Category Archives: Watch List

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
News Coverage
Helpful Links

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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Helpful Links

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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Tennis Club (Newport Center)

Tennis Club (Newport Center) . . . as of November 2018
Coastal Development Permit & Tract Maps approved by Zoning Administrator on Nov. 20

Project Overview: This Watch List item refers to a proposal, approved by the City Council in 2012, to convert the Tennis Club in Newport Center (abutting the eastern end of the Newport Beach Country Club golf course, and not to be confused with the similarly-named Tennis Club in Eastbluff) into a tennis resort, with homes, rental bungalows and an event center.  The existing 24 tennis courts would be reduced to 7, but the 3,725 square foot clubhouse expanded, plus 5 homes and 27 hotel room like bungalows would be added, In all, the non-residential development would expand to 38,000 sf, adding 34,275 sf of development that is not in the General Plan and was never approved by voters.

Why We’re Watching:  The property owner’s wish to “upgrade” the entire Newport Beach Country Club site, including building a new stadium tennis resort, was long known to the City. And the original proposal seems to have been designed to fit within the General Plan development limits approved by voters in 2006.  The golf clubhouse would be rebuilt at its existing size, the 5 dwelling units would come from a floating pool of 450 units in Newport Center approved in 2006, and the 27 rental bungalows would be transferred from unbuilt hotel room entitlements approved elsewhere in Newport Center, adding no net development that had not previously been approved, and hence not needing a Greenlight vote and, arguably, not even a General Plan amendment.

The proposal hit two snags.  First, a competing proposal by the golf course lessee emerged, requesting a massive expansion of the golf clubhouse (which would require a General Plan amendment).  And second, the corporate owner of the nearby Marriott Hotel objected to the transfer of unused hotel room allocations from elsewhere in Newport Center (most of which had been, perhaps improperly, converted to office entitlements for the benefit of The Irvine Company).

To “solve” the latter problem, and despite City staff’s objections, the Planning Commission recommended, and the City Council accepted, the idea of creating entitlements for the 27 rental bungalows by “converting” the entitlement for 17 existing tennis courts being removed in the plan, finding that “consistent” with the General Plan (with no need, according to the Planning Commission) to formally amend it.

The problem is that the combination of the square footage created by the General Plan amendment for the enlarged golf clubhouse combined with the new hotel room square footage (created by “conversion” rather than transfer of previous approvals) adds non-voter-approved development to Newport Center far in excess of the 10 year limit allowed by Greenlight (City Charter Section 423) — not even counting other development added to Newport Center in the last 10 years, including the Central Library expansion and the 100,000 sf. new City Hall.

Although approved in 2012, the Tennis Club project now needs a Coastal Development Permit to proceed to construction.  Whoever is responsible for the earlier mix up, SPON strongly objects to allowing construction that exceeds the amounts allowed in the currently published General Plan by an amount that, if acknowledged as an amendment to that Plan, would have triggered the need for a Greenlight vote.


No upcoming events currently scheduled.

Recent Events:

November 20, 2018:  The City held a special Zoning Administrator hearing at which the Administrator approved a Coastal Development Permit for the construction and for a Tentative Parcel Map for the consolidation of 11 parcels and a Vesting Tentative Tract Map.

June 28, 2018:  A tentative agenda published by the Community Development Department indicated the Coastal Development Permit application could be considered by the Zoning Administrator as early as the June 28, 2018, meeting.

May 1, 2017:  City receives planning application PA2017-091 for a new Coastal Development Permit to replace the expired one allowing construction of the Golf Realty proposal for the Tennis Club resort.

April 27, 2017: As Item 4 on his agenda, the City’s Zoning Administrator reviewed the Development Agreement for the Tennis Club renovation, DA2008-001.  As the staff report indicates, the Coastal Development Permit for the Tennis Club, previously approved by the Coastal Commission, had been allowed to expire, and a new one would be needed before any construction could take place.

Prior Time Line:

April 25, 2014:  “CDD Director” approves eliminating frontage road from golf club improvements (Staff Approval No. SA2014-003)

April 10, 2013:  As Item W18b, the California Coastal Commission approves a Coastal Development Permit for the Golf Realty Tennis Club proposal.  The approval does not mention or appear to include the Development Agreement, despite the Gov. Code Sec. 65869 requirement for CCC approval of agreements made in jurisdictions not having a fully certified Local Coastal Program.

December 12, 2012:  As Item W11a (postponed from Item W7b on September 12, 2012, and Item Th20c on October 11, 2012), the California Coastal Commission approves a Coastal Development Permit for a new 69,088 sq. ft. golf facility (this did not include consideration of the Tennis Club proposal).

March 27, 2012:  As Item 3 on their consent calendar,Council completes second reading of ordinances approving Golf Realty application, with Mayor Nancy Gardner voting “no.”

March 13, 2012:  As Item 14 on their agenda, after considerable discussion, the Council adopts some resolutions and re-introduces various ordinances related to the Golf Realty application.  Mayor Nancy Gardner was the sole “no” vote.

February 28, 2012: Council continues second readings of Golf Realty matters to March 13 (see Item 8).

February 14, 2012: Council completes second reading of ordinance approving IBC Development Agreement and amendments to the Planned Community text increasing the size of the golf clubhouse from 35,000 to 56,000 square feet, but continues Golf Realty second readings to February 28 (see agenda Item 5 and Item 6).   Mayor Nancy Gardner voted “no” on the IBC approvals.

January 24, 2012:  City Council conditionally accepts Planning Commission recommendation from November 17, 2011, adopting Resolution No. 2012-10 approving a conversion of 17 tennis courts to 27 hotel rooms.  The earlier staff memo to the Planning Commission explaining this would require a General Plan amendment was include as Attachment CC15 to the Item 14 staff report.  Resolution No. 2012-10 is said to include approval of a Vesting Tentative Map, but the rights it might convey are unknown since the map is is not attached to the resolution and the page where the map was supposed to appear in the Clerk’s archive of Item 14 seems to be blank, as well.

November 17, 2011: Planning Commission recommends Council approve IBC plan for golf clubhouse and Golf Realty plan for Tennis Club (see agenda Item 2 and Item 3).

  • A major point of contention, and major reason for selecting the club’s proposal for the new Golf Clubhouse over the O Hill plan (see Planning Commission action report submitted to the City Council as Item 14 on November 22, 2011) was the retention of the frontage road to the Armstrong Nursery along Pacific Coast Highway.  Months after the club’s plan was approved by the Council (and by the Coastal Commission), the frontage road was quietly deleted by a “staff approval” (see April 25, 2014).
  • Regarding the Golf Realty proposal, City staff argued (see page 3 of the Item 2 staff report and Attachment PC4) that conversion of voter-approved tennis courts to hotel rooms required a General Plan amendment.  The Planning Commission rejected staff’s analysis and recommended the conversion as a creative workaround to the applicant’s inability to move voter-approved hotel room allocations from elsewhere in Newport Center.

October 20, 2011: Planning Commission continues to hear the competing plans, again as Item 2 and Item 3.

August 4, 2011: As Item 2 and Item 3, Planning Commission hears Golf Realty plan for Tennis Club renovation and competing plan from International Bay Clubs for golf clubhouse rebuild.

