General Plan Update . . . as of October 2017
Latest News: Based on the tentative agenda passed out at a recent Planning Commission meeting, it looks like the main kick-off for the General Plan Update effort will come at the Council’s November 14, 2017, meeting, with both a “study session” in the afternoon, and action at the evening meeting. At that meeting, it appears the Council will both formally initiate the project, and define the structure of a “steering committee” and an “advisory committee.” On the same day, prior to the Council meeting and at a different location, SPON will be hosting an organizational meeting for a citizens advisory panel which hopes to oversee the unfolding of the process, independent of the City — such true citizens’ oversight having been lacking from previous GPU efforts in Newport Beach.
Project Overview: While details remain sketchy, 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. Presumably we will learn more about, and possibly have some influence over, the scope and timeline on November 14.
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 update, 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.
November 14, 2017:
- Based on tentative agendas, formal initiation of the update process is expected to come at the November 14, 2017, City Council meeting. A discussion of the plan is expected at an afternoon public “study session” followed by action at the regular evening meeting. An agenda and the staff report detailing the proposed evening actions should be posted online the previous Thursday at around 4 pm.
- Anticipating a need for independent tracking, review and comment on the City process and proposals, SPON will be convening a meeting of interested people at 1 pm on November 14, prior to the City Council meeting. Those attending will likely create their own “Citizens General Plan Advisory Committee” (GPAC), shadowing any created by the City.
The most recent indications from senior planning staff are that the actual work on the General Plan update will not start until “late” in the calendar year, or early 2018.
If any major changes in land use limits need to be put on the ballot for Greenlight approval, as was done with Measure Y, that would presumably not occur until November 2020.
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.
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).
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.
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.
- Newport Beach Independent (February 17, 2017): Mixture of Humor and Seriousness in Mayor’s Message
- 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:
- July 2017 City plan for newly budgeted update: GP_Getting_Started.pdf
- Creation of Working Group per July 2017 plan: GP_WorkingGroup_Update.pdf
- Agenda for first meeting of Working Group (since dissolved?): GPWorkingGroupAgenda_09142017.pdf
- A City webpage regarding the General Plan Update is reportedly in the works, but has not yet been made public.