Tag Archives: mariners mile

1113 Kings Road

1113 Kings Road
City Council upholds grant of variances

Project Overview
Why We’re Watching
Background
Regarding the Variances
Other Issues
Upcoming
Recent Events
News Coverage
Helpful Links

Project Overview:  Application to construct a three-level single family residence with 10,803 sf of enclosed living space floor area plus a 1,508 sf garage on the ocean-facing bluff side of Kings Road, a City street high above Newport Harbor, with the Mariners Mile section of Pacific Coast Highway (specifically the Balboa Bay Resort) below.  The new residence (seen as two stories from Kings Road) would replace an existing two-level home (seen as one story from the road) with 3,000 sf of living area and 1,285 sf of garage, including a previously-approved over-height RV garage.  The application came before the Planning Commission for approval because the applicant requested variances  (exceptions) to the City’s building height standards. SPON appealed that decision to the City Council, where it was heard on September 10. as Item 20 on the agenda.  The Council upheld the variances by a 4:3 vote with Council members Avery, Brenner and Dixon voting “no.”

Why We’re Watching:  While the appeal is technically an objection only to the height variances, SPON sees a larger need to call attention to development standards that fail to prevent construction inconsistent with the existing and expected pattern of development in the city. Many SPON members, and other residents, have expressed concern about the increasing “mansionization” of our community, of which this seems an example. Much of that change in character has been accomplished simply by filling lots to the very limits of the building envelope allowed by the City’s current zoning codes.  In the present case, City staff says 29,024 square feet of enclosed floor area is allowed on the lot, yet even the proposed 12,311 square feet seems too much for the neighborhood, and wantonly destructive of the coastal bluffs.

Specific points raised in the appeal include:

  • Opposition by the local homeowners association
  • A possibility of environmental impacts not assessed by City
  • Inconsistency with General Plan policies protecting natural resources, including coastal bluffs
  • The “findings” justifying the variances are not defensible
  • Alternatives to granting the variances were rejected without explanation

An attorney representing SPON has submitted a letter detailing some of the legal reasons for denying the requested variances.

Background

Newport Beach development standards (specifically Municipal Code Sec. 20.18.030 referencing Sec. 20.30.060.C) limit the height of flat roofs and railings on single family homes to a maximum of 24 feet above the grade of the lot, and up to 29 feet for portions with sufficiently sloping roofs.  Deviations require what is referred to as a “variance” from the zoning code (granted per Newport Beach Municipal Code Sec. 20.52.090).

Variances are supposed to be difficult to obtain, and are supposed to be allowed only when due to some unusual physical peculiarity of the property not properly anticipated in the code, and such that a strict application of the standards would deprive the owner of a right enjoyed by other property owners not suffering from that peculiarity.  In this case, the hardship is claimed to be a gully that cuts through lots to the east and the edge of which protrudes into the eastern part of this one.

The present matter came to a public hearing only because of the applicant’s request for some relatively minor deviations from the City’s height standards at a few points on the roofs and decks as shown below, viewing the structure from the east.

By way of explanation, the middle (or street level) portion of the proposed three-level structure begins with a garage (the area with no windows), on the right, followed by an office area and then a patio on the left. Above the garage is “Bedroom 2” of the five-bedroom home, and above the office is a “Teen Room.”

Heights on sloping lots are measured not from the actual land surface, but from a series of “planes” that approximate it.  The surfaces show in yellow, above, are 29 feet above these City-assigned grade planes (which are somewhat arbitrary and do a rather poor job of approximating the true ground surface, which in some places is a much as 4 feet above them and in others as much as 6 feet below the staff-selected planes).