August 11, 2009: City Council, as Item 27 on agenda, adopts Resolution No. 2009-60 rescinding Resolution 2009-2 (which had initiated a General Plan amendment for the proposed tennis and golf club expansions), saying the competing applicants would need to make separate requests to initiate General Plan amendments.

January 27, 2009:  City Council, as Item 6 on agenda, adopts Resolution No. 2009-2 initiating a General Plan amendment for the proposed tennis and golf club expansions.

July 28, 2008:  City receives planning application PA2008-152 from golf course lessee, International Bay Clubs (the operator of the Balboa Bay Club), for General Plan amendment to allow larger clubhouse.

May 8, 2007:  City Council, as Item 21 on agenda, adopts Resolution No. 2007-32 appointing committee of Mayor Rosansky and Mayor Pro Tem Selich to negotiate development agreement allowing construction of “32 dwelling units (5 single-family dwelling units and 27 short-term rental units) that would be drawn from the 450 dwelling units allocated for Newport Center in the General Plan.”

March 13, 2007:  The Daily Pilot reports City staff  told Mr. O Hill he will need an additional General Plan Amendment to add the MU-H3 hotel rooms to his Tennis Club site.

November 7, 2006: By approving Measure V (Resolution No. 2006-77), Newport Beach voters give the “Greenlight” to new General Plan development limits (see Resolution No. 2006-103).  The Tennis Club portion of the Country Club property is given a land use designation (MU-H3/PR) making it eligible for a portion of a floating allocation, made to similarly designated portions of Newport Center, of 450 new residential units and 65 hotel rooms.

June 20, 2005:  City receives planning application PA2005-140 for renovation of Newport Beach Country Club, including construction of a new tennis club resort and a rebuild of the golf clubhouse.

November 1992:  The Irvine Company sells 132 acre golf and tennis club properties to investors headed by Robert O Hill, retaining long-term lease for golf portion to International Bay Clubs (owner/operator of the Balboa Bay Club).

News Coverage

Helpful Links

  • City’s case log for CDP application (PA2017-091, not always accurate or up to date)

City Manager replacement

Dave Kiff (LA Times file photo)

City Manager replacement in Newport Beach — as of August 2018
Grace Leung selected as new City Manager starting September 4

Latest News
Project Overview
Why We’re Watching
Recent Events
Prior Replacement Timelines
Background – Importance of City Manager
Background – Current Manager’s Employment Status
Background – Privacy Considerations
News Coverage
Helpful Links

Latest News:

As described in a City News Splash posted within minutes of its action, the Newport Beach City Council, at its August 14 meeting, selected City of Irvine Assistant (and recently, Acting) City Manager Grace K. Leung to serve as Newport Beach City Manager starting Tuesday, September 4. (see the Recent Events, below)

Subsequent to the City’s announcement, a Public Records Act request for the documents establishing Grace’s qualifications for the job yielded:

Grace holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies from Columbia University, where she studied from 1989-1993, and a Masters degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, which she attended from 1993-1995.  According to her biography, after a 19 year career with the City of Sunnyvale (the last six as Finance Director), Grace was hired by the City of Irvine as their Administrative Services Director in January 2016.  In October 2016, she was promoted to Assistant City Manager (working alongside longtime Assistant City Manager Sharon Landers).

After Irvine City Manager Sean Joyce’s October 2017 announcement of his intention to retire, Grace filled in as Acting City Manager from December 2017 through the hiring of John Russo on July 10, 2018.  Grace’s job status since then is unclear.  According to the City of Irvine website, Mr. Russo hired Marianna Marysheva as Assistant City Manager on July 27.  Ms. Marysheva was presumably intended to replace one of the existing assistant managers, but it also appears Grace continues to serve Irvine as Assistant City Manager through September 3.

Prior to  August 14, this is what was known about the replacement process:

  • At a special closed session at the Newport Center Marriott on Monday, July 23, the City Council spent an entire day interviewing what we now know to have been 7 candidates for the City Manager position out of a total of 72 applications.
  • Three unnamed finalists were given second interviews by telephone in a special closed session on Monday morning, July 30, starting at 9:00 a.m. in the City Council Chambers (see the Recent Events surrounding this on July 27 and July 28).
  • A slightly ambiguous statement read in public at the end of the closed session, and later posted on the City’s website, suggests the Council may have selected a candidate to make a job offer to (“pursue”), but, pending the candidate’s acceptance of the offer, will not mention the person’s name or what the vote on making the selection was. An alternative (but less plausible?) reading of the same statement is that the Council is down to two finalists, and has yet to make a choice between them.  The City has refused to clarify the statement, as it has also refused to release the names and resumes of the three finalists or even to provide the complete details of a vote partially reported in the statement.
  • On July 30, the public was given an opportunity to comment before the Council went into closed session in its Conference Room — with about a dozen out of a crowd of 50 or so speaking, most responding to rumors that Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson was among the finalists.
  • Supposedly no “appointment” was to be made at the July 30 meeting, but in past appointments, the Council did not announce its appointment until a contract had been worked out and agreed to, even though the Brown Act would seem to require an announcement of the selection at the meeting where it was made.
  • Because contracts involving employee compensation can be discussed and approved only at regular meetings, the finalist interviews may have been moved up to July 30 from the previously-announced August 13 in order to allow completion of a contract, and its acceptance by the the new hire, prior to the Council’s next regular meeting on August 14.

Project Overview: On Sunday afternoon, March 25, 2018, the City’s Public Information Manager reportedly sent a message to the media saying “After two decades with the City of Newport Beach and nearly a full decade as its city manager, Dave Kiff has informed members of the City Council that he will leave his post toward the end of 2018.”  The parties since, by mutual consent, signed a contract terminating Mr. Kiff’s service by August 31, 2018, at the latest, and the Council hired an executive recruitment firm, Roberts Consulting Group, to search for a replacement.  The secretive process concluded with the Council’s announcement, at its August 14, 2018, meeting, of Grace Leung as the new City Manager starting September 4, 2018.

Why We’re Watching:  Since under the form of government we have in Newport Beach the City Manager is completely responsible for the administration of the City and the face it presents to the public, the appointment of the manager is arguably one of the most consequential decisions an elected City Council makes.  SPON is concerned that in the present instance the Newport Beach City Council is being over secretive about the process by which a new manager is being selected.  While the presence of an online survey (see May 3 under “Recent Events,” below) was welcome, it is disturbing there was essentially no public discussion of how the recruitment firm was selected, and that no public discussion seems to be planned of what the Council will do with the survey results, or what the Council itself is looking for in the next City Manager.

As best we can tell, the City does not even have a page on its website to track the recruitment process and keep the public informed about it.  This page attempts, in part, to fill that void.


With the new manager in place, no events are upcoming.

Recent Events:

November 14 – New City Manager Presents Vision at Speak Up Newport

September 4 – New City Manager Takes Office

  • Grace Leung will begin service as Newport Beach City Manager starting Tuesday, September 4, 2018.

September 1-3 – City Managed by Acting City Manager

  • Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs will serve as Acting City Manager over the Labor Day weekend.

