SPON 43nd ANNUAL MEETING
Saturday, June 24, 2017
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Location: Environmental Nature Center
1601 E 16th Street, Newport Beach
Location: Environmental Nature Center
1601 E 16th Street, Newport Beach
Project Overview: According to the City’s website, Mariners Mile (oddly spelled Mariners’ in the proposed new Master Plan despite existing road signs to the contrary) has been identified as an area needing revitalization. With completion of a study evaluating roadway capacity requirements for West Coast Highway, the City is evaluating existing land use policies and regulations, which it says may inhibit “revitalization” of the area. The “Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan” is ostensibly intended to identify potential refinements and barriers to revitalizing the area.
Why We’re Watching: The City contracted with PlaceWorks in May of 2016 to assist in these efforts. According to the City, the plan they develop will provide an implementation strategy to improve the area. But PlaceWorks is the same outside consulting firm (and in this case the same principal consultant) that coordinated the City meetings that led to 2014’s ill-conceived Measure Y. PlaceWorks also prepared the environmental analysis for Uptown Newport and the recently rejected Museum House high-rise residential development project.
PlaceWorks’ odd decision to change the spelling of Mariners Mile from Mariner’s to Mariners’ seems indicative for their general disregard for the existing Mariner’s Mile Strategic Vision and Design Framework adopted, after considerable effort, in 2000.
Concern about the outside planners’ disconnect with the history and spirit of the place is exacerbated by the fact that a good portion of Mariners Mile (the so-called “Haskell/Ardell properties” and the adjacent Duffy Boat sales/rental office) has recently changed hands and will likely be the subject of major projects and proposals. As residents, we expect these projects and proposals to adhere to our General Plan rules in order to avoid spot zoning exceptions which pave the way for excessive heights and density. And as residents, we need to raise these concerns during the earliest phases of project planning.
May 18, 2017 (tentative): A formal hearing before the Planning Commission is expected on May 18, at the end of which City staff expects the Commission to make a recommendation about the proposed Master Plan to the City Council.
Planning Commission study session (April 20, 2017): The Planning Commission held a study session on the Master Plan on April 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, with a minimum quorum of four Commissioners in attendance (PC Chair Kory Kramer appears to be permanently recused from this item due to his management interest in the Balboa Bay Club, Commissioners Zak and Hillgren had excused absences). The consultant made a presentations about the proposed Master Plan and City staff made one about the eventual widening of Coast Highway through Mariners Mile to six lanes. After extensive public input, the Commissioners seemed skeptical about the desirability of widening the highway and uncertain as to whether they would be able to make a positive recommendation on May 18. Staff persisted in asserting that the widening issue was separate from the Master Plan, and the latter needed to be pushed through to completion.
Speak Up Newport presentation (April 11, 2017): City staff made a presentation about the Master Plan at the monthly Speak Up Newport meeting. The presentation was video recorded and should be posted (under that date) on the City’s streaming video page
Release of draft Master Plan (April 11, 2017): A 163 page draft of the “Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan” has been posted for public review on the City website, here.
District 2 Town Hall (March 28, 2017): Mariners Mile was one of several topics presented at a “District 2 Town Hall” conducted by Councilman Brad Avery in the Mariners Branch Library community room.
Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan Community Meeting (January 2017)
The third public “workshop” was held at Marina Park on January 26, 2017, at 6:00 pm. Although comments were entertained at the end, this was primarily a presentation by PlaceWorks, the outside firm preparing the new Master Plan. A SPON-produced video of this third public meeting is available here.
AutoNation Proposal Withdrawn (November 7, 2016): At its October 6 meeting, the Planning Commission recommended denial of a massive AutoNation Porsche dealership proposal, which which was not part of the revitalization planning and caught many nearby residents by surprise (see SPON video for August 18 Planning Commission meeting). Cut back into the bluff, it would have occupied the entire north side of PCH from the largely-vacant new Mariner’s Pointe building at Dover Drive to McDonald’s, with roof-top parking and elevator shafts towering 50 feet above the highway. An appeal by AutoNation was expected to be heard by the City Council at a special Monday evening meeting on November 7, 2016. However, impacted neighbors had been circulating a petition against the project and it was announced that AutoNation had withdrawn their application.
Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan Community Workshop (September 2016)
The second public workshop was held as a noticed Planning Commission study session on Monday, September 26 at 6:00 pm at Marina Park. Attendance was good, despite it being a presidential election debate night. A video recording of this second Community Workshop is available here.
Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan Community Workshop (July 2016)
The July 25 Community Workshop was literally standing-room only for the crowd that attended the event. It obviously attracted many more people than the organizers had planned. Attendees were split into groups and asked to share ideas for the area. A video recording of this first Community Workshop is available here.
City staff has apparently been meeting with the developers and initially said it planned to submit a draft master plan to the Planning Commission in October and to the City Council by the end of the year. Sound like a rush job?