As measured from City staff’s grade planes, the sloping eaves of the patio cover, office, teen room, and “bedroom 2” bath and closet roofs exceed the City’s 29 foot height limit by the amounts shown in blue. In addition, portions of a third level flat deck and rail (hidden behind the 29-foot yellow planes, and serving as the cover for parts of the mid-level living room and office area) exceed the 24 foot height limit for flat roofs

The applicant claims the unusual situation of “having” to build over the edge of a gully justifies these exceedances (click on images to see full size):

Regarding the Variances

The City’s Zoning Code sets minimal standards that construction must comply with and variances from those can be approved only (NBMC Sec. 20.52.090.F) if all of six required “findings” can be made. As detailed in our letter, SPON believes they cannot be made for the following reasons:

  1. There are special or unique circumstances or conditions applicable to the subject property (e.g., location, shape, size, surroundings, topography, or other physical features) that do not apply generally to other properties in the vicinity under an identical zoning classification;

Staff claims the unique circumstance is the east-west and north-slopes created by the gully on the eastern edge of the property.

However, all the lots on the south side of Kings Road slope down from the road to bottom of the bluff where it ends behind the commercial properties on West Coast Highway and development on sloping lots is a condition anticipated and dealt with in the Code (through provisions such as measuring structure heights from grade). Staff provides no compelling explanation of why an east-west (or steeper) slope is more constraining than a north-south (or shallower) one. Indeed, it says owners of sloping lots are generally able to comply with the code by building terraced two-level structures that follow the grade.

  1. Strict compliance with Zoning Code requirements would deprive the subject property of privileges enjoyed by other properties in the vicinity and under an identical zoning classification;

In an attempt to validate this required finding, staff makes some odd observations. Among them is this: “Modifying the proposed design to eliminate the height variance for enclosed living area would require eliminating an office on the main level, located behind a compliant garage.” Not only does staff not explain where building an office behind a garage is a “privilege” afforded by the Code to other properties, but a few pages later (on handwritten page 17 of the staff report) it observes the proposed garage is deeper than it needs to be to comply with code, and if the garage was reduced in depth, an office could be built behind a compliant garage without any height exceptions. On the same page, staff explains how each of the other uses claimed to require height exceptions could, with redesign, be constructed without the exceptions.

  1. Granting of the variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of substantial property rights of the applicant;

Staff asserts that because of the east-west slope created by the gully, “Strict compliance with the Zoning Code would deprive the applicant of the substantial property
right of building a residence of uniform height across the subject site” and  “would effectively reduce the buildable width from approximately 90 percent of the lot width to 72 percent of the lot width at those locations.”

Staff does not explain where the “right” to build a residence of uniform height exists in the code, or why the applicant could not enjoy a terraced code-compliant design that follows the grade.

Indeed, as indicated below, treating the “gully feature” as if it doesn’t exist and building over it, far from being a “right,” seems inconsistent with City’s goals and policies. expressed in the Natural Resources Element of its General Plan, to preserve the natural topography, especially coastal bluffs such as this. In fact, in areas where multiple units are allowed on a lot, unusually steep or submerged portions are excluded from the area used to determine how many units are allowed.

  1. Granting of the variance will not constitute a grant of special privilege inconsistent with the limitations on other properties in the vicinity and in the same zoning district;

Exemption from the general rule that building heights follow the topography of the lot would appear to be a special privilege.

  1. Granting of the variance will not be detrimental to the harmonious and orderly growth of the City, nor endanger, jeopardize, or otherwise constitute a hazard to the public convenience, health, interest, safety, or general welfare of persons residing or working in the neighborhood; and

The opposition of neighbors provides strong evidence that approval of the height variances would be detrimental to the harmonious and orderly growth of the City. And there is a rational basis to their opposition. Neighbors, especially future owners of properties to the immediate east and west, have an expectation that construction at 1113 Kings Road will not protrude beyond the envelope prescribed by the Code. In particular, the lot at 1101 is even more strongly impacted by the “gully feature” and over-height construction at 1113 would incentivize over-height construction at 1101 to restore views blocked by 1113, in a cascading effect contrary to any notion of orderly growth.

