Watch List

It’s rare that numerous proposals potentially affecting the quality of life in Newport Beach — for better or worse — aren’t in “the pipeline” awaiting City approval.  So many, in fact, it’s hard to keep track of them all.

This page highlights proposals that are currently of special concern to SPON, and explains why.  For former Watch List items, see our Watch List Archives page.

2607 Ocean Blvd (Corona del Mar bluff face residence appeal)
3200 Ocean Blvd (variance requests)
Balboa Theater
City Manager replacement
General Plan Update / SPON GPAC
Harbor Pointe Senior Living
John Wayne Airport
Koll Center Residences
Local Coastal Program Amendments
Newport Crossings (Airport Area apartment proposal)
Newport Dunes Hotel
Newport Village (Mariners Mile project)
Port Master Plan
Tennis Club (Eastbluff)
Tennis Club (Newport Center)

Additional resources are given at the end, including links to the City Planning Division’s own more extensive Case Log and Cumulative Projects List.

Planning Commission videos
Additional Watch List resources

Tennis Club (Newport Center) . . . as of November 2018
Coastal Development Permit approved

This project to create a stadium tennis resort at the current site of 24 tennis courts on the grounds of the Newport Beach Country Club was approved by the City Council in 2012.  It currently needs a Coastal Development Permit to begin construction.  The problem is that when combined with the expanded new NBCC golf clubhouse, the amount of development added to the General Plan exceeds the limits that should have required a Greenlight vote.  To complete the project, the applicant needs a Coastal Development Permit and subdivision tract maps.  The permit was approved at a special Zoning Administrator meeting on Tuesday, November 20, subject to appeal to the Planning Commission within 14 days . . .  more here.

Newport Dunes Hotel . . . as of November 2018

The on-again/off-again plans for this resort hotel appear to be on again, with recent lease agreement changes having been approved by the County Board of Supervisors, and an application having been received by the City, which is seeking a contractor to prepare an Environmental Impact Report.  Although City Council action on the award of the contract was on their July 10, 2018, agenda, with a recommendation for approval, the item was withdrawn without explanation. It came back and was approved on the November 27 agenda. . .  more here.

City Manager replacement . . . as of November 2018
Former Irvine Asst. City Manager Grace Leung is new CNB Manager as of September 4

On March 25, 2018, residents received the unexpected news that City Manager Dave Kiff planned to leave before the end of the year.  The Council later re-negotiated his contract to end on August 31.  On August 14, the Newport Beach City Council, meeting in closed session, named  City of Irvine Assistant City Manager Grace K. Leung to serve as Manager for Newport Beach beginning Tuesday, September 4.  An informal event honoring the outgoing City Manager was held on the “Civic Green” on August 30. The manager presented her thoughts about the City in a Speak Up Newport talk on November 14 . . .  more here.

Koll Center Residences . . . as of November 2018
EIR released – PC study session awaiting appointment of new Commissioner

This is a proposal to build three high-rise (roughly 150 foot) residential condominium towers containing a total of 260 units in the existing street-level parking lots of the Airport Area office park adjacent to Uptown Newport (at the intersection of Birch and Von Karman, south of the courthouse). SPON and many neighboring business owners feel the proposal is out of character for the area. A Draft Environmental Impact Report was released for public review in September 2017 with comments due back by November 13. A study session regarding the project began before the Planning Commission on January 18, 2018, but was interrupted and continued to a future date while City staff sorts through which of the Commissioners need to be “recused” from the discussion due to financial conflicts of interest. At a special September 13 meeting, the conflicted Commissioners “drew lots” to select one to join the three unconflicted ones, thereby assembling a quorum.  The long-awaited study session was re-announced for November 8. However it had to be cancelled when one of the three unconflicted commissioners resigned, unexpectedly, due to health reasons.  A replacement has been appointed. . .  more here.

