning requires no change in the number or location of the established commercial port districts.”  Newport Beach appears to be saying there is a need to create a new commercial port district.
  • The authors also apparently did not notice Section 30112, which explains that “Port governing body — a term used in the Port Master Plan sections —  “means the Board of Harbor Commissioners or Board of Port Commissioners which has authority over the Ports of Hueneme, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Diego Unified Port District.”  That would also have to amended to define exactly who the “port governing body” for the “Port of Newport Beach” is.
  • However, also possibly not understood by the authors, adding a name to the list of ports recognized in the Coastal Act does not by itself create that port.  Doing so appears to require following one of the mechanisms provided in Division 8 of the state’s Harbors and Navigation Code.  All involve drawing a definite boundary (which generally includes land as well as water) and then, before proceeding, obtaining voter approval from those who would reside in the proposed district. In most cases, extensive additional special state legislation appears to have been required as well (to transfer ownership and other matters).
  • It is unclear if the City, in introducing AB 2464, believes such steps would not be needed for a “Port of Newport Beach.”  If the normal steps do apply, adding a port that has not yet been created seems problematic.


  • The “history” section of the state legislature’s website for AB 2464 originally predicted it might be heard by the Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee on March 17, but their next meeting seems to be April 9, and AB 2464 doesn’t appear to be on the agenda.
  • Based on the Council’s direction on March 13, Council members Dixon and Peotter are apparently fleshing out the details of what the City might expect to accomplish, while City staff is issuing a Request for Qualifications for a lobbyist to promote AB 2464 in Sacramento.

Recent Events:

March 13, 2018:  As Item 16 on the March 13, 2018, agenda (see video), a somewhat befuddled Council (with Mayor Duffield recusing himself) wondered how the legislation got introduced and whether it was something the City wanted, was asked to appropriate $120,000 to fund the first six months, or so, of staff’s effort, the money to go to coastal lobbyist Don Schmitz, and a friend of his, legislative lobbyist Sean Henshel.  The Council as a whole had not previously seen the measure text, but in the staff report, and during the discussion, it was revealed that Schmitz had been working with the City Manager and unidentified Council members (presumably Duffield and Peotter) on this without contract since late 2017. As on February 13, Item 16 was listed on the agenda in such a way that even the most attentive would not have known anything related to the proposal for a Port Master Plan was on it.

February 14, 2018:  Assemblyman Matthew Harper, with coauthor State Senator John Moorlach, introduced Assembly Bill 2464, “An act to amend Section 30700 of the Public Resources Code, relating to ports,” proposing to amend the California Coastal Act of 1976 to add “Newport Beach” to the list of ports in the stated section.

February 13, 2018:  True to the City Manager’s word, as Item 7 on the Consent Calendar at its February 13 meeting, the Council, knowingly or not, adopted an amended Resolution 2018-7 enumerating a list of “strategies” for 2018 including, among other things, that “City staff shall interface with members of the California State Legislature to encourage the introduction and support of legislation that would permit the creation of a  Port Master Plan ( or similar device) and allow the City to manage Newport Harbor’s infrastructure and activities under the California Coastal Act.”  Taken literally, Resolution 2018-7 took the matter out of the Council’s hands and tasked City staff with formulating and promoting, as it saw fit and without further Council direction, the enactment of state legislation enabling the create of a Port Master Plan, or something similar, for Newport Harbor.

  • Per the video, and minutes, the City Attorney confirmed that Mayor Duffield, who had apparently introduced the idea, would need to recuse himself from this and all future discussion of the Port Master Plan.

January 29, 2018:  As Slide 8 in a presentation about “The Year of the Harbor” at the Council’s  special annual Planning Session, the City Manager mentioned that Mayor Duffield and Councilman Peotter had brought to his attention the fact that the Coastal Act provides for something called a Port Master Plan acting in some areas like a “Water LCP” [Local Coastal Program], that might allow local control of capital efforts in Newport Harbor, although it would likely require state legislation, and a lobbyist for that, and be expensive.  Duffield and Peotter spoke in favor of pursuing the idea, without identifying where they had gotten it.  There was no in depth discussion, and no suggestion that before continuing a second opinion of some sort, such as a recommendation from the Harbor Commission, might be needed.  Mayor Duffield did explain that the current requirement to obtain permits from the Coastal Commission was cumbersome, time consuming and expensive, depressing the value of waterfront property, and that a Port Master Plan would fix that problem.  At 1:18:25 in the  video, the City Manager says that because they are facing “a legislative deadline” he will bring something back to the Council “on the 13th” authorizing the introduction of a bill, which he believes Assemblyman Matthew Harper will be willing to “carry.”

News Coverage

Helpful Links

  • AB 2464, including text and schedule, at California Legislative information

Photo credit:  1919 OC Harbor bond measure handbill from the Special Collections of the UCI Library as reproduced in Ellen K. Lee’s Newport Bay: a pioneer history, page 83;  1917 harbor plan — same, page 82

Newport Village

Newport Village — as of December 2017
Application submitted for large project on Mariner’s Mile

Project Overview: This is a proposal for a major “mixed use” development on the former “Ardell” properties (11.05 acres) along Mariner’s Mile (at the present Duffy Boats through A’maree’s sites and the boat sales/storage yard across PCH from them).  As presented, it would consist of 175 residential units, 240,650 square feet of office, retail and restaurant uses, and a new 75-boat marina.  All existing buildings and uses are to be demolished, and a new signalized intersection on Coast Highway would be created to serve the project.

Why We’re Watching:  In 2016-2017 the City spent considerable money on a “Mariner’s Mile Revitalization” planning effort, which was officially withdrawn pending a possible General Plan Update (which now also seems to be in an uncertain state).

Although the official purpose of the 2016-2017 effort was to solicit public input on the future of Mariner’s Mile, and develop a plan for future development consistent with that, many felt, at the time, that it’s purpose was geared more toward forcing a vision on the public to justify  this redevelopment project, now known as Newport Village. In that connection, many felt the the existing Mariner’s Mile Strategic Vision and Design Framework, adopted in 2000, stated the public’s vision better than anything coming out the the new workshops.

Given public reaction to the 2016-2017 Mariner’s Mile Revitalization workshops, as well as City staff’s endorsement in 2016 of the rejected AutoNation proposal for a large new auto dealership cutting into the bluffs along Mariner’s Mile, SPON will be keeping a close eye on “Newport Village” as further details of the project emerge.


No events have been scheduled, but an Environmental Impact Report will almost certainly be required, so the Scoping Meeting for that may be the first “official” presentation to the public.

Recent Events:

February 26, 2018:  As reported at the Community Development Department’s Open House/Forum, the application remains “incomplete.”

December 4, 2017:  Application submitted to City.

Trivia:  Perhaps unknown to the applicants, “Newport Village” has been in use since 1983 as the official name of the 33(?) acre planned community in Newport Center lying between Avocado and MacArthur — originally from PCH to San Miguel, but later extended to San Joaquin Hills Road.  That “other” Newport Village is home to the City Hall, Central Library, Civic Center Park, OCTA Transportation Center and the Corona del Mar Plaza Shopping Center (containing Bristol Farms Market and many other shops).

News Coverage

  • pending

Helpful Links

2607 Ocean Blvd

2607 Ocean Blvd as of March 2017: Coastal Commission hearing POSTPONED

Latest News:  A modified project was approved by the Planning Commission on December 7, 2017.  After fruitless attempts to get the City Council to review the compliance of the Planning Commission’s decision with the City’s Local Coastal Program (LCP), a free appeal was submitted to the California Coastal Commission on January 21, 2018, and was scheduled for a hearing before the CCC. It was to have been Item “W11a” during the CCC’s March 7 meeting in the Oxnard Harbor District offices, Port Hueneme.  CCC staff recommended a finding of “substantial issue,” which, if accepted, means a future hearing will be held at which the Coastal Commissioners will themselves evaluate the permit’s compliance with the LCP and possibly approve a scaled down project. However, on March 6, CCC staff indicated the March 7 item has been postponed for consideration at a future meeting.

