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General Plan update

General Plan Update

SCAG to hear appeal of Newport’s RHNA allocation on January 15; Housing Advisory Committee to next meet on January 20


The City’s Housing Element Update Advisory Committee seems to be cutting back to once-per-month meetings, and is expected to next meet in public on December 2 starting at 6:00 p.m. The update of the Circulation Element has been assigned to the Planning Commission. Meanwhile, SCAG recently approved the long-delayed draft RHNA allocations (increasing Newport’s allocation by 2 to 4,834 units) on September 3, 2020. Newport’s appeal of its allocation, as well as the low number assigned to Santa Ana, is expected to be heard on January 15, 2021. The City’s Final post-appeal 6th Cycle RHNA Allocation is anticipated to be issued in February with the new general plan housing element due to the state by October. See Upcoming, below,

For the remainder of the City’s response to the recent announcement that Newport Beach needs to plan to add 4,832 (now 4,834) new housing units by 2029, see their new 2020 Housing Action Plan webpage.

At the January 28 City Council meeting, SPON submitted a resolution protesting the announcement and suggesting ways to deal with it.

439 Newport Beach residents, as well as 94 from neighboring cities, added their names and comments to the SPON resolution.  You may see the resolution in its final form here.

Thank you to all who signed and commented!

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Links to videos of comments on 2006 General Plan Update process

Details of what happened at the SPON GPAC meetings, including workshop notes, are archived in the Recent Events sections for the dates on which they were held:

Latest News:

On January 8 (see video and “Recent Events,” below), the City Council held a study session about its proposal for the General Plan Update.  Staff’s proposal was similar to the one heard on November 14, 2017 (see “Recent Events“).  As proposed, it will consist of three phases, the first year of which will consist of a consultant-facilitated “Listen and Learn Tour” collecting input from the community.  A five-member citizens committee appointed by the Council will help develop a Request For Proposals for the consultant and recommend who to hire. The resolution formally creating the committee was approved as Item 5 on the January 22 consent calendar. Following a one week application opportunity (applications were due by noon on January 30), the Council deviated from its normal Policy A-2 appointments procedure, and allowed the Mayor to select the five appointees in private consultation with two other Council members. The Mayor will also serve as a non-voting member of the committee. The full Council  “confirmed” the Mayor’s selections at its February 12 meeting (see “Recent Events,” below), but plans to expand the committee with two new members to be named on March 12. On February 13, City staff conducted a community outreach meeting  at Marina Park with the newly-appointed five-member Steering Committee in attendance, but not participating. The first formally-noticed meeting of the Steering Committee was held on February 20.  Originally tasked with reviewing a Request for Proposals for a single consultant to manage the entire General Plan Update process, the committee told staff to “bifurcate” the process and prepare an RFP to solicit a consultant for the public outreach (“listen and learn”) phase only.  A separate RFP for a consultant to manage the actual update would come after that.  The Steering Committee, with its original five citizen members, reviewed the revised RFP on March 6 and (with all seven citizen members in attendance) completed its recommendations on March 20.  On April 3 the committee heard staff presentations about the City’s traffic model and state requirements for the Housing and other elements.  It met again on May 1 to review the five responses to the RFP received from potential consultants.  Three of the respondents were publicly interviewed at the committee’s May 15 meeting, with the committee selecting Kearns & West. After reviewing to their cost proposal and detailed scope of work on May 29, the voted unanimously to recommend Kearns & West to the Council.  The Council approved the contract with them on June 25, although it was not signed by the Mayor until August 1. Steering Committee meetings disappeared while City staff worked with Kearns & West to develop a work plan for consideration by the Committee. The Steering Committee meetings resumed on September 12, and on September 25 they approved plans for an interactive GPU website and a community-wide launch event, which was held on Saturday, October 26, 2019. That was followed by a series of consultant-facilitated “Listen & Learn” workshops — one in each Council district with a follow-up series expected in early 2020. However, in view of an unexpectedly large state-mandated housing requirement, to add 4.832 new units in the next planning cycle, they thought they needed further direction from the Council on how to proceed. On January 14. the Council voted to dissolve the Steering Committee, and create a new committee focused on modify the General Plan’s Housing, Circulation and Land Use Elements to add the 4,832 units. Applications to serve on the new committee were due by January 25. On January 28, the Council adopted a resolution protesting the 4,832 unit requirement, and also received a resolution from SPON doing the same. Appointments to the new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee were made at the February 25 Council meeting, and it was expected to commence monthly meetings starting March 25, but that was postponed due to the coronavirus stay-at-home order. Its first meeting was finally held on July 1 and was broadcast live with phone-in participation available. It has met six times, and will meet again on December 2. See Upcoming below.

While the City was waiting to start its GPU, SPON continued its efforts to press for improvements to the present General Plan and to the prepare public to participate in the broader update. To those ends, SPON created its own General Plan Advisory Committee.

The SPON GPAC functioned as an independent citizens interest group. Starting on November 18, 2017, it held multiple well-attended and lively meetings,  (see “Recent Events,” below). The last SPON GPAC meeting was held on January 12 (see “Recent Events,” below). SPON thanks all who have and will participate!

Project Overview:  Ever since incoming Mayor Kevin Muldoon announced the initiation of an update of the city’s General Plan as a major objective for the City Council during the 2017 calendar year, the details of what that might entail have been a moving target.  No activity actually occurred in 2017, and it now appears none will occur in 2018 as well.  SPON nonetheless hopes to prepare citizens to have some influence over the process as further details emerge, as well as to lobby for improvements to the existing General Plan, most of which was adopted in 2006, and none of which appears to have been implemented entirely as promised.

Why We Were Watching:  Although SPON has repeatedly called for the development of “comprehensive” plans for specific areas of the city, such as Mariners Mile, West Newport Mesa and the Airport Area, the city proposal could be different and could have worrisome consequences. In 2006, the General Plan update process was used, without the full understanding of most residents, to expand and “reset” the Greenlight development thresholds throughout the city.  By approving the updated land use tables and maps, voters in effect gave the “Greenlight” to future projects they assumed they would be given a second chance to vote on, such as the two recently erected high-rise office towers (PIMCO and Irvine Company) in Newport Center (whose erection was specifically contrary to policy statements in the 2006 General Plan) and the massive 524-unit Villas Fashion Island apartment project at the corner of Jamboree and San Joaquin Hills Road.

With greater public awareness, a similar, but even more fast-tracked and developer-driven General Plan update effort in 2013-2014 was overwhelmingly rejected when approval of the land use changes was placed on the ballot as Measure Y.

Measure Y did nothing to allay the widespread impression that staff, consultant and others, guided by unknown influences, formulate most of the content of General Plan Updates “off camera,” spoon-feeding largely predetermined recommendations to what is ostensibly a citizens committee, eventually congratulated for its “hard work.”

While city staff has indicated the present update may not even touch the critical land use limits needing voter approval, some Council members, early on, mentioned hoping to see the matter on the November 2018 or 2020 ballot — which implies that it will.

Whatever the process turns out to be, for the sake of “our town” close watchfulness will be needed to ensure the General Plan modifications are resident-driven rather than developer-driven.


January 15 @ 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – SCAG Housing Allocation Appeal Hearing
(Public participation by Zoom only)

  • Look for agenda here
    • In connection with the 4,834 dwelling units assigned to Newport Beach for its General Plan Update, the Southern California Association of Governments RHNA Appeals Board will be hearing Newport Beach’s appeal of the small number assigned to the City of Santa Ana as well the high numbers assigned to Newport and the three other cities appealing Santa Ana’s allocation.
    • No conclusions will be reached until after all the appeal hearings have been completed a week later.

January 20 @ 6:00 pm – Housing Element Update Advisory Committee meeting 
City Council Chambers (100 Civic Center Drive)
(This meeting will be broadcast on NBTV and live streamed on the City website with an opportunity for those interested to phone in comments or to observe and comment from the Community Room adjacent to Council Chambers) 

  • February 2021: Final RHNA allocation expected from SCAG
  • October 15, 2021: Deadline for City to submit to the State an updated Housing Element demonstrating compliance of plan with State-mandate quotas for the 2021-2029 housing cycle.
  • In other recent and upcoming City activity related to the current General Plan, on February 12, 2019, the City Council approved a GP amendment to make possible the Harbor Pointe Senior Living project (a use not presently allowed at the proposed site).  On August 13, 2019, it approved another General Plan amendment, this time to allow zoning changes needed to construct the Vivante Senior Living project.  Ironically, the first was changed to “Private Institution” and the second was changed from “Private Institution.”
  • In addition, approval of the Ford Road Residential application would require a General Plan amendment to change the that property’s current land use designation (currently “Public Facility”).  The Koll Center Residences proposal also requires at minimum a minor change to the General Plan to transfer 3,000 square feet of retail development allocation, and many, including SPON, have questioned whether the proposal is otherwise in compliance with the General Plan vision for the Airport Area.  It was the subject of a Planning Commission study session on January 31, 2019, but appears to have since been completely redesigned.

Recent Events:

December 2 @ 6:00 pm – Housing Element Update Advisory Committee meeting 
City Council Chambers (100 Civic Center Drive)
(This meeting will be broadcast on NBTV and live streamed on the City website with an opportunity for those interested to phone in comments or to observe and comment from the Community Room adjacent to Council Chambers) 

  • Look for agenda here
    • This will be the seventh meeting of the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee tasked with finding, and recommending, by October 2021, locations where 4,832 (now 4,834) new housing units could be built in Newport Beach between 2021 and 2029 in compliance with a state mandate.
    • The committee consists of nine citizen volunteers with expertise in real estate and land use appointed by the City Council to oversee the Housing Action Plan portion of the larger General Plan Update. The Mayor serves as a non-voting observer
    • Topics will presumably include a recap of the November 16 and 17 “Housing Suitability Workshops”

November 17 @ 6:00 pm – Housing Suitability Workshop  (Part 2)
(Public participation by Zoom only)

  • Details here
    • This online workshop is related to the Housing Element portion of the City’s General Plan Update effort.
    • The public will be asked to weigh in on what kinds and density of housing would be “suitable” at sites identified by the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee.
    • Part 1 will cover half the sites, and Part 2 the other half.
    • Register on Newport, Together

November 16 @ 6:00 pm – Housing Suitability Workshop  (Part 1)
(Public participation by Zoom only)

  • Details here
    • This online workshop is related to the Housing Element portion of the City’s General Plan Update effort.
    • The public will be asked to weigh in on what kinds and density of housing would be “suitable” at sites identified by the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee.
    • Part 1 will cover half the sites, and Part 2 the other half.
    • Register on Newport, Together

October 23, 2020: City files with SCAG the appeal (approved by Council in closed session on October 13) of the RHNA allocation assigned to the City of Santa Ana, asking that it be increased.

October 21 @ 6:00 pm – Housing Element Update Advisory Committee meeting 
City Council Chambers (100 Civic Center Drive)
(This meeting will be broadcast on NBTV and live streamed on the City website with an opportunity for those interested to phone in comments or to observe and comment from the Community Room adjacent to Council Chambers) 

  • Look for agenda here
  • This will be the fifth meeting of the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee tasked with finding, and recommending, by October 2021, locations where 4,832 (now 4,834) new housing units could be built in Newport Beach between 2021 and 2029 in compliance with a state mandate.
  • The committee consists of nine citizen volunteers with expertise in real estate and land use appointed by the City Council to oversee the Housing Action Plan portion of the larger General Plan Update. The Mayor serves as a non-voting observer.
  • Topics to include:
    • Presentation from the “Kennedy Commission” (a private group) on affordable housing
    • Orange County Mayors’ letter to SCAG seeking challenge to the SCAG region’s 1.34 million unit RHNA goal
    • Updates from subcommittees
    • Recap of October 20 virtual workshop
    • Receive input and determine feasibility of housing sites identified by subcommittees in Airport Area and West Newport
      • It appears this may be the public’s one and only opportunity to influence the committee’s decision as to which sites in these two areas should be explored further as future housing sites
      • Decisions regarding the remainder of the City will follow at the November 4 HUEAC meeting

October 20 @ 6:00 pm – Online Housing Workshop
(Public participation by Zoom only)

October 13, 2020:  City Council amends resolution empowering Housing Element Update Advisory Committee so as to remove the Circulation Element from their purview and assign its update to the Planning Commission, to be working in cooperation with the HEUAC outreach committee. In open session, it approved filing an appeal of the RHNA allocation assigned to Newport Beach, asking that it be reduced. In closed session, it also approved filing an appeal of the RHNA allocation assigned to the City of Santa Ana, asking that it be increased.

October 7 @ 6:00 pm – Housing Element Update Advisory Committee meeting 
City Council Chambers (100 Civic Center Drive)(This meeting will be broadcast on NBTV and live streamed on the City website with an opportunity for those interested to phone in comments or to observe and comment from the Community Room adjacent to Council Chambers) 

    • Look for agenda here
    • This will be the fourth meeting of the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee tasked with finding, and recommending, by October, locations where 4,832 (now 4,834) new housing units could be built in Newport Beach between 2021 and 2029 in compliance with a state mandate.
    • The committee consists of nine citizen volunteers with expertise in real estate and land use (plus the Mayor), appointed by the City Council to oversee the Housing Action Plan portion of the larger General Plan Update.
    • Topics to include:
      • Hear updates from the Site Subcommittees, Outreach Subcommittee and Affordable Housing Subcommittee, as appropriate.
      • Discuss the approach for engaging the public and property owners of sites that may be included on the Housing Opportunity Sites Inventory.
      • Receive an overview of the overall outreach plan for the Housing Element and Circulation Element updates, including upcoming workshop dates for both elements. • Review the City’s appeal letter of its final draft regional housing needs assessment (RHNA) allocation.
      • Hear about new requirements in State Housing Element Law related to affordable housing and how that translates into the sites inventory. Discuss how compliance may be achieved.

September 11, 2020:  Start of period for City to appeal it’s draft RHNA allocation to plan for 4,834 new dwelling units the 2021-2029 cycle.

September 3 @ 1:00 p.m. – SCAG Regional Council Meeting (Zoom meeting)

  • Agenda here (28 MB)
  • Live Stream
    • The Southern California Association of Governments is the “metropolitan planning organization” that sets regional policy and assigns housing quotas to Orange County cities
    • Expected actions at this meeting include:
      • Item 1: Adoption of the Connect SoCal regional transportation plan
      • Item 23: Assignment of Draft Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) Allocations for the 2021-2029 planning period (as affected by Connect SoCal plan)
        • Newport Beach is expected to receive a draft allocation to plan for 4,834 new dwelling units (up 2 from previous estimates)
        • Issuance of the draft allocations will set in motion an appeal period starting September 11, 2020
        • The Final 6th Cycle RHNA Allocations are anticipated to be issued to local jurisdictions in February 2021 with new general plan housing elements due to the state by October 2021.

September 2, 2020:  The new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee held its third meeting in the Council Chambers. Topics covered included a presentation from the consultant regarding their public outreach plan, and from City staff about their “roadmap to compliance” plan for meeting the state’s RHNA assignment. There was also a report about a subcommittee’s search for housing “opportunity sites” in the Airport Area.

August 20, 2020: As Item 3 on its agenda, the City’s Planning Commission was expected to discuss the Commission’s new role as the body overseeing the update of the General Plan Circulation Element. However, the meeting was canceled. It may meet again on September 17.

August 19, 2020: The expected third meeting of the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee was canceled.

July 15, 2020: The second meeting of the new Housing Element Update AdvisoryCommittee was held in the City Council Chambers, and again broadcast on NBTV and live streamed on the City website.

    • The Chair appointed two additional subcommittees of three members each to privately look into and report back regarding: (1) housing “opportunity site” identification in the West Newport Mesa area (north of Hoag Hospital); and (2) community outreach.

July 1, 2020: The first meeting of the new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee, originally planned for March 25, has finally held in the City Council Chambers, broadcast on NBTV and live streamed on the City website. Those interested could phone in comments during or observe and comment from the Community Room adjacent to Council Chambers

    • The Chair appointed subcommittees of three members each which will meet privately to look into and then report back regarding: (1) housing “opportunity site” identification, apparently in the Airport Area; and (2) affordable housing options.

June 3, 2020: The first meeting of the new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee was once again postponed, this time to a possible date of July 1.

May 6, 2020: The first meeting of the new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee was expected, but again postponed, with June 3 indicated as the new date.

April 14, 2020: The City Council approved a contract with Kimley Horn as the primary consultant for the Housing Element update. Kimley Horn will subcontract with Urban Crossroads and LSA (former Council member Tony Petros) on traffic issues.

March 25, 2020: First meeting of the new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee was scheduled for this date. Topics were expected to include: introduction, mission and purpose of the committee, establish subcommittee(s), process to identify potential housing opportunity sites, consultant proposal review — but the meeting was postponed due to coronavirus concerns.

March 24, 2024: The City Council to “reviewed” staff’s annual progress report to state on current General Plan. It was on the “consent calendar” and approved without comment.

March 5, 2020: The SCAG Regional Council voted to confirm the 6th cycle RHNA allocations made at its November 7, 2019, meeting, including the 4,832 units to Newport Beach.  Agenda packet here.

    • An appeal process, most likely running through May 25, was also decided upon (see Items 1 and 2).
    • The Regional Council also discussed the status of its Connect SoCal Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy, which is related to the RHNA allocations (see Items 10 and 11).
    • The meeting is archived on SCAG-TV.

March 5, 2020: The Planning Commission reviewed the City’s Annual Progress Report to the state on the status of the current General Plan. The City Council will review the same report on March 24.

February 25, 2020: As Item 6 on its agenda, the City Council made minor changes to the qualifications for membership on the new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee  and ratified the Mayor’s appointments to those positions.

February 20, 2020: Deadline for proposals from firms interested in assisting with the preparation of revisions to the Housing, Circulation and Land Use Elements. Reportedly just one proposal was received, from Kimley Horn. The new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee is supposed to make a recommendation about it to the City Council. But per the Action Plan posted by the Community Development Department, the proposal will be reviewed by three members of the existing Steering Committee.

January 31, 2020: City creates a 2020 Housing Action Plan webpage.

January 28, 2020: At the City Council meeting, SPON submitted a resolution protesting the recent announcement that Newport Beach needs to plan to add 4,832 new housing units by 2029, and suggesting ways to deal with it.  439 Newport Beach residents, as well as 94 residents from neighboring cities, added their names and comments to the SPON resolution.  You may see the resolution in its final form here.

Thank you to all who signed and commented!

January 25, 2020: The City received a total of 45 applications to serve on the new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee. The applications will be screened by a committee consisting of Mayor O’Neill, Mayor Pro Tem Avery and Council member Brenner, with Mayor O’Neill ultimately recommending nine people for appointment, most likely at the February 11 City Council meeting.

