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 a few that are currently of special concern to SPON, and why.

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

Port Master Plan . . . as of April 2018
State legislation 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 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).  The City Council will be considering next steps at its April 24 meeting . . . more here.

Local Coastal Program Amendments . . . as of March 2017
Changes submitted by City Council to Coastal Commission

SPON has been very concerned about proposed changes to the City’s recently certified Local Coastal Program. Most troubling, was the proposal to exempt “planned communities” from the City’s traditional height limits. The proposals also contained serious drafting errors. On July 11, 2017, the Council forwarded to the California Coastal Commission most of the so-called “clean-up” portion of the amendments, but minus the most controversial height changes, and at the July 25 meeting, added the Oceanfront Encroachment part. Parts were repackaged and resubmitted on September 12, with the the previously-submitted “minor” parts to be heard by the Coastal Commission on November 9 — but that hearing was continued as a result of concerns about some of the amendments not truly being “minor.” Meanwhile the City has separately initiated efforts to incorporate the regulations for the coastal portion of Newport Coast (currently overseen by the County) into the LCP. It is also pushing for legislation to amend the Coastal Act to allow the City to create a “Port Master Plan” (which would allow the City to take over permit granting authority in the water-covered portions of the harbor), as well as separately asking for a mapping change to remove several landside areas from the Coastal Commission’s area of original jurisdiction. The latter proposal is scheduled to be heard by the Coastal Commission on May 11 . . . more here.

Koll Center Residences . . . as of March 2018
EIR released – awaiting PC study session

This is a proposal to build three high-rise (roughly 150 foot) residential condominium towers with 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 before the Planning Commission began 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, It has been rescheduled for May 31, with the first actual hearing on the application expected on June 21 . . . . more here.

General Plan Update . . . as of April 2018
City involvement delayed to 2019, SPON GPAC continues, Annual Report submitted

Although $1 million was budgeted for a General Plan Update in fiscal year 2017-18, the City Council has put the brakes on that frequently delayed effort, with no City involvement now expected until 2019. The City will, instead, concentrate its planning efforts on promoting and developing the Port Master Plan. Meanwhile, SPON has formed its own citizens’ General Plan Advisory Committee, both to create a better informed populace and to generate independent ideas for improvement of the present General Plan.  The last SPON GPAC workshop was held on April 14.  Meanwhile, on March 27, the City Council authorized submittal to the state, without any corrections or revisions, of City staff’s Annual Report on the status of the existing General Plan . . . more here.

2607 Ocean Blvd … as of April 2018
Coastal Commission appeal hearing date set — then POSTPONED

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. The expectation was it would be heard at the April 11-13 meeting in Redondo Beach, but it was ultimately not listed on that agenda. The hearing date is currently unknown but could occur in June. . . 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 December 2017
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. The plans reportedly 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 . . . more here.

Newport Crossings . . . as of March 2018
EIR being prepared 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. A public Scoping Meeting was held on November 16 and comments on the scope of the EIR were due by November 30 . . . more here.

John Wayne Airport . . . as of March 2018
With growing number of noise complaints, City takes renewed interest

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 is currently asking 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 . . . . more here.

Harbor Pointe Senior Living . . . as of January 2018
Waiting for EIR

An Environmental Impact Report was to be prepared for a proposal to build a four-story, 121-bed assisted living facility at the current site of the Kitayama Restaurant on South Bristol, near Jamboree, but it appears that effort was placed on hold while revised plans, which were submitted to the City in October, were prepared.  On January 23, 2018, the Council will be asked to authorize additional costs (to be paid by the applicant) and a one year extension for preparation of the EIR . . . more here.

Museum House Project . . . as of April 2018
Council repeals Museum Tower approvals, settlement likely in OCMA lawsuit

Despite strenuous opposition, the City Council, at a November 29, 2016, special meeting, approved the land use change making possible this proposal for a 25-story, 295 foot tall, 100 unit condo tower to replace the one-story Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Center. SPON strongly supported the referendum effort mounted to demand that that controversial decision be repealed or put to a citywide public vote. In just two weeks, Line in the Sand PAC, and its supporters and friends, managed to collect nearly 14,000 signatures — despite persons and entities affiliated with the developer doing all they could to create confusion and miscues about the process. Although the technical validity of the LITS petition has been challenged in court by the developer/museum, at its February 14, 2017, meeting, the Council certified that the requisite number of signatures had be gathered, at their February 28 meeting they chose to rescind their November 29 approval rather than hold an expensive public election, and at their March 14 meeting they completed the repeal.

LITS was initially unsuccessful with a so-called “anti-SLAPP” motion seeking to promptly dismiss OCMA’s legal challenge to the petition, but appealed that ruling. With the appeal pending, OCMA found a potential new buyer for its property (proposing to build a more modest assisted living facility there) and a tentative settlement of OCMA’s lawsuit has been announced . . . more here.

Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan . . . as of July 2017
Last Community Workshop held,  Draft Plan shelved for now

Mariners Mile has been identified by City staff 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. Three public workshops regarding future plans for the area have been held, following which an outside consultant prepared a “Master Plan” for the area’s “revitalization.”  The draft Plan was reviewed by the Planning Commission at a study session, and was awaiting a formal recommendation by them.  However, on July 18, 2017, in response to public criticism, City staff announced that the Plan was being “withdrawn.”  It may be reconsidered as part of the wider General Plan Update process, or after the latter is completed.  Meanwhile plans have been submitted for a large private development proposed to be called Newport Village . . . more here.

Newport Beach Tennis Club . . . 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.

Banning Ranch . . . as of March 30, 2017
Coastal Commission denies & Cal Supreme Court overturns City approval

Banning Ranch is the last and the largest parcel of privately owned coastal open space remaining in Orange County. Its 400 acres are located at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, nestled between Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa. On September 7, 2016, at the conclusion of a long and contentious hearing held here in Newport Beach, the California Coastal Commission voted 9 to 1 to deny the application for development of the site.  Subsequent to that, on March 30, 2017, the California Supreme Court concluded longstanding litigation with the issuance of a unanimous ruling that the City’s earlier environmental review had been inadequate and misleading, effectively invalidating the City’s approvals of an even larger project in 2012.  . . . 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 has finally taken over responsibility for recording and posting the meetings.   Read more here . . .

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 List
    • Sample projects (and planning process) as presented at Planning Division Open House, February 2018 (projects start on page 35)
    • As presented at the January 2017 City Council planning session (note:  video also available)
    • As presented at the January 2016 City Council strategic planning 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 Applications
    • 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 appear at the end of the list.
  • Public hearings
    • Notices and agendas of upcoming public meetings, including those at which formal hearings will be conducted, 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).  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.
    • 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 April 10, 2018, City Council meeting is posted here, and the one from the April 5 Planning Commission meeting here.
  • Make your views known!  (helpful contacts)

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

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