Project Overview:  This proposal for a multi-story replacement, with rooftop pool and living area, of the small existing single family residence on the bluff face adjacent to the China Cove Ramp in Corona del Mar has drawn considerable public interest.

Why We Were Watching: This is the first time the Planning Commission has been asked to review an application for a Coastal Development Permit.  This particular application requests numerous “variances” from the City’s normal development standards (none of which are currently allowed for CDP’s) and, as approved, would cause a permanent loss of public views from the ramp, which are supposed to be protected by the City’s Local Coastal Program, as well as permanently destroy a currently undeveloped portion of the China Cove bluff face and fence off public access to the City land at the top of the property, between it and Ocean Blvd, which would otherwise have potential as a public view spot.  Aside from these Coastal Act issues (the Coastal Act, though the local LCP, is supposed to protect, for all Californians, coastal views, coastal landforms and public access to them), it is regarded by many as an example of a disturbing trend toward “mansionization,” out of tune with the City’s existing character.  It is also an example of people buying properties and expecting to get an easy approval from the City to build something on it not allowed by the existing City codes and policies.


  • The procedural hearing that had been expected to be held on March (see Recent Events, below) will be rescheduled, possibly for April.

Recent Events

  • March 7, 2018: A hearing on the January 22 appeal of the City’s approval of the Coastal Development Permit for 2607 Ocean Blvd was scheduled as Wednesday Item 11a (“W11a”) during the California Coastal Commission’s March 2018 meeting in Port Hueneme. As explained in the CCC’s Appeals FAQ, that hearing was to have focused on whether the appeal raises “substantial issues” of compliance with the City’s certified LCP. However, that hearing was postponed to a future date.
    • The CCC posting for March 7 consisted of a staff report recommending a finding of substantial issue, and supporting exhibits including a letter from the applicant’s representative opposing the appeal. If the Commissioners agree with CCC staff, the actual hearing on the modifications that would be necessary to bring the project into compliance with the LCP would occur at a later meeting. CCC staff also posted correspondence received in connection with the expected hearing, including a five-page letter from the City attempting to rebut each of the contentions raised in the appeal.
    • The online agenda includes a button to view the meeting remotely, by live stream.
    • It is important to understand that the postponed Item 11a on March 7 was a procedural hearing to accept for future hearing, or deny, the appeal of the City’s approval of the permit for the development.
    • As such, the only issues under consideration on March 7 will be whether there is reason to doubt the City’s approval could be justified under its certified Local Coastal Program, and if there is a question of compliance, whether there is reason to believe the lack of consistency had detrimental effects of enough statewide significance to warrant review by the Coastal Commission.
    • Comments may be submitted to the CCC by email using the “Submit Comment” button following the Item 11a listing on the CCC agenda page, or by sending an email to with subject line “Public Comment on March 2018 Agenda Item Wednesday 11a – Appeal No. A-5-NPB-18-0006 (Nicholson Construction, Newport Beach)“.
    • To be most helpful, comments should be based on an understanding of the CCC staff report, and focus on Coastal Act consistency issues, not local zoning ones (purely local issues being things like whether the design or size matches that of nearby homes, or a statement residents don’t like it). For reference, the overarching goals of the Coastal Act are that all development in the Coastal Zone will, for the benefit of all Californians, and our visitors, be sized and sited to minimize impacts to public coastal views (from and to the ocean), coastal landforms and the public’s ability to freely access them. In reviewing the Newport Beach Planning Commissions decision on 2607 Ocean Blvd, CCC staff found possible issues of inconsistency with all three of these, and comments in support of those findings of inconsistency are especially helpful.
    • As an example, moving the LCP-required setback lines to allow the home to be built lower down the slope, closer to Way Lane (as the present one is), might be consistent with the Coastal Act goal of minimizing impacts to treasured public views. Relaxing the setback requirements to permit construction of home larger than the LCP allows, as the Planning Commission did, is not consistent, since it maximizes impacts to views and landforms.
    • To reach the Coastal Commissioners as part of the posted agenda item, emailed comments must be sent by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 2.
  • February 23, 2018:  With a hearing on the validity of the appeal scheduled for March 7 in Oxnard/Port Hueneme, CCC staff posts a report recommending a finding of “substantial issue.”
  • January 23, 2018: Notice of Appeal mailed by Coastal Commission staff, ordering the City to forward to them the materials on which the City’s decision was based.
  • January 21, 2018: appeal of City approval filed with California Coastal Commission.
  • January 9, 2018:  City returns December 21 CDP appeal and the appeal of the City’s challenge to it, saying it will take no action on either.
  • January 6, 2018:  City sends a “Notice of Final Action” to the Coastal Commission, triggering the opportunity for an appeal to them, since the project site is within the LCP appeal area (City approvals within that area can be appealed directly to the Coastal Commission if the City charges for local appeals, as it now appears it does).
  • January 5, 2018:  Appellant challenges City threat to reject appeal.
  • January 2, 2018:  City challenges and threatens to reject the December 21 appeal for refusal to pay a $1,536 filing fee, which was claimed due even though it was not mentioned in the notice of the hearing and (unlike for Zoning Code appeals, pursuant to NBMC Sec. 20.64.030.B.2) is not called out in the City’s LCP code.  The claim was the CDP had to be appealed along with any other matters approved at the same hearing, under any other codes, again something not called out in the LCP code, nor even logical since the Coastal Commission routinely rules on the compliance of CDP approvals with an LCP independent of all other local approvals.  The City’s offer to allow the appellant to add an appeal of the variance approval under Title 20 by January 6 was arguably itself illegal, since the original appeal made clear it was not appealing that, and the publicly announced time for filing a Title 20 appeal had ended on December 21.
  • December 21, 2017:  After unsuccessful efforts to get a City Council member to call the Planning Commission’s December 7 decisions up for review, a private citizen filed an Appeal Application for the Coastal Development Permit portion of the approval, only, with the City Clerk, as allowed under Section 4.3 of Resolution 2075.
  • December 7, 2017: The application was heard as Item 5 at the Planning Commission’s December 7 meeting, for which a new staff report was posted. According to the staff report, by eliminating the elevator stop on the roof, the applicant is no longer asking for a deviation from the City and coastal height standards, but still seeks variances to reduce the required setbacks and increase the allowed floor area. It might be noted that heights in Newport Beach are measured from the underlying land, so even though it may not technically be a height variance, allowing the land owner to reduce the setback from Ocean Blvd allows him to build farther up the bluff face, and hence higher. Reducing the setbacks also, in staff’s view, increases the buildable area and allows the land owner to build bigger (that is, allowing more floor area, even without a variance). Also according to the staff report, as suggested by the Planning Commission on Nov. 9, the applicant installed “story poles” (connected by strings and flags representing various key rooflines) on the property from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, illustrating how the proposed construction would impact views. Although the staff report continues to say the poles will disappear on Dec. 1, a later email from the applicant’s representative said the poles will be left in place through Dec. 8. Equally disturbingly, even though view impacts is a major concern with this project, the staff report contains no photos showing what the poles look like from various vantage points, and absolutely no computer simulations of how the actual building will affect existing views.Regarding the Coastal Development Permit issue, City staff clearly knows the City has no authority to grant variances from the recently adopted Local Coastal Program development standards, since they have asked the Coastal Commission for permission to add variance provisions to the LCP Implementation Plan. Coastal Commission staff has informed the City that adding those provisions would constitute a major amendment to the authority granted the City under the IP. To date, no hearings on the matter have yet been scheduled. Until language allowing variances from the LCP is certified, it seems the height of impudence for the City to be exercising an authority it has been clearly notified it has not been granted. At the hearing, staff said the Community Development Director has the authority to interpret the IP, and hence could “interpret” that it allows variances even if it doesn’t say so.  After hearing testimony from the applicant and public, on a motion by Commissioner Bill Dunlap, the Planning Commission voted 4:2 (with Commissioners Weigand and Lowrey voting “no” and Vice Chair Zak absent) to approve the application, provided the “public view obstruction problems” could be solved, apparently largely by using clear glass for the screening around the rooftop pool deck.  The final approval (PC Resolution No. 2075) was for 4,500 total square feet of floor area (including the garage, but not counting the livable roof area) on a lot where the maximum floor area allowed with the code-required setbacks would be 2,865 sf.
  • November 9, 2017:  The application began to be heard as Item 2 at the Newport Beach Planning Commission’s November 9, 2017, meeting (see video), but was continued to December 7.  Commissioners Kramer and Kleiman were inclined to grant the variance requests provided the elevator was moved back to the Ocean Blvd side of the property (where, although reaching exactly the same top elevation, it is technically less tall since its “height” is measured from a higher point on the slope.   The remaining Commissioners appeared to have problems with the project and asked the applicant to come back with something better.  Vice Chair Zak expressed the opinion that relaxing setback requirements should not serve as an excuse to use the resulting larger buildable area to justify a corresponding increase in floor area .