On January 25, 2017, the Newport Beach City Clerk received word from the Orange County Registrar of Voters that enough signatures had been validated on the Museum House referendum petition to qualify it for action by the City Council. In fact, based on the sample tested by the Registrar, it appears that in less than two weeks the circulators obtained more than twice the required number – representing nearly a quarter of all registered voters in Newport Beach. This is particularly remarkable in view of the campaign of deception and intimidation waged by the developer against the petition.
The certification result was presented to the City Council as Item 21 at their February 14, 2017, meeting.
As Item 15 on their February 28 agenda, the Council voted 5:2 to begin the process of repealing all their previous Museum House approvals, with the exception of the certification of the EIR, by introducing a proposed ordinance. This is a less costly option legally available to the Council — chosen, presumably, because the result of holding an actual election seemed to them a foregone conclusion.
The actual adoption of the repeal ordinance was completed with a second reading as Item 5 on the Council’s March 14 “consent calendar.” The repeals will become effective 30 days thereafter.
This is with an understanding that OCMA is contesting the validity of the petition in the Orange County Superior Court. On March 8, the court denied OCMA’s request for an order preventing the Council from taking further action on the petition. Unless the court ultimately finds the petition invalid, the repeals will stand and state election law will bar the Council, for the following year, from considering a General Plan amendment for the OCMA property similar to the defeated Museum Tower proposal.
For further details on the status of the Museum House referendum please visit the LITS website at LineInTheSandPAC.com.
Project Overview: The Museum House is a proposal for a 25-story, 295 foot tall, 100-unit luxury condo tower to replace the one story Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Center.
Why We’re Watching: We feel the project would, in fact, violate both the letter and spirit of Greenlight and are making a case for it to be put to a vote. You can watch the video recording of the April 7 study session which is included in SPON’s Video Library.
The Greenlight issue revolves around 79 residential units (out of the 100 allowed without a vote). An earlier City Council, without processing a General Plan amendment, already allowed units above and beyond the voter-approved General Plan limit for Newport Center.
However, City staff and the current City Council refuse to accept this, forcing residents to reclaim their right to vote by circulating petitions for a referendum on the Council’s approval.
The Notice of Preparation (NOP) was issued in March. The NOP identifies issues that should be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). SPON submitted comments on the NOP, which you can read here.
A standing-room-only crowd attended an April 7, 2016, Planning Commission Study Session on this proposal. The applicants were present, but spent most of their time explaining why the project is consistent with a plan presented for Fashion Island in the 1960s and does not require a Greenlight vote. Read an extract of Public Comments here.
The City Council requested an April 26, 2016, discussion (Agenda Item #14) of the competing applications for new residential development in Newport Center (Museum House and 150 Newport Center). At it, City staff skirted the Greenlight issue, insisting it doesn’t exist.
The Draft EIR was released for a 45-day public review period beginning August 17 and ending September 30, 2016. See announcement here.
The developer made a presentation at the August 20 meeting of Speak Up Newport (SUN). The SUN meeting video is available on the city’s website as “Residents Speak Up About Museum House”.
During that time, the Planning Commission held a second study session on September 1, 2016, which can be reviewed on the SPON video channel. At the study session proponents outnumbered opponents. It might be noted that the proponents see this primarily as a fund-raising opportunity for OCMA, which hopes to build a new museum in Costa Mesa using the profits from the rezoning. Fund-raising, however well intentioned, is not necessarily good planning.
The Planning Commission ultimately disposed of the application in a single hearing on October 20, recommending approval without any modifications, and the the City Council did the same on November 29, with only Council member Tony Petros dissenting. Technically, only the General Plan land use change from “Private Institutional” to “Multiple Residential — 100 units” and the Environmental Impact Report were given final approval on November 29, with the remaining items approved on the Consent Calendar at the Council’s largely ceremonial December 13 meeting (prior to the three newly-elected Council members taking their seats).
Immediately following the November 29 vote, Line in the Sand, an independent Political Action Committee that supports many of SPON’s objectives, prepared to circulated a referendum petition demanding the Council’s decision be revisited in a citywide public vote. The start of signature gathering was delayed by burdensome conditions gratuitously placed on the petition by the Council, and the actual gathering was vigorously obstructed by the developer. Despite those obstacles, more than twice the required number of signatures was collected in less than two weeks, as detailed above and below.
The City Council is expected to receive notice of the adequacy of the petition on February 14, at which meeting they will have to choose between repealing their November 29 approval or placing it on a future ballot for the public to decide.
There’s no question that most residents have had ENOUGH. Wouldn’t it be nice if developers stopped wasting their time (and ours) proposing projects that are totally outsized and detrimental to the neighborhoods that surround them? We’re not there yet, and it will be a challenge – but “Our Town” is worth the effort it is taking to get there.
SPON and the Line in the Sand Political Action Committee continue to follow the process closely. Please visit the LITS website for further details and a complete timeline of the referendum process.
Press Coverage: Your letters and newspaper articles continue to appear in both the Daily Pilot and the Newport Beach Independent. Here’s a slightly out-of-date sampling in case you missed them. For links to more recent coverage, visit the LITS website.