August 31, 2018:  Last day of work for outgoing City Manager Dave Kiff.

August 30, 2018: From 3:30-6:00 pm, the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted a retirement event on the “Civic Green” (the lawn at City Hall) for outgoing City Manager Dave Kiff.

August 14, 2018: The City Council held its only regularly scheduled meeting in August, and the agenda (posted on August 9) contained several items related to the City Manager replacement, culminating in the appointment of Grace K. Leung as the City’s new manager and the approval of an employment agreement with her at essentially the same terms as those of outgoing City Manager Dave Kiff.  Video is available of the Closed Session Report, a Statement by Mayor Duffield and Contract Item 23.

  • The Closed Session (between the Study Session and Regular Meeting) included:
    • Item IV.D to privately discuss the appointment of a new City Manager.
      • The notice says “A new City Manager may be appointed at this meeting,” but goes on to say “It is not uncommon for an appointment to become effective at a future date, such as the date set forth in the open session item for the new City Manager’s employment agreement” — possibly intended to leave open the possibility the name of the person that is appointed will not be revealed until the effective date of September 4, 2018).
      • The fact that a contract for employment effective September 4 is being presented for approval as Item 23 on the open session agenda appears to belie the notion that this item is actually be used to select an appointee.  For a choice to still be possible, there would have to be two or more remaining possibilities, all of whom have given notice to their current employers (but not to the Newport Beach public) that they are prepared to start on September 4.
    • Item IV.E announced a private “conference” between the Council and the Mayor acting as “labor negotiator” for the hiring of a city manager.
      • It might be noted that the Brown Act Section 54957.6 supposedly justifying this “conference” is limited to instructing the negotiator.
      • Since a completed contract is being presented for approval as open session Item 23 (see below), it appears no further negotiation is planned, making this closed session wholly unnecessary and improper — and is being held to circumvent the requirement that the “final action” on appropriate compensation for key employees be debated and decided in public.
    • An announcement read by the City Attorney when the Council returned from closed session said they had selected Grace Leung as the new City Manager.
  • Item 4 on the “Consent Calendar” proposed the adoption of a resolution establishing August 28, 2018, at 5:00 p.m. as a “regular” City Council meeting date.
    • California law, in response to the City of Bell scandal, allows the approval of the contract specifying the salary for new manager to occur only at a regular meeting.
    • It is possible approval of the employment contract with the new (unnamed) City Manager, presented as Item 23 on the August 14 agenda, may be deferred to the new August 28 meeting.
    • The existence of this item appears to indicate an lack of familiarity with the Brown Act on the part of the City.
      • Regular meetings are, by their nature, expected to occur on a regular, predictable schedule — not to be one-off events.  The lack of predictable meeting times and places was largely what the Brown Act was originally enacted to cure.  See Section 54954(a).
      • When items announced on a regular meeting agenda cannot be completed in the allotted time, the Brown Act allows them to be continued to a later date announced at the meeting, with resulted regarded as an “adjourned regular meeting” (something Newport Beach held many of in the past).  See Section 54955.
      • Creating new and unpredictable “regular” meeting dates at which potentially any variety of new agenda items could be introduced to be treated as if they were held at a true regular meeting is not what the Brown Act was intended to allow.
      • In view of the Council having selected Grace Leung in closed session, the City Clerk’s request for Item 4 was withdrawn and the special “regular” meeting was not scheduled.
  • Item 23 presented for approval an employment contract, starting September 4, with an unnamed City Manager.
    • It also approved Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs acting as City Manager in the interval between the old City Manager’s last day on Friday, August 31, and the new Manager’s first day on Tuesday, September 4.
    • The Council approved the employment contract with the name “Grace Leung” inserted into it.

August 3, 2018:  In an attempt to obtain clarity, resident Jim Mosher filed a new Public Records Act request for the names of the Council members participating in the 4-member vote reported in the Council’s July 30 closed session report.  Since the City’s response, received the same day, and a follow-up to it, cited no exception to the Public Records Act allowing non-disclosure of a record in the City’s possession, but simply that no record could be found, the City appears to be claiming it has no record at all of the remainder of the vote reported, even a confidential one.  The idea that the City keeps no records, even confidential ones, of the decisions made in closed session, and publicly reports information for which it has no records to rely on, is rather alarming.

August 2, 2018:  City staff refused July 31 requests from residents Lynn Swain and Lauri Preedge for the full Council vote on the promotion of applicants to finalists (in its July 30 closed session report, the Council said that Council member Jeff Herdman had been one of four members voting to advance a candidate Herdman later felt was unqualified).  The City’s response to Ms. Swain is here.  The response was ambiguous but suggested the City had no record it could find of who the three Council members joining Herdman in that vote were.

On the same day, City staff refused a July 25 Public Records Act request by Daily Pilot newspaper reporter Hillary Davis for the names and resumes of the three finalists the Council planned to interview on August 13 (as had been announced at the July 24 City Council meeting — even though, as it turned out, those interviews were held on July 30).  The City’s response is here.  When an agency refuses to let the public see a documents it possesses, the Public Records Act requires it to provide the legal justification for non-disclosure. In this case some rather strange exemptions are cited:

    • A “Privilege for Official Information” is invoked from California Evidence Code Section 1040, a body of law regarding what one can refuse to testify about in court proceedings — something that seems irrelevant here, although in the end it seems to devolve to the same standard for non-disclosure as the “deliberative process” exemption cited next.
    • Next, to invoke what it calls the “Deliberative Process Privilege” of Government Code Section 6255(a), the City seems to think it sufficient to quote the law’s text (namely, that when all else fails, an exemption can be claimed when based “on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record“) without actually explaining what facts make such a conclusion “clear” in this case.
      • There seems a certain arrogance (or laziness?) on the part of the City in claiming they qualify for this exemption without deigning to tell the public why it qualifies for it.
      • Presumably the City’s claim is that disclosing the names of the applicants could be jeopardize their current positions and hence discourage good people from applying.
      • However, these are public officials voluntarily operating in the public sphere which should give them a lessened expectation of privacy with respect to those actions.
        • It is is very much in the interest of the public in Newport Beach to know details about the applicants so they can guide and inform their elected representatives in their choice.
        • It is likewise very much in the interest of the public in those individuals’ present cities to know their public servants are applying for jobs in Newport Beach.  If hired, it will likely cause disruptions their, so those citizens may wish to take action to encourage them to stay or to correct the situation making them want to leave.  At least they would want to know a change could be coming so they could prepare for it.
        • As a result of these considerations, it would seem the promises of confidentiality were made more to protect the private interests of the applicants than the interests of the public, and hence, contrary to the City’s conclusion, the balancing test of Section 6255(a) should tip in favor of disclosure rather than non-disclosure.
    • The City then claims the records additionally can’t be disclosed because of the “personal contact information” they contain, disclosure of which would constitute an “unwarranted invasion of the privacy” — even though any home addresses, telephone numbers or emails they might contain could easily be redacted.  In making this claim, the City cites no specific code section, but instead gives a list of five California appeals court cases, two of which Proposition 59 in 2004 was promised to reverse, and most of which actually reject alleged invasions of privacy being sufficient to offset the public’s interest in disclosure.
    • Finally, the City invokes what it calls the “Closed Session Communications” exemption of Government Code Section 6254.25, something that by its own language protects attorney work product until the pending litigation it is related to has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled — and something (like the first claimed exemption) that has no obvious relevance to the names and resumes of city manager candidates.