News Coverage

Helpful Links

General Plan update

General Plan Update . . . as of March 2018

Action Opportunity:

March 27, 2018: City staff’s Annual Status Report (Planning Activity PA2007-195) on the state of the City’s compliance with its General Plan Implementation Program, and its progress on the Housing Element goals, is expected to be presented to the City Council, most likely on their “consent calendar.”

  • Although the City Council rarely shows much interest in this annual item, it is an opportunity for the public to show they’re interested, watching and engaged — including asking questions about whether a rash of bad planning decisions (Banning Ranch, AutoNation, 150 Newport Center, Museum House, to name a few) has been the result of a bad plan or bad execution of it.
  • This year’s report to the Planning Commission is here.  The Commission showed little interest in it.
  • Last year’s report to the City Council is here (note that it’s mostly the same).
  • For those interested in the history of these reports, and items it’s important to comment on, including the City’s failure to provide clear information on the development capacity remaining under the existing General Plan limits, and an even more serious problem with the published limits not correctly representing the development that has been approved, and thus short-circuiting our Greenlight protections, SPON has prepared some background information and some possible talking points.
  • You may also find of interest the questions about the City’s execution of the Implementation Program that SPON submitted to the Community Development Department in advance of its February 26 “Open House & Community Forum,” which remain unanswered.

Latest News:  With the February 13 adoption of a modified resolution of “strategies” for calendar year 2018, the City Council decisively put the brakes on the already much-delayed General Plan Update process.  No further City activity is expected until 2019.  Nonetheless, SPON is continuing its efforts to press for improvements to the present General Plan, which include the SPON GPAC meetings, the next scheduled for Saturday, March 31 (see “Upcoming,” below), and featuring guests speaking about the importance of “open data” in city planning.   Meanwhile, City staff will be providing its Annual General Plan Status Report (about the existing plan) to the Planning Commission on March 8 and to the City Council on March 27. This is another opportunity to show public interest and engagement in the General Plan (see “Action Opportunity,” above).

The SPON General Plan Advisory Committe functions as an independent citizens GPAC interest group.  It has held several well-attended and lively meetings, starting on November 18, 2017 (see “Recent Events,” below).  SPON thanks all who have and will participate!

Project Overview:  Since incoming Mayor Kevin Muldoon announced the initiation of an update of the city’s General Plan as a major objective for the City Council during the 2017 calendar year, the details of what that might entail have been a moving target.  No activity actually occurred in 2017, and it now appears none will occur in 2018 as well.  SPON nonetheless hopes to prepare citizens to have some influence over the process as further details emerge, as well as to lobby for improvements to the existing General Plan.

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, the city proposal could be 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 approving the updated land use tables and maps, 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 (whose erection was specifically contrary to policy statements in the 2006 General Plan) 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.

Measure Y did nothing to allay the widespread impression that staff, consultant and others, guided by unknown influences, formulate most of the content of General Plan Updates “off camera,” spoon-feeding largely predetermined recommendations to what is ostensibly a citizens committee, eventually congratulated for its “hard work.”

While city staff has indicated the present update, if there is one, may not even touch the critical land use limits needing voter approval, some Council members, early on, mentioned hoping to see the matter on the November 2018 or 2020 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.


March 27, 2018: The City Council is expected to be asked (likely on their Consent Calendar) to authorize submittal of the Annual General Plan Status Report to state agencies,  It is due there by April 1.

March 31, 2018: Fifth SPON GPAC meeting. All are welcome, but due to limited seating, those interested in participating should RSVP here for time and location.

  • The main segment of the March 31 meeting will focus on the importance of cities having “open data,” with fascinating guest speakers.

Recent Events:

March 8, 2018: City staff’s Annual Status Report on the state of the General Plan was presented to the Planning Commission as Item 8 on their agenda.  The Commission showed little interest in it, and recommended passing it on to the City Council with no suggestions for changes or actions to be taken as a result of it.  Several members of the public attempted to comment on the report, and its shortcomings.  They were treated shabbily.

February 26, 2018: SPON submitted to City staff a letter raising questions about the City’s compliance with the General Plan Implementation Program(s) adopted in 2006.  SPON hoped some of those questions could be answered at the Community Development Department’s first ever “Open House & Community Forum” on February 26, but the forum’s format did not allow for that.  A written follow-up was promised, but none has been received.

February 24, 2018: The fourth SPON GPAC meeting was held in the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station training room. The main segment  focused on the promises made in the existing General Plan and the extent to which they have been met, or not, with emphasis on City staff’s assessment of that as seen in their Annual Status Report to the state.

  • The meeting materials included the SPON GPAC agenda and a link to City staff’s 2016 Annual Report (as presented to the Council on March 28, 2017).  It includes a copy of the Implementation Program followed by the status of each task.  A new report for calendar year 2017 will be presented to the Planning Commission on March 8, and to the City Council on March 27.
  • Those who missed the meeting may view the 2/24/2018 SPON GPAC presentation here (although it may be hard to follow without the words).

February 13, 2018: As consent calendar Item 7, the City Council was expected to adopt a resolution confirming a “go slow” approach to the General Plan Update, with 2018 being largely devoted to listening and educating, with any actual update starting only after that is completed.  Instead, the Council unexpectedly changed direction, with Council member Scott Peotter encouraging staff to prepare an alternative resolution (available only to the public attending in person) putting off the start of the staff-facilitated “listen and learn” workshops, that it had been agreed should precede a GPU, until 2019.  As a result, no staff activity at all on the GPU is expected during calendar year 2018.

February 8, 2018 – CANCELLED: The Planning Commission was expected to hold a meeting (agenda here) devoted entirely (because of postponement of the night’s two hearing items) to a discussion of property development standards (including what to do about “mansionization”) in the Cliff Haven area (the blufftop neighborhood between Newport Harbor High and PCH).  Despite having received numerous messages of interest, City staff announced (just a few hours before it was scheduled to begin) that the February 8 Planning Commission meeting would not be held. Supposedly, staff decided not to address Cliff Haven separately, but to include it in a broader investigation of similar concerns citywide, in some forum yet to be determined (but apparently not involving the Planning Commission).

January 29, 2018: The City Council discussed if and when to embark on a General Plan Update as part of the program at a special Monday evening annual Planning Session held at Marina Park.  The Council’s direction appeared to be for staff to embark soon on a program of listening to the public (“with an educational component”), but not hire consultants and launch a full-blown update until state housing requirements for the near future are better understood.