Opponents of Museum House condo tower vow referendum effort to overturn Newport council’s OK … Daily Pilot November 30, 2016
Residents Speak Up About Museum House . . . Newport Beach Independent August 12, 2016
Letter Exchange . . . Newport Beach Indy April 8, 2016
Museum House Needs a Greenlight Vote . . . Newport Beach Indy March 26 2016
Condo Tower at Odds with Residents . . . Newport Beach Indy March 26, 2016
When in Drought . . . Newport Beach Indy March 26, 2016
Museum’s Future Hinges on Condo Tower . . . Newport Beach Indy April 15, 2016
Conflict of Interest . . . Newport Beach Indy April 10, 2016
A Race to Avoid Public Vote . . . Daily Pilot April 10, 2016
Keep the dialog open in the press. Continue sending your letters to editors and let them know we continue to oppose projects such as the Museum House which require General Plan Amendments and violate the character of “Our Town.” Be sure to include your name, city of residence and phone number (not for publication; for editors to check with you if questions)
Our understanding is that the Line in the Sand political action committee, through an extraordinary team effort by principals, volunteers and supporters, was able, in less than two weeks, to obtain nearly twice the number of signatures needed for a successful referendum. Having determined their goal had been far exceeded, LITS decided to submit the completed Museum Tower Referendum petition books (constituting nearly two tons of paper!) to the City’s Elections Official (the City Clerk) this morning, December 21 — a full week earlier than legally required.
It is now up to the City to verify that the requisite number of signatures was indeed obtained. They have about six weeks for that, after which the City Council will be required to either withdraw their approval of the land use change, or put it to a citywide public vote.
For further details, photos and video of the petition delivery, and still more information about what’s next for the Museum House — all soon to be posted — visit the LITS website at LineInTheSandPAC.com.
Although IRS constraints prevented SPON for participating directly in the later phases of the petition effort, SPON commends this remarkable outpouring of volunteerism, and this exceptional demonstration of the tremendous interest the public in general has in the quality of life in Newport Beach.
Congratulations to all!
Important update: the start of signature gathering for the Museum House Tower referendum was delayed by a City Council action on November 29 adding thousands of pages of documentation to the paper petitions on which the signatures have to be affixed to legally request a citywide vote on the Council’s controversial decision– thereby significantly shortening the already very short time in which signatures have to be collected. Meanwhile forces aligned with developer have been engaging in a number of questionable practices intended to confuse and distract potential signers. The true 10-pound paper petitions that need to be signed by the end of the year just began becoming available from the printer on Wednesday, December 7, and initial supplies are limited.
Please visit the Line in the Sand PAC website for the most current information on where and how to sign this important petition. Every signature counts!
Latest update (Dec. 21): Realizing it had reached nearly twice its signature gathering goal in less than two weeks, LITS submitted the completed petition books a full week ahead of the legal deadline. It is now up to the City to certify the referendum. Barring legal challenges, the City Council will then have to either repeal the General Plan land use change that made the Museum Tower possible, or put it to a citywide public vote. Stay tuned…
Over this last weekend, the Museum House developer (Related California) and its affiliate (OCMA Urban Housing LLC) have employed a myriad of tactics to create confusion and false information about the referendum and signature-gathering process.
For those of you who intend to support the Referendum, please remember this: We must all stay focused on the goal of collecting the required number of validated signatures to qualify the Referendum for a vote. Line in the Sand PAC has just three weeks to do this, and these opposition tactics divert our time and attention from our goal.
Our LITS volunteers and supporters are razor-focused on the goal of collecting 8,000 signatures for validation by the Registrar of Voters before the end of December. We ask that you stay focused too.
For more information about the Referendum, including dates, times and locations where you can go to sign the petitions, please visit LineInTheSandPAC.com .
Important update: the start of signature gathering for the Museum House referendum has been delayed by a City Council action on November 29 adding thousands of pages of documentation to the paper petitions on which the signatures have to be affixed to legally request a citywide vote on the Council’s controversial decision– thereby significantly shortening the already very short time in which signatures have to be collected. Meanwhile forces aligned with developer have been engaging in a number of questionable practices intended to confuse and distract potential signers. Please be patient. The true paper petitions that need to be signed by the end of the year are expected to begin becoming available from the printer on Wednesday, December 7. However, initial supplies may be limited.
Many thanks to all who signed the previous joint SPON/LITS online petition opposing Related Companies’ proposal for the Museum House Tower, a 100 unit, 25-story, 295 foot tall high density condo tower that would replace the current low-rise Orange County Museum of Art galleries at 850 San Clemente Drive in the northwestern part of the Newport Center / Fashion Island area. A recap of the petition results and comments as presented to the City Council at their special November 29th meeting can be viewed on the City’s website here.
Despite that outstanding effort, the City Council voted 6 to 1 (with Councilman Tony Petros opposed) to change the land use designation of the OCMA parcel from “Private Institutional” to “Multi-unit Residential – 100 units,” as well as a number of other actions allowing use of that new designation to begin construction of the “Museum House” Tower, contingent upon final approval at the Council’s December 13th meeting.