January 23, 2020:  In connection with the search for a consultant to assist with preparing revisions to the Housing, Circulation and Land Use Elements, the City received no bids in response to the Request for Proposals posted on December 20, 2019, and extended the deadline to February 20.

January 18, 2020: The Notice of Vacancy announcing the opportunity to serve on the new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee was published in the classified section of the Daily Pilot. This triggered the start of a very short one-week window in which to submit applications.

January 14, 2020: The City Council held a study session to review a staff-recommended “Housing Action Plan” to address the expected state requirement to add 4,832 units to the General Plan for potential construction by October 2029.

  • At its evening session, the Council adopted Resolution No. 2020-06, dissolving the Steering Committee and creating a new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee consisting of nine citizen members with expertise in various areas and one non-voting Council member.
  • The new committee is expected to find locations for the 4,832 units by late July or early August, at which time the City can begin preparation of an Environmental Impact Report investigating the change’s effects.
  • The Council did not endorse a staff proposal to amend the Greenlight City Charter provision to exempt this and future Housing Element Updates from the voter-approval requirement.
  • In addition, to creating the new committee, the City promises to work with others to protest the state mandate and to seek a 2-year delay in the due date for the new Housing Element.

Early 2020:  The earlier plan to appoint a large (25-30 member) General Plan Advisory ” Tour seems to have been abandoned, for now.Committee to comprehensively revise the entire GP at the conclusion of the “Listen and Learn

December 20, 2019: City staff posts a Request for Proposals for a consultant to assist with preparing revisions to the Housing, Circulation and Land Use Elements of the General Plan. Proposals are due by January 17, 2020.

December 12, 2019: The last of seven “Listen & Learn” Workshops was held in City Council District 1 at Marina Park (1600 W. Balboa Boulevard)..

December 11, 2019: The sixth of seven “Listen & Learn” Workshops was held in City Council District 4 at the Bonita Creek Community Room (3010 La Vida). Only about 4 residents attended.

December 4, 2019: The General Plan Update Steering Committee meeting met in the Council Chambers at 100 Civic Center Drive. In view of the large newly-imposed state housing requirements and new legislation, they recommended sending the process back to the City Council for further direction. City staff said they would be proposing a Regional Housing Needs Assessment “action plan” to the Council on January 14.

December 3, 2019: The fifth of seven “Listen & Learn” Workshops was held in City Council District 7 at the Central Library Friends Room (1000 Avocado Avenue). About 13 residents attended.

November 21. 2019: The fourth of seven “Listen & Learn” Workshops was held in City Council District 6 at the OASIS Senior Center (801 Narcissus Avenue). This was reportedly the best attended of the series with about 30 attendees as a result of promotion by the Corona del Mar Residents Association.

November 20. 2019: The third of seven “Listen & Learn” Workshops was held in City Council District 7 at the Newport Coast Community Center (6401 San Joaquin Hills Rd.).

November 14. 2019: The second of seven “Listen & Learn” Workshops was held for City Council District 3, but outside the district, at the Back Bay Science Center (600 Shellmaker Road – off Back Bay Drive – north of Newport Dunes).

November 12. 2019: The first of seven “Listen & Learn” Workshops was held in City Council District 2 at the 16th Street Recreation Center (870 W. 16th St — in West Newport Mesa).

November 7, 2019: The Southern California Association of Governments, a six-county body operating per state law, assigned Newport Beach the task of updating its General Plan, by October 2021, to accommodate the potential construction of 4,832 new housing units by October 2029 — the City’s so-call Regional Housing Needs Assessment allocation (see SCAG minutes and video).

November 6, 2019: The General Plan Update Steering Committee meeting met in the Council Chambers at 100 Civic Center Drive.

  • Agenda here
    • The topics were:
      • Discussion of October 26 Launch Event and engagement activities
      • Planning for Listen & Learn workshops to be held in each Council district in November and December.
      • Discussion of timeline and drafting request for proposals for updating Housing Element by 2021.

October 26, 2019:  The consultant arranged a 4-hour community-wide launch event, held in the Civic Center Community Room and adjacent outdoor areas Civic Green (100 Civic Center Drive). A variety of booths represented City departments and community organizations. The event was announced on the new GPU website and on the following flyer:

Flyer for October 26 GPU Launch Event

Flyer for October 26 GPU Launch Event

    • The stated purpose of the event was to attract interest from persons who would not normally express views on matters like the General Plan.
    • Despite the offer of 200 free hamburgers, attendance seemed sparse.
  • October 16, 2019: General Plan Update Steering Committee meeting
    • See agenda here
      • The Committee reviewed the consultant’s plans for the Listen & Learn “Community Fair” scheduled for October 26 (the “Launch Event”).
      • They also reviewed the new General Plan Update website and heard a brief presentation about the difference between General Plan policies vs. Zoning Code regulations, with a conclusion that comments received during the Listen & Learn process that did not fit easily into the “General Plan” category would not be rejected.
  • October 11, 2019:  launch of interactive GPU website.
  • September 25, 2019: General Plan Update Steering Committee meeting
    • See agenda here
      • The committee approved plans for an interactive GPU website and for the October 26 launch event at City Hall.
      • They also heard a presentation about the upcoming state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers which the City will need to accommodate in a revised General Plan.
  • September 12: After a two-month hiatus, the General Plan Update Steering Committee met at Marina Park (see agenda).
    • In preparation for the meeting, SPON summarized the key take-aways from its own General Plan Update Workshops, held Nov. 2017 through Jan. 2019, and based on those made a series of recommendations to the Committee. See them here:
    • The Committee the approved the general concept of the community outreach plan proposed by the consultant, including an October 26 “launch” event on the Civic Green at City Hall.
    • It also selected “Newport, Together.” as the theme or slogan for the outreach from among three suggested by the consultant.
  • August 1, 2019: Contract C-8180-1 with Kearns & West, effective June 25 and signed by them on June 11, was finally signed by Mayor Dixon.
  • July 2019:  Originally stated as the launch date for the consultant-facilitated “Listen and Learn” Tour, the schedule appears to have slipped.
  • June 25, 2019:  City Council approved the contract with Kearns & West as Item 9 on their consent calendar (which to say, without comment).
  • May 29, 2019:  The Steering Committee reviewed Kearns & West‘s cost proposal and a very slightly revised scope of services.  They voted unanimously to recommend approval of the contract to the City Council.
  • May 15, 2019:  The Steering Committee  publicly interviewed three of the five consultants who expressed interest in working on the “Listen and Learn” (see April 26 and May 1, below).  They were happily surprised by Kearns & West and agreed unanimously to recommend them to the City Council, pending the opening of their cost proposal and a possible refinement of their scope of work.
  • May 1, 2019: The Steering Committee met in the Council Chambers to review the five responses received to the RFP.  The overall sentiment was one of disappointment regarding the meagerness of the responses.  However, the committee decided to interview at least two of the applicants on May 15, with no commitment to hire any.
  • April 26, 2019: 11:00 a.m. was the deadline for consultants to submit proposals in response to the RFP.  By that deadline, 45 firms had reviewed the RFP, but only five proposals were submitted in response.
  • April 15, 2019:  City staff posted the questions and their responses to them.
  • April 8, 2019:  Due date for potential consultants to submit questions they may have about the RFP.
  • April 3, 2019: The Steering Committee met in the Council Chambers to hear staff reports on the City’s traffic model and the state requirements relevant to the Housing and other elements of the General Plan. The PowerPoint presentations have been posted on the City’s General Plan Update page, and a video of the meeting should be available here.
  • March 26, 2019:  As Item 14 on its agenda, the City Council received the Planning Commission’s recommendation regarding staff’s annual report on the status of current General Plan’s Implementation Program and the City’s progress in meeting the Housing Element’s goals and approved submitting the reports to the state regulators.
  • March 25, 2019:  City staff posts Request for Proposals (RFP) for consultant to conduct the “Listen and Learn” phase of the General Plan Update process.
  • March 20, 2019:  The GPU Steering Committee held its third meeting, this time in the City Council Chambers (agenda here).  The Committee, for the first time with all seven citizen members appointed, completed its revisions to the RFP for an outside consultant to manage the “listen and learn” phase of the GPU process, only. The group is also heard a presentation about the Harbor Commission’s visioning process, as well as a presentation from staff about updates to the City’s website.
  • March 12, 2019:  The Council approved the Mayor’s selection of two additional community members to serve on the GPU Steering Committee. The new members are Jim Carlson, an architect, and Catherine O’Hara, a former city planner and currently a college counselor.
  • March 7, 2019:  As Item 4 on its agenda, the Planning Commission heard staff’s annual report on the status of current General Plan’s Implementation Program and the City’s progress in meeting the Housing Element’s goals, and recommended the City Council direct staff to submit the report to the state.
  • March 6, 2019.:  The GPU Steering Committee held its second meeting in the Friends Room at the Central Library (agenda here).  The committee recommended changes to staff’s revised RFP for an outside consultant to manage the “listen and learn” phase of the GPU process, only. The committee also discussed the merits of appointing the larger citizens General Plan Advisory Committee before the “listen and learn” ends, and decided to revisit that question later in the year.
  • March 6, 2019 @ noon:  Was the deadline to submit applications for appointment as one of the two additional citizen members being added to the GPU Steering Committee. Three new applications were received and added to the 34 previously submitted (but not appointed).
  • February 27, 2019:   The City Clerk posted a notice of the two new citizen opportunities to serve on the Steering Committee, and published the notice in the classified section of the Daily Pilot.  To be considered, applications must be submitted by noon on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.
  • February 26, 2019:  The City Council voted to adopt a new resolution increasing the size of the GPU Steering Committee to seven members (see agenda Item 14).
    • The Mayor, in consultation with the ad hoc nominations committee (consisting of Council members O’Neill and Brenner), will select two new names from among the new and old applications received.
    • Those selections will likely be announced and confirmed at the Council’s March 12 meeting.
  • February 20, 2019:  The GPU Steering Committee held its inaugural meeting in the Civic Center Community Room (see agenda here). Although the committee was expected to review a Request for Proposals for a single consultant to manage the entire General Plan Update process, the committee told staff to “bifurcate” the process and prepare an RFP to solicit a consultant for the public outreach (“listen and learn”) phase only.  A separate RFP for a consultant to manage the actual General Plan update would come after that.
  • February 13, 2019:  City staff conducted an hour-long public outreach event at Marina Park.  Per the flyer and announcement, this was to have been the Steering Committee’s inaugural meeting, intended to familiarize the committee and public with the General Plan and seek input on the Request of Proposals for an outside consultant to lead the Update effort. Although all five newly-appointed Steering Committee members were present in the audience to hear the staff presentation, they did not run or participate in the meeting, supposedly because they had not been sworn into office. It also appears staff had forgotten to prepare and post in advance an agenda, as California’s Brown Act requires them to do before a group like this can meet.
  • February 12, 2019:  As agenda Item XIII, the Council received the Mayor’s choice of five appointees to the Steering Committee — Nancy Gardner (Chair), Ed Selich, Debbie Stevens, Larry Tucker and Paul Watkins. The full Council (with Duffield absent) unanimously “confirmed” the selections, although on a motion by Council member Joy Brenner it also voted to bring back a resolution expanding the number of members from five to seven, with the remaining two to be appointed at a future meeting.
    • The names were drawn from among some 39 applicants volunteering to serve on the committee.
    • SPON is concerned about these selections because, despite their long histories of service to the City, all the designees, with the exception of Debbie Stevens, were on the review committee (“LUEAAC“) that brought us Measure Y — the ill-fated previous attempt to update the General Plan, rejected by 69.2% of voters in 2014 — with Selich having been the chair of that committee.
    • Two of the designees — Ed Selich and Larry Tucker — were also strong supporters of the proposal to amend the General Plan to make way for the Museum House in Newport Center/Fashion Island (whose approval was overturned in response to a public referendum petition in 2016).
  • February 2, 2019:  At its annual planning session, the Council was told the GPU could cost as much as $2.5 million dollars.  Staff recommended allocating $1.5 million in the fiscal year 2019-2020 Capital Improvement Program budget, with an expectation another $1 million might need to be added in 2020-2021.
  • January 30, 2019:  Noon was the deadline to apply to be on five-member citizens Steering Committee which will be developing a Request For Proposals for an outside consultant, recommending who to hire and overseeing the “Listen and Learn” phase of the City’s General Plan Update, expected to last through early 2020.  The Council will then dissolve the Steering Committee and appoint a larger General Plan Advisory Committee to review draft revisions to the General Plan.
    • See the City Clerk’s website for the vacancy notice and the Steering Committee application form
    • To submit an application online, save the completed PDF form on your computer or device and send it back to the City Clerk as an email attachment to:
    • As explained in more detail below under “Recent Events” for January 22, the five successful applicants will be privately selected by Mayor Diane Dixon after consultation with a screening committee consisting of herself, Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill and Council member Joy Brenner.
  • January 23, 2019:  Applications invited to serve on GPU citizens Steering Committee.  The deadline to apply is noon on January 30.
  • January 22, 2019:  As Item 5 on its consent calendar, Council adopted Resolution No. 2019-7 formally initiating the General Plan Update and defining and calling for the creation of a year-long, five member citizens Steering Committee, with the City Clerk then soliciting applications (see video).
    • According to the proposed resolution, the Mayor, after privately consulting with Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill and Council member Joy Brenner (whose names were announced at the start of the Study Session under “Clarification of Items on the Consent Calendar”), will privately select the five citizen members from among the applicants.
    • The Mayor will also be on the Steering Committee, but as a non-voting member.
    • The proposed selection process is quite different from the normal one described in City Council Policy A-2 for situations in which a nominations committee is convened .  Under that policy, the Council’s nominating committee would present to the Council as a whole at least two names per opening, from among which, at a subsequent meeting, all Council members, equally, would vote, with persons being selected out of that pool when, and only when, a majority vote for them.
    • The Steering Committee will be subject to California’s Brown Act, which means, as with the Council, all of the discussion between members and any direction it gives to staff is supposed to occur at noticed meetings open to the public and at which the public is given opportunities to comment before any action is taken.

January 12, 2019:  A SPON GPAC workshop was held at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station.  It was the group’s ninth (and for the moment, final) meeting.  Guest speaker. Kevin K. Johnson, an environmental lawyer from San Diego, discussed the California Environmental Quality Act and provided information on how to read and more effectively comment on Environmental Impact Reports.  There was no PowerPoint, but participants were provided with a number of handouts (copied below) as well as a set of excerpts from the Planning and Conservation League’s very helpful Community Guide to CEQA, a roughly 100 page publication which can be purchased for $35 by contacting the PCL through their website at the previous link.  They also have some free examples of ways to create effective and ineffective comments on CEQA documents.

January 8, 2019:  The City Council held a 5:00 p.m. study session (see video) at which the Community Development Department presented its proposal for a General Plan Update, including a draft Request for Proposals for a consultant to assist with the process (see staff report and PowerPoint).  The proposal was similar to the one presented (and rejected by the Council) at the November 14, 2017, study session (see below).  The Council is expected to create a five-member citizens committee will help develop a Request For Proposals for a consultant and recommend who to hire. The consultant will then facilitate a roughly year long “Listen and Learn Tour” collecting input from the community. See “Upcoming” (above) for the expected sequence of events over the next few weeks (per the PowerPoint and Council/staff discussion)

August 18, 2018: The eighth meeting of SPON’s independent General Plan Update Advisory Committee was held at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station.  It continued the guest speakers series, with a presentation by a planning principal Laura Stetson from MIG, the private company that conducted the public outreach/community visioning portion of our City’s current General Plan in 2001-2002 (see Item 18, April 10, 2001, City Council meeting). Ms. Stetson shared her thoughts on “Data-driven General Plans,” including how to ensure the community vision expressed in a city’s general plan is actually implemented.  She also provided many detailed insights into the current Newport Beach General Plan. Her PowerPoint includes links to a number of resources where useful planning data can be found.  She mentioned an older website of Model General Plans for examples of good plans, as well as the more recent online-only Hayward 2040 General Plan (which she believes to exemplify the wave of the future, at least in terms of presentation).

June 16, 2018:  The seventh SPON GPAC meeting, held at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station, continued the recent guest speakers series. Matt Foulkes, the City of Fullerton’s Community Planning Manager, spoke about the Fullerton General Plan, also known as “the Fullerton Vision,” which modified the “standard” layout of a General Plan by focusing on the four key pillars of the community: the built environment, the economy, the community, and the natural environment.

April 14, 2018:  The sixth SPON GPAC meeting, held at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station, featured  Pete Peterson, Dean of the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, and Jennifer Lilley, an urban and regional planner working for the City of Brea, who provided insights on how to better engage government officials and drive change (rather than just respond to it).

March 31, 2018: The fifth SPON GPAC meeting, held at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station, inaugurated a planned guest speakers series.  Chris Carter, GIS manager for the City of Anaheim, gave an fascinating talk on the push for cities to provide “open data” and the difficulties of making that data engaging and useful for the general public.

March 27, 2018: As Item 11 on its Current Business agenda, the City Council authorized submitting to state agencies, without any changes or corrections, City staff’s Annual Status Report (Planning Activity PA2007-195) on the state of the City’s General Plan Implementation Program and its progress on the Housing Element goals.  Some of SPON’s thoughts posted preceding that meeting are preserved here:

  • SPON, and its GPAC Working Group, feel there are multiple problems with the City’s current General Plan and with its implementation since its adoption in 2006.
  • Although the City Council rarely shows much interest in this annual item, it is an opportunity for the public to show they’re interested, watching and engaged — including asking questions about whether a rash of bad planning decisions (Banning Ranch, AutoNation, 150 Newport Center and Museum House, to name a few) has been the result of a bad plan or bad execution of it.
  • Being a “Current Business” item means that not only will the public be allowed to offer their comments, but the Council will be invited to discuss the report, and the public’s comments on it, among themselves (although they have no requirement to do so).
  • This year’s nearly identical report to the Planning Commission is here.  The Commission showed little interest in it, but the one suggestion they offered appears to have been ignored by City staff.  It was to mention under the report on progress made in 2017 on Implementation Program 1.2 (keeping the General Plan up to date) that the City had at least started considering the need for a General Plan update.
  • Last year’s report to the City Council is here (Note that it is mostly the same as this year’s report, even though there have been substantial changes in the state requirements — one of many things not mentioned in the report.  In particular, although the report repeatedly states it is being submitted pursuant to California Government Code Section 65400, that section was extensively revised effective January 1, 2018, and the report about to be submitted appears to be missing the information newly required by subsections C through I.  In addition, the California Office of Planning and Research issued entirely new General Plan Guidelines in 2017, and there is no evidence our General Plan has been compared against the new guidelines, even though Imp 1.3 requires such disclosure).
  • Regarding the items it’s important to comment on, including the City’s failure to provide clear information on the development capacity remaining under the existing General Plan limits, and an even more serious problem with the published development limits not correctly representing the development that has been approved, and thus short-circuiting what the public thought were our Greenlight protections, SPON has prepared some background information and some possible talking points.
  • You may also find helpful the questions about the City’s execution of the Implementation Program that SPON submitted to the Community Development Department in advance of its February 26 “Open House & Community Forum,” which remain unanswered — and the additional public comments submitted when this item was before the Planning Commission on March 8.