January 13, 2018: A capacity crowd met at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station for the third meeting of SPON’s independent citizens GPAC group.  Through its GPAC working group SPON hopes to create an informed  citizenry to participate in and influence the General Plan Update outcome, as well as to produce citizen-driven alternatives for conduct of the update process. At this third meeting the participating citizens pored over maps of the city, identifying areas where current General Plan policies appear to be working, and identifying areas where improvement is needed.

December 2, 2017:   SPON’s independent citizens GPAC group held its second meeting at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.  The group generally agreed that a update to the General Plan is needed, and will assist SPON in formulating a letter to the City to that effect. The resulting letter was approved by the SPON Board and sent to the City on December 11.

November 18, 2017:  As was apparent from Measure Y, SPON anticipates that City staff and Council may have a vision and goals for the future of the City that diverge markedly from the views held by a majority of residents, and even business owners.  As a result, SPON convened a meeting of interested citizens, calling themselves the SPON GPAC, to review what happened on November 14 and assess interest in creating an independent, truly citizens advisory panel to monitor developments and attempt to keep the City’s process on a track residents approve of.  Such true independent citizens’ oversight was lacking from previous GPU efforts in Newport Beach.  The response was a enthusiastic, and a second meeting will be held on Saturday, December 2.

November 14, 2017: Based on the City’s announcement, formal initiation of a General Plan update process was expected to come at the November 14, 2017, City Council meeting. A discussion of staff’s update proposal was expected at an afternoon public “study session” followed by action at the regular evening meeting.  A staff team leading the effort was also announced.  It was to consist of Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis, former Principal Planner and newly-appointed Deputy Director Jim Campbell and Associate Planner Ben Zdeba, and in addition to outside consultants, the larger plan involved the appointment of a Steering Committee (to consist of Council members O’Neill and Herdman and former Council member Nancy Gardner) and a citizens advisory committee (“GPAC”) chaired by Ms. Gardner and consisting of 4 Commissioners and up to 25 community members (it might be noted that it is unusual for City staff to specify who the City Council should appoint).

Largely rejecting staff’s recommendations, the Council instead leaned toward a slower and more deliberate evaluation of the current situation before launching into a major and costly update process.  That alternative approach might include creation of a “Blue Ribbon Committee” to consider the need for an update and explore options for conducting it, but no final decisions were made on November 14.  Staff’s initial suggestion for the alternate exploratory committee was for one consisting of 10 members:  a resident or business owner from each of the City’s seven Council districts, plus a member of a board or commission plus two Council members.  Although it was originally thought a variation of that alternative might be coming back for consideration by the Council as early as November 28, it now looks like that will not be happening until next year.

June 13, 2017: Funding for the update ($1 million in the first year, with at least another $1 million expected in later years) was allocated, without much discussion or direction, in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017.

May 18, 2017: At the Corona del Mar Residents Association‘s May 18, 2017, meeting, the City’s then Community Development Director, Kimberly Brandt, and then Deputy Director, Brenda Wisneski, gave a presentation entitled “Local Coastal Plan Amendments (Shoreline Properties) & future General Plan Update Project” (see the agenda). As part of the latter presentation, they distributed a flyer describing their vision of the GPU project. Although most of this has not yet been approved by the City Council, the flyer indicates staff sees the present calendar year being used to select an outside consultant and appoint an Advisory Committee. Work on actually revising the General Plan would begin in January 2018, with adoption expected in March or April 2020. Although funding for Year 1 was subsequently approved, Ms. Brandt retired on July 28, and Ms. Wisneski left to accept a job in another city at the end of September, which may delay the plans as new staff is put in place. As of late September, the new Community Development Director, Seimone Jurjis (former Deputy Director overseeing the Building Division), has indicated a Request for Proposals for consultants is being prepared, but will be submitted to the City Council for review and approval before actually being posted.

February 16, 2017:  Incoming Mayor Kevin Muldoon announced a General Plan Update as a major priority for the coming year in his speech at Speak Up Newport’s 36th annual Mayor’s Dinner (City video here).

February 14, 2017: City Manager Dave Kiff described a proposal for a General Plan Update in a PowerPoint slide presented at a Council study session regarding the upcoming budget.

News Coverage

City Document Links

  • A set of City webpages regarding the General Plan Update has been posted and should be consulted for the City’s latest official news about the process.
  • Existing Newport Beach General Plan (note: although originally adopted in 2006, and subsequently amended as indicated in these files, the land use allocations shown on the maps and in the land use tables may have been altered by transfers and conversions not reflected in these documents,  As an example, one is not likely to find authorization for a PIMCO tower or Irvine Company headquarters building in it.)
  • The Environmental Impact Report prepared in connection with the 2006 update.  See particularly “Volume 1A,” which is the Final EIR which contains tables showing how the “EIR project” was scaled down during the hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council.  Additionally, although not available online, the reference shelves of the Newport Beach Central Library include a binder of Technical Background Studies that supported the 2006 General Plan.  The City is also known to have agendas, minutes and meeting materials from the hearings held during development of the 2006 General Plan, but aside from those before the Planning Commission and City Council they have not been made accessible online.
  • City Manager’s February 2017 PowerPoint slide requesting $1 million budget allocation for first year of update (approved with overall budget in June)
  • May 2017 Community Development Department flyer describing City staff’s vision for possible update

Additional documents divulged in response to a September 2017 Public Records Act request:

Earlier Newport Beach General Plan documents

Newport Beach has had a General Plan (originally called a “Master Plan”) since at least 1958, with major revisions in 1973/4, 1988 and 2006.  At least the last three of these led to extensive revisions to the detailed Zoning Code regulations which implement the General Plan (the Zoning Code is currently Title 20 of the Municipal Code),

In parallel, but separate from this, and responding to  a separate state mandate, Newport Beach has a Coastal Land Use Plan additionally controlling development in the roughly half of the City in the Coastal Zone.  This was first adopted by Council Resolution 82-25 in 1982.  The CLUP underwent major revisions in 2005 (with Resolution 2005-64) and again in 2009 (with Resolution 2009-53).  Only in January 2017 did the City receive certification of the Implementation Plan portion of the Local Coastal Program, which now exists as Title 21 of the Municipal Code. Title 21 largely mirrors the Zoning Code (Title 20), but gives the City the authority to issue most Coastal Development Permits.

  • Newport Beach appears to have first contracted with a consultant to develop a “Master Plan” in April 1956 (Resolution 4486)
  • That plan, addressing  Land Use, Streets and Highways, and Parks and Recreation, was adopted by Resolution 4728 at the City Council’s January 13, 1958, meeting (see minutes).   However, the plan itself does not appear to have been preserved.
  • In 1969 the City Council endorsed a “Newport Tomorrow” visioning process, involving a consultant, a steering committee and “84 public spirited citizens.”  In 10 months, the process generated a report used as the vision for the City’s first General Plan in the modern sense mandated by the state legislature.  The Newport Beach Central Library has preserved a copy in its reference/historical collection, and we have posted a scanned copy (here) for those interested in reading it.  Responding to new state requirements for more formal, comprehensive planning, the City Council officially received the Newport Tomorrow report with Resolution 7172 on April 13, 1970, and although generally accepting it as the basis for general plan, rejected at least four specific proposals:  (1) an annexation policy, (2) a high-rise development policy, (3) a design review board, and (4) creation of a body to pursue “townscape planning goals.”
  • The General Plan resulting from the Newport Tomorrow effort was adopted in pieces between 1973 and 1974.  For example, the Land Use Element was adopted by Resolution 7968 (May 29, 1973) while the Circulation Element was adopted by Resolution 8206 (March 11, 1974).  Unfortunately, the resolutions reference documents “on file in the City Clerk’s office,” which may or may not have been preserved for posterity.
  • The next major revision of the General Plan came in 1988, with adoption of a new Land Use Element with Resolution 88-100 and a new Circulation Element with Resolution 88-101.  In this case, the full documents have been posted with the resolutions, and can be viewed at these links.  The new Land Use Element defined, described allowable development in, and set limits for each of a large number of “statistical areas” — which became the conceptual basis for controlling future growth in the citizens’ Greenlight initiative of 2000 (adopting City Charter Section 423).
  • The current General Plan followed on the heels of Greenlight, and in its initial form was adopted by the City Council with Resolution 2006-76 on July 25, 2006, contingent on voters giving the Greenlight to the new development limit tables, which they did the following November, by a narrow 53.6% margin (see Resolution 2006-103).
  • Several of General Plan elements have been amended or replaced in subsequent years, resulting in the plan currently presented on-line.