August 1, 2018:  Council member Herdman, who had been condemned in the Council’s July 30 closed session report for leaking names and voting for a candidate he later found unqualified, sent out an email denying he had leaked any names, but verifying he voted to advance to the finals a person who he later realized was unqualified.

July 30, 2018:  Special Council Meeting to Interview Three Finalists

  • Per an announcement made at its July 24, 2018, meeting (see entry, below), the City Council was expected to meet in closed session on August 13 — at an hour and location to be announced — for follow-up interviews with the three finalists it has chosen for the City Manager replacement.
  • However, on July 27 (see entry, below) the City posted a new announcement (see entry, below) saying the interviews would take place on Monday, July 30, instead, at 9:00 a.m. in the City Council Chambers Conference Room.
    • Although the City chose not to produce a video of this meeting, it did preserve an audio recording of the public portion, as well as copies of the many written comments submitted by members of the public.
    • After about 30 minutes of public comment in the Council Chambers (with approximately 50 people in attendance), the Council retired to the private Conference Room for roughly two hours of closed session.  Three candidates were apparently interviewed by phone.
    • A possible reason for moving the interviews up was to allow the contract negotiations with their final choice (if a choice could be made on July 30) to begin in time for a completed contract to be ready for approval at the Council’s August 14 regular meeting (contracts affecting compensation can be discussed and approved only at regular meetings, the next of which after August 14 — because the Council takes the last half of August off — would be September 11).
      • Regarding the contract, the Council had previously designated Mayor Duffield as its negotiator at the special meeting on July 23.
      • The Council may have given the Mayor instructions as to allowable salary and benefits during a noticed closed session with its “negotiator” on July 24.
    • If a final selection is made on July 30, it is required to be announced at the meeting, where it is made, but the agenda assured the public no “appointment” would be made on July 30.
      • That assurance might well have constituted a playing with words, for the City Attorney may be using a theory that even if a “selection” is made, the person isn’t an employee and an “appointment” hasn’t been made until a contract has been signed.
      • Twisting the words to allow a decision made in closed session to be hidden should not be tolerated, since the California Constitution (Article I, Sec. 3(b)) requires the words of the Brown Act to be broadly construed when such construction favors openness, and narrowly construed when the proposed reading allows or promotes secrecy.  Indeed, since executive employment contracts have to be approved in open session, the closed session appointment reporting requirement would be meaningless if appointments can’t be made in closed session.
    • At the end of the July 30 closed session, the City Attorney read a slightly ambiguous closed session report (later posted as a “News Splash” on the City website) saying the candidate who had been “the subject of community speculation” had been eliminated from consideration (many took this to be a reference to Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson) .
      • The statement went on to suggest the Council may have selected a candidate from among the remaining two to make a job offer to (that is, to “pursue”), but, pending the candidate’s acceptance of the offer, will not mention the person’s name or what the vote on making the selection was. An alternative reading of the same statement is that the Council is down to two finalists, and has yet to make a choice between them.
        • A request for clarification has not been answered.

July 28, 2018:

    • Former Mayor Keith Curry sent out a mass email supporting (and repeating) the July 27 rumor that Supervisor Nelson was a finalist for the City Manager position, and urging the public to send comments to the City Council.
    • Council member Jeff Herdman sent an email to constituents expressing concern about the change in plan announced on July 27, and seeking input on his additional concern that in his opinion two of the three (unnamed) finalists to be interviewed were well qualified while the third, who he feared might be favored by a majority of Council, was not.
    • Activist Susan Skinner posted an online petition protesting the rumored appointment of Supervisor Nelson and facilitating comments to the Council.
    • Council member Scott Peotter replied to constituent questions with his own form email assuring the public the recruitment was being conducted in a thoughtful, methodical, and open-minded way, with no pre-selection of any candidate, and castigating Council member Herdman for purportedly “leaking” a name “because he doesn’t like the guy.”

July 27, 2018:  Late Friday afternoon, the City Clerk caught many by surprise by posting a special meeting agenda on the City website saying the interviews with the three City Manager finalists, previously planned for August 13, would be held, instead, on Monday morning, July 30, starting at 9:00 a.m. with the meeting beginning in public in the City Council Chambers and then adjourning to the Council’s private Conference Room for the closed session interviews.

    • Rumors immediately began circulating that soon-to-be-termed-out Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson was one of the candidates being considered for the City Manager position, and that the special meeting was being held to facilitate his appointment.
      • Many in the public expressed concern that Mr. Nelson appeared to be a career politician with no experience as a city manager or administrator of a comparable organization.
      • While the Newport Beach City Manager position would represent a roughly $100,000 increase in salary (with attendant pension benefits) over the position of County Supervisor, if Mr. Nelson were indeed a candidate, and if he accepted the Newport Beach City Manager job, the principle of incompatible offices (California Government Code Section 1099) would almost certainly cause him to automatically forfeit his office on the Board of Supervisors, leaving the residents of the north County district who elected him without representation until a successor could be appointed or elected.

July 24, 2018:   As Items IV.B and IV.C on its closed session agenda, the City Council discussed the appointment of a new City Manager and salary negotiations, similar to the notices for the July 23 special meeting, but with the additional statement that no appointment would be made on July 24.

When the closed session report was given near the start of the evening meeting, the City Attorney said he had been authorized to make the following statement (see video):

    • The City received a total of 72 applications and the City Council selected and interviewed 7 highly qualified applicants.  Those interviews with the 7 applicants occurred yesterday at the Newport Beach Marriott and that was done at the suggestion of the recruiter and it’s primarily done to protect the identities of those who are putting in for the position.  After extensive deliberation, the City Council decided to conduct second interviews with three of the best and most experienced applicants.  Those interviews will be conducted on August 13th.

Based on this, it appears that in the July 24 closed session the Council selected the three finalists (who remain unnamed), and may have given Mayor Duffield directions to negotiate with them, or a future selection, over contract terms.

Although not involved in the present process, the current City Manager has offered the following timetable as a possible one for the replacement, based on his own experience:

  1. Council conducts interviews and picks a favorite.
  2. Recruiter does background checks while Mayor negotiates possible contract which may or may not be accepted by candidate.
  3. Appointment formally made only if previous step successfully completed.
  4. Selected person gives notice to current employer.
  5. New manager appears only after being released by current employer. 

July 23, 2018: The City Council held a Special Meeting starting at 8:00 a.m. at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa (agenda here).