Pursuant to the terms of the Greenlight section of the City Charter, and coming on top of other recent additions to Newport Center, SPON firmly believes this November 29th change to the General Plan should have automatically gone to a citywide vote. However, the City Council disagrees, forcing residents to reclaim their right to vote by referendum. That arduous process requires residents to obtain the signatures of roughly 5,600 Newport Beach registered voters on legally correct paper petitions within the next 30 days.
SPON and the Line in the Sand Political Action Committee are in the process of initiating just such a referendum; and it is important to understand these are completely different from any paper or online petitions you may have signed before (as in the recap, above). If successful, the new petitions will force the Council to either repeal their approval of the land use change, or put it on hold until the voters can affirm or reject the approval at a future election.
To make this a success, everyone will have to help. Further information on what you can do will follow soon. But please visit LineInTheSandPAC.com for the most accurate and up-to-date details.
Thank you all again… the battle has begun!
Project Update – March 18, 2016
Scoping Session Public Meeting Overview: The Museum House project brought a standing room only crowd to the Newport Beach Civic Center Community Room meeting on February 22. The meeting was a scoping session to elicit comments about what should be studied in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a 100-unit residential tower in Newport Center. Residents from all parts of the City shared their concerns about this plan to build a 26-story Miami-style condo tower right in the middle of Newport Center. It is projected to be 315 feet high, replacing the one-story OC Museum of Art which is moving to Costa Mesa. It would be directly behind the sprawling apartment complex The Irvine Company is building at the corner of San Joaquin Hills and Jamboree Roads (made possible with the approval of the 2006 General Plan Update but kept under the radar until after the Measure Y vote).
Interestingly, the applicants did not introduce themselves, and only provided vague renderings of what the ground floors of the tower might look like.
Comments by participants covered a wide range of issues, from water/energy and public services to aesthetics including views and skylines, noise pollution, traffic and precedent-setting for increasing density and heights. There were interesting points about unlivable parking situations with existing apartment/condo complexes in Newport Beach and of the possible dangers a tower that size could face from earthquakes and stray JWA departures.
Our Next Steps: The public comment period for the Notice of Preparation (NOP) closed on March 7, 2016. SPON submitted comments on the NOP, which you can read here. The NOP identifies issues that should be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) . . . which will have a public comment period as well. It is important to ensure that the EIR is inclusive of all issues, which is why the NOP is so important. We encourage everyone to share their concerns about the impact this project would have on our community.
Once the EIR is ready, the public will have 45 days to comment on it. So please check back here starting early Spring.
April 7 Planning Commission Meeting: At this time, a preliminary review of the Museum House Project, along with a holistic review of Newport Center development proposals, is being planned for the April 7 Planning Commission Meeting at 6:30 pm in the Civic Center Council Chambers. Let’s make this another Standing Room Only community meeting. Watch our website for more details as we get closer to this date. Review the Initial Study here.
Press Coverage: Letters and newspaper articles have appeared in both the Daily Pilot and the Newport Beach Independent. Here’s a recent sampling in case you missed them.
Image of Banning Ranch shared by another organization against its development
Breaking news: March 30, 2017
The California Supreme Court has concluded the litigation described below by issuing a unanimous finding that the City’s environmental analysis was inadequate and misleading.
This effectively invalidates the project approvals granted by the City in 2012.
The courts ruling can be read here (PDF).
Latest Update: September 10, 2016
Great news! With much anticipation, the California Coastal Commission met in Newport Beach on September 7th to consider the application for development on the Banning Ranch property. After lengthy debate in a packed City Council Chambers, the Commission, with 1 of its 12 members (Chair Steve Kinsey) recused and another (Wendy Mitchell) absent, voted 9:1 to reject the application – even though it was significantly scaled back from what the City had OK’d in 2012.
According to press reports, if the developer wishes to pursue their project, they will have to wait a minimum of six months, after which they can start over with an entirely new application to the Coastal Commission. Whether that would require a new City approval is unclear.
Meanwhile, a legal challenge to the City’s original approval, brought by the Banning Ranch Conservancy, remains to be decided by the California Supreme Court (Case S227473, details here). The conservancy contends the City violated its General Plan in 2012 by granting an approval without first working with state agencies (including the Coastal Commission) to delineate which portions of the property were developable and which were not.
We understand the Sierra Club Banning Ranch Park & Preserve Task Force and Banning Ranch Conservancy – two groups which have for years led the charge on environmental issues related to Banning Ranch development proposals – will be meeting on September 21 and 28, respectively, to review the September 7th Coastal Commission action and consider their next steps (details here). SPON supports their efforts.