Prehistory of General Plans in Newport Beach

In 1923, Newport Beach adopted a cryptic Ordinance 247 creating a City Planning Commission, although the group does not appear to have actually been empaneled and functional until May 1926 (per the first minutes, the initial body agreeing to discuss business over dinner at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club shortly before the Monday evening City Council meetings).  As new state laws were adopted, the existing Planning Commission was reaffirmed as the relevant review body in Newport Beach — Ordinance 349 (1928) and Ordinance 430 (1935) — the latter being in response to the “Planning Act” of 1929, which called for “establishment of official master plans.”

The City’s first master plan in the 1929 sense was duly adopted in January 1936 by Ordinance 440, created with the assistance of consultant E. Deming Tilton.  It established land classifications and “districts,” and is essentially equivalent to what would today be called a Zoning Code.  The stated reasons for adopting it were: “(1) to secure for the citizens of the City of Newport Beach the social and economical advantages resulting from an orderly, planned use of Its land resources, (2) to provide a definite, official land-use plan  for the City of Newport Beach and 3) to guide, control and regulate the future growth and development of said City in accordance with said plan.”

A new Zoning Code was adopted with Ordinance 635 in 1950.

Non-City Links

  • General Plan Guidelines (2017) : recently revised version of the definitive guide to requirements for General Plan elements from the California State Office of Planning and Research (the agency that oversees General Plans in California)
  • General Plans and Zoning (2007) : a very useful and readable “outsiders” overview of California land use regulation, including General Plans and Zoning Codes, prepared by the California Department of Health Services, specifically for those interested in pursuing healthy living initiatives.
  • Orange County General Plan Resource Directory (2011) : publication from Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks highlighting desirable policies from General Plans in Orange County (and other parts of California).  Includes more general information on General Plans and planning in general, with a focus on creating sustainable communities.
  • Land Use 101 (2015) :  detailed citations to the legal authority (and limitations) of California land use planning, prepared by the  of the San Luis Obispo City Attorney.
  • Land Use and Planning (2010) : useful overview publication from California’s Institute for Local Government.
  • 150 Years of Land Use (A Brief History of Land Use Regulation, 1999) : a private attorney’s view of the tug-of-war between development and regulation in California, and its status circa 2000.
  • General Plan Overview :  FAQ handout about General Plans from the December 2, 2017, SPON GPAC meeting.

Other Helpful Links

SPON letter to City Council urging General Plan Update (December 11, 2017).

Links to videos of comments on 2006 General Plan Update process

  • July 25, 2006 City Council meeting (where the Council voted to approve the GPU as Item 18 and put the Greenlight tables on the ballot as Item 21).
    • Allan Beek speaks at 2:17:50.
    • Dolores Otting supports Allan about the GPU circumventing Greenlight at 2:23:40
    • Larry Porter speaks about the City’s failure to address water and climate change starting at 2:26:50, saying with regard to the EIR, “don’t certify this false document” at 2:31.
    • Elaine Linhoff talks at 2:31:15 about moving housing from Banning Ranch, where it won’t happen, to Mariner’s Mile, where it will.
    • Sandy Genis comments on (with regard the EIR numbers) “that’s magic” at 2:36:55, about the “special qualities of Newport Beach” at 2:37:45, and “why change that?” at 2:38:30.
    • Jan Vandersloot notes his 4 years on GPAC at 2:38:45, that the measure being proposed is a “developer’s wish list” at 2:43:20, and recommends keeping the old plan at 2:43:20.
    • Nancy Gardner (chair of the Council-appointed GPAC) rebuts the other public speakers at 2:43:50, proclaiming the GPU is good because it will add “workforce housing” to the Airport Area.
    • Phil Arst starts at 2:45:40 and returns at 5:06:15 (for Item 21, where he accuses last minute changes to the ballot wording as changing it into a “marketing message” — which the opponents weren’t allowed in their Greenlight II).
    • At 2:47:20 he charges the ballot measure is a violation of the Charter because it claims it will given voter approval to all previous non-voter-approved amendments — but Charter Section 423 requires each amendment to be voted on separately. At 2:48:45 he attributes the purported “reductions” to comparing the projections to “phantom trips” that would never have happened under the existing plan.
  • June 13, 2006 City Council meeting.
    • Phil Arst speaks starting at 3:38:20 and ticks off a litany of problems with it. It assumes a 19th St bridge when there will be none (3:40:50), the measure would arbitrarily increase the allowable floor area ratio in CdM (possibly allowing the present mansionization?, 3:41:20), it adds sloped parts of a lot to the “buildable area” (even though it’s not buildable) thereby increasing the development allowed (3:42:50), it introduces new, out-of-character extremely dense housing categories for no apparent reason (3:43:15) and it is a fatally flawed EIR (3:44:10).
  • May 9, 2006 City Council meeting.
    • Jan Vandersloot comes to the podium at 3:23:30 to comment on Item 17, despite Mayor Don Webb giving him condescending looks.
    • Jan argues there is no way the proposal to add mixed use housing to the harbor side of Mariner’s Mile could decrease traffic, and their action to allow it will be completely contrary to what the residents of Newport Heights want.
    • At 3:23:30, Councilman Rosansky agrees with Jan, saying the GPU will make Newport Beach like the housing being added in Costa Mesa, and offers an amendment to remove the housing. He can’t get a second, but warns Webb his constituents will be mad.
    • Jan is allowed a rejoinder at 3:28:45, accusing the analysis of the GPU to be based on “sleight of hand,” and at 3:29:40 that if they do this, they “will have a fight.”

Koll Center Residences

Koll Center Residences . . . as of January 2018

Latest News:  The Draft Environmental Impact Report was released for public review (see “Recent Events,” below) in September 2017 with the due date for public comments extended to November 3, then again, to November 13.  The project and DEIR were expected be presented for public review by the Planning Commission at an October 19 “study session,” however that presentation has been cancelled. Instead, the developer was been given an opportunity to attempt to sell their project to the public on October 30 in the library Friends Room. At that presentation, City staff announced a Planning Commission study session on the project would be held January 18, 2018, with no date yet set for the hearing or hearings at which the Commission will be asked to make a recommendation to Council. In preparation for the January 18 study session, the City released its responses to the public’s comments on the DEIR, however the study session itself has been postponed to an unknown future date.

Project Overview:  This is a proposal to add 260 luxury 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, and compatibility with neighboring uses, including the viability of the current General Plan’s vision for adding residential uses to the Airport Area, and whether it is being properly implemented.  SPON feels the project is out of character with the office park environment in which it is being proposed, and that any further consideration of it should be deferred until the pending General Plan Update has been completed — hopefully providing a clearer and better thought out vision for the future of the Airport Area.


The long awaited Planning Commission study session on this project, which barely got started on January 18, will presumably be rescheduled after questions regarding which Planning Commissioners have conflicts of interest have been resolved.  Due to scheduling conflicts, it will likely be at a special meeting date and time.