  1. Granting of the variance will not be in conflict with the intent and purpose of this section, this Zoning Code, the General Plan, or any applicable specific plan.

The requested variances clearly do conflict with our General Plan.

Their purpose is to facilitate construction over the “gully feature.”  However, such construction, let alone facilitating it, is completely contrary to the goals and policies of our General Plan.

In particular, Goal NR 23 of Natural Resources Element is that “Development respects natural landforms such as coastal bluffs,” to which end Policy NR 23.1 (“Maintenance of Natural Topography”) was adopted to “Preserve cliffs, canyons, bluffs, significant rock outcroppings, and site buildings to minimize alteration of the site’s natural topography and preserve the features as a visual resource.”

That commitment is echoed in one of the most fundamental “Who We Are” policies of the Land Use Element — Policy LU 1.3 (“Natural Resources”): “Protect the natural setting that contributes to the character and identity of Newport Beach and the sense of place it provides for its residents and visitors. Preserve open space resources, beaches, harbor, parks, bluffs, preserves, and estuaries as visual, recreational and habitat resources. “

Other Issues

While the variances were the reason for a public hearing, and SPON questions the need for them (as explained above), there are a number of other issues with this project.

Environmental Impacts

SPON questions the Planning Commission’s finding that this project qualifies for the Categorical Exemption from environmental analysis found in the CEQA Guidelines — something that normally applies to single-family home construction. The categorical exemptions do not apply  when there an unusual circumstances leading to the possibility of a significant impact (the “exception to the exemptions”). Building on steep slopes is itself unusual and the City staff report identifies this slope in a visually sensitive area as particularly “unusual,” event for Kings Road. In that connection, neighbors have raised concerns, based on both experience and previous geotechnical studies, about the impact of the construction and the weight of the structure on the stability of the the slope. SPON does not feel the possibility of environmental impacts should be dismissed without analysis.

Neighborhood Compatibility

  • Much of the neighborhood concern about this application has focused on the incompatibility of two-story homes facing the south side of Kings Road being incompatible with the historic character of the street.
  • Promises about preserving the character of neighborhoods are found primarily in the City’s General Plan.  Policy LU 5.1.5 (“Character and Quality of Single-Family Residential Dwellings”) assures the public that “Compatibility with neighborhood development in density, scale, and street facing elevations” will be implemented through revisions to the Zoning Code.
  • However, the Zoning Code does this, if at all, in a very obscure way which makes it extremely difficult for the public to challenge staff’s decisions about the present application which many think — even without the variances — is incompatible in scale and street facing elevations:
    • Without the variances, the present application for development would require a Zoning Clearance from the Director (per NBMC Sec. 20.16.030).
    • In approving the Zoning Clearance the Director makes findings of consistency with the General Plan that can be appealed to the Planning Commission (see NBMC Sec. 20.52.100).
    • However, the fact that the Director has approved a Zoning Clearance, and thus made an appealable finding of consistency, is known only to the applicant making the opportunity for others to appeal essentially meaningless.

Preservation of Natural Resources

  • As noted above, the General Plan also makes promises about how development in Newport Beach will respect the natural topography including preserving coastal bluffs as visual resources for all to enjoy.
    • Again, the General Plan promises these protections will be implemented through provisions in the Zoning Code.
    • However, as currently written, the Bluff Overlay District concept in NBMC Sec. 20.28.040 applies to only selected bluffs, of which this is not one.
  • This project disturbs a large portion of a coastal bluff despite the policy language in the General Plan promoting preservation of coastal bluffs. By extending both the structures and the retaining walls farther out from Kings Road, the amount of the bluff face not modified by substantial development will be reduced to less than half of what it currently is:

Sadly, even where bluffs are supposed to be protected by the City codes, that protection does not seem to be very strong. Here is an example of bluff-face construction currently underway at 124 Kings Place, where Kings Road wraps around above Dover Drive:

Coastal View Roads

The portion of West Pacific Coast Highway below this development is a designated Coastal View Road in both the City’s General Plan (see Figure NR3) and its Coastal Land Use Plan (Map 4-3).