Is Banning Ranch developer’s environmental marketing the real deal? (OC Register, September 17, 2016)
How ordinary folks waged battle against money and power (Steve Lopez, LA Times, September 10, 2016)
Despite vote, Banning Ranch development could still be built (KPPC, September 9, 2016)
Is the Banning Ranch proposal really dead? A look at where the OC coastal project goes from here (LA Times, September 8, 2016)
After rejection of development plan, Banning Ranch owner weighs next move (LA Times, September 8, 2016)
A good day for the Coastal Commission, and conservation, in Newport Beach (Steve Lopez, LA Times, September 10, 2016)
After development rejected at Banning Ranch, activists see a possibility to preserve (OC Register, September 7, 2016)
Banning Ranch project denied by Coastal Commission, ending 20-year battle — for now (OC Register, September 7, 2016)
Coastal Commission Denies Banning Ranch (Newport Beach Independent, September 8, 2016)
Banning Ranch is the last and the largest parcel of privately owned coastal open space remaining in Orange County. It is located at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, nestled between Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa. It consists of more than 400 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent coastal mesa. Having served for oil production for the last 70 years, Banning Ranch has escaped the dense residential development characteristic of the surrounding cities. Over time it has evolved into a private wildlife preserve.
In 2006, the voters of Newport Beach approved a General Plan that made preservation of the entire property as open space the highest priority for Banning Ranch. Yet in July of 2012, Newport Beach City Council approved a Project of development resorting to a “Statement of Overriding Considerations” to rationalize away the “significant and unavoidable” impacts cited throughout the EIR.
In October 2015, the Coastal Commission staff identified the correct acreage of 11.5 acres available for development and recommended denial of the Coastal Development Permit for Banning Ranch. But rather than deny the project the Coastal Commission instructed the developer to work with Coastal staff to work together to come up with a reduced project.
The applicant, Newport Banning Ranch LLC is a partnership between AERA Energy, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil and Shell, and Cherokee Investment Partners, a $2.2 Billion developer from the East Coast. A revised application that has been submitted to the Coastal Commission (hearing May 12) consists of 895 residential units, commercial space and a hotel to be built on the mesa portion of the property in areas where oil wells will be decommissioned. Separately, their oil and gas proxy, Horizontal Development has a filed for a separate Coastal Development Permit for a new Oil Production facility, up to 100 new oil and gas wells and truck bearing maintenance road along the scenic and environmentally sensitive Semeniuk Slough.
The partial list of impacts:
We urge you to reiterate that this development permit should be denied at the Coastal Commission Hearing at the Newport Beach City Hall May 12, 2016! The goal for Banning Ranch should be the preservation, acquisition, conservation, restoration and maintenance of the site as a permanent public open space, park and coastal nature preserve.
Save Newport Banning Ranch Information:
Questions for SPON:
Update August 23, 2016: Coastal Commission Hearing & Vote Scheduled for September 7 here in Newport Beach
The Coastal Commission will meet and vote on the Banning Ranch project at its Newport Beach meeting on September 7. The Coastal Commission, the City of Newport Beach and the developer have all agreed on the timing and the location. The Banning Ranch hearing will be heard as Item 14d (Agenda here). Hearing procedure available here. For more information, visit the Banning Ranch Conservancy website.
Here are a few immediate and important action items for you to consider:
Newport Banning Ranch Project Documents as of July 2016
All the following documents are available for viewing and/or downloading here.
Developer Seeks More Space to Build . . .
Daily Pilot Article: June 29, 2016
Newport Beach Fire Department Analysis for Coastal Commission
“Fire and the resulting products of combustion are a continual threat to the community . . . ” The complete analysis can be read here.
Acreage Comparison Report
Provided to Coastal Commission by Newport Banning Ranch
The full report can be read here.
Update April 28, 2016: Coastal Commission Hearing on May 12, 2016
The Coastal Commission hearing will be held on May 12, 9:00 am, at the Newport Beach Civic Center, 100 Civic Center Drive, Newport Beach. This hearing could very well decide the fate of the Banning Ranch. A standing-room-only turnout is needed! The Coastal Commission Staff Report for the proposed project at Banning Ranch can be downloaded here.
Here are a few immediate and important action items for you to consider:
Update August 1, 2015: Coastal Commission Meeting October 7/8, 2015:
The Banning Ranch Conservancy and the Quality of Life Coalition are urging everyone to attend the California Coastal Commission hearing on the Banning Ranch October 7/8 at the Long Beach City Council Chambers. This Commission could decide the fate of the Banning Ranch. This is it . . . a large turnout is needed! Let this Commission know that the community opposes the Banning Ranch development.
Sign up now for a seat on the bus. Transportation will be provided.
Sign the online letter to the Coastal Commission. Better yet, personalize the message to your liking. It only takes 30 seconds!
Don’t trust the Trust! The Newport Banning Land Trust was created and is supported by the developers of the Banning Ranch. Watch this short video to learn more.
Update March 18, 2015: Presentation to the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club by Banning Ranch Conservancy and SPON: The Banning Ranch: Fact vs. Fiction was presented in partnership by Banning Ranch Conservancy and SPON at the March monthly meeting of the Women’s Democratic Club. A copy of the presentation is here.
Update March 17, 2015: Caring People, United in a Worthy Cause, Can Make Things Happen! By Suzanne Forster: On Thursday, March 12, at the California Coastal Commission Enforcement Hearing in Chula Vista, the Commission reached a Settlement Agreement (http://www.banningranchconservancy.org/index.html) with Newport Banning Ranch LLC (NBR), the developer, regarding violations of the Coastal Act charged by the Commission against the developer. Without admitting guilt, NBR agreed to stop committing the alleged violations and perform actions (restoration, mitigation and dedication of permanent open space) to correct them. The heart of the victory was that the annual mowing of 40 to 50 acres of critical habitat has been stopped allowing coastal sage scrub to return to these areas.