March 8, 2018: City staff’s Annual Status Report on the state of the General Plan was presented to the Planning Commission as Item 8 on their agenda.  The Commission showed little interest in it, and recommended passing it on to the City Council with no suggestions for changes or actions to be taken as a result of it.  Several members of the public attempted to comment on the report, and its shortcomings.  They were treated shabbily.

February 26, 2018: SPON submitted to City staff a letter raising questions about the City’s compliance with the General Plan Implementation Program(s) adopted in 2006.  SPON hoped some of those questions could be answered at the Community Development Department’s first ever “Open House & Community Forum” on February 26, but the forum’s format did not allow for that.  A written follow-up was promised, but none has been received.

February 24, 2018: The fourth SPON GPAC meeting was held in the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station training room. The main segment  focused on the promises made in the existing General Plan and the extent to which they have been met, or not, with emphasis on City staff’s assessment of that as seen in their Annual Status Report to the state.

  • The meeting materials included the SPON GPAC agenda and a link to City staff’s 2016 Annual Report (as presented to the Council on March 28, 2017).  It includes a copy of the Implementation Program followed by the status of each task.  A new report for calendar year 2017 will be presented to the Planning Commission on March 8, and to the City Council on March 27.
  • Those who missed the meeting may view the 2/24/2018 SPON GPAC presentation here (although it may be hard to follow without the words).

February 13, 2018: As consent calendar Item 7, the City Council was expected to adopt a resolution confirming a “go slow” approach to the General Plan Update, with 2018 being largely devoted to listening and educating, with any actual update starting only after that is completed.  Instead, the Council unexpectedly changed direction, with Council member Scott Peotter encouraging staff to prepare an alternative resolution (available only to the public attending in person) putting off the start of the staff-facilitated “listen and learn” workshops, that it had been agreed should precede a GPU, until 2019.  As a result of Resolution No. 2018-7, no staff activity at all on the GPU is expected during calendar year 2018.

February 8, 2018 – CANCELLED: The Planning Commission was expected to hold a meeting (agenda here) devoted entirely (because of postponement of the night’s two hearing items) to a discussion of property development standards (including what to do about “mansionization”) in the Cliff Haven area (the blufftop neighborhood between Newport Harbor High and PCH).  Despite having received numerous messages of interest, City staff announced (just a few hours before it was scheduled to begin) that the February 8 Planning Commission meeting would not be held. Supposedly, staff decided not to address Cliff Haven separately, but to include it in a broader investigation of similar concerns citywide, in some forum yet to be determined (but apparently not involving the Planning Commission).

January 29, 2018:  At a special Monday evening annual Planning Session held at Marina Park, after receiving a PowerPoint on the subject, the City Council discussed if and when to embark on a General Plan Update.  The Council’s direction (modified slightly on February 13) appeared to be for staff to embark soon on a program of listening to the public (“with an educational component”), but not hire consultants and launch a full-blown update until state housing requirements for the near future are better understood.

January 13, 2018: A capacity crowd met at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station for the third meeting of SPON’s independent citizens GPAC group.  Through its GPAC working group SPON hopes to create an informed  citizenry to participate in and influence the General Plan Update outcome, as well as to produce citizen-driven alternatives for conduct of the update process. At this third meeting the participating citizens pored over maps of the city, identifying areas where current General Plan policies appear to be working, and identifying areas where improvement is needed.

December 2, 2017:   SPON’s independent citizens GPAC group held its second meeting at the Santa Ana Heights Fire Station from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.  The group generally agreed that a update to the General Plan is needed, and will assist SPON in formulating a letter to the City to that effect. The resulting letter was approved by the SPON Board and sent to the City on December 11.

November 18, 2017:  As was apparent from Measure Y, SPON anticipates that City staff and Council may have a vision and goals for the future of the City that diverge markedly from the views held by a majority of residents, and even business owners.  As a result, SPON convened a meeting of interested citizens, calling themselves the SPON GPAC, to review what happened on November 14 and assess interest in creating an independent, truly citizens advisory panel to monitor developments and attempt to keep the City’s process on a track residents approve of.  Such true independent citizens’ oversight was lacking from previous GPU efforts in Newport Beach.  The response was a enthusiastic, and a second meeting will be held on Saturday, December 2.

November 14, 2017: Based on the City’s announcement, formal initiation of a General Plan update process was expected to come at the November 14, 2017, City Council meeting. A discussion of staff’s update proposal was expected at an afternoon public “study session” (see Item SS3, PowerPoint and video) followed by action at the regular evening meeting (Item 18).  A staff team leading the effort was also announced.  It was to consist of Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis, former Principal Planner and newly-appointed Deputy Director Jim Campbell and Associate Planner Ben Zdeba, and in addition to outside consultants, the larger plan involved the appointment of a Steering Committee (to consist of Council members O’Neill and Herdman and former Council member Nancy Gardner) and a citizens advisory committee (“GPAC”) chaired by Ms. Gardner and consisting of 4 Commissioners and up to 25 community members (it might be noted that it is unusual for City staff to specify who the City Council should appoint).

Largely rejecting staff’s recommendations, the Council instead leaned toward a slower and more deliberate evaluation of the current situation before launching into a major and costly update process.  That alternative approach might include creation of a “Blue Ribbon Committee” to consider the need for an update and explore options for conducting it, but no final decisions were made on November 14.  Staff’s initial suggestion for the alternate exploratory committee was for one consisting of 10 members:  a resident or business owner from each of the City’s seven Council districts, plus a member of a board or commission plus two Council members.  Although it was originally thought a variation of that alternative might be coming back for consideration by the Council as early as November 28, it now looks like that will not be happening until next year.

June 13, 2017: Funding for the update ($1 million in the first year, with at least another $1 million expected in later years) was allocated, without much discussion or direction, in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017.

May 18, 2017: At the Corona del Mar Residents Association‘s May 18, 2017, meeting, the City’s then Community Development Director, Kimberly Brandt, and then Deputy Director, Brenda Wisneski, gave a presentation entitled “Local Coastal Plan Amendments (Shoreline Properties) & future General Plan Update Project” (see the agenda). As part of the latter presentation, they distributed a flyer describing their vision of the GPU project. Although most of this has not yet been approved by the City Council, the flyer indicates staff sees the present calendar year being used to select an outside consultant and appoint an Advisory Committee. Work on actually revising the General Plan would begin in January 2018, with adoption expected in March or April 2020. Although funding for Year 1 was subsequently approved, Ms. Brandt retired on July 28, and Ms. Wisneski left to accept a job in another city at the end of September, which may delay the plans as new staff is put in place. As of late September, the new Community Development Director, Seimone Jurjis (former Deputy Director overseeing the Building Division), has indicated a Request for Proposals for consultants is being prepared, but will be submitted to the City Council for review and approval before actually being posted.

February 16, 2017:  Incoming Mayor Kevin Muldoon announced a General Plan Update as a major priority for the coming year in his speech at Speak Up Newport’s 36th annual Mayor’s Dinner (City video here).

February 14, 2017: City Manager Dave Kiff described a proposal for a General Plan Update in a PowerPoint slide presented at a Council study session regarding the upcoming budget.

News Coverage

City Document Links

  • A set of City webpages regarding the General Plan Update has been posted and should be consulted for the City’s latest official news about the process.
  • Existing Newport Beach General Plan (note: although originally adopted in 2006, and subsequently amended as indicated in these files, the land use allocations shown on the maps and in the land use tables may have been altered by transfers and conversions not reflected in these documents,  As an example, one is not likely to find authorization for a PIMCO tower or Irvine Company headquarters building in it.)
  • The Environmental Impact Report prepared in connection with the 2006 update.  See particularly “Volume 1A,” which is the Final EIR which contains tables showing how the “EIR project” was scaled down during the hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council.  Additionally, although not available online, the reference shelves of the Newport Beach Central Library include a binder of Technical Background Studies that supported the 2006 General Plan.  The City is also known to have agendas, minutes and meeting materials from the hearings held during development of the 2006 General Plan, but aside from those before the Planning Commission and City Council they have not been made accessible online.
  • City Manager’s February 2017 PowerPoint slide requesting $1 million budget allocation for first year of update (approved with overall budget in June)
  • May 2017 Community Development Department flyer describing City staff’s vision for possible update

Additional documents divulged in response to a September 2017 Public Records Act request:

Earlier Newport Beach General Plan documents

Newport Beach has had a General Plan (originally called a “Master Plan”) since at least 1958, with major revisions in 1973/4, 1988 and 2006.  At least the last three of these led to extensive revisions to the detailed Zoning Code regulations which implement the General Plan (the Zoning Code is currently Title 20 of the Municipal Code),

In parallel, but separate from this, and responding to  a separate state mandate, Newport Beach has a Coastal Land Use Plan additionally controlling development in the roughly half of the City in the Coastal Zone.  This was first adopted by Council Resolution 82-25 in 1982.  The CLUP underwent major revisions in 2005 (with Resolution 2005-64) and again in 2009 (with Resolution 2009-53).  Only in January 2017 did the City receive certification of the Implementation Plan portion of the Local Coastal Program, which now exists as Title 21 of the Municipal Code. Title 21 largely mirrors the Zoning Code (Title 20), but gives the City the authority to issue most Coastal Development Permits.

  • Newport Beach appears to have first contracted with a consultant to develop a “Master Plan” in April 1956 (Resolution 4486)
  • That plan, addressing  Land Use, Streets and Highways, and Parks and Recreation, was adopted by Resolution 4728 at the City Council’s January 13, 1958, meeting (see minutes).   However, the plan itself does not appear to have been preserved.
  • In 1969 the City Council endorsed a “Newport Tomorrow” visioning process, involving a consultant, a steering committee and “84 public spirited citizens.”  In 10 months, the process generated a report used as the vision for the City’s first General Plan in the modern sense mandated by the state legislature.  The Newport Beach Central Library has preserved a copy in its reference/historical collection, and we have posted a scanned copy (here) for those interested in reading it.  Responding to new state requirements for more formal, comprehensive planning, the City Council officially received the Newport Tomorrow report with Resolution 7172 on April 13, 1970, and although generally accepting it as the basis for general plan, rejected at least four specific proposals:  (1) an annexation policy, (2) a high-rise development policy, (3) a design review board, and (4) creation of a body to pursue “townscape planning goals.”
    • The General Plan resulting from the Newport Tomorrow effort was adopted in pieces between 1973 and 1974.  For example, the Land Use Element was adopted by Resolution 7968 (May 29, 1973) while the Circulation Element was adopted by Resolution 8206 (March 11, 1974).  Unfortunately, the resolutions reference documents “on file in the City Clerk’s office,” which may or may not have been preserved for posterity.
    • The 1973 Land Use Element triggered a comprehensive update of the Zoning Code, the results of which, including the new code, can be seen in Ordinance No. 1657, adopted in 1976.
  • The next major revision of the General Plan came in 1988, with adoption of a new Land Use Element with Resolution 88-100 and a new Circulation Element with Resolution 88-101.  In this case, the full documents have been posted with the resolutions, and can be viewed at these links.
    • As described in Resolution 88-100, the 1988 update process, which began in February 1987 and was completed on October 24, 1988, does not seem to have involved “visioning.”  Instead, staff appears to have prepared the updates over a period of about a year, after which they were vetted with stakeholder groups by a small committee of Council members, followed by hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council.
    • The new Land Use Element defined, described allowable development in, and set limits for each of a large number of “statistical areas” — which became the conceptual basis for controlling future growth in the citizens’ Greenlight initiative of 2000, adopting City Charter Section 423.  As detailed in Resolution 2000-98, Greenlight (“Measure S”) was adopted by a 63% margin despite vigorous opposition from development interests, which pushed an opposing “Measure T” (that lost by an equally large margin).
    • The revised Zoning Code that resulted from the 1988 update was adopted by Ordinance No. 97-9 and can be seen at that link.
  • The current General Plan followed on the heels of Greenlight.
    • A new “visioning” process, officially lasting 10 months, started with the production by an outside consultant, in November 2001, of the booklet “Newport Beach: current conditions, future choices: step up to the future!” (see scanned copy on Dropbox) and culminated in a November 16, 2002, “Visioning Summit” as detailed in the consultant’s report to Council (see January 28, 2003, Study Session Item SS2).
    • The 2000-2006 GPU process involved a General Plan Update Committee (“GPUC,” initially created by Resolution 2000-45, with several later revisions)  interposed between the Council and a larger citizens General Plan Advisory Committee (“GPAC,” created by Resolution 2001-22), very similar to what is currently being proposed, except that the visioning and updating were performed by two different outside consultants.
    • The new draft General Plan was adopted by the City Council with Resolution 2006-76 on July 25, 2006, contingent on voters “giving the Greenlight” to the new development limit tables.  That question was submitted to the County Registrar via Resolution 2006-77, and voted on as “Measure V” the following November 7.  Based, perhaps in part, on the City Attorney’s analysis, it passed by a narrow 53.6% margin (see Resolution 2006-103).
    • The revised Zoning Code that resulted from the 2006 General Plan update was adopted by Ordinance No. 2010-21 and can be seen at that link.  It was accompanied by a Summary of Changes (relative to the prior Zoning Code) prepared by the Planning Division.
  • Several of the General Plan elements have been amended or replaced in subsequent years, resulting in the plan currently presented on-line.
    • While the many changes have been made to the development limits allowed by the Land Use Element (see City’s list of General Plan Amendments), no changes appear to have been made to the underlying Land Use Element text and policies adopted by the Council in 2006.
    • The policy changes proposed as part of the 2013 through 2014 attempt to update the Land Use Element, culminating in Measure Y, seem to have been abandoned when voters, by a 69.2% margin, rejected the changes to development limits that went with them.

Prehistory of General Plans in Newport Beach

In 1923, Newport Beach adopted a cryptic Ordinance No. 247 creating a City Planning Commission, although the group does not appear to have actually been empaneled and functional until May 1926 (per the first minutes, the initial body agreeing to discuss business over dinner at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club shortly before the Monday evening City Council meetings).  As new state laws were adopted, the existing Planning Commission was reaffirmed as the relevant review body in Newport Beach — Ordinance No. 349 (1928) and Ordinance No. 430 (1935) — the latter being in response to the “Planning Act” of 1929, which called for “establishment of official master plans.”

The City’s first master plan in the 1929 sense was duly adopted in January 1936 by Ordinance No. 440, created with the assistance of consultant L. Deming Tilton (a prominent land use planner of the era).  It established land classifications and “districts,” and is essentially equivalent to what would today be called a Zoning Code.  The stated reasons for adopting it were: “(1) to secure for the citizens of the City of Newport Beach the social and economical advantages resulting from an orderly, planned use of Its land resources, (2) to provide a definite, official land-use plan  for the City of Newport Beach and 3) to guide, control and regulate the future growth and development of said City in accordance with said plan.”

A new Zoning Code was adopted at the end of 1950 with Ordinance No. 635.

Non-City Links

  • General Plan Guidelines (2017) : recently revised version of the definitive guide to requirements for General Plan elements from the California State Office of Planning and Research (the agency that oversees General Plans in California)
  • General Plans and Zoning (2007) : a very useful and readable “outsiders” overview of California land use regulation, including General Plans and Zoning Codes, prepared by the California Department of Health Services, specifically for those interested in pursuing healthy living initiatives.
  • Orange County General Plan Resource Directory (2011) : publication from Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks highlighting desirable policies from General Plans in Orange County (and other parts of California).  Includes more general information on General Plans and planning in general, with a focus on creating sustainable communities.
  • Land Use 101 (2015) :  detailed citations to the legal authority (and limitations) of California land use planning, prepared by the  of the San Luis Obispo City Attorney.
  • Land Use and Planning (2010) : useful overview publication from California’s Institute for Local Government.
  • 150 Years of Land Use (A Brief History of Land Use Regulation, 1999) : a private attorney’s view of the tug-of-war between development and regulation in California, and its status circa 2000.
  • General Plan Overview :  FAQ handout about General Plans from the December 2, 2017, SPON GPAC meeting.

Other Helpful Links

SPON letter to City Council urging General Plan Update (December 11, 2017).

Links to videos of comments on 2006 General Plan Update process

  • July 25, 2006 City Council meeting (where the Council voted to approve the GPU as Item 18 and put the Greenlight tables on the ballot as Item 21).
    • Allan Beek speaks at 2:17:50.
    • Dolores Otting supports Allan about the GPU circumventing Greenlight at 2:23:40
    • Larry Porter speaks about the City’s failure to address water and climate change starting at 2:26:50, saying with regard to the EIR, “don’t certify this false document” at 2:31.
    • Elaine Linhoff talks at 2:31:15 about moving housing from Banning Ranch, where it won’t happen, to Mariner’s Mile, where it will.
    • Sandy Genis comments on (with regard the EIR numbers) “that’s magic” at 2:36:55, about the “special qualities of Newport Beach” at 2:37:45, and “why change that?” at 2:38:30.
    • Jan Vandersloot notes his 4 years on GPAC at 2:38:45, that the measure being proposed is a “developer’s wish list” at 2:43:20, and recommends keeping the old plan at 2:43:20.
    • Nancy Gardner (chair of the Council-appointed GPAC) rebuts the other public speakers at 2:43:50, proclaiming the GPU is good because it will add “workforce housing” to the Airport Area.
    • Phil Arst starts at 2:45:40 and returns at 5:06:15 (for Item 21, where he accuses last minute changes to the ballot wording as changing it into a “marketing message” — which the opponents weren’t allowed in their Greenlight II).
    • At 2:47:20 he charges the ballot measure is a violation of the Charter because it claims it will given voter approval to all previous non-voter-approved amendments — but Charter Section 423 requires each amendment to be voted on separately. At 2:48:45 he attributes the purported “reductions” to comparing the projections to “phantom trips” that would never have happened under the existing plan.
  • June 13, 2006 City Council meeting.
    • Phil Arst speaks starting at 3:38:20 and ticks off a litany of problems with it. It assumes a 19th St bridge when there will be none (3:40:50), the measure would arbitrarily increase the allowable floor area ratio in CdM (possibly allowing the present mansionization?, 3:41:20), it adds sloped parts of a lot to the “buildable area” (even though it’s not buildable) thereby increasing the development allowed (3:42:50), it introduces new, out-of-character extremely dense housing categories for no apparent reason (3:43:15) and it is a fatally flawed EIR (3:44:10).
  • May 9, 2006 City Council meeting.
    • Jan Vandersloot comes to the podium at 3:23:30 to comment on Item 17, despite Mayor Don Webb giving him condescending looks.
    • Jan argues there is no way the proposal to add mixed use housing to the harbor side of Mariner’s Mile could decrease traffic, and their action to allow it will be completely contrary to what the residents of Newport Heights want.
    • At 3:23:30, Councilman Rosansky agrees with Jan, saying the GPU will make Newport Beach like the housing being added in Costa Mesa, and offers an amendment to remove the housing. He can’t get a second, but warns Webb his constituents will be mad.
    • Jan is allowed a rejoinder at 3:28:45, accusing the analysis of the GPU to be based on “sleight of hand,” and at 3:29:40 that if they do this, they “will have a fight.”