General Plan Update . . . as of December 2018
Council Study Session expected January 8;  SPON GPAC continues to meet

Although $1 million was budgeted for a General Plan Update in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, the City Council announced it would, instead, concentrate on promoting a Port Master Plan — an effort that has also since been abandoned. The GPU has recently re-appeared on the Community Development Department’s Tentative Agenda. A City Council study session, including review of Request For Proposals for a GPU consultant, is expected on January 8. A special community meeting seeking public input on the process had been expected a week later, on January 15, but has been postponed till February. Meanwhile, SPON has formed its own citizens General Plan Advisory Committee, both to create a better informed populace when a City-run GPU eventually comes, and to generate independent ideas for improvement of the present General Plan.  The last SPON GPAC workshop was held on August 18.  The next is planned for January 12, 2019 . . .  more here.

Local Coastal Program Amendments . . . as of December 2018
Changes requested by City being approved by Coastal Commission

Following a many-years process, the City finally obtained certification of its  Local Coastal Program  effective January 30, 2017, and has since been using it to issue Coastal Development Permits.  Almost immediately, the City began requesting changes to the LCP.  SPON has been  concerned about many of these requests, including a proposal, which seems to have been abandoned, to exempt “planned communities” from the City’s traditional height limits. Nonetheless, a large and somewhat confusing array of requests for changes from the City remains before the Coastal Commission, with Commission staff having been granted extensions of time to respond to most.  Some of the “clean-up” amendments, and a request to modify the boundary of the appeals area, were heard and accepted, with modifications, at the Commission’s July 11 meeting in Scotts Valley (Santa Cruz County). The City’s acceptance of CCC staff’s modifications is expected to come at the Council’s September 25 meeting.  Meanwhile, a request to expand the scope of the City’s Categorical Exclusion Order (for residential construction) was approved as Item F21a on the August 10 CCC agenda in Redondo Beach and accepted by the City Council on September 11.  Setback map corrections were on the September agenda, and new provisions regarding Accessory Dwelling Units were considered as Item 15b on the October 12 CCC agenda.  On October 9, the City Council was scheduled to introduce the ordinance accepting the changes made by the CCC at Scotts Valley, but due to an error that was rescheduled to October 23.  The changes were ultimately adopted by the Council on November 13.  Those changes to the LCP were certified (as Item 24c) and some of the more controversial changes approved (as Item 24b) by the Coastal Commission when it met in Newport Beach on December 12, 2018 . . . more here.

2607 Ocean Blvd . . . as of August 2018
Coastal Commission finds “substantial issue” — full hearing to follow

This application for what many consider to be an oversized (for the lot), out-of-character and view-blocking new residence on the lot adjacent to the top of the China Cove Ramp went before the Planning Commission at a hearing which began on November 9 and was continued to December 7. A slightly reduced proposal, still requiring variances from the City’s accepted development standards, was approved at that time. The City rejected an appeal of the issuance of the Coastal Development Permit to the City Council, but it has been appealed to the California Coastal Commission. A hearing for the CCC to consider accepting the appeal was set for March 7 in Oxnard, however the item was postponed.  That question was finally resolved at the Commission’s August 10 meeting in Redondo Beach (Item F22a) where the Commission unanimously agreed with their staff that the appeal raised substantial issues of statewide significance.  A full hearing will be held before the CCC at a date to be announced . . . more here.

3200 Ocean Blvd . . . as of September 2018
September 25 Council review of Planning Commission approval POSTPONED

This application for a proposed home replacement on the inland side of Ocean Boulevard in Corona del Mar is troubling from the standpoint of the community’s concern regarding “mansionization.”  Most of that occurs when property owners choose to develop to the maximum limits allowed by the zoning code.  In this case, the Planning Commission approved a proposal that goes beyond even the normally allowed limits, and on a lot with nothing particularly peculiar about it.  Council member Jeff Herdman has asked for the City Council to review that decision.  A hearing was scheduled for September 25, but has been postponed to an indefinite date . . . more here.

Balboa Theater . . . as of March 2018
Plan to enlarge long-vacant Peninsula theater based on possibly expired permitting

An application has been submitted to remodel and reopen the long-vacant Balboa Theater at 707 E. Balboa Blvd, adding an all new (and non-historic) rooftop dining feature far exceeding the long-established 35-foot maximum height limit in the Shoreline Area.  Approval was taken “off calendar” with City staff now claiming approvals granted by the Coastal Commission in 2011 are still “effective.”  It is not clear if Coastal Commission staff agrees with that. . . more here.