Since views to the harbor and ocean from this stretch of road are already blocked by existing development along PCH, the scenic feature is evidently the coastal bluffs below Kings Road — in this case directly opposite the entrance to the Balboa Bay Resort (which, although privately operated, sits on publicly-owned property):

This provides even stronger reason to be concerned about the destruction noted above.

Errors in Staff Analysis?

The City’s code regulations for residential “third stories” (for which special development restrictions apply per NBMC Sec. 20.48.180), including the definition of what constitutes a third story are fraught with uncertainty.

For residential structures built on slopes, the Zoning Code gives the Community Development Director the discretion to decide which level (if any) counts as a third story.

In the present case, the staff report notes how portions of the structure are seen as three stories when viewed from the east (the “Left Side Elevation” below), and emphasizes how the third floor walls are stepped back from the property line as required. But in Table 1 on handwritten page 9 it regards, without explanation, only 411 sq. ft. as “3rd floor area.”

It inexplicably fails to note that much of the structure is also seen as three stories when viewed from the west (see “Right Side Elevation” above).  Possibly this is because the lowest level, as viewed from that side, is regarded as a “daylighting basement” rather than a first “story” because it is claimed to be partially below “natural” grade. But it seems to be above the existing or at least the finished grade after construction (it will have a door exiting on the west side).

In any event, it appears much of the uppermost level (the one at the top, including the “Master Bedroom” above the red arrow) has two levels below it, qualifying in most people’s estimation as a third floor.

In addition to comprising much more third floor area than reported, the “Master Bedroom” actually steps out closer to the property line than the floor below, rather than back away from the line:

and a portion of it may be closer to the west property line than the minimum setback (4 feet) required even without the additional 2 feet of step back expected for a third floor:

When viewed from the west, this three-story-looking portion of the house will, in addition, loom 37 feet in height as measured from the peak of the roof to the exterior ground, even though because of the City’s peculiar method measuring heights it counts as only “29 feet”  (measured from the slanting line near the bottom, representing “natural grade” — some 9 feet above the actual finished grade):

In summary, SPON feels there is much more problematic about this proposal than just the few height variances which are the technical issue the City allows to be appealed.

Upcoming

(no future actions expected)

Recent Events

  • September 10, 2019:  SPON’s appeal was heard as Item 20 on the City Council agenda.  Despite an attorney representing SPON submitting a letter detailing some of the legal reasons for denying the requested variances, the Council voted 4:3 to uphold the variances, with Council members Avery, Brenner and Dixon voting “no.”
  • June 5, 2019: SPON appealed the Planning Commission decision for a new hearing before the City Council.  It has been scheduled for September 10.
  • May 23, 2019:  As Item 4 on their agenda, the City’s Planning Commission approved the variance request.

News Coverage

  • none yet

Helpful Links

Newport Village

Newport Village — as of August 2019
Contract for EIR going to City Council on Sept. 24

Latest news:  The City has created a web page describing revised project plans received on November 20, 2018, and differing in appearance from the earlier images used above.  The application remains “incomplete,” but the applicant continues to confer with a coalition of area residents and business owners who call themselves Protect Mariner’s Mile (and who were not told about the revised plans). The SPON Board, also, expects to hear a presentation from the applicant on January 15. Meanwhile, on October 18 — despite promises that none of the existing uses would be changing prior to approval of the redevelopment — the Planning Commission heard an application to convert the existing office building at 2244 West PCH into a luxury automobile showroom.  That application was approved at their November 8 meeting. Since then, City staff has been seeking a consultant to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for the main project, and a contract with the selected consultant will likely be awarded by the City Council on September 24.

