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.
- 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.