Local Coastal Program Amendments . . . as of June 2018
Latest News: The package of major LCP amendment requests authorized to be submitted to the Coastal Commission by City Council Resolution No. 2017-56 was deemed complete by CCC staff on May 3, 2018. Item F9a on the Commission’s June 8 agenda granted the Commission an extension of up to one year to act on them. But some of the proposed amendments could be ready for action as soon as the August meeting.
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, some 45 years after passage of the voter-enacted precursor to the Coastal Act, the City of Newport Beach finally, and for the first time, obtained a fully certified Local Coastal Program authorizing it to process and issue such permits. But the ink was barely dry on the LCP, when it became apparent a raft of apparently staff-generated amendments was being rushed to approval with very little public awareness.
Why We’re Watching: SPON is very concerned both with the process and with the substance of the proposed amendments. The process is especially difficult to follow since their seems to be negotiation between City and Coastal Commission staff, out of the public eye. In addition, because the number of requests is large, trying to keep track of them, and their status, is difficult. In all cases, if a City proposal is amended by the Coastal Commission at their hearing, possibly as a result of the private negotiations, the Council would have to agree to the CCC’s amendments or abandon the proposals.
The current set of City proposals and their status is believed to be as follows:
- “Minor” LCP “clean-up” package :
- Originally consisted of nine unrelated insertions and deletions.
- Submitted to the CCC by City Council Resolution No. 2017-45 on July 11, 2017, after removal of a controversial staff proposal to exempt “planned communities” from the long-standing 35-foot height limitation in the “Shoreline Height Limitation Zone” from the foot of the coastal bluffs to the sea.
- Apparently on advice of Coastal Commission staff, three of the proposals were resubmitted as “major” LCP amendments (see next item) on September 12, 2017.
- Coastal staff placed approval of the remaining proposals as Item Th11a on the Commission’s November 9, 2017, agenda, but was granted up to a year to complete processing, including considering if more of the “minor” proposals were, in fact, “major” amendments.
- These matters, the exact remaining content of which is a bit uncertain, remain pending with no hearing date currently set.
Note: Because of rules governing how many LCP amendment requests can be submitted in a calendar year, the following three items that had previously been submitted to the CCC separately (“Clean-up,” “Encroachments” and “ADUs”) were resubmitted as a single “major” LCP amendment request with City Council Resolution No. 2017-56. The package was deemed complete on May 3, 2018.
Item F9a on the Coastal Commission’s June 8, 2018, agenda is a request to defer final action by up to a year on the following package of changes in order to give Coastal staff time to better evaluate the changes:
- “Major” LCP “clean-up” package
- Three of the items removed from the earlier “minor” clean-up package of Resolution No. 2017-45 were re-submitted as part of City Council Resolution No. 2017-56 on September 12, 2017.
- The proposals named in the latter resolution deal with:
- Rules regarding shoreline protective devices
- Allowing a 75% expansion of nonconforming residential structures
- Establishing rules for deviations from the development standards via variances and modifications
- Peninsula Point Oceanfront Encroachment Program
- This is a proposal to allow the yards of private homes abutting the beach from Balboa Village to the Wedge to legally encroach out onto the beach, similar to what is currently allowed in West Newport.
- The proposal was formally submitted to the Coastal Commission by City Council Resolution No. 2017-50 on July 25, 2017, and then resubmitted as part of Resolution No. 2017-56 on September 12, 2017.
- Accessory Dwelling Unit amendment
- This is a proposal to amend the LCP Implementation to align with changes recently made to corresponding sections of the Zoning Code in response to a new state law.
- The proposal was formally submitted to the Coastal Commission by City Council Resolution No. 2017-51 on July 25, 2017, and then resubmitted as part of Resolution No. 2017-56 on September 12, 2017.
- “Major” LCP “clean-up” package
Additional requests from the City pending before the CCC:
- City/CCC Jurisdictional Boundary Change Request
- According to an email from Newport Beach Planning Manager Patrick Alford, the City has asked the Coastal Commission’s mapping unit to redraw the appeal boundary (see the “Post LCP Certification Permit and Appeal Jurisdiction” map on the LCP Address Lookup & Maps page) to move five properties from Coastal Commission permit jurisdiction to City jurisdiction. That is, allowing the City to approval permits for those properties, subject to appeal to the Coastal Commission.
- The five properties are reportedly the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Balboa Bay Club, Sea Scout Base, OC Harbor Patrol/USCG station and Newport Aquatic Center.
- It is unclear when or if this request was authorized by the City Council or how it was noticed to the public.
- The Coastal Commission was scheduled to hear the request as Item 10a on its Friday May 11, 2018, agenda. According to the agenda, such changes can be allowed “pursuant to Coastal Act Section 30613.” Ultimately, the item was postponed without a staff report being posted.
- Categorical Exclusion Order modification
- Item 6 on the City Council’s May 8 Consent Calendar was an unexpected request to amend the City’s “Categorical Exclusion Order.”
- The proposed amendment (the details of which were, curiously, not shown) would exempt homes with floor area ratios of 2 on lots of 4,000 square feet and less from the need to apply for a Coastal Development Permit. The current limit for such homes is 1.5.
- The matter had not previously been discussed.