Newport Village . . . as of November 2018
Application submitted for large “mixed use” project on Mariners Mile

An application for this project to redevelop 11 acres of largely open and storage areas flanking Pacific Coast Highway in Mariner’s Mile was submitted to the City on December 4, 2017, but remains “incomplete.” The plans, as initially submitted, call for 175 new residential units, 240,650 square feet of office, retail and restaurant uses, and a 75-boat marina, as well as a new signalized intersection.  “Story poles” outlining a possible configuration of building were provided on May 21-24, 2018.  Meanwhile, on October 18, the Planning Commission heard an application to convert an existing office building on one of the properties into a luxury car sales operation.  It was approved on November 8 . . . more here.

Newport Crossings . . . as of November 2018
EIR released for additional large Airport Area housing project

This proposal is for 350 rental units and 7,500 square feet of retail on the 5.7-acre Airport Area property known as MacArthur Square — the shopping center that housed Arnie’s Deli, Il Barone and others). It appears to be a revision of the The Residences at Newport Place proposal for 384 units at the same site, which was rejected by both the Planning Commission and the City Council in 2016. A Notice of Preparation for an Environmental Impact Report was posted on November 1, 2017. A public Scoping Meeting was held on November 16 and comments on the scope of the EIR were due by November 30, 2017.  The draft EIR was released for public review on November 30, 2018, with comments due by January 14, 2019.  The Planning Commission held a Study Session on the project on December 6, 2018, and the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission is expected to review the park plan . . . more here.

John Wayne Airport . . . as of November 2018
EIR from General Aviation Improvement Program released for public review

The threat that JWA poses to the quality of life in Newport Beach has been on SPON’s radar almost since SPON’s inception.  With mounting citizen complaints, the City appears to have taken a renewed interest and has held several community forums to air JWA issues.  The Airport has asked SPON to agree to amend the definition of “commuter” planes in the Settlement Agreement (to which SPON is a signatory) to increase the allowable number of seats from 70 to 76, but no immediate response is currently planned. The City has recently mailed a newsletter about airport issues to its residents and is conducting an online survey. Meanwhile, the draft Environmental Impact Report for JWA’s planned General Aviation Improvement Program was posted for public review on September 20, with comments originally due by November 6, but extended to November 21. The City’s Aviation Committee discussed the GAIP, among other things, on November 5.  The next Quarterly Noise Meeting will be December 19 . . . more here.

Harbor Pointe Senior Living . . . as of December 2018
Planning Commission recommends Council approval

An Environmental Impact Report has been circulated for public review of this proposal to build a four-story, 121-bed assisted living facility at the current site of the Kitayama Restaurant on South Bristol, near Jamboree.  Comments on the EIR were due by September 28.  A Planning Commission study session on the project was held on September 13. At their December 6 meeting they recommended the City Council approve the application . . . more here.

Newport Beach Tennis Club (Eastbluff) . . . as of April 2017
Community awaiting possible application

The Newport Beach Tennis Club and swim facility occupies 7.6 acres at 2601 Eastbluff Drive, adjacent to the “Ralphs” shopping center.  Neighbors have heard rumors that the land owner has been approached by a foreign developer interested in purchasing the property and turning it into residential condominiums,  A more recent rumor is that the property has indeed changed hands, but the new owner plans to maintain it as a tennis club (at least for now) . . . more here.

Port Master Plan . . . as of April 2018
Council shelves bid to add Newport Beach to list of California’s commercial seaports

Primarily at the behest of Council members Duffield (now “recused” from the matter) and Peotter, a bill (AB2464) was introduced in Sacramento, without review by the Council, that would add a “Port of Newport Beach” to the list of deepwater commercial seaports recognized in California’s Coastal Act. It is claimed that this would relieve an administrative bottleneck by allowing the City to approve permits for on-water activities, such as dredging and dock construction, that currently require Coastal Commission approval, and that this is the best approach for doing so.  At their March 27, 2018, meeting the Council engaged paid lobbyists to promote the bill which, it was revealed without prior notice, is now actually a different bill, AB1196.  On April 12, the California Coastal Commission took a formal position opposing AB-1196, likely killing any chance of its passage (video of the meeting, item starts at 1:41:20).  Reacting to this, at its April 24 meeting, the City Council directed staff to shelve the effort, and revisit the City’s options for the harbor at some time in the future. No further action on this is expected until at least after the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. . . . more here.