Recent Events:

January 18, 2018 @ 6:30 p.m.: The Newport Beach Planning Commission started to hold a public study session on the project, long deferred from the date that had been scheduled and announced in the DEIR:  October 19, 2017. The staff report included responses to the comments on the Draft EIR received on or before November 13, 2017.  However, after a brief staff report, and introductory comments, the applicant asked for the session to be postponed due to uncertainty over which Planning Commissioners would ultimately be able to vote on the matter (several of them having financial conflicts of interest).  A video of the meeting is available, with the Koll Center Residences segment running for about 17 minutes starting at 1:43.  At 1:55:50 the Assistant City Attorney makes the announcement that one more of the Commissioners had to leave the room due to a potential financial conflict of interest. The discussion about future scheduling conflicts begins at 2:06:45.

November 13, 2017 @ 5:00 p.m.:  Due date for written comments regarding the accuracy and adequacy of the DEIR. In the Final EIR, the City is required to provide written responses to comments submitted by this deadline. Comments about deficiencies in the EIR can continue to be made up until the final project approval by the City Council. However, there is no legal requirement for a formal response to comments submitted after November 13.

October 31, 2017:  As promised at the previous night’s developer presentation, the City amended its DEIR comment extension notice to indicate written comments on the adequacy of the DEIR will be accepted through November 10 (later corrected, in view of the City Hall being closed on that date, to the next business day, November 13).

October 30, 2017:  At the City’s invitation the developer provided a roughly hour-long presentation about the project in the Friends Room at the Central Library, followed by questions and answers (but not comments) from the audience. SPON feels this City-invited sales pitch was a poor substitute for the more objective and on-record study session before the Planning Commission that had been previously announced (but cancelled without explanation) during the period the public is expected to comment on the Draft EIR. At this meeting, City staff announced the public comment period would be extended an additional seven days, to November 10, and that a Planning Commission study session on the project had been set for January 18, 2018. There was also an understanding that the developers PowerPoint would be made available on the City’s website.

October 18, 2017:  City announced extension of due date for written comments on the DEIR from October 27 to a new deadline of November 3 at 5:00 pm.  City also announced a “public forum” to be provided by the developer on October 30.  This is a substitute for the October 19 public study session before the Planning Commission which had been announced with release of the DEIR, but cancelled without explanation.

September 13, 2017:  The Draft EIR was released for public review. Comments submitted by October 27 will receive a written response in the Final EIR.  The public can continue to comment on the EIR until such time as it is certified, but the City is not required to provide a formal response to comments made after October 27.  Further details are available in the City’s announcement.

January 18, 2017: A scoping meeting for the project’s Environmental Impact Report was held  with comments due by February 2.

News Coverage

Helpful Links


Balboa Theater

Balboa Theater — as of March 2018

Project Overview:  An application is being processed for the renovation of the Balboa Theater building (at 707 E. Balboa Blvd) by a private developer.   Plans include adding a cafe (with full liquor service) and a rooftop dining area.

Why We’re Watching:   The rooftop expansion, which seems out of character with the historic building, is almost entirely over the 35-foot height limit the city expects in the Shoreline Height Limitation Area (with a proposed elevator tower extending to 47 feet 4 inches).  Although possibly allowed by local zoning rules, this is in apparent violation of the City’s recently certified Local Coastal Program. The LCP, unlike the Zoning Code, contains no exception for modifications to “landmark buildings.”

In addition, since the site has long been vacant and has no parking of its own, the re-emergence of this building as a 285-seat/312 person entertainment center raises potential conflicts with summertime parking in the nearby Balboa Pier lot.


  • Processing of this application is currently “off calendar,”  with City staff now claiming that based on prior approvals, no public review or approval is necessary — even though the current project differs substantially from what was previously approved and the Coastal Commission has since found any development over 35′ on the Peninsula inconsistent with the CIty’s Coastal Land Use Plan.  Coastal Commission staff initially disagreed saying the 2011 Coastal Development Permit (for an arguably even larger expansion extending to 55 feet) expired in 2013. City staff claims to have convinced Coastal staff that certain building permits taken out years ago make the 2011 CDP still effective.  Despite these claims, it is not yet clear Coastal staff agrees.

Recent Events:

February 5, 2018:  At a community forum at Marina Park, Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis announced City staff had determined the prior “entitlements” approved in 2004 (City Planning Commission Use Permit 1646) and 2007/2011 (Coastal Commission CDP No. 5-11-073) were still effective, so no further review was necessary.  The new development needed nothing more to proceed, he said, than getting building permits.

January 18, 2018: The application for this project first appeared as Item 5 on the Planning Commission’s January 18 agenda.  Apparently as a result of public comments questioning the handling of the coastal development issues, City staff announced the item “needed more work” and should be taken “off calendar.”  No further explanation was provided.

News Coverage

Helpful Links

John Wayne Airport

John Wayne Airport issues . . . as of March 2018

Latest News: 

Project Overview:  Orange County’s John Wayne Airport has long been cited as one of the greatest continuing threats to the quality of life in Newport Beach. Although a convenient travel option for residents and businesses, it brings unwanted noise and pollution.

Why We Were Watching:  SPON’s concern with the airport dates almost from our organization’s inception and is memorialized by SPON’s role as a signatory to the 1985 Settlement Agreement, and each of its extensions.  Since 2002, many of SPON’s concerns have been championed by AirFair, a regional political action committee focused on containing JWA’s impacts.

Although there is perennial concern in the community about flight paths, SPON tends to stay away from issues whose solution will benefit one area at the expense of another, and focuses instead on efforts benefiting all residents:  seeking fewer, higher, quieter and less polluting flights.


Recent Events

  • March 14, 2018 @ 2:00 pm – JWA Quarterly Noise Meeting at JWA headquarters.
  • March 9, 2018 @ 3:00 pm – Friday Airport Forum in the City Council Chambers.  As the third of three presentations from them, the JWA Access and Noise Office explained the process by which the limited commercial capacity at JWA is assigned, each year, to the various carriers under the Access Plan.
  • February 12, 2018 The City Aviation Committee met (agenda), with Councilman Herdman (Chair) out sick and the JWA personnel on holiday. Results from the City’s independent noise monitoring are not yet available, but may be by the next meeting, likely in April.
  • February 9, 2018:  A Friday Airport Forum was held with JWA Access and Noise Office staff providing the second of three presentations from them, this one about the Settlement Agreement and Access Plan.
  • January 26, 2018:  A Friday Airport Forum was held with JWA Access and Noise Office staff giving a “Noise 101” presentation detailing how aircraft noise is monitored and reported.
  • January 23, 2018:  City Manager Dave Kiff posted a Letter to the Community regarding airport issues.
  • January 19, 2018:  US Department of Justice signs agreement concluding City’s lawsuit against the FAA’s NextGen/Metroplex Project.  The agreement has been posted and can be viewed as City Contract No. C-7291-1.  It encourages trials of an “S-curve” departure, and promises City and public review of any future changes to flight paths.
  • January 9, 2018:  The City has announced a tentative agreement with the FAA resulting from mediation over the FAA’s handling of their Environmental Impact Statement regarding the new GPS-controlled NextGen flight paths.  The settlement (the text of which has not yet been released) purportedly involves a number of deal points favorable to residents, as detailed in the City announcement.  SPON was supposedly invited to participate in the mediation, but to the best of its knowledge was not informed of that opportunity.
  • December 13, 2017: The JWA Quarterly Noise Meeting was held in a new format, with Noise Office staff giving PowerPoint presentations to the public in attendance on various topics of interest, followed by an open question and answer period.
  • December 11, 2017: the City Aviation Committee met. The announced topics (see agenda) included possible implementation of a “Fly Quiet” program, encouraging airlines to reduce noise impacts, although nothing concrete appeared to decided regarding that.
  • December 8, 2017: Aviation Committee Chair Jeff Herdman and City Manager Dave Kiff held their second informal community get-together regarding JWA issues in the City Council Chambers from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Mr. Herdman collected sets of four questions from members of the audience and Mr. Kiff attempted to answer them.
  • November 30, 2017: Council member Diane Dixon held a town hall on NexGen issues for Peninsula residents at Marina Park from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • The City’s online calendar has twice listed a “Community Forum on John Wayne Airport,” apparently featuring work done by AWG.  It was first listed for November 15 and then for December 6.  Both times the listing disappeared without the event happening.
  • November 17, 2017: Council member (and Aviation Committee Chair) Jeff Herdman and City Manager Dave Kiff held the first of planned periodic opportunities for informal discussions about airport issues. The meeting, as will apparently be the pattern, was held in the City Council Chambers from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.
  • October 30, 2017: The City’s Aviation Committee held one of its rare meetings. There was some talk of the City instituting a “Fly Quiet” incentive program, but little concrete happened.
  • October 6, 2017:  Following on the September 15 event, AirFair hosted a second, even better attended public forum. Mayor Kevin Muldoon, Council member Jeff Herdman, City Manager Dave Kiff and City Attorney Aaron Harp presented and fielded questions.
  • September 26, 2017: the City Council held a public study session at 4:00 p.m. regarding the City’s response to the new departure procedures at JWA, and at its evening meeting passed Resolution 2017-63 endorsing certain new and renewed actions with respect to the airport.
  • September 15, 2017:  AirFair hosted on a public forum on JWA issues at the Newport Beach Tennis Club in Eastbluff.