Newport Village

Newport Village — as of November 2019
EIR being prepared

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. The City Council awarded a contract on September 24. A public “scoping meeting” to develop topics to be covered in the EIR was held on November 20. Additional written comments on the scope of the EIR could be submitted in writing through December 9. The EIR is presumably now being prepared by the City’s consultant.

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.


  • Summer 2020: According to the City’s web page, this is the likely time at which the EIR will be released for public comment.
  • Fall 2020: Hearings before Planning Commission and, if appealed, the City Council.

Recent Events:

December 9, 2019: was the deadline to submit written EIR Scoping comments. According to the notice, written comments on topics that need to be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report can be submitted through the close of business. No information about the proposal, other than that in the notice, has been officially posted.

November 20, 2019: About 40 people attending an EIR Scoping Meeting in the Community Room at the Civic Center. See Notice here.

November 11, 2019: The developer held a well-attended evening public outreach meeting in his property at 2429 West Coast Highway, adjacent to A’maree’s. He showed posters illustrating the plans and simulations of the completed buildings, and answered questions from the audience. See announcement here.

September 24, 2019:  As Item 13 on their agenda, the City Council awarded a contract to the outside firm Psomas to prepare an Environmental Impact Report. They were chosen 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 development proposal to the public.

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.

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2607 Ocean Blvd

2607 Ocean Blvd as of December 2019:

Application withdrawn to avoid unanimous rejection by Coastal Commission

Latest News:  A modified project was approved by the Planning Commission on December 7, 2017.  After fruitless attempts to get the City Council to review the compliance of the Planning Commission’s decision with the City’s Local Coastal Program (LCP), a free appeal was submitted to the California Coastal Commission on January 21, 2018.  A CCC determination of whether the City’s approval raised “substantial issues” of statewide significance was originally scheduled for the CCC’s March 7 meeting in the Oxnard Harbor District offices, Port Hueneme, but was postponed at the last minute.  The determination was finally made as Item F22a at the August 10, 2018, meeting in Redondo Beach, where, in response to a new staff report, supporting exhibits and correspondence, the twelve commissioners voted unanimously to find “substantial issue” and directed staff to schedule a full hearing on the application at future meeting (date to be determined). A hearing was finally scheduled as Item 15b on the Commission’s agenda for December 12, 2019, in Calabasas. Coastal Commission staff recommended approval with very minor modifications but, it became evident the Commission was going to vote unanimously to reject the project, prompting the proponents to withdraw the application, terminating their proposal.

Project Overview:  This proposal for a multi-story replacement, with rooftop pool and living area, of the small existing single family residence on the bluff face adjacent to the China Cove Ramp in Corona del Mar has drawn considerable public interest.

Why We Are Watching: This is the first time the Planning Commission has been asked to review an application for a Coastal Development Permit.  This particular application requests numerous “variances” from the City’s normal development standards (none of which are currently allowed for CDP’s) and, as approved, would cause a permanent loss of public views from the ramp, which are supposed to be protected by the City’s Local Coastal Program, as well as permanently destroy a currently undeveloped portion of the China Cove bluff face and fence off public access to the City land at the top of the property, between it and Ocean Blvd, which would otherwise have potential as a public view spot.  Aside from these Coastal Act issues (the Coastal Act, though the local LCP, is supposed to protect, for all Californians, coastal views, coastal landforms and public access to them), it is regarded by many as an example of a disturbing trend toward “mansionization,” out of tune with the City’s existing character.  It is also an example of people buying properties and expecting to get an easy approval from the City to build something on it not allowed by the existing City codes and policies.


  • No upcoming events are currently scheduled, the proponents having withdrawn their application in view of imminent rejection by the California Coastal Commission.
  • Technically, the proponents still have the local variance approvals granted by the City on December 7, 2017, but they cannot use that to build anything without a Coastal Development Permit — which would require an entirely new application.

Recent Events

  • December 12, 2019:  A hearing on this item was finally held as Item 15b on the Commission’s Thursday agenda for its meeting in Calabasas.  Coastal staff recommended approval with some trivial changes to the project: lowering the glass privacy screen by 6 inches, reducing a projecting deck by 41 square feet and removing a gate blocking access to public property.  See staff report, exhibits, correspondence and the Coastal staff’s response in the form of an addendum (rejecting the concerns expressed in the correspondence and continuing to recommend approval). Despite this, it became apparent the Commission was going to vote unanimously to reject the application, prompting the proponents to withdraw it — effectively terminating the present process. Withdrawing allows them to submit a new application — something they would have been allowed to do for one year if the vote to deny had been completed. The item starts at 5:18:30 in the Coastal Commission video, The applicant’s slide at 5:21;42 showed obvious visual impacts inconsistent with the Coastal Act.
  • December 10, 2019: Although not on the agenda, some questions about this were asked at the City Council meeting.
  • November 27, 2019: Coastal staff posts its report recommending approval of the project with minor modifications.
  • November 25, 2019: Coastal staff mails notices to those who had previously contacted them about the project announcing a hearing to be held on December 12.
  • November 22, 2019: Coastal staff posts a preliminary online agenda for its December meeting, showing, without further detail, an Item 15b on December 12 regarding an application for 2607 Ocean Boulevard. It is indicated as an “application” rather than an “appeal.”
  • October 23, 2019: The applicant’s new representative, who happens to be the former Newport Beach Assistant City Attorney who advised City staff and the Planning Commission during the 2017 local hearings, sends a letter to Coastal staff touting three “positive developments” that should justify approval: (1) the deck and glass wall have been marginally reduced, (2) the Coastal Commission has allowed variances to its development standards, and (3) the applicant is offering $50,000 if the project is approved.
  • October 8, 2019:  City staff sends a letter to Coastal staff, reaffirming its support, and indicating that if the project is built, the applicant has offered to donate $50,000 to the City to improve public views and access elsewhere in the city.
  • September 16, 2019: The developer, on behalf of the applicant, asks the appellant, in view of “community outreach and support,” to withdraw the appeal so they can go ahead with their project.
  • July 24, 2019: Approximately 14 residents meet with the developer and City staff at the home of a resident overlooking the site. The meeting appears to have been intended to garner support for the project, although it was announced no changes to the plans had been made.
  • January 8, 2019:  CCC staff reportedly visited the site to view the story poles and other features at the invitation of the applicant.
  • December 12, 2018: On a 7:3 vote, with Commissioners Escalante, Groom and Howell voting “no,” the Coastal Commission, as Item W24b at its meeting in the Newport Beach City Council Chambers, approved major amendments to the City’s LCP, including allowing the City, among other things, to grant variances to the certified development standards. The City Council accepted them on February 12 and 26, 2019, and the Coastal Commission certified them on April 11.
  • September 17, 2018: CCC staff issues official notice that “substantial issue” was found at August 10 meeting.  At the time of the notice, a hearing date for the appeal had not been set.
  • August 10, 2018:  As Item F22a on the agenda for the CCC’s Friday meeting in Redondo Beach, the Commission voted 12:0 to find the appeal raised sufficient issues of statewide significance to merit the holding of a full hearing on the proposed development.
    • The hearing was confined to the question of whether the appeal raises sufficient “substantial issues” with Local Coastal Program compliance to require the scheduling of a full re-hearing of the project before the CCC at a future meeting.  CCC staff recommended the Commission make that finding.
    • A new staff report, supporting exhibits and correspondence (an odd hodgepodge of old and new letters) were posted for public review.
      • Comments to the CCC on them were invited by clicking the “Submit Comment” button following the Item 22a listing on the CCC agenda page, or by sending an email to with the subject line “Public Comment on August 2018 Agenda Item Friday 22a – Appeal No. A-5-NPB-18-0006 (Nicholson Construction, Newport Beach)“.
  • March 14, 2018:  The “story poles (see December 7, 2018, below) have been re-installed.  The reason for this is unknown.
  • March 7, 2018: A hearing on the January 22 appeal of the City’s approval of the Coastal Development Permit for 2607 Ocean Blvd was scheduled as Wednesday Item 11a (“W11a”) during the California Coastal Commission’s March 2018 meeting in Port Hueneme. As explained in the CCC’s Appeals FAQ, that hearing was to have focused on whether the appeal raises “substantial issues” of compliance with the City’s certified LCP. However, that hearing was postponed to a future date.
    • The CCC posting for March 7 consisted of a staff report recommending a finding of substantial issue, and supporting exhibits including a letter from the applicant’s representative opposing the appeal. If the Commissioners agree with CCC staff, the actual hearing on the modifications that would be necessary to bring the project into compliance with the LCP would occur at a later meeting. CCC staff also posted correspondence received in connection with the expected hearing, including a five-page letter from the City attempting to rebut each of the contentions raised in the appeal.
    • The online agenda includes a button to view the meeting remotely, by live stream.
    • It is important to understand that the postponed Item 11a on March 7 was a procedural hearing to accept for future hearing, or deny, the appeal of the City’s approval of the permit for the development.
    • As such, the only issues under consideration on March 7 will be whether there is reason to doubt the City’s approval could be justified under its certified Local Coastal Program, and if there is a question of compliance, whether there is reason to believe the lack of consistency had detrimental effects of enough statewide significance to warrant review by the Coastal Commission.
    • Comments were invited to be submitted to the CCC by email using the “Submit Comment” button following the Item 11a listing on the CCC agenda page, or by sending an email to with subject line “Public Comment on March 2018 Agenda Item Wednesday 11a – Appeal No. A-5-NPB-18-0006 (Nicholson Construction, Newport Beach)“.
    • To be most helpful, comments should be based on an understanding of the CCC staff report, and focus on Coastal Act consistency issues, not local zoning ones (purely local issues being things like whether the design or size matches that of nearby homes, or a statement residents don’t like it). For reference, the overarching goals of the Coastal Act are that all development in the Coastal Zone will, for the benefit of all Californians, and our visitors, be sized and sited to minimize impacts to public coastal views (from and to the ocean), coastal landforms and the public’s ability to freely access them. In reviewing the Newport Beach Planning Commissions decision on 2607 Ocean Blvd, CCC staff found possible issues of inconsistency with all three of these, and comments in support of those findings of inconsistency are especially helpful.
    • As an example, moving the LCP-required setback lines to allow the home to be built lower down the slope, closer to Way Lane (as the present one is), might be consistent with the Coastal Act goal of minimizing impacts to treasured public views. Relaxing the setback requirements to permit construction of home larger than the LCP allows, as the Planning Commission did, is not consistent, since it maximizes impacts to views and landforms.
    • To reach the Coastal Commissioners as part of the posted agenda item, emailed comments had to be sent by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 2.
  • February 23, 2018:  With a hearing on the validity of the appeal scheduled for March 7 in Oxnard/Port Hueneme, CCC staff posts a report recommending a finding of “substantial issue.”
  • January 23, 2018: Notice of Appeal mailed by Coastal Commission staff, ordering the City to forward to them the materials on which the City’s decision was based.
  • January 21, 2018: appeal of City approval filed with California Coastal Commission.
  • January 9, 2018:  City returns December 21 CDP appeal and the appeal of the City’s challenge to it, saying it will take no action on either.
  • January 6, 2018:  City sends a “Notice of Final Action” to the Coastal Commission, triggering the opportunity for an appeal to them, since the project site is within the LCP appeal area (City approvals within that area can be appealed directly to the Coastal Commission if the City charges for local appeals, as it now appears it does).
  • January 5, 2018:  Appellant challenges City threat to reject appeal.
  • January 2, 2018:  City challenges and threatens to reject the December 21 appeal for refusal to pay a $1,536 filing fee, which was claimed due even though it was not mentioned in the notice of the hearing and (unlike for Zoning Code appeals, pursuant to NBMC Sec. 20.64.030.B.2) is not called out in the City’s LCP code.  The claim was the CDP had to be appealed along with any other matters approved at the same hearing, under any other codes, again something not called out in the LCP code, nor even logical since the Coastal Commission routinely rules on the compliance of CDP approvals with an LCP independent of all other local approvals.  The City’s offer to allow the appellant to add an appeal of the variance approval under Title 20 by January 6 was arguably itself illegal, since the original appeal made clear it was not appealing that, and the publicly announced time for filing a Title 20 appeal had ended on December 21.
  • December 21, 2017:  After unsuccessful efforts to get a City Council member to call the Planning Commission’s December 7 decisions up for review, a private citizen filed an Appeal Application for the Coastal Development Permit portion of the approval, only, with the City Clerk, as allowed under Section 4.3 of Resolution 2075.
  • December 7, 2017: The application was heard as Item 5 at the Planning Commission’s December 7 meeting, for which a new staff report was posted. According to the staff report, by eliminating the elevator stop on the roof, the applicant is no longer asking for a deviation from the City and coastal height standards, but still seeks variances to reduce the required setbacks and increase the allowed floor area. It might be noted that heights in Newport Beach are measured from the underlying land, so even though it may not technically be a height variance, allowing the land owner to reduce the setback from Ocean Blvd allows him to build farther up the bluff face, and hence higher. Reducing the setbacks also, in staff’s view, increases the buildable area and allows the land owner to build bigger (that is, allowing more floor area, even without a variance). Also according to the staff report, as suggested by the Planning Commission on Nov. 9, the applicant installed “story poles” (connected by strings and flags representing various key rooflines) on the property from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, illustrating how the proposed construction would impact views. Although the staff report continues to say the poles will disappear on Dec. 1, a later email from the applicant’s representative said the poles will be left in place through Dec. 8. Equally disturbingly, even though view impacts is a major concern with this project, the staff report contains no photos showing what the poles look like from various vantage points, and absolutely no computer simulations of how the actual building will affect existing views.Regarding the Coastal Development Permit issue, City staff clearly knows the City has no authority to grant variances from the recently adopted Local Coastal Program development standards, since they have asked the Coastal Commission for permission to add variance provisions to the LCP Implementation Plan. Coastal Commission staff has informed the City that adding those provisions would constitute a major amendment to the authority granted the City under the IP. To date, no hearings on the matter have yet been scheduled. Until language allowing variances from the LCP is certified, it seems the height of impudence for the City to be exercising an authority it has been clearly notified it has not been granted. At the hearing, staff said the Community Development Director has the authority to interpret the IP, and hence could “interpret” that it allows variances even if it doesn’t say so.  After hearing testimony from the applicant and public, on a motion by Commissioner Bill Dunlap, the Planning Commission voted 4:2 (with Commissioners Weigand and Lowrey voting “no” and Vice Chair Zak absent) to approve the application, provided the “public view obstruction problems” could be solved, apparently largely by using clear glass for the screening around the rooftop pool deck.  The final approval (PC Resolution No. 2075) was for 4,500 total square feet of floor area (including the garage, but not counting the livable roof area) on a lot where the maximum floor area allowed with the code-required setbacks would be 2,865 sf.
  • November 9, 2017:  The application began to be heard as Item 2 at the Newport Beach Planning Commission’s November 9, 2017, meeting (see video), but was continued to December 7.  Commissioners Kramer and Kleiman were inclined to grant the variance requests provided the elevator was moved back to the Ocean Blvd side of the property (where, although reaching exactly the same top elevation, it is technically less tall since its “height” is measured from a higher point on the slope.   The remaining Commissioners appeared to have problems with the project and asked the applicant to come back with something better.  Vice Chair Zak expressed the opinion that relaxing setback requirements should not serve as an excuse to use the resulting larger buildable area to justify a corresponding increase in floor area .

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Koll Center Residences

Koll Center Residences . . . as of October 2019
Project being redesigned; not expected to return to Planning Commission for a year

Latest News:  After determining that four Planning Commissioners had financial conflicts of interest that would normally prohibit them from taking part in discussions about this project, a little-known provision of state law was used whereby at their September 13 meeting the four “drew lots” to select one to join the three unconflicted Commissioners in order to have a quorum available to hear the Koll Center Residences proposal. The long-awaited Study Session (which had started on January 18, 2018), was then re-scheduled for November 8 at 5:00 p.m.   — however, even that plan had to be cancelled due to the resignation on September 25 of Planning Commission Secretary Bill Dunlap (one of the four members needed to hear the Koll application). With a new Commissioner having been appointed, the study session was held on January 31.  However, given community pushback, the owners appear to have decided to completely redesign the project. Based on City staff comments made at the October 3 Planning Commission meeting, a new application that will require a new EIR is expected, so the matter is not expected to return to the Commission for at least a year (see “Recent Events,” below).

Project Overview:  The Koll Center Residences is a proposal to add 260 luxury condominium residences in three 160 foot tall towers in what is now the surface parking lot of an office campus near the corner of Jamboree and Birch in the Airport Area.  See the city web page devoted to this project for further details and links to additional documents.  The towers are described on that page, and in the EIR, as “13 stories” but they appear to be 13 stories of residential on top of two of above-ground parking, for a total of 15.

Why We Are Watching:  This project raises multiple issues about height, density, and compatibility with neighboring uses, including the viability of the current General Plan’s vision for adding residential uses to the Airport Area, and whether it is being properly implemented.  SPON feels the project is out of character with the office park environment in which it is being proposed, and that any further consideration of it should be deferred until the pending General Plan Update has been completed — hopefully providing a clearer and better thought out vision for the future of the Airport Area.


  • A new application for a redesigned project, requiring a new EIR, is expected, but has not yet been submitted. As a result, it is likely it will be at least a year before  the matter returns to the Planning Commission for them to make a recommendation to the City Council.
  • The park component of the project will likely need to go to the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission for their advice to the Council.  Again, a date for that is not yet known.
  • If the Newport Planning Commission recommends approval, the project will go to the County’s Airport Land Use Commission for their finding of its consistency or inconsistency with airport planning.
  • The final decision on the project will lie with the City Council.

Recent Events:

October 3, 2019:  In a status update to the Planning Commission, Deputy Community Development Director Jim Campbell indicated the proponents are redesigning the project. This will likely require a new application and a completely new EIR.  As a result, the project is not expected to return to the Planning Commission for approximately one year. See the video starting at 39:50.

January 31, 2019:  The Planning Commission held a special study session on  the project application, starting at  4:30 p.m. (see public notice and video).  Agenda and staff report here.

In yet a another twist, the newly-appointed Planning Commissioner, Curtis Ellmore, revealed that his real estate company leases a building at 5000 Birch, adjacent to the project.  As a result, he and three of the other conflicted Commissioners drew cards to decide who among them would hear the matter.  Commissioner Lee Lowrey (who is conflicted because of a membership interest in the adjacent Pacific Club) was selected by the random process.