Over 60+ people rode the bus to Chula Vista and many other supporters drove down to carry tables, banners and supplies. This large turn-out sent a powerful message to both the Commissioners and the developer demonstrating that citizens can and do make a difference.
We will never be able to outspend the developer, but with help from supporters, existing and new, we can show that citizens working together will make a difference. Here’s how —
Original Post February 2015: Petition to Halt Habitat Destruction at Banning Ranch by Suzanne Forster: The California Coastal Commission Enforcement Staff has cited the owners of Banning Ranch—Newport Banning Ranch LLC and West Newport Oil Company, the oil field operator—with two major violations of the Coastal Act. The violations are unpermitted habitat destruction and unpermitted oil field operations. The Banning Ranch Conservancy has initiated a petition asking the California Coastal Commission to permanently halt this habitat destruction and to ensure permanent restoration and protection of the degraded habitat on Banning Ranch. The petition will be presented to the commissioners at the March Enforcement Hearing (details below). A large number of signatures will tell the commissioners that the public is serious about protecting our finite coastal resources.
The Enforcement Hearing is expected to be scheduled during the regular monthly Coastal Commission hearing on March 11-13 at the Chula Vista Council Chambers in Chula Vista (meeting information here); South Coast District (future agenda items here). The exact date of the hearing will also be posted to the Banning Ranch Conservancy website when it’s available.
Newport Banning Ranch LLC and West Newport Oil Company (the oil field operator) were recently cited for two major violations of the Coastal Act. The violations are for unpermitted habitat destruction and unpermitted oil field operations. The CCC staff’s enforcement action against the Banning Ranch owners could result in a consent order or a unilateral hearing.
A consent order is an agreement between staff and the owners regarding the appropriate restoration and mitigation orders for the violations. Fines can also be levied. If no agreement is reached prior to the hearing, a unilateral hearing will be held, during which the Coastal Enforcement staff will present their case against the owners and the owners’ attorneys or representatives will respond. Interested parties, such as the Banning Ranch Conservancy and other environmental organizations can also make presentations that include expert witnesses. The Coastal Commissioners will hear all the testimony and make their decision.
Save Newport Banning Ranch Information:
Questions for SPON:
150 Newport Center . . . as of September 27, 2016
(formerly known as Newport Center Villas; aka the Fashion Island car wash project).
Note: At least for the moment, this project is history: the application for it was WITHDRAWN moments before its planned hearing by the City Council on September 27. One of the major financial investors is now suing the developers for fraud.
Project Overview: The 150 Newport Center Planned Community Development Plan (PCDP) as originally proposed was to be composed of 49 condominium homes totaling 163,260 square feet, in a seven-story, 75.5 foot high building. The unit mix was to include ten residential townhomes, 35 residential flats on Levels 3 through 6 and four penthouses on Level 7. It was later reduced to a proposal for 35 units in 5 stories, and rather than regarding 150 Newport Center as a “planned community” of its own, it would be incorporated into the existing North Newport Center Planned Community District and be subject to its rules (although new rules would be invented for this parcel).
Why We Were Watching: This project would have replace the one-story 8,500 square foot Beacon Bay Car Wash directly across from Muldoon’s in Fashion Island. The structure height significantly deviates from the standard established for that area of Fashion Island. And, the project introduces residents into a primarily commercial/retail neighborhood, which includes late-night operations which generate business-related noise and congestion.
On June 23, 2016, while the Environmental Impact Report was available for public review, the Planning Commission held a preliminary Study Session on the project, at which many criticisms were voiced, both by the Commissioners and the public, which focused primarily on its lack of compatibility with the area. (View SPON’s June 23 Planning Commission video here.)
On July 21, 2016, a slightly scaled down project began a three part hearing process before the Planning Commission, which was tasked with making a recommendation to the City Council. The applicants offered a scaled down proposal for 45 units in a six-story, 65.5 foot tall building with fewer shared amenities. City staff recommended the same number of units in a five-story, 55 foot tall building (in all cases, an extra 4 to 8 feet is allowed for rooftop appurtenances, such as elevator towers).
At that first formal hearing, the Commission expressed so much concern about the required planning amendments (view SPON’s July 21 Planning Commission video here) that the expected second hearing on August 4 was rescheduled to August 18 to give staff time to consider changes.
On August 18, the matter was heard starting rather late in the evening and the discussion was halted by a mandatory 11:30 pm adjournment time. The Commission primarily decided to ask staff to bring back a proposal in which, rather than creating a new “planned community” of its own, the 150 Newport Center parcel will be added to, and be governed by the same development standards as the existing planned community governing The Irvine Company’s commercial buildings in the interior of Block 100.