  • The agenda included an opportunity for the public to speak to the Council, in the lobby before they adjourned to the closed session, which apparently took place in a room upstairs.
  • What appeared to be the main part of the agenda, to be conducted pursuant to Government Code Section 54957(b)(1), allows for discussion about candidates and interviews of candidates, mindful that Section 54957(b)(4) prohibits any discussion, under this title and exception, about compensation (including salary and benefits).
    • Under this heading, it was later revealed (in the closed session report on July 24) the Council members interviewed seven city manager candidates. This likely included pre-interview preparation and post-interview debriefing by the contact recruiter per the terms of contract C-8550-1.
  • The agenda also said that after publicly appointing him as their negotiator, the Council would, pursuant to Government Code Section 54957.6(a), privately instruct Mayor Duffield regarding negotiations over such contract matters as compensation for the new Manager.
    • Although Mayor Duffield was appointed to this role, the City Attorney announced no instructions to the Mayor would be given, apparently in recognition of the fact that since the City of Bell scandal, such discussions are not allowed to take place at special meetings.  See Government Code Section 54956(b): “Notwithstanding any other law, a legislative body shall not call a special meeting regarding the salaries, salary schedules, or compensation paid in the form of fringe benefits, of a local agency executive.”
  • The minutes of the July 23 special meeting are not yet available, but it seems likely that at the end of the closed session interviews (which reportedly lasted most of the day), the public announcement was that “no reportable action” had taken place.  Limited details of what took place on July 23 were, however, reported at the July 24 Council meeting (see above).

July 12, 2018:  Outgoing City Manager Dave Kiff shared his experiences as city manager and offered his advice for the future at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Wake Up! Newport event held in the Friends Room at the Central Library.  Details here.

July 10, 2018:  Item IV.D on the City Council’s closed session agenda provided the same notice as that posted on June 26.  Based on the contract signed on April 27, the recruiter was expected to present the City with an interim report on the candidates during Week 10 of the contract (the week starting July 9?) and help the Council begin interviews in Week 13 (the week starting July 30?).  Since what appeared to be the recruiters were seen leaving the Council Chambers after the closed session, it seems likely they delivered their “interim report” to the Council on July 10.  However, there was no public disclosure of what may, or may not, have happened.

June 26, 2018:  The posted agenda for the City Council’s June 26 meeting announced an Item IV.D, closed to the public, in which, according to the agenda explanation, “The City Council will consider all matters authorized by Government Code Section 54957(b)(1) related to the appointment of a new City Manager; however, the City Council will not be appointing a new City Manager at this meeting.”

  • Since the cited California Government Code section says only “this chapter [the Brown Act] shall not be construed to prevent the legislative body of a local agency from holding closed sessions during a regular or special meeting to consider the appointment, employment, evaluation of performance, discipline, or dismissal of a public employee,” the explanation is not particularly informative.
  • Most authorities seem to believe the sole reason the Brown Act allows the closed sessions is to protect the privacy of candidates during interviews, and hence that the closed sessions are not intended for general discussion of the recruitment process, including the general qualities being sought in a new city manager.
  • In the oral announcement that precedes closed sessions, the City Attorney said the Council would not be discussing this item, so presumably this closed session did not occur.

June 25, 2018: Per the job description brochure published by the City’s contract recruiter, Roberts Consulting Group, (of which there seems to have been an original and a revised PDF) this was the last day for interested candidates to email applications to them.  The recruiter has promised to screen the applications and present the “most qualified” ones to the City Council.

May 30, 2018:  Newport Beach City Manager job posting appeared on ICMA and Western City websites, both linking to the brochure on the Roberts Consulting site.

May 24, 2018Notice of job opening for City Manager appears under “Job Opportunities” on City’s Human Resources Department page.  Interested parties are directed to a brochure on the Roberts Consulting Group website.  It indicates applications must be received by June 25.

  • The brochure (the origin of the content of which is unknown) echoes the City Manager job description on the City’s Human Resources website plus powers and duties from Section 504 of the City Charter.
  • The authors were apparently unaware that as Item 17 at the City Council’s May 26, 2009, meeting (as part of the previous recruitment) a revised job description and revised qualifications had been adopted — but, for unknown reasons, never uploaded to the HR website, despite the HR Director at the time having participated in crafting the language.
  • As a result, the current crop of applicants has been given misinformation regarding the job description and qualifications.

May 22, 2018:  As later revealed in response to a Public Records Act Request, the City Clerk on this day gave her emailed approval to the recruitment brochure prepared by Roberts Consulting Group.   The initial response had been that the City had no disclosable records related to its interactions with the recruiter.  The emailed approval was disclosed later, and only after the public asserted that City approval of the brochure was one of the deal points in the public contract, and as such the public had a right to know that the approval had been given, and by whom.  It remains disturbing that the City appears to have no record of City Council participation in this decision, especially since the understanding from April 10 was that the City Clerk would be acting only as an agent for the Council.

May 18, 2018:  Online survey (see May 3, below) closed at end of day.  The City did not immediately seem to post any of the results, but a May 23 article in the Daily Pilot summarized them, apparently based on information disclosed in response to a Public Records Act request by the Daily Pilot.  What appears to be a complete set of results later appeared, without announcement, under “Open and Transparent” on the City website.

May 15, 2018:  Copy of contract C8550-1 with Roberts Consulting Group apparently uploaded to City’s contract archive, but not to the “Contracts and Agreements Approved within the Last 30 Days” page.

      • A Public Records Act request to inspect the document remained unanswered until May 24.
      • The contract calls for the consultant to visit the City three times. The first is to obtain approval of the recruitment brochure, and may have occurred during the closed session on May 8 (before the citizen’s survey had closed).  The second is discuss the preliminary screening of the applications, and the last to assist with the interviews of finalists.
      • Much of the selection and screening will apparently be done by the consultant in apparent contradiction of Newport Beach City Charter Section 500 which requires the City Council to screen all qualified candidates.
      • The prospectus provided to the Council by the Roberts on April 24, and accompanying the contract, emphasizes their wish for the process to be as secretive as legally allowed — including promises to “keep the candidate names confidential.”

May 8, 2018:  In a poorly advertised afternoon study session item, the Council agenda announced an opportunity for the public to speak to them about the qualities wanted in a new City Manager.  Only one member of the public spoke.  The Council then met in closed session to discuss “PUBLIC EMPLOYEE APPOINTMENT (Government Code Section 54957(b)(1)): 1 matter, Title: City Manager.”  This announcement led to considerable speculation the Council might actually be considering the appointment of a permanent or interim City Manager that night.  The speculation was exacerbated by the City Clerk and City Attorney’s refusal to discuss their understanding of the scope of the discussion allowed under the announcement, and if the discussion would involve actual candidates for appointment.  No report of actions taken in the closed session, which might possibly have involved general discussions of questionable legality with the City Clerk or recruitment consultants, was provided. In the regular, open session, the Council, without admitting any fault, responded to the April 10 “cure or correct” letter by asserting, in Item 10, that the public actions to amend the City Manager’s contract on April 10 had corrected any procedural errors that may have occurred preceding that.

May 3, 2018:  City posted a News Splash on its home page announcing the availability, through May 18, of an online survey through which “The Council is seeking input from community members as to what qualities and traits the next City Manager should possess.”  It actually asks mainly about the priority of the issues facing the City, and to a much lesser extent about the attributes community members would like to see in the next City Manager, with “Additional Thoughts” limited to 250 characters (and 50 characters for “other priorities”/”other attributes”).  It is unclear who prepared and posted the survey or exactly what will be done with the results.

April 27, 2018:  Contract C8550-1 with Roberts Consulting Group signed by the City Clerk, alone, and not by the Mayor as the Council had directed on April 24.  The contract was not immediately available for public inspection.