Project Overview: As originally submitted on on December 4, 2017, this application for a major “mixed use” development on the former “Ardell” properties along Mariner’s Mile (at the present Duffy Boats through A’maree’s sites and the boat sales/storage yard across PCH from them) was to consist of 11.05 acres on which would be built 175 residential units, 240,650 square feet of office, retail and restaurant uses, and a new 75-boat marina.  All the existing buildings were to be demolished, and a new signalized intersection on Coast Highway created to serve the project.

The revised plans submitted on November 20, 2018, removed the property to the west of A’maree’s, reducing the project area to 9.4 acres.  The originally-proposed 175 residential units have also been reduced to 14 condos on the waterfront and 108 apartments on the inland parcel, with a total, between the two, of 121,370 square feet of office, boat sales, vehicle sales, retail, and restaurant uses.  The A’maree’s building would be preserved in the new plan.

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.

Upcoming:

September 24, 2019:  According to the case log, the City Council is expected to award a contract to prepare an Environmental Impact Report from among the respondents to the RFP posted on March 21. The eventual Scoping Meeting for the EIR will likely be the first “official” presentation of a definite proposal to the public.

Recent Events:

March 21, 2019:  City staff posted a Request for Proposals for a consultant to prepare an Environmental Impact Report.

January 15, 2019:  At the beginning of its regular meeting, the SPON Board heard a presentation about the application from the “Newport Village” development team.

December 20, 2018: City sends second “incomplete” letter.

November 20, 2018: Revised project plans submitted to City per case log.

November 8, 2018:  The Planning Commission approved the application for a luxury car showroom at 2244 West PCH (one of the properties proposed for eventual redevelopment). Note: although it is not clear from the City’s website, the revised project plans submitted to the City on November 20 may indicate this building will be preserved, and not redeveloped.

October 18, 2018: As Item 6 on its agenda, the Planning Commission heard a proposal to convert the existing 15,823-square-foot office building at 2244 West Coast Highway into a pre-owned luxury automobile sales showroom.  The property is outside the areas designated for auto-related uses in the Mariners’ Mile Strategic Vision and Design Framework.  The Planning Commission is expected to make a decision on the application at their November 8 meeting.

May 21, 2018:  The property owner erected “story poles” (poles between which strings representing edges of a planned building are hung and draped with flags) on May 21, to illustrate, for the benefit of Newport Heights neighbors, the size of part of the proposed construction.  They were reportedly removed on May 24.

February 26, 2018:  As reported at the Community Development Department’s Open House/Forum, the application remains “incomplete.”

December 4, 2017Application 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).  “Newport Village” is also the name of an existing apartment complex at 635 W. Baker St., near the airport in Costa Mesa.

News Coverage

  • pending

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.

Upcoming:

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

Newsletter 2016 Winter-Spring

Topics covered in this newsletter include:

  • Recent accomplishments
  • New development projects that jeopardizes the beauty and peace of our coastline
  • New community outreach opportunities
  • Important upcoming dates to save

A downloadable/printable version of this Newsletter is available here.


beehiveWe’ve been busy on many fronts since our last not-quite-quarterly newsletter. Despite the crushing defeat of Measure Y (almost 70% voted NO), attempts to add more density and traffic and change the character of Newport Beach have continued in different forms. But as always we’re on our toes and watching out for residents’ interests. [Links providing Measure Y background located below.]

Here’s what we’ve accomplished:

May 21: A big thanks to everyone who wrote to the Planning Commissioners to stop them from adding 300,000 sf of development capacity to Newport Coast after The Irvine Company said it had noticed a “scrivener’s error” in the voter-approved portion of the 2006 General Plan…nine years after the fact!  [Links at bottom of page.]

