General Plan update

General Plan Update  . . .  as of November 2017

Latest News:   City Planning Division staff announced the main kick-off for the General Plan Update effort would come at the Council’s November 14, 2017, meeting, with both a 4:00 p.m. “study session,” at which City staff’s proposals for the process, timeline and structure of the GPU would be presented, with action on those proposals expected at the 7:00 p.m. evening meeting.  At the evening meeting, the Council was to be asked to formally initiate the project and approve the duties of a Steering Committee (consisting 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. The Council was also to be asked to solicit applications to serve on GPAC, to be reviewed by the Steering Committee, as well as empower the Steering Committee to review “Requests For Proposals” for outside consultants to facilitate the update process. Although the study session and regular meeting occurred, the Council preferred delaying the launch of any such program until a more deliberate evaluation of what needs to be  done could be accomplished. Meanwhile, SPON is proceeding with the creation of its own independent citizens GPAC interest group.

Project Overview:  While it has not officially started, Mayor Kevin Muldoon announced the initiation of an update of the city’s General Plan as a major objective for the current City Council term.  We learned more about this on November 14, and hope to have some influence over the scope and timeline when, and if, it emerges.

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, this city proposal is 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 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 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 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.

Upcoming:

November 28, 2017:  Possible reconsideration of Council action on the GPU, but this will most likely be deferred until 2018.

December 2, 2017:

Second meeting of SPON’s independent GPAC group.

Recent Events:

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 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.

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.

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:  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

Documents

  • Existing Newport Beach General Plan
  • 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:

Helpful 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.
  • 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.”