April 24, 2018:  The agenda announced an early afternoon closed session to discuss “PUBLIC EMPLOYEE APPOINTMENT (Government Code Section 54957(b)(1)): 1 matter, Title: Initiation of Recruitment Process for New City Manager.”  After being warned that this Brown Act (the California open meetings law) exception allows only the discussion of specific, individual candidates, and not the recruitment process in general, the City Clerk withdrew the item.  On the regular evening agenda, as Item 11, the Clerk provided the Council with letters from three executive recruitment firms offering to assist with the process.  Without publicly interviewing any of them, the Council authorized the Mayor and Clerk to contract with Roberts Consulting Group Inc.  The actual contract has not been posted as of May 8.  Although not clearly mentioned at the meeting, the City’s Human Resources Director had on April 4 signed an open-ended $75,000 contract (C-7398-1), effective April 16, with one of the other firms, William Avery & Associates, for on-call executive recruitments.

April 10, 2018:  The Council met in closed session to review the job performance of the City Manager and to instruct Mayor Duffield regarding labor negotiations with him.  In the open, regular session, as Item 12, the Council approved an amended labor contract that had evidently been previously negotiated and signed by the City Manager.  The contract called for him to leave by August 31 at the latest, and earlier if an Interim City Manager is appointed.  It also called for certain exceptional payments to be made to the outgoing City Manager if the terms of the agreement are followed, including a non-disparagement clause under which neither side can speak ill of the other (see signed contract C-7033-3).  The Council also put the City Clerk in charge of the mechanics of the recruitment process for the new manager.  Meanwhile, in public comments, the Council received a Brown Act “cure or correct” letter, demanding the night’s actions be set aside, charging they were predetermined by a majority of the Council reaching decisions outside noticed public meetings (something prohibited by the Act).

March 28, 2018: The City posted on its website a “News Splash” (since deleted)  assuring the public the City and its Manager had decided to amicably part ways.

March 27, 2018:  Although not formally on the City Council agenda, the City Manager asked for an item regarding amendments to his contract to be put on the next agenda.  Despite the standing item for public comments on non-agenda items being moved to the end of meeting, many people stayed to make comments on this item (see video).

March 25, 2018:  The City reportedly sent out a press release saying City Manager Dave Kiff had told the Council he will retire “toward the end of 2018.”

Prior Replacement Timelines:

September 12, 2009: Dave Kiff begins work as City Manager.  The time from announcement of a pending retirement to the start of the new Manager was approximately four months.

August 18, 2009: Council holds special meeting (see agenda)  After 11 minutes in closed session, Mayor Selich (at 1:50 in video) announces the Council has selected Dave Kiff (despite City Attorney David R. Hunt having announced “no reportable action” took place in closed session – see 1:22 in video).  After another 6 minutes, or so, of speeches and applause, the five Council members present voted to appoint Kiff and approve his employment contract, confirming those actions by adoption of Resolution No. 2009-61.  Since the selection appears to have been a carefully guarded secret, its appears that neither the resolution nor the contract (both of which contained Mr. Kiff’s name) were available for public inspection prior to the vote to approve them. Near the start of his remarks (at 9:00 in the video), Mr. Kiff mentions how hard it was “keeping the secret.” After he concludes Mayor Selich (at 12:20) says: “I was the one that had the pleasure of telling Dave he’d been selected, and I saw that grin on his face and I wondered how he was going to keep his composure because we told him he had to keep it quiet till we did a few things for [pause] took a little longer than we wanted, but you did a good job, Dave.”  From all this, its seems clear the decision to appoint had been made at an earlier date (the August 11, 2009, closed session?) and the closed session on August 18 was to discuss the contract terms, rather than the selection.

  • Reporting “no reportable action” and “keeping the secret,” especially for appointment decisions, appears to be in direct violation of the Brown Act’s Gov. Code Sec. 54957.1(a)(5) requirement that “Action taken to appoint, employ, dismiss, accept the resignation of, or otherwise affect the employment status of a public employee in closed session pursuant to Section 54957 shall be reported at the public meeting during which the closed session is held.”

August 11, 2009:  Closed session includes item on possible City Manager (and City Attorney) appointment or evaluation. No action reported.

July 28, 2009:  Closed session includes item on possible City Manager (City Attorney and City Clerk) appointment or evaluation. No action reported.

June 9, 2009:  Closed session includes item on possible City Manager appointment or evaluation. No action was reported on that, although it was revealed the Council had voted to accept the resignation of the Police Chief (an item not clearly noticed, and probably not a Council decision, at that).

May 26, 2009:  As Item 17, the City Council approves a revised job description and revised qualifications for the City Manager position.   For unknown reasons, the City Manager job description on the City’s Human Resources Department website was never updated, and continues to display the now 20+ year old earlier version — which was shown to candidates in the current recruitment.

May 12, 2009:  Item 12 on the Council agenda (pulled from the consent calendar) sets up a three-member City Manager Ad Hoc Recruitment Committee to guide a recruitment process. The staff report says Homer Bludau had recently announced he wanted to retire in early September, after 10 years with the City.  Supplemental Item S20 approves a contract with outside recruiter Teri Black and Company, based on the recommendation of the Committee (which did not, technically, exist prior to the this meeting, but which, nonetheless reviewed the applications of firms interested in a recent City Attorney recruitment).

April 28, 2009:  City Council holds additional closed session to evaluate performance of City Manager Homer Bludau.  No action is reported.

April 14, 2009:  City Council holds closed session to evaluate performance of City Manager Homer Bludau.  No action is reported.

May 10, 1999:  First Council meeting at which Homer Bludau is listed as the City Manager. The time from the announcement of a retirement to appointment was about 6 months, and to the start of the new employee, about 8 months.

March 8, 1999:  Council holds a special closed session in The Grill Room at the Big Canyon Country Club from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  No action is reported.  The Council held an additional closed session in the Council Chambers between the study session and regular meeting, for which the agenda does not appear to have been preserved.  Again, no action was reported.  But as supplemental Item S27 at the regular evening meeting (for which a report was promised to be distributed at the meeting, but if it was, does not seem to have been preserved), Homer Bludau is announced as the City Manager appointee, to start work on May 3, 1999.

February 23, 1999:  Council holds a closed session regarding City Manager appointment.

January 30, 1999:  Shannon Associates makes an interesting presentation about Council-Manager government at the Council’s annual planning session.

January 15, 1999:  Council holds a closed session regarding City Manager appointment.

November 30, 1998:  Councilman Hedges makes interesting remarks on leaving office.

October 12, 1998:  Shannon Associates is selected as the recruitment consultant.

September 14, 1998:  An Ad Hoc Committee is appointed to review the RFP for outside recruiters, and to make a recommendation of the firm to select.

August 24, 1998:  Finance Director Dennis Danner is appointed Interim City Manager in a closed session.

August 10, 1998:  Last City Council meeting at which Kevin Murphy is listed as City Manager.

Background – Importance of City Manager:

Through a City Charter, adopted in June 1954 (effective January 1955), the voters of Newport Beach permanently selected a Council-Manager form of government (see Articles III, IV an V) — ratifying a choice that had been made voluntarily by its “general law” City Council in 1948 (see Ordinance No. 575).

