Category Archives: News

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

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

Helpful Links


Mariner’s Mile

Latest news: The Planning Commission’s recommendation to the City Council about City staff’s proposed “Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan,” which had been expected to come on May 18, was been re-scheduled for July 20. However, on July 18, City staff issued a statement saying they were “withdrawing” the Plan from consideration. Apparently it may return as part of the proposed citywide General Plan Update, or after the latter is completed. Meanwhile, the “Mariners Mile Hwy Configuration/Land Use Review” budget item (project ID No. 15T06), dating back to the FY2014-15 budget, remains, with $90,631 of residual funding, in the Capital Improvement Program component of the City’s FY2017-18 budget. That account appears to be the one used to fund the “revitalization” efforts. The proposed CIP also includes a “re-budget” of $49,944 toward the City’s long-delayed reconfiguration of the Old Newport/PCH intersection (see Recent Events, May 5, 2017, below). That budget item was approved as part of the larger budget at the Council’s June 13 meeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On May 5, 2017, the Coalition launched a  website which articulates their efforts and concerns.  Visit it for further information, including an opportunity to sign their petition of concern, volunteer your time or make a financial contribution.


Recent Events:

July 20, 2017:  The hearing, originally scheduled for May 18, has been re-scheduled to July 20.  The Planning Commission was expected to make a recommendation about the Plan to the City Council, but the Mariners Mile item was removed from the agenda at the last moment.  The Plan is now in limbo.

June 13, 2017:  Council approves continued budget for the “Mariners Mile Hwy Configuration/Land Use Review” item (project ID No. 15T06), dating back to the FY2014-15 budget. $90,631 of residual funding remains in the Capital Improvement Program component of the City’s FY2017-18 budget. That account appears to be the one used to fund the “revitalization” efforts. The proposed CIP also includes a “re-budget” of $49,944 toward the City’s long-delayed reconfiguration of the Old Newport/PCH intersection (see Recent Events, May 5, 2017, below). This “re-budget” item was approved as part of the larger budget at the Council’s June 13 meeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helpful Links

Press Links

Museum House Update

Petition successful — Council repeals approvals — Court challenge pending

Latest news:  LITS’ appeals trial courts denial of motion to dismiss OCMA litigation

In a ruling filed on May 26, 2017, the Honorable Geoffrey Glass, the judge handling the OCMA litigation, denied LITS’ request to have OCMA’s legal challenges to the referendum petition dismissed as a “SLAPP” suit.

Judge Glass felt that LITS was not the proper party to be bringing an anti-SLAPP motion, but even if they had been, he thought compliance with the technical procedural requirements of the Elections Code (which OCMA alleges were violated by the format of the petition) was a “content neutral” issue, and not a constitutionally protected activity against which an anti-SLAPP motion could be brought.

LITS has appealed Judge Glass’ ruling. That puts the entire litigation on hold until the appeal is heard and ruled upon, which is likely to take many months.  OCMA is contesting the appeal.

May 22 @ 1:30 pm Museum House Trial — Hearing on LITS anti-SLAPP motion
Main County Central Justice Center Courthouse in Santa Ana, Courtroom C32 (ninth floor)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other recent news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project history:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Past Update History Below

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations to all!

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

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

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

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

Focus on the Goal!

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

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

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

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


Council approves “Museum House” Tower — referendum begins

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

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

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

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

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

To make this a success, everyone will have to help.  Further information on what you can do will follow soon.  But please visit 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.