Settlement Agreement related events

  • In 2017, JWA approached SPON and the other signatories with a second request to amend the recently-extended Settlement Agreement, this time to increase the allowed number of seats on “commuter” aircraft from 70 to 76.  Although the change seemed very small, SPON was not convinced of the airport’s claim that this would reduce noise, and was concerned that it would instead lead to the present Settlement Agreement limited number of passengers being placed on a larger number of planes, each as noisy as the present ones carrying more.  In addition, SPON was concerned about a rumored threat by Southwest Airlines to attempt to invalidate the Agreement in its entirety if the change was made. The airport tabled the matter after SPON requested indemnification, but it is likely to return in 2018.
  • In 2015, SPON reluctantly agreed to minor increases in the noise levels allowed by the Settlement Agreement at the airport’s seven automated monitoring stations in Newport Beach, supposedly necessitated by the installation of newer, “more sensitive” microphones.
  • In 2014, SPON completed negotiation of the second of two extensions of the historic JWA Settlement Agreement.  This one limits commercial jet operations through 2030.  The previous extension, signed in 2003, would have expired in 2015.

News Coverage

Helpful Links

    • JWA’s Noise and Access page, including Quarterly Noise Abatement Reports, Quarterly Noise Meeting dates and interactive Flight Track Viewer (“VOLANS”)
    • JWA’s Settlement Agreement page, including key terms.
    • Newport Beach City Council Airport Policy (Policy A-17) and archive of past versions (most recent includes Settlement Agreement as an attachment)
    • City Manager’s January 23, 2018, Letter to the Community regarding airport issues.
    • City complaint form (to be forwarded to FAA regarding NextGen/SoCal Metroplex flight issues)
    • City’s Aviation Committee page, including links to Monthly Reports prepared by the City’s JWA consultant (and one-time Mayor) Tom Edwards, which seem to be the City’s primary mechanism for disseminating JWA-related information
    • Aviation Committee Chair, Councilman Jeff Herdman, maintains a blog on his campaign website that includes entries updating constituents on aviation-related matters
    • City’s JWA issues page
    • AirFair (citizens activist group affiliated with SPON, meetings open to public)
    • Airport Working Group (similar to AirFair, but an older outgrowth of SPON;  board meetings closed to public)
  • Environmental Documentation
    • Original 1981 Environmental Impact Statement (triggered dispute leading to Settlement Agreement) — online on Hathi Trust and Google Books
    • EIR 508 for 1985 Master Plan, all volumes available on Hathi Trust digital library, or Google books:
    • EIR 573, from 2001, studied splitting aircraft operations in Orange County between JWA and a proposed Orange County International Airport at the site of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Part of it is available via a link on the Airport Working Group website. Much more was posted by opponents of the El Toro site, and remains available on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
    • EIR 582 for the 2003 Settlement Agreement extension (which allowed massive expansion of the terminal) is available in print at Newport Beach Public Library , including a 2004 Supplemental EIR for terminal construction.  A scanned copy of the latter (only) is available on the AWG website.
    • EIR 617 for the 2014 extension: draft online at JWA (with explanation here);  in print at Newport Beach Public Library (draft and final)

Newport Crossings

Newport Crossings project — as of November 2017

Project Overview: This is a modestly revised return appearance of the Residences at Newport Place proposal (rejected by both the Planning Commission and City Council in 2016) for high density, high rise residential redevelopment of the now shuttered shopping center  that was formerly home to “Arnie’s Deli” and “Il Barone” restaurant — a pentagon of land along the MacArthur corridor in the Airport Area, bounded by Dove, Scott, Corinthian and Martingale Ways (and an abutting office parking lot).  In this reincarnation of the rejected plan, 350 apartments are planned, down from the earlier proposal for 384.

Why We’re Watching:  The return of a previously rejected proposal is always of concern.  SPON continues to feel that although the City’s 2006 General Plan allowed for adding housing to the Airport Area, the plan for actually doing that, and its consequences (both for the city in general and on the potential future Airport Area residents and existing office park uses in particular), have never been adequately thought out.  The already-approved and under construction Uptown Newport project seems ominously like the undesirable development constructed along the Jamboree corridor in nearly Irvine.  Before additional projects are approved in Newport Beach’s portion of the Airport Area, SPON believes that either the General Plan needs to be updated or a more comprehensive specific area plan for the area developed.

The need for better planning is exemplified by the rationale offered, when essentially the same proposal was previously before decision makers, for converting the shopping center to residential:  there were, the owner said, not enough residents in the area to support his center.  But by replacing the small amount of existing retail with housing, the developer will be creating new residents who, with the center gone, will likely have too little retail to serve them.  That doesn’t sound like good planning — and for many it remains hard to see how housing belongs at all so close to an airport — typically a buffer zone reserved for office, retail and industrial/manufacturing uses.


November 30, 2017 @ 5:00 pm: Deadline to submit written comments to be considered in the “scoping” of the EIR. See Notice of Preparation for submission details.

Recent Events:

November 16, 2017 @ 6:00 pm: Per the Notice of Preparation, “Scoping Meeting” was held in the Evelyn Hart Event Center at the OASIS Senior Center in Corona del Mar.  Staff and consultants described the project and invited comments on issues that need to be addressed in the EIR.

November 1, 2017: The City announced the posting of a “Notice of Preparation” for an Environmental Impact Report to be prepared prior to any City approvals (this is an improvement over the previous proposal, whose approval was considered with only a lesser “Mitigated Negative Declaration”).  Comments on issues that need to be addressed in the EIR are due by November 30, and can also be offered orally at a public Scoping Meeting to be held on November 16. 

May 31, 2017Application for project filed with City.

News Coverage

Helpful Links

Local Coastal Program Amendments

Local Coastal Program Amendments . . . as of November 2017

Latest News:  What Coastal Commission staff has declared to be the “minor” parts of City staff’s LCP “clean-up” were expected to have been reviewed, and presumably accepted, by the Coastal Commission as Item Th11a at its November 9, 2017, meeting.  However, at the last minute, Coastal staff asked for the matter to be continued so they could have more time to review it.  The Coastal Commission met again in December in Dana Point, but the none of the Newport Beach LCP amendment requests appeared on the agenda.