Planning Commission Meeting Videos here!

From March 3, 2016, though January 19, 2017, SPON, at its own expense, recorded and posted the Newport Beach Planning Commission meetings for public review.  You can watch them on SPON’s YouTube channel.  Starting February 9, 2017, the city took over responsibility for recording and posting the meetings.  Those can be found in the City PC video archive.    Read more . . .

And that’s not all . . .
There are several comprehensive documents on the city’s website which capture a multitude of projects, both approved and proposed, that will give you a more complete picture of development in Newport Beach.

  • Key Private Sector Projects Lists and Presentations
    • “Citywide Project Update” by Community Development Director Semione Jurjis at Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Wake Up! Newport breakfast meeting on September 6, 2018:  PowerPoint and YouTube video
    • Sample projects (and planning process) as presented at Planning Division Open House, February 2018 (projects start on page 35)
    • Project list as presented at the January 14, 2017 City Council planning session ( video also available)
    • Project list as presented at the January 23, 2016 City Council strategic planning meeting (note: there does not appear to be any recording available of this meeting)
  • CEQA Cumulative Projects List   (most recently updated 12/12/2017)
    • Updated by city staff as new Environmental Impact Reports are prepared
    • The actual California Environmental Quality Act documentation for individual projects is online here.
  • New and Pending Applications — the “Case Log”
    • New applications can be monitored by following the Planning Division’s Case Log (also available in an older format with additional “filters”).  The most recent applications have the highest numbers and currently appear at the top of the list.
    • Some applications require public hearings to be approved, others do not.
    • When a public hearing is required, it will be preceded by a published hearing notice (usually 10 days before the hearing), and then, at least three days before the hearing, by an agenda (usually accompanied by “staff reports” detailing the particulars of the application and making a recommendation to the decision makers).
    • To receive an email from the City when a hearing is set, sign up for e-notification here.
  • Public hearings, agendas and staff reports
    • Notices and agendas of upcoming public meetings, including those at which formal hearings will be conducted, and the staff reports and recommendations related to them, are posted on the City’s Legistar/Granicus website (to see all, be sure to select “All Years” and “All Meeting Bodies” in the drop-down boxes).
    • In addition to the Case Log and official hearing announcements, anticipated dates of public hearings can be found in the “tentative agendas” distributed at most City Council and Planning Commission meetings. During those meetings, tentative agenda dates for future meetings are usually available in hard copy format in the City Council Chambers lobby.  They are sometimes posted with the “live” meeting materials (on Legistar/Granicus), and almost always archived in the permanent records of the meetings.
      • The tentative agenda distributed at the December 11, 2018, City Council meeting is posted here, and the one from the November 8 Planning Commission meeting here.
    • For email notification from the City when hearing notices and agendas are posted, sign up for e-notification here.
    • After public hearings have been completed, the staff reports, meeting materials, videos, minutes and resulting resolutions of approval or denial (but not the notices) are eventually posted to the Archived Meetings site within the City’s Laserfiche document system.
  • Approvals without public hearings
    • The municipal code gives Planning Division employees authority to grant “staff approvals” for certain kinds of discretionary applications.
    • Those decisions are posted online weekly, on Fridays, in the Administrative Approvals folder (along with the decisions rendered by the Zoning Administrator — which are made at a public hearing, but by a City employee rather than by a body of elected or appointed citizens).  Each includes a statement of the time in which the staff decision can be appealed to a higher body.
    • Planning Division staff as also recently started posting a running list of the residential building applications in the Coastal Zone that it has deemed exempt from the requirement for a Coastal Development Permit as a result of the City’s Categorical Exclusion Order.  That list is here.  In theory, staff’s decisions on this can be challenged.

Previous Watch List Items are available on our Watch List Archives page.

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