The study session continued with Commissioners Zak, Koetting, Weigand and Lowrey listening to comments from staff, the applicant’s team and members of the public.  At the end of the meeting, the applicant, Bill Shopoff, said he would “make some adjustments” based on what he’d heard.

A good way to prepare for the study session was to review the comment letters received regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report, and the City’s responses to them, which, due to the long delay have been available for more than a year, now. The new staff report referenced the report posted in 2018 as well as additional letters received since then. Still more letters, pro and con, were received in connection with the January 31 meeting.

January 17, 2019:  Staff obtains Planning Commission agreement to change previously announced January 31 study session time from 6:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

November 27, 2018:  The City Council appoints Curtis Ellmore to fill the vacancy on the Planning Commission.

November 8, 2018:  The 5:00 p.m. re-do of the Study Session (that originally began on January 18) was cancelled due to the unexpected resignation (on September 25) of Bill Dunlap, one of the four Planning Commissioners needed to hear the application.

September 25, 2018:  Planning Commission Secretary Bill Dunlap, one of the four Commissioners constituting the quorum expected to hear the Koll Center Residences application, submitted a letter of resignation, informing the City medical issues forced him to leave the Commission.  The City clerk has since posted a vacancy notice.

September 13, 2018:  The City needs a quorum of four Planning Commissioners to take action on the Koll Center Residences proposal.  However, four of the current Commissioners — including the previously announced Commissioner Kramer — were found to have financial conflicts of interest that would normally prevent them from discussing the matter.  That left only three who could vote, which is less than a quorum.  In such a circumstance, a rarely-used provision in California’s ethics laws allows a quorum be be achieved by adding a conflicted Commissioner to the decision-making panel by a “drawing of lots.”  This was done at the Commission’s September 13 meeting, with Chair Peter Zak (who has an interest in a business with offices across Von Karman from the project site) drawing the “winning” card. The panel hearing the Koll Center Residences application will thus consist of Dunlap, Koetting, Weigand and Zak.

May 31, 2018:  The four Commissioners who are allowed to hear the Koll proposal (Koetting, Dunlap, Kramer and Weigand) were expected to meet for a special afternoon public study session about the project.  However, the meeting was canceled, purportedly due to an inability to to assemble a quorum, and needs to be rescheduled.  A new date has not yet been set.

May 24, 2018:  The City announced the long-planned May 31 study session has been canceled.  Speculation is that one of the four Commissioners needed to hear the matter learned he would have been unable to attend.  This likely will change the timing of the previously-announced June 21 hearing date, as well.

March 22, 2018:  In his report to the Planning Commission at the end of their meeting, the Community Development Director selected May 31 at 4:00 p.m. as the date and time for a study session on the Koll Center Residences proposal. Of several dates suggested, it was one of the few on which the four Commissioners able (and needed) to hear the matter thought they could get together.  The Director said the PC hearing on the application would come on June 21.

January 18, 2018 @ 6:30 p.m.: The Newport Beach Planning Commission started to hold a public study session on the project, long deferred from the date that had been scheduled and announced in the DEIR:  October 19, 2017. The staff report included responses to the comments on the Draft EIR received on or before November 13, 2017.  However, after a brief staff report, and introductory comments, the applicant asked for the session to be postponed due to uncertainty over which Planning Commissioners would ultimately be able to vote on the matter (several of them having financial conflicts of interest).  A video of the meeting is available, with the Koll Center Residences segment running for about 17 minutes starting at 1:43.  At 1:55:50 the Assistant City Attorney makes the announcement that one more of the Commissioners had to leave the room due to a potential financial conflict of interest. The discussion about future scheduling conflicts begins at 2:06:45.

January 9, 2018Responses to the public’s comments on the DEIR were posted on the City website.

November 13, 2017 @ 5:00 p.m.:  Due date for written comments regarding the accuracy and adequacy of the DEIR. In the Final EIR, the City is required to provide written responses to comments submitted by this deadline. Comments about deficiencies in the EIR can continue to be made up until the final project approval by the City Council. However, there is no legal requirement for a formal response to comments submitted after November 13.

October 31, 2017:  As promised at the previous night’s developer presentation, the City amended its DEIR comment extension notice to indicate written comments on the adequacy of the DEIR will be accepted through November 10 (later corrected, in view of the City Hall being closed on that date, to the next business day, November 13).

October 30, 2017:  At the City’s invitation the developer provided a roughly hour-long presentation about the project in the Friends Room at the Central Library, followed by questions and answers (but not comments) from the audience. SPON feels this City-invited sales pitch was a poor substitute for the more objective and on-record study session before the Planning Commission that had been previously announced (but cancelled without explanation) during the period the public is expected to comment on the Draft EIR. At this meeting, City staff announced the public comment period would be extended an additional seven days, to November 10, and that a Planning Commission study session on the project had been set for January 18, 2018. There was also an understanding that the developers PowerPoint would be made available on the City’s website.

October 18, 2017:  City announced extension of due date for written comments on the DEIR from October 27 to a new deadline of November 3 at 5:00 pm.  City also announced a “public forum” to be provided by the developer on October 30.  This is a substitute for the October 19 public study session before the Planning Commission which had been announced with release of the DEIR, but cancelled without explanation.

September 13, 2017:  The Draft EIR was released for public review. Comments submitted by October 27 will receive a written response in the Final EIR.  The public can continue to comment on the EIR until such time as it is certified, but the City is not required to provide a formal response to comments made after October 27.  Further details are available in the City’s announcement.

January 18, 2017: A scoping meeting for the project’s Environmental Impact Report was held  with comments due by February 2.

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Port Master Plan

Coastal Commission opposes AB-1196; Council withdraws support

Latest News
Project Overview
Why We’re Watching
Recent Events
A few of the problems with AB-2464 and AB-1196
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Latest News: At their April 12 meeting in Redondo Beach, the California Coastal Commission voted 9:3 to take a formal position opposing AB-1196, the City’s bill proposing to amend the Coastal Act to add Newport Beach to the list of specially privileged coastal ports.  See the video of the meeting, starting at 1:41:20.  With the CCC opposition in mind, the City Council considered its next steps as Item 10 on its April 24 agenda.  The Council chose to terminate the contract the it had with an outside consultant to promote the bill.  As a result the effort to promote a Port Master Plan for Newport Beach appears to be dead for the moment.

Project Overview: This is a proposal to amend the state’s Coastal Act to add Newport Beach to the list of coastal deepwater industrial “ports” authorized to locally approve permits for activities over which the California Coastal Commission would normally have “original jurisdiction,” including, it is claimed, harbor dredging and and the construction and modification of piers over public waters.  This would be accomplished via adherence to a detailed “Port Master Plan” — a document each commercial seaport named in the Act is required to prepare and have certified by the Commission.

Why We’re Watching:  Whether or not seeking local control of matters the state legislature has placed in the hands of the Coastal Commission is a laudable goal, or not, this proposal raises serious concerns as to both substance and style.  The legislation, how it would function, and its costs and consequences do not seem to have been well thought out, and the bill itself (AB-2464, now AB-1196) seems to have been developed privately by unknown authors and introduced without any review by the Council.

And bringing the City under an umbrella intended for major commercial seaports seems at best a very awkward fit for Newport Beach.

In contrast to our City, the four entities presently authorized to operate under Port Master Plans were all active state-recognized deep-water shipping centers prior to the Coastal Act and were allowed to continue under somewhat relaxed permitting rules precisely to confine such heavy industrial activity to limited areas along the coast. The kind of commercial activity Port Master Plans were created to control simply doesn’t happen here.

1917 harbor plan

1917 plan for Newport Beach to become a port for Orange County

Since (aside from the Catalina Flyer) there is little, if any, port-like activity in Newport Beach, the proposal to obtain local control of permitting by adding Newport Beach to the list of California’s major seaports seems fanciful.  But whether intentionally or not, it does hark back to an earlier drive, a century ago, to promote Newport as the shipping center for Orange County, which led to the successful 1919 countywide bond issue portrayed in the handbill at the top of the page (intended to implement the 1917 plan, shown at left, to, among other things, dredge a channel to what were expected to be bustling new County wharves and warehouses at the terminus of a rail line coming down what is now Newport Boulevard).


The motion adopted by the City Council on April 24, 2018, directed City staff to “to report back at a future date with alternatives to a Port Master Plan for Newport Harbor that may achieve similar general goals, including a Public Works Plan or a Master CDP for various in-Harbor activities and projects; and … conduct a study session to engage the community and see what can be designed that would be approved by the Coastal Commission.”

To date, nothing more has been heard of the matter, and no funds appear to have budgeted for the effort in Fiscal Year 2018-2019.

The two Assembly bills appear to have “died in committee.”

Recent Events:

April 24, 2018: As Item 10 on its agenda, the City Council was asked to select from a range of options for its contract with Schmitz and Associates for advocacy of AB-1196.  With Council member Herdman absent, Mayor Duffield recused and Council member Peotter opposed, the Council approved a motion by Council member Dixon directing the City Manager to terminate the advocacy contract with lobbyist Don Schmitz and promising to revisit options for the harbor at a future time.

  • The “history” section of the state legislature’s website for AB-2464 originally predicted the bill might be heard by the Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee on March 17, but their next meeting was April 9, and AB-2464 didn’t appear to be on the agenda.
  • Meanwhile, AB-2464 appeared to have been abandoned, and the City was now promoting AB-1196, a nearly identical bill created by “gutting and amending” one already before the Senate.
  • AB-1196 had been assigned to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. Per their schedule, assembly bills will be reviewed on June 12 and June 26. Comments may be sent to the committee and its members. See directions here.

April 19, 2018:  The California Senate Rules Committee referred the new AB-1196 to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water.

April 12, 2018:  After receiving the April 9 staff analysis and hearing public comment on it at their meeting in Redondo Beach, the California Coastal Commission voted 9:3 to oppose AB-1196 .  The vote occurred as part of Item W6c, the Legislative Report trailed from the Wednesday agenda. The Commission’s discussion of AB-1196 (which at several points drew audible laughter from the audience) can be reviewed in the video of the meeting, starting at 1:41:20.  Paid Newport Beach lobbyist Don Schmitz and Council member Scott Peotter asked, unsuccessfully, for a 30 day delay in the Commission’s vote.

April 9, 2018:  California Coastal Commission staff posted an analysis opposing AB-1196 as part of their April Legislative Report, Item W6c, which the agenda said would be “trailed” to April 12.

April 3 @ 5:30 – 6:30 pm: The City’s coastal consultant, Don Schmitz, gave a talk about the proposed Port Master Plan and his prior accomplishments for “our” City to the Marine Committee of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. The presentation was at Marina Park, with a Parking Code of 170434.

April 2, 2018:  AB-1196, as gutted and replaced, was withdrawn from the Government and Finance Committee and sent back to the Senate Rules Committee for assignment to the proper committee for review.

March 27, 2018:  There seems to have been a private reversal of the March 13 direction for Council members Dixon and Peotter to flesh out the details of what the City might expect to accomplish, while City staff issued a Request For Qualifications for a lobbyist, other than Sean Henschel, to promote AB-2464 in Sacramento. As Item 12 on its March 27 agenda (see video), the City Council (by 6:1 with Mayor Pro Tem O’Neill casting the NO vote) approved a six month $120,000 contract with consultant Don Schmitz ($16,000 per month, including $32,000 on signing for work already performed) to promote legislation adding a still-to-be-defined “Port of Newport Beach” to the list of commercial seaports required to create a Port Master Plan under the Coastal Act. Mr. Schmitz was present and provided clarifications of the proposal “we” would be promoting. He said that although called a “port plan” it would apply only to the water portions of Newport Harbor, and that the principal reason for wanting it is that it would ensure local approvals for development in the harbor could not be appealed to the Coastal Commission.  At the meeting, it was also announced that the City is now promoting AB-1196 which seems to have replaced the earlier AB-2464, although the status of AB-2464 is unclear, since it does not seem to have been formally withdrawn. As to AB-1196, Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva is an additional co-author, along with Assembly Member Harper and State Senator Moorlach.

March 22, 2018:  An earlier, failed bill by Assemblyman Harper, AB-1196 having to do with the allowable duration of school bonds, stuck in the state Senate Government and Finance Committee, was subjected to the “gut and amend” process, whereby the original text was replaced by something similar, but not identical, to the text of AB-2464.  As explained at the March 27 City Council, this apparently moves the item forward at a faster pace through the legislative review process, since AB-1196 was already in the Senate.

March 16, 2018: City Manager Kiff appears to have arranged a meeting of Herdman with himself, Dixon and former Council member Selich (see email here).

March 15, 2018:  Council member Herdman sent a long email (here) to Council members Peotter and Dixon expressing multiple concerns about the City’s goal and the lack of groundwork leading up to the introduction of the bill.

March 13, 2018:  As Item 16 on the March 13, 2018, agenda (see video), a somewhat befuddled Council (with Mayor Duffield recusing himself) wondered how the legislation got introduced and whether it was something the City wanted, was asked to appropriate $120,000 to fund the first six months, or so, of staff’s effort, the money to go to coastal lobbyist Don Schmitz, and a friend of his, legislative lobbyist Sean Henschel.  The Council as a whole had not previously seen the measure text, but in the staff report, and during the discussion, it was revealed that Schmitz had been working with the City Manager and unidentified Council members (presumably Duffield and Peotter) on this without contract since late 2017. As on February 13, Item 16 was listed on the agenda in such a way that even the most attentive would not have known anything related to the proposal for a Port Master Plan was on it.  The Council did not approve the contract, but instead appointed Council members Dixon and Peotter to act as an ad hoc committee fleshing out what the City wanted to accomplish, while City staff published a Request for Qualifications for a legislative consultant other than Mr. Henschel.

March 9, 2018:  An email (here) from Don Schmitz’ Sacramento associate Sean Henschel updates recipients on a visit by himself and Council member Peotter with Assemblymembers Harper, Quirk-Silva (who agreed to be listed as a co-author), and O’Donnell, and the staff of Assembly Natural Resources Committee,Chairman Muratsuchi and Senator Newman.  Henschel also indicates that “The current version of AB 2464 will be inserted into AB 1196” to delay the date of the legislation’s first committee hearing, which will “allow for additional time to gather co-authors and resolve any policy or political concerns that may arise.”

March 7, 2018: Although the California Coastal Commission’s consent is not required to amend the Coastal Act, their position is often influential. On the first day of each of their monthly meetings, the CCC receives a rstaff report on pending legislation.  The March 7, 2018, Legislative Report, noted the introduction of AB-2464, but did not suggest a position on it.

March 5, 2018:  Don Schmitz reports lobbying Coastal Commissioner Ryan Sundberg by phone (see email here).  He says he told Sundberg “The PMP would result in taking 80 to 90 CDP’s off the workload for the CCC staff on an annual basis.”  The basis of that claim, also made at public meetings in Newport Beach, is unknown.

February 27, 2018:   Council member Dixon appears to have asked for an update on the Port Master Plan, which the City Manager’s Office promises he will do on March 13 (see email here).

February 14, 2018:  Assemblyman Matthew Harper, with coauthor State Senator John Moorlach, introduced Assembly Bill 2464, “An act to amend Section 30700 of the Public Resources Code, relating to ports,” proposing to amend the California Coastal Act of 1976 to add “Newport Beach” to the list of ports in the stated section.

February 14, 2018:  The Harbor Commission chair recommends adding “the creation of a local port plan” as something one of the Commission’s subcommittees should take on.

February 13, 2018:  True to the City Manager’s word, as Item 7 on the Consent Calendar at its February 13 meeting, the Council, knowingly or not, adopted an amended Resolution 2018-7 enumerating a list of “strategies” for 2018 including, among other things, that “City staff shall interface with members of the California State Legislature to encourage the introduction and support of legislation that would permit the creation of a  Port Master Plan ( or similar device) and allow the City to manage Newport Harbor’s infrastructure and activities under the California Coastal Act.”  Taken literally, Resolution 2018-7 took the matter out of the Council’s hands and tasked City staff with formulating and promoting, as it saw fit and without further Council direction, the enactment of state legislation enabling the create of a Port Master Plan, or something similar, for Newport Harbor.

  • Per the video, and minutes, the City Attorney confirmed that Mayor Duffield, who had apparently introduced the idea, would need to recuse himself from this and all future discussion of the Port Master Plan.

February 13, 2018: Prior to the Council meeting, City Manager Kiff sends Council member Peotter by email (here) a “Fact Sheet” that he has edited, describing Assemblyman Harper’s bill.

February 11, 2018:  An email (here) from Council member Will O’Neill to City Manager Kiff mentions O’Neill spoke to former Council member Selich about the Port Master Plan and Selich thinks its a great idea.

January 29, 2018:  As Slide 8 in a presentation about “The Year of the Harbor” at the Council’s  special annual Planning Session, the City Manager mentioned that Mayor Duffield and Councilman Peotter had brought to his attention the fact that the Coastal Act provides for something called a Port Master Plan acting in some ways like a “Water LCP” [Local Coastal Program], that might allow local control of capital efforts in Newport Harbor, although it would likely require state legislation, and a lobbyist for that, and be expensive.  Duffield and Peotter spoke in favor of pursuing the idea, without identifying where they had gotten it.  There was no in depth discussion, and no suggestion that before continuing, a second opinion of some sort, such as a recommendation from the Harbor Commission, might be needed.  Mayor Duffield did explain that the current requirement to obtain permits from the Coastal Commission was cumbersome, time consuming and expensive, depressing the value of waterfront property, and that a Port Master Plan would fix that problem.  At 1:18:25 in the  video, the City Manager says that because they are facing “a legislative deadline” he will bring something back to the Council “on the 13th” authorizing the introduction of a bill, which he believes Assemblyman Matthew Harper will be willing to “carry.”

January 24, 2018: City Manager Dave Kiff forwards to Peotter and Duffield a January 23 email (here) from an employee in Assemblyman Harper’s office apparently expressing concern about a “briefing” memo that seems to have been prepared by Schmitz and Associates noting Coastal Act language saying the four ports listed in the Act should not need to be added to.  Kiff says he’ll be finalizing direction with the Council at their January 29 Planning Session.

January 22, 2018: An email (here) from City Manager Dave Kiff to Council member Peotter asks Peotter to bring the Port Plan up at the Council’s January 29 Saturday Planning Session as part of the “Year of the Harbor,” with an understanding that funds would be freed up if the Council decided not to go ahead with the $1 million General Plan Update, but with uncertainty if Assemblyman Harper still had an opportunity to introduce legislation.

January 10, 2018:  An email (here) from Council member Peotter to the City Manager says Don Schmitz was asking about the status of the “Port Plan.”