Under the Council-Manager form of government, an elected council, acting collectively in open, public meetings, establishes the administrative structure of the city and the policies and legislation governing it, but (with the exception of the activities of the council’s direct charter appointees — in our case the City Clerk and City Attorney) the day-to-day operation of the administrative apparatus (including hiring and firing employees and all city dealings with the public) is left entirely to an appointed professional city manager. In fact, our Charter Section 406 is a fairly standard non-interference clause prohibiting individual council members from attempting to influence administrative actions, and even the whole city council from providing direction to the administrative staff other than through the city manager.

The above makes the selection of the City Manager one of the most important decisions a city makes.  Although Charter Section 500 delegates the appointment authority to the City Council, public involvement seems crucial for a good result.

With or without public involvement, Section 500 also places on the Council a positive duty to “screen all qualified applicants,” which may or may not be consistent with their use of a outside to recruiter to reduce their work.

Background – Current Manager’s Employment Status:

The current City Manager, Dave Kiff, was promoted and appointed to that position at a special closed session meeting of the City Council on August 18, 2009, and apparently started work as City Manager on September 12, 2009.  He had previously served as one of the prior Manager’s two Deputies.

As Item 16 at its April 25, 2017, meeting, the City Council approved synchronized “evergreen” contracts with all three of the employees it appoints (the City Manager, City Clerk and City Attorney).  Each contract has an initial “term” of two years, but automatically renews for another year on that and the subsequent anniversary dates unless the City gives the employee at least six months notice of its intent to not renew.  The employees can also voluntarily end these contracts by giving at least 45 calendar days notice of their intent to resign on any date.  In neither case would any special benefits accrue at the end of the contract.

Despite having mutually agreed to this evergreen arrangement in 2017, Mr. Kiff is said to have privately let the Council know he would not likely continue beyond the initial, April 25, 2019, anniversary of the contract.

Nonetheless, the March 25, 2018, announcement that Mr. Kiff wanted to leave before the end of 2018 came as a great surprise to many in the community, especially since it had not been preceded by any noticed discussion of his employment with the Council (something the Brown Act allows to take place behind closed doors — see Privacy Concerns, below).

The April 10 approval (see “Recent Events,” below) of a new employment contract ending August 31 and providing numerous termination benefits, not required by a voluntary termination under the 2017 contract, further fueled speculation that Mr. Kiff had either been encouraged to leave or made to feel very uncomfortable continuing in his position.

Background – Privacy Considerations:

Opinions are divided on the extent to which the city manager appointment process should be kept secret from the public.

California’s open meetings law, the Brown Act, allows (but does not require) Council discussion of individual employees within the Council’s appointment authority (including candidates) to be held behind closed doors.  It is not believed to allow closed session discussion of the recruitment process or the generalized qualifications the Council is looking for in a new appointee.

Many executive recruiters claim revealing the names of applicants deters quality people from applying out of fear their interest in the job will be made known to their current employer (see this 2017 article regarding the San Bernardino City Manager).  Nonetheless a number of California cities, and ones in other states, make the list of finalists known, and may actually require them to interact with the local public at noticed meetings.  Others discuss the applicants publicly, but avoid the privacy issue by speaking of them without identifying information (referring to them, for example, as “Applicant 1”).

Six to eight states (Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Louisiana, North Dakota and possibly Alabama and Utah)  appear to require interviews of prospective employees by the council to be conducted in public (some may allow individual council members to interview candidates privately, but they can discuss their conclusions from those private interviews only in public).  Florida appears to have the strongest of the state open meeting laws, requiring all meetings other than those related to pending litigation in which an agency is involved to be open to the public, and even the latter have to be recorded by a court reporter with the transcript released to the public immediately following settlement (unlike in California where most of the content of closed sessions is never publicly known, and it is even a crime for participants to disclose it). California’s Brown Act requires public discussion of personnel matters, including appointments, only when it involves elected positions or outside contractors.  While California law does not require as much openness as Florida, it does not prohibit it, and explicitly allows  agencies to adopt local rules requiring any level of transparency (Sec. 54953.7).

Nonetheless, Newport Beach, without public discussion, appears to have opted for complete secrecy — asking for public input, but with no announced plan to publicly discuss what will be done with the results, and with no commitment to reveal the names or qualifications of persons being considered for appointment.

It has to be noted that including in the search “quality people” who do not want their interest in the Newport Beach job to be known, runs the risk that the person hired will spend their time here quietly (and unknown to us) looking for a job elsewhere.

This post on the First Amendment Coalition suggests that even in California it can be argued the public should be able to know at least the names of the applicant’s for the City Manager position.  It cites the ballot arguments in favor of Proposition 59 in 2004.  That California Constitutional amendment, which passed overwhelmingly (83.4% yes to 16.6% no), was, according to the arguments intended to reverse the reasoning in two court cases that had denied public access to the names of candidates for gubernatorial appointments (in one case, to fill a vacancy on the Orange County Board of Supervisors): Wilson v. Superior Court, 51 Cal. App. 4th 1136 (1997) and California First Amendment Coalition v. Superior Court, 67 Cal. App. 4th 159 (1998).

In particular, the ARGUMENT in Favor of Proposition 59 cited examples of the kinds of information people in California had sought but found hard to obtain due to special interest legislation and burdensome court decisions — a trend which Proposition 59 promised to reverse by creating “a constitutional right to know what the government is doing, why it is doing it, and how.” The short list of examples that needed reversing included:  “Who is the Governor considering for appointment to a vacancy on the County Board of Supervisors? Why was the superintendent of the school district fired, and who is being considered as a replacement?

Fourteen years later, and despite the endorsement of the proposition by 83.4% of voters, that information seems as difficult to obtain as it was in 2004.

News Coverage

Helpful Links

Ford Road Residential

Ford Road Residential Project  . . .  as of April, 2019
Planning Commission study session held April 18; application in limbo

Project Overview:  This is a proposal to build a 3-story, 21-unit residential condo or apartment complex on a currently vacant lot owned by AT&T at the corner of MacArthur and Bonita Canyon Road, adjacent to the Bonita Canyon Sports Park.

Why We Were Watching:  The property is designated for “Public Facilities,” not residential.  As a result, the project will require approval of a General Plan amendment and zoning changes, which is always worrisome.  Many neighbors in the Port Streets have expressed concerns about intensifying use of this already highly-used area, and would prefer to see the property be made part of the park.


The project requires approvals by the Planning Commission and City Council.  Hearing dates have not yet been set. A Planning Commission recommendation to the Council was expected in late May or early June, but as a result of an unfavorable reception at the April 18, 2019, study session, the applicant may be reconsidering their proposal.

Recent Events

May 6, 2019: Public comments were due on the environmental document, called a Mitigated Negative Declaration.  The City is not legally required to prepare written responses, but staff said they would.

April 18, 2019: The Planning Commission held a special 5:30 p.m. study session to review the proposal.

October 30, 2017:  Proponents submit application (PA2017-228) to City.

News Coverage

Helpful Links


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

Recent Events
Other Coastal Act related Watch List items
News Coverage
Helpful Links

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.