September 1: We met with Dave Kiff, Ed Selich, Diane Dixon and Community Development Director Kim Brandt to discuss the spot zoning and tweaks to the General Plan we’re seeing all around our town. We reiterated that it’s probably time for a comprehensive review of the City’s General Plan[Links at bottom of page.]

jam3October 7: The Coastal Commission delayed a decision on Banning Ranch after the developer pitched a plan to build 1,175 homes, a 75-room hotel and 20-bed hostel along with 75,000 sf of retail space on a 401-acre site rich in environmentally sensitive habitat and Native American archaeological sites. The next hearing will be May 11, 12 or 13 in Long Beach [exact date and venue TBD]. We are supporting all efforts to preserve this entire site as open space and stop a project that would mean big money for developers but only give residents ten years of noise, contaminated dust and traffic jams during construction and then an ongoing drain on our roads, water, public safety and other resources. Not to mention gridlock. [Links at bottom of page.]

October 8: We had an attorney write a letter on SPON’s behalf about a plan to tear down the Beacon Bay Car Wash in Newport Center and build a seven-story building with 49 luxury condos (“150 Newport Center Project”). The project, as submitted, requires

  • a General Plan amendment, a Zoning Code amendment, and
  • a waiver of the 10-acre minimum for a “Planned Community”, and
  • an increase in the height limit for the site from 35 to 87 feet!

Our letter was received before the project could breeze by the Planning Commission and go on for approval by the City Council with no Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  An EIR is being conducted now – stay tuned.  [Links at bottom of page.]

Museum House: In the meantime, a competing project being put forward aims to redevelop the OC Museum of Art site, on the other side of Fashion Island, with a 26-story, 100-unit condominium high rise. Yes, you read that right… [Links at bottom of page.]

These are just a few highlights of the actions SPON took in 2015. Many of our battles are of the longer-term variety and will stretch out into 2016 and beyond…


Keeping our coastline beautiful…and true to Newport Beach

nbcoastlineNearly half of Newport Beach is in the coastal zone, and today projects in that zone need permits both from the City and the California

Coastal Commission. If the Coastal Commission signs off on it, the Local Coastal Program Implementation Plan, approved by the Planning Commission in October and by the City Council in November, would transfer a good deal of control over development projects to City government.

Which is fine with us as long as the City’s actions are guided by its own coastal policies and the Coastal Act. Case in point: The City approved the Back Bay Landing Project in its original form, which included building a new bulkhead, multi-story water-edge homes and a 65-foot viewing tower. The Coastal Commission deferred a final decision on the bulkhead and homes in December BUT denied the tower, saying it would be “inconsistent with the character of the area and result in adverse visual impacts to public views of the bay and the cliffs of Upper Newport Bay”.  Don’t you wonder why our City Council didn’t make that statement?

developedcoastlineSuch considerations will be all-important now that a good portion of Mariner’s Mile has changed hands and will be the subject of a number of “revitalization” proposals.   We want to make sure that stretch of PCH doesn’t wind up with oversized lots and super-sized buildings on either side, making it feel like a concrete canyon.  In particular, current height restrictions will have to be respected and enforced. [Links at bottom of page.]


Asking for transparency

We’re still working to get the City to use the state-of-the-art technology in the Civic Center to live stream and archive Planning Commission meetings, during which City Council-appointed commissioners discuss and vote on development projects with the potential to impact and even transform our community. Thanks to everyone who wrote letters about this last year. We may have gotten through to officials: this item is now on the February 23 City Council agenda!  [Link at bottom of page.] 

And we encourage you to continue writing to City Council in support of this request.  City Council will hear this matter on February 23, so time is of the essence. (Email form here).


Reaching out

We’ve been trying a new community outreach model: A few of our members have graciously opened their homes for monthly informational luncheons so people can visit with like-minded residents, keep up with the City’s development pipeline (no simple task!) and find out what they can do to help.


Expanding our network of people who care

SPON is run entirely by volunteers and funded exclusively with members’ tax-deductible donations. Every bit helps. But to carry out our mission, we need people just as much as we need money. If you care about our residential and environmental qualities and have time or special skills you’d like to contribute, we’ll be thrilled to hear from you. We all love Newport Beach and we need to show it!   Tell us how you can help hereIf you can donate, form is here.