Late 2017:  According to page 2 of the staff report presented to the City Council on March 13, 2018, (Item 16) “In late 2017, Council members began working directly with Don Schmitz of Schmitz and Associates to advocate for the Port Master Plan concept and a bill before the Coastal Commission and its staff. ”  The Council members involved appear to have been Duffield and Peotter, and their activities appear to have been unknown and unauthorized by the remainder of the Council.  There has never been an explanation of who first suggested amending the Coastal Act would be good for Newport Beach.

November 28, 2017: City Manager Dave Kiff reports in an email (here) that a contract has been signed with Don Schmitz for Schmitz to assist the City in preparing a Coastal Development Permit for private encroachments onto the the beach at Peninsula Point (the contract in question is C-7217-1).

February 8, 2017: The Harbor Commission Chair asked for a placeholder for a “port plan” in the Harbor spending plan (the Tidelands Capital Plan).

January 11, 2017: In response to a public comment on non-agenda items, the Harbor Commission Chair says “the Local Coastal Plan did not include City authority for structures over the water, extending over the water, in tidelands, etc. A port plan similar to the Local Coastal Plan could be developed in the near future to give that authority to the City.”


In 1972, California voters approved Proposition 20, an initiative enacting the California Coastal Zone Conservation Act, dealing the state’s coastal areas outside San Francisco Bay, and creating a statewide commission and six regional California Coastal Zone Conservation Commissions, tasked with development permitting authority through 1976 as well as the primary task of developing, by the end of 1975, a comprehensive coastal plan for adoption by the state legislature.

The result was the California Coastal Plan of 1975, with some 162 policy recommendations and a systematic mapping of coastal resources. 

Newport Beach lies in Subareas 10 and 11 of the South Coast District as illustrated at left, for which an extensive descriptive text is provided at the link.

The recommendations for the future of the state’s coastal seaports are found in the Water Transportation section.

The Plan concluded that “No new general port areas are required in California for the foreseeable future” provided existing ports are utilized to their full potential.  Hence Policy 116 declares “No new port areas shall be developed outside existing port cities except for possible specialized facilities such as petroleum or liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker terminals and naval facilities.”  The regional terminal facilities recognized in the Plan (Policy 118b) are San Diego, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Port Hueneme, San Francisco Bay-Stockton-Sacramento, Humboldt Bay, and Crescent City.

Although it appears never to have been formally adopted by the legislature, the 1975 Coastal Plan provided guidance for the Coastal Act adopted in 1976.  The 1976 act includes a Chapter 8 giving somewhat relaxed permitting standards (through preparation of a Port Master Plan) to four of the coastal ports.  According to the 1983 book by Sabatier and Mazmanian this seems to have been one of the compromises necessary to get an act passed at all, in this case to reassure the longshoremen’s unions.

A few of the problems with AB-2464 and AB-1196:

  • As introduced, AB-2464 simply adds the two words “Newport Beach” to a list of major seaports in California Public Resources Code Section 30700 (and also seeks a review of whether the City would be eligible for reimbursement of expenses incurred in implementing the new code).  AB-1196 adds four words, but apparently with the same intent.
  • The entities currently listed in Section 30700 (and 30112) are “the Ports of Hueneme, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Diego Unified Port District,” all of which names refer to recognized deepwater shipping port or harbor districts created and empowered by state law prior to the existence of the Coastal Act (which this passage is within).
  • AB-2464 adds a reference to a (at present) mythical “Port of Newport Beach” whose boundaries and governance structure are undefined.
  • Among other problems, the addition of a new port contradicts the legislative finding from 1976 (found in the following Section 30701(b)) that to limit the impacts of maritime commerce to a restricted number of sites “Coastal planning requires no change in the number or location of the established commercial port districts.”  Newport Beach appears to be saying there is a need to create a new commercial port district.
  • The authors also apparently did not notice Section 30112, which explains that “Port governing body — a term used in the Port Master Plan sections —  “means the Board of Harbor Commissioners or Board of Port Commissioners which has authority over the Ports of Hueneme, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Diego Unified Port District.”  That would also have to amended to define exactly who the “port governing body” for the “Port of Newport Beach” is.
  • However, also possibly not understood by the authors of AB-2464, adding a name to the list of ports recognized in the Coastal Act does not by itself create a port or a distinct port (or harbor) district.  Doing so appears to require following one of the mechanisms provided in Division 8 of the state’s Harbors and Navigation Code.  All involve drawing a definite boundary (which generally includes land as well as water) and then, before proceeding, obtaining voter approval from those who would reside in the proposed district. In most cases, extensive additional special state legislation appears to have been required as well (to transfer ownership and other matters).
  • It is unclear if the City, in introducing AB-2464, and now AB-1196, believes such steps would not be needed for a “Port of Newport Beach.”  If the normal steps do apply, adding a port that has not yet been created seems problematic.
  • The authors also seem to have missed Section 30114 of the Coastal Act which says that, other than the four named ports (currently the same list as in Chapter 8), all ports and harbors serving as public transportation facilities are to be treated as “public works.”  If Newport Beach (or Harbor?) wants the same privileges as the big four, it would presumably need to be mentioned in this section.  Otherwise the bill would create an internal conflict within the Act, with Newport named as one kind of port in Chapter 8 and as a different kind in Section 30114.
  • Even the harbors that are merely “public works” are allowed by Section 30605 to pre-submit bundled lists of future projects for certification in a Public Works Plan, after which the Commission’s role is limited to adding additional conditions of approval to the individual projects.
  • Since the Coastal Development Permitting burden on dredging the harbor’s channels is cited as one of the reasons for needing AB-1196, the authors seem also to have missed Section 30610(c), which says that to the extent approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, no Coastal permit is required for “Maintenance dredging of existing navigation channels or moving dredged material from those channels to a disposal area outside the coastal zone,”

SPON posted the following cautions in advance of the March 27, 2018, City Council meeting:

  • This effort, which was offered as a reason for delaying for a year the previously-promised community workshops on the General Plan, would supposedly give the City greater ability to approve development on harbor waters. However, it would require, at a minimum, significant amendments to the state’s Coastal Act and possibly creation of a port district.
  • SPON has concerns about the proposal, the process by which it has been advanced and the suggested consultant.
    • Adding the words “Newport Beach” to the list of ports in Chapter 8 of the Coastal Act does not, by itself, create a “port.”
    • The bill adding Newport Beach to the list, AB-2464, was suggested by unknown parties and introduced in the state legislature with no review by the Council.
    • The ports currently listed in Chapter 8 are listed there, and given special permitting privileges, expressly to confine future heavy maritime commercial activity, such as container terminals, to a limited set of locations along the coast.  Newport Harbor does not fit that description, and the Council has stated it has no intention of the harbor becoming such a site — yet the Council wants “Newport Beach” added to the list.
    • It is disturbing that idea of promoting a Port Master Plan been advanced without any public study or as much as a recommendation from the Council’s own Harbor Commission.
    • It is equally disturbing that the words “Port Master Plan” have never appeared on a City Council agenda.  All Council discussions, including the present one, have been buried under some other heading.
    • The present action contradicts the action taken by the Council at its last meeting, on March 13, where as Item 16 it asked staff to publish a Request for Qualifications for a legislative consultant other than the one now being recommended.
    • Item 12 includes an appropriation of $32,000 to compensate Mr. Schmitz for work he supposedly already performed without contract, although what that work was is not spelled out.
      • That proposal to provide after-the-fact compensation is in questionable compliance with Article XI, Sec. 10(a) of the California Constitution, which suggests the public should be able to trust municipal services will be provided at a price agreed to before work is performed, not after.
        • Even if retroactive payments for non-contracted work were OK, $32,000 seems like a lot for suggesting adding two words to the Coastal Act and promoting the award of a contract for oneself related to that.
      • Although Mr. Schmitz has worked for the City before, many question his tactics and wonder why, if the Port Master Plan, is a good idea the City could not represent itself.
      • At least in promoting himself, Mr. Schmitz appears to have a tendency to exaggerate facts:  in his on-line resume he suggests that “prior to establishing his own consultancy,” he “served as a California Coastal Commission’s South Coast District principal planner on public and private development projects, and coordinator for access and wetlands matters.” Yet the “Education” and “Professional Experience” listed at the end of the same resume suggests he was nothing more than an entry level analyst, fresh out of college and working on a master’s degree at the local state university.
      • After leaving the Commission, in connection with the Sweetwater Mesa project in Malibu, Mr. Schmitz promoted what the then Director said was the most “environmentally devastating” proposal he had seen in 38 years.
      • As exposed by LA Times columnist Steve Lopez, Mr. Schmitz’ ethical radar may be as challenged as his environmental one: an unreported sleepover by a Coastal Commissioner at Mr. Schmitz’ Malibu villa and vineyard contributed to that Commissioner and four others having to stand trial in San Diego.
    • In a March 21 article in the Daily Pilot, Assemblyman Matthew Harper, who introduced the bill, is quoted as saying he expects his fellow Southern California legislators will support the idea of giving local control to the City because it is a recreational amenity of regional importance.  It seems to SPON that the harbor being an asset of regional or statewide importance would be precisely why most of the legislature would, instead, find it important to retain state control, making this whole effort most likely a great pipe dream and waste of money.

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Photo credit:  1919 OC Harbor bond measure handbill from the Special Collections of the UCI Library as reproduced in Ellen K. Lee’s Newport Bay: a pioneer history, page 83;  1917 harbor plan — same, page 82

Balboa Theater

Balboa Theater — as of March 2018

Project Overview:  An application is being processed for the renovation of the Balboa Theater building (at 707 E. Balboa Blvd) by a private developer.   Plans include adding a cafe (with full liquor service) and a rooftop dining area.

Why We’re Watching:   The rooftop expansion, which seems out of character with the historic building, is almost entirely over the 35-foot height limit the city expects in the Shoreline Height Limitation Area (with a proposed elevator tower extending to 47 feet 4 inches).  Although possibly allowed by local zoning rules, this is in apparent violation of the City’s recently certified Local Coastal Program. The LCP, unlike the Zoning Code, contains no exception for modifications to “landmark buildings.”

In addition, since the site has long been vacant and has no parking of its own, the re-emergence of this building as a 285-seat/312 person entertainment center raises potential conflicts with summertime parking in the nearby Balboa Pier lot.


  • Processing of this application is currently “off calendar,”  with City staff now claiming that based on prior approvals, no public review or approval is necessary — even though the current project differs substantially from what was previously approved and the Coastal Commission has since found any development over 35′ on the Peninsula inconsistent with the CIty’s Coastal Land Use Plan.  Coastal Commission staff initially disagreed saying the 2011 Coastal Development Permit (for an arguably even larger expansion extending to 55 feet) expired in 2013. City staff claims to have convinced Coastal staff that certain building permits taken out years ago make the 2011 CDP still effective.  Despite these claims, it is not yet clear Coastal staff agrees.

Recent Events:

February 5, 2018:  At a community forum at Marina Park, Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis announced City staff had determined the prior “entitlements” approved in 2004 (City Planning Commission Use Permit 1646) and 2011 (Coastal Commission CDP No. 5-11-073, preceded by CDP No. 5-05-235 in 2007) were still effective, so no further review was necessary.  The new development needed nothing more to proceed, he said, than getting building permits.

January 18, 2018: The application for this project first appeared as Item 5 on the Planning Commission’s January 18 agenda.  Apparently as a result of public comments questioning the handling of the coastal development issues, City staff announced the item “needed more work” and should be taken “off calendar.”  No further explanation was provided.

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Newport Crossings

Newport Crossings project — as of April 2019
Planning Commission approves project, appeal withdrawn

Project Overview: This is a revision of the Residences at Newport Place proposal (rejected by both the Planning Commission and City Council in 2016) for high density, high rise residential redevelopment of the now shuttered shopping center  that was formerly home to “Arnie’s Deli” and “Il Barone” restaurant — a pentagon of land along the MacArthur corridor in the Airport Area, bounded by Dove, Scott, Corinthian and Martingale Ways (and an abutting office parking lot).  A new developer, Starboard Realty Partners, LLC, is proposing a new project called Newport Crossings. They propose 350 residential units in a wrap-style building (parking is internal, units are wrapped around the parking structure), with 7,500 square feet of commercial uses (2,000 square feet of “casual” dining and 5,500 square feet of retail). The building itself is five stories with a six story parking structure (one subterranean), and includes 740 parking stalls for residents, guests, and retail visitors. A half-acre public park will be developed on the south side of the building and dedicated to the City of Newport Beach, but permanently maintained by the property owners. Of the 350 residential units, 78 will be affordable. For further details of the new proposal, see the City’s web page devoted to the project.

Why We’re Watching:  SPON is focused on an Airport Area Plan that provides for better, more integrated projects that fit the nearby uses and provide for improved housing options for local workers. It is our understanding that the developer of Newport Crossings supports the concept of an Airport Area Plan as well. If and when the City dives into the details, we hope Airport Area developers and SPON can be at the table to guide policy discussion. Since August 2018, SPON worked collaboratively with the developer on this project to alleviate minor concerns. We focused on park features, landscaping, parking, resident focused amenities, retail options, charging stations for electric vehicles, and ways to incorporate alternative modes of transportation into the project.


No further actions at public meetings are expected at this time.

Recent Events:

April 24, 2019:  According to the case log“, the appeal was withdrawn.

March 7, 2019:  The Planning Commission’s approval was appealed to City Council by the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, who raised numerous questions about the adequacy of the EIR (see Response to Comments, Letter A12 on page 2-61).

February 21, 2019:  The Planning Commission approved the application. During the hearing, SPON relayed its appreciation of the collaborative process, both orally and in writing.  The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters submitted multiple comments critical of the environmental analysis. Although the matter would not normally need to go to the Council, the Carpenters group threatened to appeal the approval to them (see agenda materials).

February 5, 2019: The City’s Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission reviewed the public park dedication portion of the plan (see agenda and staff report) and recommended approval as submitted, but expressed concern regarding availability of rest rooms (signs were promised, directing park users to the retail center where, it was promised, the restrooms would be available to them).

January 16, 2019:  SPON submitted a letter to the City Council and Planning Commission regarding the Newport Crossings project.

January 14, 2019:  This was the deadline to submit comments on the draft EIR.  SPON did not submit comments.

December 6, 2018: The Planning Commission held a 4:00 pm Study Session to review the project.  SPON spoke at the meeting, indicating that the organization has been engaged in discussions to resolve minor concerns on the project, adding that its board would still review the EIR (see video).

November 30, 2018:  The draft EIR was released for public review with comments due by January 14, 2019.

November 30, 2017 @ 5:00 pm:  Was the deadline to submit written comments to be considered in the “scoping” of the EIR.  See Notice of Preparation for submission details.

November 16, 2017: Per the Notice of Preparation, a “Scoping Meeting” was held in the Evelyn Hart Event Center at the OASIS Senior Center in Corona del Mar.  Staff and consultants described the project and invited comments on issues that need to be addressed in the EIR.

November 1, 2017: The City announced the posting of a “Notice of Preparation” for an Environmental Impact Report to be prepared prior to any City approvals (this is an improvement over the previous proposal, whose approval was considered with only a lesser “Mitigated Negative Declaration“).  Comments on issues that need to be addressed in the EIR are due by November 30, and can also be offered orally at a public Scoping Meeting to be held on November 16. 

May 31, 2017Application for project filed with City.

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Local Coastal Program Amendments

Planning Commission to review Residential Design Standards proposal on May 6

Latest News
Project Overview
Why We’re Watching
Current Proposals

Minor LCP clean-up package
Major LCP clean-up package
Peninsula Point Oceanfront Encroachment Program
Accessory Dwelling Unit amendment
Setback Map adjustments
City/CCC Jurisdictional Boundary Change Request
Categorical Exclusion Order modification
Adding Newport Coast to the LCP
Port Master Plan
Balboa Village Parking Management District
Balboa Area Residential Permit Parking Program
Development standards for low-lying areas
Transfer of development rights
Residential Design Standards
Cottage preservation
Lido Isle hedge heights

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Other Coastal Act related Watch List items
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Latest News:  The package of major LCP amendment requests authorized to be submitted to the California Coastal Commission by City Council Resolution No. 2017-56, including relaxed height restrictions, a new power for the the Community Development Director to waive the public hearing requirement for CDP applications that he deems to involve “minor” development, and the City’s request to be able to grant variances from and modifications to the development standards certified by the CCC, have now been approved with the exception of a request to weaken protections against shoreline armoring. The City Council accepted the amended language at its February 12, 2019, meeting, with final adoption on February 26 and certification by the CCC on April 11. Meanwhile, as Item 13 on its January 22, 2019, agenda, the Council accepted the revisions to its Accessory Dwelling Units policies and regulations approved by the Coastal Commission on October 12, 2018.  And on April 9 the Council approved submitting to the Coastal Commission a new amendment request to eliminate the off-street parking requirements for many businesses in Balboa Village. The City’s request to allow private encroachments onto the beach in the East Ocean Front area of Peninsula Point (near the wedge) was unanimously rejected at the Commission’s July 2019 meeting.  Meanwhile, the City is advancing several other proposals. They include allowing development rights to be transferred from one property to another, increased hedge heights on Lido Isle, relaxation of residential parking standards to encourage cottage preservation, repeal of phase-out of non-conforming signs, tightening residential massing standards and new short term lodging regulations. See the City’s LCP amendments page for Notices of Availability of the text of the many amendment proposals.

Background:  The Newport Beach Local Coastal Program sets policies and detailed rules for issuing Coastal Development Permits, which are the main mechanism for ensuring activities within the Coastal Zone of the City comply with the California Coastal Act

The LCP consists of two main parts:

  • The Newport Beach Coastal Land Use Plan, a CCC-certified general policy document last comprehensively adopted and amended by City Council Resolution No. 2009-53.
  • The Implementation Plan, a CCC-certified set of detailed regulations made part of the Newport Beach Municipal Code by City Council Ordinance No. 2016-19.
    • The certified IP, Title 21 of the NBMC, is a modified version of the original proposal submitted to the CCC by the City Council with Resolution No. 2015-99 on November 10, 2015.
    • The Council’s proposal was heard by the CCC at its September 8, 2016, meeting in Newport Beach (Item 21c).
    • The modifications suggested by the CCC on September 8 and ultimately accepted by the City Council can be seen in the report for Item 11 from the Council’s November 7, 2016, meeting.

There is also:

  • A Coastal Zone Boundary Map and a Post-LCP Certification Permit and Appeal Jurisdiction Map produced and approved by the CCC, which delineate the areas within which the CCC is the original issuer of CDP’s and the areas within which those approved by the City can be appealed to the CCC.
    • The Implementation Plan review process included minor adjustments to the City’s Coastal Zone Boundary, approved by the CCC at its April 14, 2016, meeting (Item 11a).
    • The current appeals map was approved by the CCC at its March 8, 2017, meeting (Item 21a).
  • Categorical Exclusion Order CE-5-NPB-16-1, adopted by the CCC on November 4, 2016, (Item 16a) which exempts certain kinds of residential construction in certain areas from CDP requirements.  The City has a FAQ explaining the “Cat Ex”, as well as a list of development that has been deemed eligible for it.