- The change would have to be approved by the CCC.
- Adding Newport Coast to the LCP
- The Coastal Zone portion of Newport Coast has its own LCP, created by the County of Orange prior to that area’s annexation by the City and still administered by them.
- As Item 12 on its July 25, 2017, agenda, the City Council directed City staff to begin work on adding Newport Coast to the City’s LCP.
- The proposal is still a City staff level effort and nothing has been formally presented to the CCC.
- This could prove very problematic considering the large quantity of unbuilt allocations. According to the July 25 staff report, that includes 182 homes, 1,046 hotel rooms and 75,933 square feet of commercial development.
- SPON is, therefore, watching with concern.
- Port Master Plan
- One of the City’s most recent efforts (but currently on “pause,” or abandoned altogether) was (without CCC concurrence or involvement) to promote legislation amending the Coastal Act to give the City the authority to create a Port Master Plan, described by the City as “an LCP for the water.”
- This would purportedly allow the City to approve permits for construction and activities in the water areas of the harbor, which all currently require approval by the Coastal Commission.
- Details remain sketchy, but if this ever happened, it would presumably require changes to the LCP to incorporate the Port Master Plan.
- Balboa Village Parking Management District
- This is a proposal to remove the requirement for businesses in Balboa Village to provide off-street parking
- A major Coastal Act concern is that marine-related and visitor-attracting businesses appear to be treated less favorably than others.
- The City Council has made changes to the Zoning Code (Newport Beach Municipal Code Title 20), but before new development without off-street parking could be approved pursuant to those, corresponding changes would have to be made to the LCP Implementation Plan (NBMC Title 21), as required by NBMC Section 21.28.030.D.
- Although we believe City staff has been in contact with CCC staff about this, we have been unable to find a Council resolution authorizing submission of a formal request to the Coastal Commission.
- Balboa Area Residential Permit Parking Program
- Closely related to the Balboa Village Parking Management District request, this is a proposal to initiate a residents-only parking program in the area west of Balboa Village to cope with the increased demand expected from the Parking Management District.
- Rather than requiring an amendment to the LCP, the City could proceed with this through the issuance of a Coastal Development Permit.
- Prior to having a certified LCP, and the local permit approval authority that goes with it, the City Council, pursuant to Item 14 at the Council’s October 27, 2015, meeting, directed City staff to file an application for a permit parking CDP with the Coastal Commission, but the application seems never to have gone anywhere.
- Now that the City has a fully certified LCP it can itself approve the CDP. However, that approval would likely be appealed to the Coastal Commission.
- Before considering approving a CDP on its own, City staff attempted to re-assess residents’ interest in the program at a community meeting held at Marina Park on May 7, 2018. Based on the mixed results obtained there (mostly against the proposal), City staff promised to conduct a new mailed survey.
- The Commission has granted itself extensions of time to act on most of the City’s many proposals, but it has been rumored that the parts of the “major” amendments package other than the Peninsula Point beachfront encroachments may be ready for the August meeting.
- June 8, 2018: As Item F9a on its agenda, the Coastal Commission granted its staff an up-to-one-year extension of time to review the City’s package of “major” LCP amendment requests. The City’s “coastal advocate,” Don Schmitz, spoke on the item, and told the Commission the City had been promised that despite the extension, the parts of its “major amendments” package other than the Peninsula Point beachfront encroachments would be ready for action at the August meeting.
- May 11, 2018: As Item 10a on its Friday May 11 agenda, the Coastal Commission was scheduled to hear the “City/CCC Jurisdictional Boundary Change Request” (see “Why We’re Watching,” above), but the item has been postponed.
- May 8, 2018: Item 6, approved on the May 8 City Council Consent Calendar, was an unexpected request to amend the City’s “Categorical Exclusion Order.” The proposed amendment (the details of which were, curiously, not shown) would exempt homes with floor area ratios of 2 on lots of 4,000 square feet and less from the need to apply for a Coastal Development Permit. The current limit for such homes is 1.5. The matter had not previously been discussed. The change would have to be approved by the CCC.
- May 7, 2018: At 6:00 p.m. at Marina Park, City staff held a community meeting to reassess interest in establishing a Residential Permit Parking Program for the area west of Balboa Village (a CDP application having been formerly submitted to the CCC per Item 14 at the Council’s October 27, 2015, meeting, but never completed). With many attendees opposed to the proposal, promises were made to conduct a new “stakeholder” survey. Should the City choose to go ahead with the “RP3,” it could now issue its own CDP, but its approval would likely be appealed to the CCC.
- 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 CCC’s November 9 staff report showed the City’s Resolution No. 2017-45 with the parts deemed “not minor” by CCC staff crossed out. However, of the parts being deemed “minor,” proposed Amendment #2 would create relaxed development standards for a Lido Villas Planned Community, and Amendment #12 would 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.
- 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: Three items proposing changes to the LCP appeared on the City Council agenda:
- 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.
- As part of Item 19, Resolution No. 2017-51 submitted an amendment allowing Accessory Dwelling Units.
- 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 it.
- As presented to the Planning Commission the amendment package consisted of three (or eleven, depending on how one counts) completely unrelated items:
- 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.
- none so far