LITS


Save the Dates:

May 11, 12 or 13: Coastal Commission hearing on Banning Ranch in Long Beach.  Exact date and venue TBD.

May 21: SPON Annual Meeting at the Environmental Nature Center. Details here.

November 8: Election Day! Remember, we need a City Council that cares about residents, so don’t forget to ask questions and research candidates before you vote.


 

Newsletter Information Links

Measure Y

General Plan Land Use Element Correction: Newport Coast Development

General Plan (voter approved in 2006)

Banning Ranch

150 Newport Center Project (Beacon Bay Car Wash Site Redevelopment)

Museum House (OC Museum of Art Site High-Rise Condo Project)

Coastline Projects

Request for Planning Commission Meeting Videos

Back Bay Landing Project

Back Bay Landing & Balboa Marina Projects: Update by Seychelle Cannes August 2015:  The Back Bay Landing Project is proposed as a mixed-use waterfront development on seven acres at 300 East Coast Highway (PCH and Bayside Drive).  This site now functions as a parking lot and recreational vehicle storage area.  The Newport Beach City Council approved the project entitlement on February 11, 2014 for over 82,742 square feet of office, restaurant and dry-stack boat storage.  The approved footage for the project does NOT include the propose 49 individual residential units, a three-story parking lot (partially under-ground) nor a 65 foot viewing tower.  These additions are being requested by the developer through an amended Conditional Land Use Plan (CLUP).  This parcel is currently zoned for marine use only.  The architect for the Back Bay Landing project is the same architect that designed the Mariner’s Pointe retail and restaurant development located on West Coast Highway at Dover Drive.

For more information

The Balboa Marina is slated for a development project as well.

BalboaMarinaOnly one block away from the proposed Back Bay Landing Project, just west of Bayside Drive, is the expanded development proposed by the Irvine Company at the West Balboa Marina.  Located at 201 West Coast Highway, this project will expand the existing Balboa Marina by constructing a 19,400 square foot marine commercial building for a yacht brokerage office, public restrooms and a restaurant.  It is essentially at the site of the former Ruben E. Lee.

For more information: The Log – Boating & Fishing News

With higher density plans for Mariner’s Mile, traffic grid-lock is still in our future, despite the overwhelmingly opposition and defeat of Ballot Measure Y in November 2014.

* * * * * *

Article by Seychelle Cannes (2/2015): A mix-use waterfront development project on 7 acres at 300 East Coast Highway (PCH and Bayside Dr.) which changes the current parking lot and recreational vehicle storage area to more than 82,742 square feet of office, restaurant and dry-stack boat storage.

With higher density plans for Mariner’s Mile, traffic grid-lock is still in our future, despite the overwhelmingly opposition and defeat of the 2014 Ballot Measure Y.

Newport Beach City Council approved the project entitlement on February 11, 2014 for over 82,742 square feet of office, restaurant and dry-stack boat storage.  The total approved square feet of 82,742 for the project does not include the propose 49 single residential units, 3 story parking lot (partly under-ground) nor a 65 foot viewing tower that the developer is requesting through  an amended Conditional Land Use Plan (CLUP).  Presently the parcel is zoned for marine use only.  The architect for the Back Bay Landing project is the same architect that designed the Mariner’s Pointe retail and restaurant development located on West Coast Highway at Dover Drive. For more information, read this article about the December 2014 Coastal Commission Meeting, as well as the project write up on the Newport Beach City website.

Another development, adjacent to this project, is the expanded development proposed by The Irvine Company at the West Balboa Marina, located at 201 East Coast Highway (West Coast Highway and Bayside Dr.).   The project will expand on the existing Balboa Marina and construct a 19,400 square foot marine commercial building for a yacht brokerage office, public restrooms and a restaurant.   For more information on the Balboa Marina project, read the article here.

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