Changes to any of the above require approval by the CCC, and theory, notices of proposed changes to the LCP are available on the City website as required by Sections 13552(a) and 13515 of Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (in Division 5.5, implementing the Coastal Act).

Project Overview: Effective January 30, 2017, some 45 years after passage of the voter-enacted precursor to California’s Coastal Act (1972’s Proposition 20), 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 seemingly staff-generated amendments was being rushed to approval with very little public awareness.  Proposed changes to the LCP are sometimes, but not always or in any systematic way, noticed on the City’s Implementation Plan page.

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.

Current Proposals:  The number of changes that have been proposed since certification of the LCP in 2017 is so large it is difficult to keep track, but 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.
    • The parts culled out for the November 2017 meeting were approved, with modified recommendations, as Item 22a at the Commission’s July 11, 2018, meeting, contingent  upon City acceptance of the changes.  The City Council introduced the ordinance making the changes at its September 25 meeting (Item 19).  The most significant change as a result of these “clean ups” is that the Community Development Director will be able to waive the public hearing requirement for CDP’s for what he deems to be “minor” development. However, anyone objecting to that decision can ask for the public hearing to be held. As a result of confusion about the CCC-recommended changes, the ordinance implement the “minor” revisions had to be reintroduced by the Council on October 23 (Item 11), and was adopted by the Council on November 13 (Item 3).  The Coastal Commission certified the adequacy of the City’s action on December 12, 2018 (Item 24c).

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
      • This package of proposals was approved, with modifications, by the Coastal Commission as Item 24b when it met in Newport Beach on December 12, 2018
      • As Item 15 at its February 12, 2019, meeting, the City Council adopted a resolution modifying the Coastal Land Use Plan as approved by the CCC and introduced an ordinance accepting and incorporating the Implementation Plan changes.
      • Final adoption occurred as Item 5 on the February 26 consent calendar.
      • The Coastal Commission certified the changes on April 11.

    • 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.
      • This request was considered as Item 26a at the Coastal Commission’s July 10, 2019, meeting in San Luis Obispo, where it was unanimously rejected.
      • Instead, the City will need to see the existing encroachments are removed.

    • 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.
      • This request was scheduled for consideration as Item 15b on October 12, 2018, CCC agenda
      • While the original request was pending, additional changes were made to state law, and so on September 11, 2018, as part of Item 12, the City Council adopted Resolution No. 2018-65, authorizing City staff to submit further changes to the ADU regulations in the LCP.  However, those changes were intended to mirror ones being made to the City Zoning Code by Ordinance No. 2018-14, and when that ordinance was presented for second reading on September 25, staff recommended not adopting it until further review could be completed.  Since it may not match the changes to the Zoning Code, one might guess the new request to the CCC has been “recalled.”
      • When the CCC staff report for October 12, 2018 (Item 15b), was posted, it magically included most of the changes proposed by Council Resolution No. 2018-65 (without acknowledging those had been formally submitted).  That hybrid amendment (which may or may not agree with the City’s final Zoning Code changes) was approved by the CCC and is awaiting acceptance by the City Council.
      • The Council accepted the modified policies and recommendations as Item 13 on its January 22, 2019, agenda, with final adoption of February 12. The Coastal Commission certified the amendments on April 11.

  • Setback Map adjustments :
    • On a separate track from the other “minor” amendments to the LCP, the City has pending a request to correct what it regards as “errors” in the setback maps that are included as exhibits in the LCP-IP.  This mirrors corrections previously made to the identical maps in the Zoning Code, and will affect eight inland parcels on Lido Isle.
    • Per the CCC staff report, the origin of the item is as follows: “On July 6, 2017, the Newport Beach Planning Commission conducted a public hearing and adopted Planning Commission Resolution No. 2062. The Newport Beach City Council held a public hearing on September 12, 2017 [Item 23] and passed City Council Resolution No. 2017-59 authorizing City staff to submit the LCP amendment to the Coastal Commission for certification. “
    • The request was heard and approved by the Coastal Commission on September 14, 2018.

Additional requests from the City submitted to 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 to move five properties from Coastal Commission permit jurisdiction to City jurisdiction.  That is, to allow the City to approve permits for development on those properties, subject to appeal to the Coastal Commission.
        • See what appears to the CCC’s official “Post LCP Certification Permit and Appeal Jurisdiction” map on the LCP Address Lookup & Maps page.
        • The City’s understanding of the boundary locations can be seen more clearly using, under “Layers,” the “Community Development Layers“…”Local Coast Program“…”Permit and Appeal Jurisdiction” options in its zoomable online GIS Map Viewer.  The areas of original CCC jurisdiction are those in the hatched “Permit Jurisdiction Area,” seaward of the shaded “Appeal Jurisdiction” area (where City approvals can be appealed to the CCC).
          • The City’s mapping of tidelands can be found under “Public Works Layers“…”Harbor Resources Layers“…”Tidelands Survey“.
      • The five properties the City asked to take jurisdiction over were 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.
        • In its original proposal for the Implementation Program, submitted to the CCC with Resolution No. 2015-99, the City had offered its own understanding of the appeals map, as shown on pages 472, 473 and 474, as well as a map of its Public Trust Lands, on page 476.  Those maps did not appear to include the presently requested exclusions.
      • 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.
      • The request reappeared, with full staff report and supporting documentation, as Item 23a on the Commission’s  July 11 agenda.
        • CCC staff recommended approving the Sea Scout Base request, rejecting the Aquatic Center request and retaining control of the sandy beaches at the Balboa Bay Club, the Coast Guard/Harbor Patrol Station and the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.
        • The Coastal Commission rejected pleas from the City’s lobbyist to take control of the beaches, and approved the transfers of jurisdiction as recommended by their staff.
        • However, the Commission appears to have ceded permitting authority for the bulkheads to the City. A later “clarification” from CCC staff indicates the Commission transferred jurisdiction over the “land” to the seaward edge of bulkheads, but not to the bulkheads themselves (since they are subject to wave action).

  • 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 was unanimously approved as part of the CCC’s August 10, 2018, agenda, where it was Item F21a, and accepted by the City Council at their September 11, 2018, meeting.

  • 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 Overlay District
    • This is a proposal to remove most of the requirement for businesses in Balboa Village to provide off-street parking
    • In 2015, with Ordinance No. 2014-20, the City Council made changes to the Zoning Code (Newport Beach Municipal Code Title 20) creating the overlay district.
    • However, and despite the City apparently not thinking such action needed Coastal Commission approval, the City was at that time negotiating its LCP Implementation Plan, which generally shadows the Zoning Code, and the Coastal Commission deleted the corresponding language from it (see CCC suggested modifications, as presented at the special November 7, 2016, City Council meeting).
    • A major Coastal Act concern is that marine-related and visitor-attracting businesses appear to be treated less favorably than others.
    • Pursuant to Section 21.28.030.D of the IP, creation of the parking overlay district will require an amendment to the IP.
    • 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.
    • On December 20, 2018, City staff posted an announcement that on February 12, 2019, it will be asking the City Council for permission to submit to the Coastal Commission a request to add language to the Local Coastal Program creating the Balboa Village Parking Management Overlay District.  The proposed language appears to be identical to that added to the Zoning Code in 2015 and rejected by the Coastal Commission in 2016.
    • The City re-noticed the matter for a hearing before the Planning Commission on February 21, 2019, and on April 9, 2019 the City Council approved submitting the amendments to the Coastal Commission.
    • This matter was listed for hearing as Item 10b on the Coastal Commission’s agenda for August 13, 2020, but later marked as “postponed.”

  • 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 (or “RP3“) in the area west of Balboa Village to cope with the increased demand expected from the Parking Management District.
    • 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 Coastal Development Permit with the Coastal Commission, but the application seems never to have gone anywhere.
    • Now that the City has a fully certified LCP, it claims it can, consistent with the LCP, approve the CDP itself — although it believes that approval would likely be appealed to the Coastal Commission.
      • Coastal Commission staff appears to disagree with this, and believes the creation of new Preferential Parking Zones anywhere within the City’s Coastal Zone would first require an amendment to the LCP, which would have to be approved by the CCC.
      • Indeed, City-proposed language that would have allowed approval of CDP’s for PPZ’s was not included in the certified LCP (see the CCC modifications as presented and accepted by the Council at a special November 7, 2016, meeting).
      • See also page 12 of the CCC staff report regarding their Post LCP Certification Permit and Appeal Jurisdiction Map, Item W21a at the CCC’s March 8, 2017, meeting, in which the CCC acceded to allowing parts of the interiors of Balboa and Lido Islands to be placed outside the CCC appeal area based, in part, on their understanding that restrictive parking programs could not be created there without an amendment to the LCP.
    • 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.
    • Based on the new survey (which showed close to 50% opposition), and the likelihood of appeal and rejection by the CCC, City staff announced that its plans to establish an “RP3” have been permanently shelved.

  • Development standards for low-lying areas
    • The tentative agenda provided to the Planning Commission at its January 31, 2019, meeting indicated that at its February 26 meeting the City Council will be presented with a proposal to initiate LCP and Zoning Code amendments creating new development standards for “parking and accessory structures in low lying areas.”
    • This appears to be a follow-up to the sea level rise and flood adaptation concerns presented to the Council at its January 22, 2019, study session (see next to last slide of Item SS4 PowerPoint presentation).
    • The staff work necessary to prepare the amendment was unanimously initiated by the City Council as part of agenda Item 16 on March 26, 2019.

  • Transfer of development rights
    • On August 8, 2019, notice was posted that City staff is proposing amending the LCP “to include a policy and regulations pertaining to the transfer of development rights in a manner consistent with and allowed by the Newport Beach General Plan.”
    • See the Notice of Availability for the details of the proposed new language.
    • This appears to be intended to allow the City Council to modify the CCC-approved land use plan without CCC oversight other than through the Coastal Development Permit appeal process, which is available in only a limited portion of the Coastal Zone.
    • At an August 22 hearing, the Planning Commission recommended the City Council submit the proposal to the City Council. See the Item 5 staff report and PowerPoint.
    • The City Council approved submitting the proposal to the Coastal Commission by adopting Resolution No. 2019-90 on October 8 (see Item 12).
    • As Item 13b at the Coastal Commission’s Thursday, December 12, 2019, the City agreed to a one-year extension of the time for the Commission to act on the request.

  • Residential Design Standards
  •  Note: City staff has posted a web page devoted to this matter
    • After holding a study session (Item SS5) on April 23, 2019, the City Council formally directed staff to prepare code language addressing Residential Massing and Beach Cottage Preservation (Item 4 on May 14), initiating  planning activity PA019-070.
    • On August 19, 2019, a community meeting was held to gather feedback on possible proposals (see flyer).
    • As a result of that, possible amendments regarding Cottage Preservation seem to have split off onto a separate track from those dealing with residential massing and development of single-family homes in multi-family zones.
    • On September 10, 2019, the City Council held a follow-up study session on this part only (see Item SS5).
    • On December 17, 2019, Planning staff posted revised language for consideration (including both Zoning Code and LCP amendments), but the final Notice of Availability was not posted until April 23, 2020. The delay was necessitated, in part, by California Senate Bill 330 (the “Housing Crisis Act”), which went into effect on January 1 and prohibited cities from “downzoning” or imposing subjective design standards on residential properties through 2025.
    • The matter has been scheduled for review by the Planning Commission as Item 2 on May  6, 2020. They will be making a recommendation to the City Council.

  • Cottage preservation
    • This was originally bundled with the Residential Design Standards items described above, but morphed into a separate planning activity PA2019-181.
    • See the Notice of Availability for the original details of the proposed new language dealing with cottage preservation.
    • The proposal was presented to the Planning Commission on October 17 (Item 4) and again on November 21 (Item 4), where still more changes were proposed.
    • The Planning Commission recommended language (different from the original notice) which went to the City Council as  Item 16 on January 28, 2020, and was subsequently adopted.
    • Its applicability to development in the Coastal Zone is pending certification (with possible modifications) by the Coastal Commission.

  • Lido Isle hedge heights
    • On September 10, 2019, as Item 5,  the City Council directed staff to prepare code language addressing a hedge height issue on Lido Isle, initiating  planning activity PA019-132
    • See the Notice of Availability for the details of the proposed language. It would increase the allowable height of hedges along the “strada” (public walkways separating the rear sides of some houses) from the normal citywide standard of 42″ to the Lido Isle Community Association’s preferred 60″.
    • The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to review City staff’s proposed language on December 5.
    • The Planning Commission’s recommendation is tentatively scheduled to go to the City Council on February 11, 2020, where they will consider submitting it (with possible modifications) to the Coastal Commission.


  • January 23, 2020:  The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to review City staff’s proposal for modifications to the Residential Design Standards.
  • January 28, 2020: The City Council is expected to hear the Cottage preservation proposal recommended to it by the Planning Commission on November 21, 2019.
  • February 11, 2020:  The Planning Commission is expected to review City staff’s proposal for Lido Isle hedge heights.
  • At a date yet to be determined, the Coastal Commission is expected to hear the City’s request to create a Balboa Village Parking Management Overlay District and other proposals described above.

Recent Events:

  • December 12, 2019:  As Item 13b on its agenda, the Coastal Commission delayed by up to one year its hearing on the City’s  “transfer of development rights” LCP amendment request.
  • November 21, 2019: Again as Item 4, the Planning Commission heard a modified Cottage preservation proposal, and voted to recommend its consideration to the City Council.
  • October 17, 2019:  As Item 4, the Planning Commission heard staff’s Cottage preservation proposal, and suggested changes to it.
  • October 8, 2019:  The City Council approved submitting a request to the Coastal Commission to add “transfer of development rights” provisions to the LCP. See notice.
  • September 10, 2019: As Item 5,  the City Council directed staff to prepare code language addressing Lido Isle hedge heights.
  • August 22, 2019:  The Newport Beach Planning Commission heard the proposal to add “transfer of development rights” provisions to the LCP and recommended the City Council submit it to the Coastal Commission.
  • August 19, 2019: A community meeting was held to gather feedback on possible amendments addressing Residential Design Standards and Cottage preservation.
  • July 10, 2019: As Item 26a on its agenda in San Luis Obispo, the Coastal Commission considered, and rejected, the City’s request to amend its Local Coastal Program to allow homeowners along Peninsula Point to extend their private landscaping and yard improvements up to 15 feet out onto the private beach.  Instead, the City will be facing an order to remove the existing encroachments.
  • May 14, 2019:  As Item 4 on its agenda, the Council directed staff to prepare code amendments addressing Residential Design Standards and Cottage preservation.
  • April 23, 2019: The Council held a study session (Item SS5) to consider changes to regulations regarding Residential Massing and Beach Cottage Preservation.
  • April 10, 2019Meeting in Salinas, the Coastal Commission accepted the City’s implementation of two previously-approved matters:  Item 16.1a confirmed the Council’s February 12, 2019, LCP amendment adding new regulations for Accessory Dwelling Units.   Item 16.1b confirmed the Council’s February 12 and 26, 2019, amendments that add exceptions to the Shoreline Height Limit and include a new provision allowing for modifications and variances and allow additions to nonconforming structures.
  • April 9, 2019:  As Item 13 on its agenda,  the City Council directed staff to submit to the Coastal Commission a proposal for amendments to the Local Coastal Program Implementation Plan to create a Balboa Village Parking Management Overlay District, exempting most businesses in Balboa Village from the requirement to provide off-street parking (see notice).
  • March 26, 2019:   As part of agenda Item 16, the City Council directed staff  to ask the City Council to prepare revisions to the LCP and Zoning Code amendments to create new development standards for low-lying areas subject to flood hazards.
  • February 26, 2019:  As Item 5 on the consent calendar, the City Council  adopted the ordinance introduced on February 12, incorporating CCC-approved major amendments into the City’s Implementation Plan.
  • February 21, 2019:  The Planning Commission approved a resolution recommending the City Council approve staff’s request to ask the CCC to amend the LCP to create a Balboa Village Parking Management Overlay District, eliminating the need for most businesses in that area to provide off-street parking.
    • note:  A previous City announcement, indicated this would be going directly to the City Council on February 12.  Both state law and the existing Implementation Plan require the matter first be reviewed by the City’s Planning Commission.
  • February 12, 2019: As Item 15 at its February 12, 2019, meeting, the City Council adopted a resolution modifying the Coastal Land Use Plan as approved by the CCC on December 12 and introduced an ordinance accepting and making the CCC-approved major amendments to the Implementation Plan.  Final adoption of the ordinance is expected on February 26.
  • January 22, 2019:  As Item 13 on its agenda, the Council introduced ordinances to enact the modified policies and regulations regarding Accessory Dwelling Units approved by the CCC on October 12, 2018, and to make corresponding changes to the local Zoning Code.
  • December 20, 2018:  City staff posts an announcement that on February 12, 2019, it will be asking the City Council for permission to submit to the Coastal Commission a request to add language to the Local Coastal Program creating a Balboa Village Parking Management Overlay District (something that is already in the City’s Zoning Code, but not in its certified LCP Implementation Plan).
  • December 13, 2018:   Although not directly an LCP amendment request by the City, on December 13, while the CCC was meeting in the Council Chambers, the City’s Zoning Administrator approved a Coastal Development Permit establishing a permit parking system for residents of the “Finley Tract” (across Newport Blvd. from the old City Hall site and Lido Village).  Such a CDP approval by the City flies in the face of the CCC’s understanding that such restricted parking zones cannot be established without an amendment to the LCP (see discussion of the since-shelved Balboa Area Residential Permit Parking Program, above).
  • December 12, 2018:  The California Coastal Commission held its three-day monthly meeting in the Newport Beach City Council Chambers.  Item 24b on the Wednesday agenda was consideration of “major” requested amendments to the City’s Local Coastal Program.  See staff report and exhibits, supplemented by correspondence and an addendum.  The amendments, as modified by Coastal Commission staff, were approved, with three Commissioners voting “no.”  As Item 24c, the Commission certified the City’s implementation of the “minor” revisions adopted by the Council on November 13.
  • November 13, 2018: The City Council adopted the ordinance accepting the “minor” changes to the LCP approved by the CCC on July 11.  Final action required is the CCC Director’s determination that the City’s approval matched the CCC’s
  • October 23, 2018: The City Council introduce an ordinance accepting the “minor” changes to the LCP approved by the CCC on July 11.  This had been planned for October 9, but was rescheduled.
  • October 12, 2018:  Coastal Commission approved modified regulations regarding Accessory Dwelling Units at its meeting in San Diego.  Those now have to be accepted by the City.
  • October 9, 2018:  The City Council was scheduled to introduce the ordinance accepting the “minor” LCP amendments approved by the CCC at their July 11 meeting in Scotts Valley.  However, the version transmitted to the City by CCC staff did not match the version approved on July 11.  As a result, Council action was rescheduled for October 23.
  • September 25, 2018:  The City Council accepted the CCC’s approval of its requests for “minor” amendments to the LCP as granted at the CCC’s July 11 meeting.
  • September 14, 2018: As Item 7.1 on its agenda, the Coastal Commission approved a City request to correct “errors” in the setback maps that are part of the LCP.  This was regarded as a “minor amendment,” and affected eight inland parcels on Lido Isle.
  • September 11, 2018:  The City Council accepted the modified Categorical Exclusion Order (see August 10, 2018, below), and adopted resolution requesting additional changes to the regulations in the LCP regarding accessory dwelling units.
  • August 10, 2018:  In the interest of “governmental efficiency,” the Coastal Commission unanimously approved the City’s request to expand its Categorical Exclusion Order.  This was Item F21a on the agenda.
  • July 11, 2018:  Most of the “Minor LCP Clean-up” package first considered on November 9, 2017 (but now billed as “Major”), as well as the boundary change request (previously noticed for May 11, 2018), were heard and approved (with CCC staff modifications) on the Coastal Commission’s  July 11 agenda as Items 22a and 23a.
  • 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, 2018Item 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 says it could now issue its own CDP, but its approval would likely be appealed to the CCC.  CCC staff appears to believe a CCC-approved amendment to the certified Implementation Plan would be necessary before any CDP for a new parking program could be approved.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Other Coastal Act related Watch List items
The following items on the SPON Watch List are claimed to be consistent with the currently certified Local Coastal Program, but they need Coastal Development permits and potentially raise Coastal Act consistency issues:

  • 2607 Ocean Blvd – appeal of City’s approval of a CDP for expansion of bluff face residence at China Cove in Corona del Mar
  • Balboa Theater –  proposal to remodel the theater to heights inconsistent with the LCP using a likely expired CDP approved prior to certification of the LCP
  • Newport Dunes Hotel – request for City approval of a 270 room hotel on County tidelands — if approved by the City, it will need a CDP from the Coastal Commission
  • Newport Village – proposal to redevelop large parcels along Mariners Mile, adding residences and retail
  • Tennis Club (Newport Center) – recently approved request for CDP for a previously-approved resort proposal exceeding Greenlight development limits
  • Port Master Plan – hopefully dead plan to avoid state oversight by winning CCC pre-approval of City actions with regard to development in the harbor tidelands

News Coverage

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.