Although City staff appears to have stopped pursuing some its more controversial proposals, that still leaves at least five “major” amendments (resubmitted by the Council on September 12), in addition to the “minor” ones cited above, awaiting review by Coastal staff and the setting of a hearing date. If amended by the Coastal Commission at their hearing, the Council would have to agree to the amendments or abandon the proposals.

The City’s proposal for a Balboa Village Parking Management District (removing the requirement for businesses to provide off-street parking) appears to be in limbo, as does the request for a Coastal Development Permit to allow establishment of a Residential Permit Parking Program in the area west of the Village.

The City’s most recent effort is to promote legislation amending the Coastal Act to give the City the authority to create a Port Master Plan.  This would purportedly allow the City to approve permits in the water areas of the harbor, which all currently require approval by the Coastal Commission.

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 proposed making 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. Meeting resistance, even from the Council, that appears to have been dropped.

But now there is a proposal to bring Newport Coast (currently subject to County regulations) within the compass of the City’s LCP.  That could prove very problematic considering the large quantity of unbuilt allocations.  The July 25, 2017, Item 12 staff report indicates that includes 182 homes, 1,046 hotel rooms and 75,933 square feet of commercial development. This would seem a major effort, and one SPON is watching with concern.


  • In addition to the items mentioned on this page, a recent Planning Division Tentative Agenda indicates a possible April 11-13, 2018, Coastal Commission hearing date for a request for a “City/CCC Jurisdictional Boundary Change Request” that has not otherwise been announced.  According to an email from Planning Manage Patrick Alford, the request is to move five properties from Coastal Commission permit jurisdiction to City jurisdiction. The five properties are Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Balboa Bay Club, Sea Scout Base, OC Harbor Patrol/USCG station and Newport Aquatic Center.
  • No hearing date has yet been announced for the package of “minor” Implementation Plan amendments presented as Item Th11a at the Coastal Commission’s November 9, 2017, meeting, but continued to a future meeting.
  • No Coastal Commission hearing date has yet been announced for the package of major LCP amendments submitted by the Council on September 12, 2017, which is believed to include the Oceanfront Encroachment program for Peninsula Point, the Accessory Dwelling Unit proposals from July 25 and three proposals from July 11 regarding shoreline protective devices, allowing a 75% expansion of nonconforming residential structures, and establishing rules for allowing deviations from the development standards via variances and modifications.
  • The Balboa Village Parking Management District plan (heard by the Planning Commission on May 4) and the modifications to height limits (heard and modified by the City Council on July 11) do not appear to be before the Coastal Commission at the moment, and probably require a new resolution from the Council to make them so.
  • The status of the Coastal Development Permit application to establish a Residential Permit Parking Program for the area west of Balboa Village (submitted per Item 14 at the Council’s October 27, 2015, meeting) is also unknown.  To be approved, it might well require an amendment to the LCP.
  • What progress local City staff may have made with its City Council authorization to attempt to incorporate the Newport Coast LCP into the City LCP is also unknown.

Recent Events:

    • November 9, 2017:  The California Coastal Commission granted staff a continuance of up to a year to further consider the package of “minor” LCP amendments submitted by the City.  Much less time than that is expected, but a rehearing date has not yet been set. To recap, the Coastal Commission announced that as Item Th11a at its hearing in Bodega Bay on November 9, the Commission would be reviewing their Executive Director’s declaration of the “minor” portions of the City’s July 11, 2017, submittal — which would, in the absence of objection by the Commission, be deemed approved. However, Coastal staff has asked for the entire matter to be taken temporarily off calendar, and nothing has yet been approved. An exhibit to the November 9 staff report showed the City’s Resolution No. 2017-45 with the parts deemed “not minor” crossed out. However, of the parts being deemed “minor,” proposed Amendment #2 will create relaxed development standards for a Lido Villas Planned Community, and Amendment #12 will eliminate the need for public hearing on many Coastal Development Permits. The crossed out parts include all the worrisome language the City proposed on July 11 changing the height limit rules. Since that language is not in the September 12 repackaging and consolidation of “major” amendments, it appears the City is not pursuing a relaxation of the height limits, at least for the moment. Note: for those having trouble accessing the November 9 CCC files, they consist of a report, an exhibit (the City requests) and an addendum (asking for the continuation to a later meeting).
    • September 12, 2017:  Staff returned to the Council with a report that the City was in danger of exceeding the number of major amendments to the LCP allowed in a single calendar year.  The CCC’s rule apparently allows multiple major amendments if they are part of a single submittal.  As a result, in Item 3 on the consent calendar, City staff asked the Council to adopt Resolution No. 2017-56, which combined in a single submittal the Oceanfront Encroachment and Accessory Dwelling Unit proposals from July 25 with three proposals from July 11 that the CCC had deemed “major” (regarding shoreline protective devices, allowing a 75% expansion of nonconforming residential structures, and establishing rules for deviations from the development standards via variances and modifications).  The staff report did not identify which portions of the July 11 proposal had been deemed “minor,” requiring only the CCC Director’s approval.  However, Resolution No. 2017-56 submits none of the language creating new exceptions to the City’s building height limits, suggesting that request has been dropped.  In addition, the status remains unclear for a Parking Management District in Balboa Village (removing any requirement for businesses to provide off-street parking), which seems to have not been formally submitted at all.
    • July 25, 2017:  As Item 18, the Council adopted Resolution No. 2017-50, submitting to the CCC a proposed amendment to the LCP to allow beach encroachments in the Peninsula Point area.   And as part of Item 19, Resolution No. 2017-51 submitted an amendment allowing Accessory Dwelling Units.  Also, as Item 12 on the consent calendar, the Council agreed to “Initiate amendments to the City’s certified Local Coastal Program and the Newport Coast Planned Community Development Plan to incorporate Newport Coast into the City’s certified Local Coastal Program. ”  Little more is known of this latter proposal, as it does not appear to have been the subject of any other public discussion.
    • July 11, 2017:  As Item 10 at its evening meeting, 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.  The matter did not come back, but the resulting Resolution No. 2017-45, as signed by the Mayor, differed from the one presented to the Council in the Item 10 staff report by having the planned community exception removed.
    • 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.

As presented to the Planning Commission the amendment package consisted 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 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.  This was heard as Item 2 at the Planning Commission’s May 4,  2017, meeting. The Commission showed more interest in this than the other amendments, and voted to continue the item 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.


News Coverage

  • none so far

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Harbor Pointe Senior Living

Harbor Pointe Senior Living  . . .  as of December, 2017

Project Overview:  This is a proposal to build a 4-story, 121-bed convalescent and congregate care facility at the current site of the Kitayama Restaurant on South Bristol.

Why We Were Watching:  Under the city’s General Plan, a project of this sort is not allowed at  the requested location, and hence its approval requires a General Plan amendment.  Such changes to the voter-approved land use designations are always of concern, and in this case neighbors have expressed worries about the building’s compatibility with neighboring residential uses.

Recent Events:

A scoping meeting for the project’s Environmental Impact Report was held on August 15, 2016, with comments due by August 22.  The EIR is presumably being prepared.

Prior to release of the EIR, the Planning Commission heard about and discussed the proposal, without action, as Item 4 on its February 23, 2017, agenda.  The “study session” was well attended by Bayview and Santa Ana Heights neighbors, most quite critical of the project as currently proposed.  See the City video.

A Cumulative Projects List dated December 12, 2017, says the project is “being revisited and redesigned by applicant/developer” and that EIR preparation was “on hold as of June 8, 2017.”


According to a tentative agenda, an item regarding revisions to the EIR contract is expected on the City Council’s January 9, 2018, agenda.

Recent Events

The case log indicates revised project plans were submitted on October 13, 2017.

News Coverage

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