The discussion continued on September 1, at which meeting the Commission considered the EIR, the comments on the EIR, and details of the project and the development agreement (providing cash payments to the City as a “public benefit” to mitigate the impact and guarantee a right to the new development). The hearing ended, at City staff’s instruction, in a “recommendation of denial” to the City Council (even though City policies are clear that a denial by the Planning Commission is supposed to go the Council only in the event of an appeal)
On September 26, the 150 Newport Center applicants asked for a continuance of the Council hearing — purportedly so they could have more time to privately discuss their project with the Council members. But on September 27, barely an hour before the hearing on the Planning Commission’s recommendation of denial was to start, it was announced they had withdrawn their application entirely. According to City planning staff, this means they would have to start completely over again, with an entirely new application.
SPON and its supporters were very well represented, both with written comments and with speakers at the Planning Commission hearings. We need to keep up this momentum to stop other proposed projects with a similar potential to negatively impact the character of Our Town!
|West Newport Beach Association
Email George Schroeder
1600 W. Balboa Blvd.
|August 31 @
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
|Friends of OASIS – Candidate Forum
Contact Evelyn Hart
|OASIS Senior Center
Corona del Mar
|September 2 @
11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
|Balboa Island Improvement Association,
Little Balboa Island Property Owners’
Association and the Balboa Island Business District – Candidate Forum
Contact Ken Yonkers
|Fire Station 4
124 Marine Avenue
|September 10 @
|Speak Up Newport Candidate Forum
Contact Joe Stapleton
100 Civic Center Drive
|September 14 @
|Women’s Democratic Club Candidate Forum
Email Rima Nashashibi
|OASIS Senior Center
Corona del Mar
|September 15 @
|WiNN (Women in Newport Networking)
Open House/Meet the Candidates for
Newport Beach City Council
Email Debbie Allen
100 Civic Center Drive
|September 22 @
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
|Corona del Mar Residents Association
Email Laura Curran, President
|OASIS Senior Center
Corona del Mar
|September 28 @
5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
|Central Newport Beach Community Association
Contact Grace Dove
1600 W. Balboa Boulevard
|October 5, 2016
Project Overview: The originally proposed project was composed of 384 residential units and 5,677 square feet of retail space, replacing an existing small shopping center. View the project proposal here (large file; takes a minute to load).
Why We’re Watching: Among other things, the proposal includes a request for “adjustments to development standards pertaining to building height”. In other words, the developers are seeking an exception to the current building height (an example of SPOT ZONING). The developers are also seeking a WAIVER of a General Plan Policy that requires them to dedicate a minimum of ½ acre for a neighborhood park. Apparently, they don’t have room for a park (again . . . another example of SPOT ZONING). Read the Planning Commission Staff Report for yourself.
March 2016: The Residences at Newport Place, an Airport Area proposed project, went before the Planning Commission for an initial review on March 3, 2016. Subsequent meetings scheduled for May were temporarily tabled as a result of concerns from both the public and the Planning Commission.
June 2016: The applicant requested a continuance and the project finally came back to the Planning Commission for review at their June 9 meeting. SPON submitted comments to the Planning Commission on three separate occasions before the project came back to Planning Commission on June 9 (see Helpful Links below). The Commission was further concerned about a lack of responsiveness to the comments received in March. In a 4-1 vote they denied the developer’s request to continue the hearings and rejected the project.
July 2016: The developer appealed the decision to City Council and the appeal hearing was set for the Council’s July 26, 2016, meeting (Public Notice). The City Council unanimously rejected the appeal, forcing the developer to start over with a completely new application if they wish to continue.
Next Step: Let’s keep the standing-room-only momentum going! City meetings are great opportunities for residents to come together in a show of solidarity and for getting their comments included in the public record.
Planning Commission Meeting Videos here!
SPON, at its own expense, is recording and posting Planning Commission Meeting videos for you to view online. Watch them on SPON’s YouTube Channel here.
Overview: In response to numerous earlier requests from SPON, Mayor Dixon asked that the question of televising Planning Commission meetings be put on the February 23rd Council agenda.
More than 70 community members either emailed the Council or showed up in person to support the idea of televising, live streaming and archiving videos of the meetings. No one wrote or spoke in opposition.
Council Action: Despite the clear and unanimous public sentiment, Council voted not to televise the meetings [Dixon and Petros voted in favor of televising; Selich, Muldoon, Duffield and Peotter voted to oppose televising; Curry was absent]. The Council members’ arguments for and against are well worth listening to. Click here to view the Video; click on Agenda Item #16 to skip directly to this matter at 59:16 minutes.
The vote against televising the meetings is worrisome on several levels:
SPON’s Next Step: We are not giving up on this request. While we work to gather more support in the community and on the Council, SPON, at its own expense, has retained a videographer who will videotape Planning Commission Meetings beginning March 3. Videos will be posted to our website and/or You Tube for public viewing. Be sure to watch for our progress on this action on our website.
YOUR Next Steps:
City Council reviewed the Newport Beach Urban Water Management Plan at its June 14, 2016 meeting. And residents had something to say about it!