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

Museum House Update

Petition successful — Council repeals approvals — Court challenge settled?

Latest news:  OCMA lawsuit challenging petition and City repeals likely to be settled and dismissed

In a ruling filed on May 26, 2017, the Honorable Geoffrey Glass, the judge handling the OCMA litigation, denied LITS’ request to have OCMA’s legal challenges to the referendum petition dismissed as a “SLAPP” suit.

Judge Glass felt that LITS was not the proper party to be bringing an anti-SLAPP motion, but even if they had been, he thought compliance with the technical procedural requirements of the Elections Code (which OCMA alleges were violated by the format of the petition) was a “content neutral” issue, and not a constitutionally protected activity against which an anti-SLAPP motion could be brought.

LITS appealed Judge Glass’ ruling, which put the entire litigation on hold until the appeal could be heard and ruled upon, a process likely to take many months.

In the meantime, it appears OCMA has found a potential new buyer for their property, and a tentative agreement has been announced under which OCMA would withdraw all their legal challenges regarding both the LITS petition and the City Council’s repeal of its Museum House approvals.

See the news stories at the end of this page.

May 22, 2017 @ 1:30 pm Museum House Trial — Hearing on LITS anti-SLAPP motion
Main County Central Justice Center Courthouse in Santa Ana, Courtroom C32 (ninth floor)

As explained below, the Orange County Museum of Art has brought a suit against the City and its residents seeking to invalidate the Museum House referendum petition, and all the Council’s actions based on it, citing alleged technical violations in the petition’s form and content.

On his May 22 afternoon docket, the Honorable Geoffrey Glass, the judge in the case, heard an “anti-SLAPP” motion brought by the Line In The Sand PAC seeking to dismiss OCMA’s filings as a meritless “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” Barring appeal, success in this would end OCMA’s case and end all doubts about the validity of the Council’s repeal of the Museum House approvals. Public attendance is welcome and encouraged.

The purpose of anti-SLAPP motions is to prevent vengeful suits, brought without any legal chance of success, to punish persons exercising their constitutionally-protected rights of free speech and petition. SPON and LITS feel strongly that OCMA has no chance, in the end, of convincing the judge that the alleged minor technical deficiencies in the petition were enough to justify his invalidating the petition.  However, the success of the anti-SLAPP motion hinges on two highly technical questions raised by OCMA:  (1) whether LITS is the proper entity to be bringing the motion, and (2) whether challenges to technical deficiencies of petitions are subject to anti-SLAPP motions (there being one previous case suggesting they are not, and another suggesting they are).

If the anti-SLAPP motion fails, the litigation will continue, with a hearing at some future date to determine the merits of whether the technical deficiencies of the petition were sufficient to justify its invalidation.

In the unlikely event that the petition is invalidated as a result of that later trial, a separate case remains pending.  That case contends that the City Charter’s “Greenlight” provision separately requires the Council’s approval of the General Plan Amendment making the Museum House possible, if left standing, to be submitted to the voters before it can become effective — essentially reviving the referendum, but without the need for a petition.

The Orange County Superior Court case number for the present case, “Orange County Museum of Art vs. City Council of Newport Beach,” is 30-2017-00896448-CU-PT-CJC.

The Central Justice Center is the high-rise courthouse building at 700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana.

Other recent news:

On January 25, 2017, the Newport Beach City Clerk received word from the Orange County Registrar of Voters that enough signatures had been validated on the Museum House referendum petition to qualify it for action by the City Council.  In fact, based on the sample tested by the Registrar, it appears that in less than two weeks the circulators obtained more than twice the required number – representing nearly a quarter of all registered voters in Newport Beach.  This is particularly remarkable in view of the campaign of deception and intimidation waged by the developer against the petition.

The certification result was presented to the City Council as Item 21 at their February 14, 2017, meeting.

As Item 15 on their February 28 agenda, the Council voted 5:2 to begin the process of repealing all their previous Museum House approvals, with the exception of the certification of the EIR, by introducing a proposed ordinance.   This is a less costly option legally available to the Council — chosen, presumably, because the result of holding an actual election seemed to them a foregone conclusion.

The actual adoption of the repeal ordinance was completed with a second reading as Item 5 on the Council’s March 14 “consent calendar.”  The repeals will become effective 30 days thereafter.

This is with an understanding that OCMA is contesting the validity of the petition in the Orange County Superior Court.  On March 8, the court denied OCMA’s request for an order preventing the Council from taking further action on the petition.  Unless the court ultimately finds the petition invalid, the repeals will stand and state election law will bar the Council, for the following year, from considering a General Plan amendment for the OCMA property similar to the defeated Museum Tower proposal.

For further details on the status of the Museum House referendum please visit the LITS website at

Project Overview: The Museum House is a proposal for a 25-story, 295 foot tall, 100-unit luxury condo tower to replace the one story Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Center.

Why We’re Watching: We feel the project would, in fact, violate both the letter and spirit of Greenlight and are making a case for it to be put to a vote. You can watch the video recording of the April 7 study session which is included in SPON’s Video Library.

The Greenlight issue revolves around 79 residential units (out of the 100 allowed without a vote).  An earlier City Council, without processing a General Plan amendment, already allowed units above and beyond the voter-approved General Plan limit for Newport Center.

However, City staff and the current City Council refuse to accept this, forcing residents to reclaim their right to vote by circulating petitions for a referendum on the Council’s approval.

Project history:

The Notice of Preparation (NOP) was issued in March.  The NOP identifies issues that should be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  SPON submitted comments on the NOP, which you can read here.

A standing-room-only crowd attended an April 7, 2016, Planning Commission Study Session on this proposal. The applicants were present, but spent most of their time explaining why the project is consistent with a plan presented for Fashion Island in the 1960s and does not require a Greenlight vote.  Read an extract of Public Comments here.

The City Council requested an April 26, 2016, discussion (Agenda Item #14) of the competing applications for new residential development in Newport Center (Museum House and 150 Newport Center).  At it, City staff skirted  the Greenlight issue, insisting it doesn’t exist.

The Draft EIR was released for a 45-day public review period beginning August 17 and ending September 30, 2016.  See announcement here.

The developer made a presentation at the August 20 meeting of Speak Up Newport (SUN).  The SUN meeting video is available on the city’s website as “Residents Speak Up About Museum House”.

During that time, the Planning Commission held a second study session on September 1, 2016, which can be reviewed on the SPON video channel.  At the study session proponents outnumbered opponents.  It might be noted that the proponents see this primarily as a fund-raising opportunity for OCMA, which hopes to build a new museum in Costa Mesa using the profits from the rezoning. Fund-raising, however well intentioned, is not necessarily good planning.

The Planning Commission ultimately disposed of the application in a single hearing on October 20, recommending approval without any modifications, and the the City Council did the same on November 29, with only Council member Tony Petros dissenting.  Technically, only the General Plan land use change from “Private Institutional” to “Multiple Residential — 100 units” and the Environmental Impact Report were given final approval on November 29, with the remaining items approved on the Consent Calendar at the Council’s largely ceremonial December 13 meeting (prior to the three newly-elected Council members taking their seats).

Immediately following the November 29 vote, Line in the Sand, an independent Political Action Committee that supports many of SPON’s objectives, prepared to circulated a referendum petition demanding the Council’s decision be revisited in a citywide public vote.  The start of signature gathering was delayed by burdensome conditions gratuitously placed on the petition by the Council, and the actual gathering was vigorously obstructed by the developer.  Despite those obstacles, more than twice the required number of signatures was collected in less than two weeks, as detailed above and below.

The City Council is expected to receive notice of the adequacy of the petition on February 14, at which meeting they will have to choose between repealing their November 29 approval or placing it on a future ballot for the public to decide.

Next Steps: 

There’s no question that most residents have had ENOUGH.  Wouldn’t it be nice if developers stopped wasting their time (and ours) proposing projects that are totally outsized and detrimental to the neighborhoods that surround them? We’re not there yet, and it will be a challenge – but “Our Town” is worth the effort it is taking to get there.

SPON and the Line in the Sand Political Action Committee continue to follow the process closely.  Please visit the LITS website for further details and a complete timeline of the referendum process.

Press Coverage:   Your letters and newspaper articles continue to appear in both the Daily Pilot and the Newport Beach Independent.  Here’s a slightly out-of-date sampling in case you missed them.  For links to more recent coverage, visit the LITS website.

Opponents of Museum House condo tower vow referendum effort to overturn Newport council’s OK  … Daily Pilot November 30, 2016
Residents Speak Up About Museum House . . . Newport Beach Independent August 12, 2016
Letter Exchange . . . Newport Beach Indy April 8, 2016
Museum House Needs a Greenlight Vote . . . Newport Beach Indy March 26 2016 
Condo Tower at Odds with Residents . . . Newport Beach Indy March 26, 2016
When in Drought . . . Newport Beach Indy March 26, 2016

and also
Museum’s Future Hinges on Condo Tower . . . Newport Beach Indy April 15, 2016
Conflict of Interest . . . Newport Beach Indy April 10, 2016
A Race to Avoid Public Vote . . . Daily Pilot April 10, 2016

Keep the dialog open in the press.  Continue sending your letters to editors and let them know we continue to oppose projects such as the Museum House which require General Plan Amendments and violate the character of “Our Town.”  Be sure to include your name, city of residence and phone number (not for publication; for editors to check with you if questions)

Past Update History Below

Museum Tower Petition Drive Succeeds a Week Ahead of Schedule – Signatures Being Counted!

Our understanding is that the Line in the Sand political action committee, through an extraordinary team effort by principals, volunteers and supporters, was able, in less than two weeks, to obtain nearly twice the number of signatures needed for a successful referendum.  Having determined their goal had been far exceeded, LITS decided to submit the completed Museum Tower Referendum petition books (constituting nearly two tons of paper!) to the City’s Elections Official (the City Clerk) this morning, December 21 — a full week earlier than legally required.

It is now up to the City to verify that the requisite number of signatures was indeed obtained.  They have about six weeks for that, after which the City Council will be required to either withdraw their approval of the land use change, or put it to a citywide public vote.

For further details, photos and video of the petition delivery, and still more information about what’s next for the Museum House — all soon to be posted — visit the LITS website at

Although IRS constraints prevented SPON for participating directly in the later phases of the petition effort, SPON commends this remarkable outpouring of volunteerism, and this exceptional demonstration of the tremendous interest the public in general has in the quality of life in Newport Beach.

Congratulations to all!

December 21, 2016 . . . referendum petitions submitted for approval

Important update: the start of signature gathering for the Museum House Tower referendum was delayed by a City Council action on November 29 adding thousands of pages of documentation to the paper petitions on which the signatures have to be affixed to legally request a citywide vote on the Council’s controversial decision– thereby significantly shortening the already very short time in which signatures have to be collected. Meanwhile forces aligned with developer have been engaging in a number of questionable practices intended to confuse and distract potential signers.  The true 10-pound paper petitions that need to be signed by the end of the year just began becoming available from the printer on Wednesday, December 7, and initial supplies are limited.

Please visit the Line in the Sand PAC website for the most current information on where and how to sign this important petition.  Every signature counts!

Latest update (Dec. 21):  Realizing it had reached nearly twice its signature gathering goal in less than two weeks, LITS submitted the completed petition books a full week ahead of the legal deadline.  It is now up to the City to certify the referendum.  Barring legal challenges, the City Council will then have to either repeal the General Plan land use change that made the Museum Tower possible, or put it to a citywide public vote.  Stay tuned…

Focus on the Goal!

Over this last weekend, the Museum House developer (Related California) and its affiliate (OCMA Urban Housing LLC) have employed a myriad of tactics to create confusion and false information about the referendum and signature-gathering process.

For those of you who intend to support the Referendum, please remember this: We must all stay focused on the goal of collecting the required number of validated signatures to qualify the Referendum for a vote. Line in the Sand PAC has just three weeks to do this, and these opposition tactics divert our time and attention from our goal.

Our LITS volunteers and supporters are razor-focused on the goal of collecting 8,000 signatures for validation by the Registrar of Voters before the end of December. We ask that you stay focused too.

For more information about the Referendum, including dates, times and locations where you can go to sign the petitions, please visit .


Council approves “Museum House” Tower — referendum begins

Important update:  the start of signature gathering for the Museum House referendum has been delayed by a City Council action on November 29 adding thousands of pages of documentation to the paper petitions on which the signatures have to be affixed to legally request a citywide vote on the Council’s controversial decision– thereby significantly shortening the already very short time in which signatures have to be collected.  Meanwhile forces aligned with developer have been engaging in a number of questionable practices intended to confuse and distract potential signers. Please be patient.  The true paper petitions that need to be signed by the end of the year are expected to begin becoming available from the printer on Wednesday, December 7.  However, initial supplies may be limited.

Many thanks to all who signed the previous joint SPON/LITS online petition opposing Related Companies’ proposal for the Museum House Tower, a 100 unit, 25-story, 295 foot tall high density condo tower that would replace the current low-rise Orange County Museum of Art galleries at 850 San Clemente Drive in the northwestern part of the Newport Center / Fashion Island area.  A recap of the petition results and comments as presented to the City Council at their special November 29th meeting can be viewed on the City’s website here.

Despite that outstanding effort, the City Council voted 6 to 1 (with Councilman Tony Petros opposed) to change the land use designation of the OCMA parcel from “Private Institutional” to “Multi-unit Residential – 100 units,” as well as a number of other actions allowing use of that new designation to begin construction of the “Museum House” Tower, contingent upon final approval at the Council’s December 13th meeting.

Pursuant to the terms of the Greenlight section of the City Charter, and coming on top of other recent additions to Newport Center, SPON firmly believes this November 29th change to the General Plan should have automatically gone to a citywide vote.  However, the City Council disagrees, forcing residents to reclaim their right to vote by referendum.  That arduous process requires residents to obtain the signatures of roughly 5,600 Newport Beach registered voters on legally correct paper petitions within the next 30 days.

SPON and the Line in the Sand Political Action Committee are in the process of initiating just such a referendum; and it is important to understand these are completely different from any paper or online petitions you may have signed before (as in the recap, above).  If successful, the new petitions will force the Council to either repeal their approval of the land use change, or put it on hold until the voters can affirm or reject the approval at a future election.

To make this a success, everyone will have to help.  Further information on what you can do will follow soon.  But please visit for the most accurate and up-to-date details.

Thank you all again…  the battle has begun!

Project Update – March 18, 2016

Scoping Session Public Meeting Overview: The Museum House project brought a standing room only crowd to the Newport Beach Civic Center Community Room meeting on February 22.  The meeting was a scoping session to elicit comments about what should be studied in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a 100-unit residential tower in Newport Center.  Residents from all parts of the City shared their concerns about this plan to build a 26-story Miami-style condo tower right in the middle of Newport Center.  It is projected to be 315 feet high, replacing the one-story OC Museum of Art which is moving to Costa Mesa.  It would be directly behind the sprawling apartment complex The Irvine Company is building at the corner of San Joaquin Hills and Jamboree Roads (made possible with the approval of the 2006 General Plan Update but kept under the radar until after the Measure Y vote).

Interestingly, the applicants did not introduce themselves, and only provided vague renderings of what the ground floors of the tower might look like.

Comments by participants covered a wide range of issues, from water/energy and public services to aesthetics including views and skylines, noise pollution, traffic and precedent-setting for increasing density and heights.  There were interesting points about unlivable parking situations with existing apartment/condo complexes in Newport Beach and of the possible dangers a tower that size could face from earthquakes and stray JWA departures.

Our Next Steps: The public comment period for the Notice of Preparation (NOP) closed on March 7, 2016.  SPON submitted comments on the NOP, which you can read here.  The NOP identifies issues that should be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) . . . which will have a public comment period as well.  It is important to ensure that the EIR is inclusive of all issues, which is why the NOP is so important.    We encourage everyone to share their concerns about the impact this project would have on our community.

Once the EIR is ready, the public will have 45 days to comment on it. So please check back here starting early Spring.

April 7 Planning Commission Meeting:  At this time, a preliminary review of the Museum House Project, along with a holistic review of Newport Center development proposals,  is being planned for the April 7 Planning Commission Meeting at 6:30 pm in the Civic Center Council Chambers.  Let’s make this another Standing Room Only community meeting.  Watch our website for more details as we get closer to this date.  Review the Initial Study here.

Press Coverage:   Letters and newspaper articles have appeared in both the Daily Pilot and the Newport Beach Independent.  Here’s a recent sampling in case you missed them.