Urban Water Management Documents:
Topics covered in this newsletter include:
We’ve been busy on many fronts since our last not-quite-quarterly newsletter. Despite the crushing defeat of Measure Y (almost 70% voted NO), attempts to add more density and traffic and change the character of Newport Beach have continued in different forms. But as always we’re on our toes and watching out for residents’ interests. [Links providing Measure Y background located below.]
Here’s what we’ve accomplished:
May 21: A big thanks to everyone who wrote to the Planning Commissioners to stop them from adding 300,000 sf of development capacity to Newport Coast after The Irvine Company said it had noticed a “scrivener’s error” in the voter-approved portion of the 2006 General Plan…nine years after the fact! [Links at bottom of page.]
September 1: We met with Dave Kiff, Ed Selich, Diane Dixon and Community Development Director Kim Brandt to discuss the spot zoning and tweaks to the General Plan we’re seeing all around our town. We reiterated that it’s probably time for a comprehensive review of the City’s General Plan. [Links at bottom of page.]
October 7: The Coastal Commission delayed a decision on Banning Ranch after the developer pitched a plan to build 1,175 homes, a 75-room hotel and 20-bed hostel along with 75,000 sf of retail space on a 401-acre site rich in environmentally sensitive habitat and Native American archaeological sites. The next hearing will be May 11, 12 or 13 in Long Beach [exact date and venue TBD]. We are supporting all efforts to preserve this entire site as open space and stop a project that would mean big money for developers but only give residents ten years of noise, contaminated dust and traffic jams during construction and then an ongoing drain on our roads, water, public safety and other resources. Not to mention gridlock. [Links at bottom of page.]
October 8: We had an attorney write a letter on SPON’s behalf about a plan to tear down the Beacon Bay Car Wash in Newport Center and build a seven-story building with 49 luxury condos (“150 Newport Center Project”). The project, as submitted, requires
Our letter was received before the project could breeze by the Planning Commission and go on for approval by the City Council with no Environmental Impact Report (EIR). An EIR is being conducted now – stay tuned. [Links at bottom of page.]
Museum House: In the meantime, a competing project being put forward aims to redevelop the OC Museum of Art site, on the other side of Fashion Island, with a 26-story, 100-unit condominium high rise. Yes, you read that right… [Links at bottom of page.]
These are just a few highlights of the actions SPON took in 2015. Many of our battles are of the longer-term variety and will stretch out into 2016 and beyond…
Keeping our coastline beautiful…and true to Newport Beach
Coastal Commission. If the Coastal Commission signs off on it, the Local Coastal Program Implementation Plan, approved by the Planning Commission in October and by the City Council in November, would transfer a good deal of control over development projects to City government.
Which is fine with us as long as the City’s actions are guided by its own coastal policies and the Coastal Act. Case in point: The City approved the Back Bay Landing Project in its original form, which included building a new bulkhead, multi-story water-edge homes and a 65-foot viewing tower. The Coastal Commission deferred a final decision on the bulkhead and homes in December BUT denied the tower, saying it would be “inconsistent with the character of the area and result in adverse visual impacts to public views of the bay and the cliffs of Upper Newport Bay”. Don’t you wonder why our City Council didn’t make that statement?
Such considerations will be all-important now that a good portion of Mariner’s Mile has changed hands and will be the subject of a number of “revitalization” proposals. We want to make sure that stretch of PCH doesn’t wind up with oversized lots and super-sized buildings on either side, making it feel like a concrete canyon. In particular, current height restrictions will have to be respected and enforced. [Links at bottom of page.]
Asking for transparency
We’re still working to get the City to use the state-of-the-art technology in the Civic Center to live stream and archive Planning Commission meetings, during which City Council-appointed commissioners discuss and vote on development projects with the potential to impact and even transform our community. Thanks to everyone who wrote letters about this last year. We may have gotten through to officials: this item is now on the February 23 City Council agenda! [Link at bottom of page.]
And we encourage you to continue writing to City Council in support of this request. City Council will hear this matter on February 23, so time is of the essence. (Email form here).
We’ve been trying a new community outreach model: A few of our members have graciously opened their homes for monthly informational luncheons so people can visit with like-minded residents, keep up with the City’s development pipeline (no simple task!) and find out what they can do to help.
Expanding our network of people who care
SPON is run entirely by volunteers and funded exclusively with members’ tax-deductible donations. Every bit helps. But to carry out our mission, we need people just as much as we need money. If you care about our residential and environmental qualities and have time or special skills you’d like to contribute, we’ll be thrilled to hear from you. We all love Newport Beach and we need to show it! Tell us how you can help here. If you can donate, form is here.
Save the Dates:
May 11, 12 or 13: Coastal Commission hearing on Banning Ranch in Long Beach. Exact date and venue TBD.
May 21: SPON Annual Meeting at the Environmental Nature Center. Details here.
November 8: Election Day! Remember, we need a City Council that cares about residents, so don’t forget to ask questions and research candidates before you vote.
General Plan Land Use Element Correction: Newport Coast Development
General Plan (voter approved in 2006)
150 Newport Center Project (Beacon Bay Car Wash Site Redevelopment)
Museum House (OC Museum of Art Site High-Rise Condo Project)
Request for Planning Commission Meeting Videos