Banning Ranch Development Project

Image of Banning Ranch shared by another organization against its development
(Nature Commission)

Breaking news: March 30, 2017

The California Supreme Court has concluded the litigation described below by issuing a unanimous finding that the City’s environmental analysis was inadequate and misleading.

This effectively invalidates the project approvals granted by the City in 2012.

The courts ruling can be read here (PDF).

Latest Update: September 10, 2016
Great news!  With much anticipation, the California Coastal Commission met in Newport Beach on September 7th to consider the application for development on the Banning Ranch property.   After lengthy debate in a packed City Council Chambers, the Commission, with 1 of its 12 members (Chair Steve Kinsey) recused and another (Wendy Mitchell) absent, voted 9:1 to reject the application – even though it was significantly scaled back from what the City had OK’d in 2012.

According to press reports, if the developer wishes to pursue their project, they will have to wait a minimum of six months, after which they can start over with an entirely new application to the Coastal Commission.  Whether that would require a new City approval is unclear.

Meanwhile, a legal challenge to the City’s original approval, brought by the Banning Ranch Conservancy, remains to be decided by the California Supreme Court (Case S227473, details here).  The conservancy contends the City violated its General Plan in 2012 by granting an approval without first working with state agencies (including the Coastal Commission) to delineate which portions of the property were developable and which were not.

We understand the Sierra Club Banning Ranch Park & Preserve Task Force and Banning Ranch Conservancy – two groups which have for years led the charge on environmental issues related to Banning Ranch development proposals – will be meeting on September 21 and 28, respectively, to review the September 7th Coastal Commission action and consider their next steps (details here).  SPON supports their efforts.

Press reports:

Is Banning Ranch developer’s environmental marketing the real deal? (OC Register, September 17, 2016)

How ordinary folks waged battle against money and power (Steve Lopez, LA Times, September 10, 2016)

Despite vote, Banning Ranch development could still be built (KPPC, September 9, 2016)

Is the Banning Ranch proposal really dead? A look at where the OC coastal project goes from here (LA Times, September 8, 2016)

After rejection of development plan, Banning Ranch owner weighs next move (LA Times, September 8, 2016)

A good day for the Coastal Commission, and conservation, in Newport Beach (Steve Lopez, LA Times, September 10, 2016)

After development rejected at Banning Ranch, activists see a possibility to preserve (OC Register, September 7, 2016)

Banning Ranch project denied by Coastal Commission, ending 20-year battle — for now (OC Register, September 7, 2016)

Coastal Commission Denies Banning Ranch (Newport Beach Independent, September 8, 2016)

More from Google…


Banning Ranch is the last and the largest parcel of privately owned coastal open space remaining in Orange County. It is located at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, nestled between Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa. It consists of more than 400 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent coastal mesa. Having served for oil production for the last 70 years, Banning Ranch has escaped the dense residential development characteristic of the surrounding cities. Over time it has evolved into a private wildlife preserve.

In 2006, the voters of Newport Beach approved a General Plan that made preservation of the entire property as open space the highest priority for Banning Ranch. Yet in July of 2012, Newport Beach City Council approved a Project of development resorting to a “Statement of Overriding Considerations” to rationalize away the “significant and unavoidable” impacts cited throughout the EIR.

In October 2015, the Coastal Commission staff identified the correct acreage of 11.5 acres available for development and recommended denial of the Coastal Development Permit for Banning Ranch. But rather than deny the project the Coastal Commission instructed the developer to work with Coastal staff to work together to come up with a reduced project.

The applicant, Newport Banning Ranch LLC is a partnership between AERA Energy, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil and Shell, and Cherokee Investment Partners, a $2.2 Billion developer from the East Coast. A revised application that has been submitted to the Coastal Commission (hearing May 12) consists of 895 residential units, commercial space and a hotel to be built on the mesa portion of the property in areas where oil wells will be decommissioned. Separately, their oil and gas proxy, Horizontal Development has a filed for a separate Coastal Development Permit for a new Oil Production facility, up to 100 new oil and gas wells and truck bearing maintenance road along the scenic and environmentally sensitive Semeniuk Slough.

The partial list of impacts:

  • Destruction and permanent loss of natural habitats and open space: The property has 200 acres of degraded wetlands with no development potential and 200 acres of coastal mesas and bluffs. This site has more than 225 acres of Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA). It is a nesting and wintering ground to endangered and threatened species (listed at under Biology).
  • Destruction and permanent loss of sacred cultural sites: California’s Native American Heritage Commission listed Banning Ranch as a sacred site
  • Unknown and unsafe impacts to our environment: The developer plans to excavate and stockpile 2.8 million cubic yards of soil over 10 years to prepare the land for development, destroying the environment and exposing the public to unknown levels of contaminants.
  • Air pollution: Air pollution from construction and traffic will exceed state standards. Greenhouse gas emissions will contribute considerably to the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, accelerating global climate change and rising sea levels.
  • Noise Pollution: Construction and traffic noise will double allowable noise thresholds.
  • Traffic: 15,000+ more car trips on our roads, daily! Expect double and triple commutes, gridlocked intersections.

We urge you to reiterate that this development permit should be denied at the Coastal Commission Hearing at the Newport Beach City Hall May 12, 2016!  The goal for Banning Ranch should be the preservation, acquisition, conservation, restoration and maintenance of the site as a permanent public open space, park and coastal nature preserve.

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Past Update History

Update August 23, 2016: Coastal Commission Hearing & Vote Scheduled for September 7 here in Newport Beach
The Coastal Commission will meet and vote on the Banning Ranch project at its Newport Beach meeting on September 7. The Coastal Commission, the City of Newport Beach and the developer have all agreed on the timing and the location. The Banning Ranch hearing will be heard as Item 14d (Agenda here).  Hearing procedure available here.  For more information, visit the Banning Ranch Conservancy website.

Here are a few immediate and important action items for you to consider:

  • Like and share the newly released Banning Ranch video
  • Read the last Coastal Commission Staff Report from May 2016 when the item was postponed
  • Submit comments to the California Coastal Commission staff using this special email address:
  • Email, text or call in questions or offers to volunteer to the Banning Ranch Conservancy: Email Address:  or Text/Call 714-719-2148
  • Spread the Word using your personal networks

Newport Banning Ranch Project Documents as of July 2016
All the following documents are available for viewing and/or downloading here.

  • Final Project Transmittal and all attachments
    • Project Description
    • Site Plan
    • Coastal Commission Staff Recommendation
    • Site Conditions
    • Coastal Commission Staff Land Use Recommendations
    • Features

Developer Seeks More Space to Build . . .
Daily Pilot Article: June 29, 2016

Newport Beach Fire Department Analysis for Coastal Commission
“Fire and the resulting products of combustion are a continual threat to the community . . . ” The complete analysis can be read here.

Acreage Comparison Report
Provided to Coastal Commission by Newport Banning Ranch

The full report can be read here.

Update April 28, 2016:  Coastal Commission Hearing on May 12, 2016
The Coastal Commission hearing will be held on May 12, 9:00 am, at the Newport Beach Civic Center, 100 Civic Center Drive, Newport Beach.   This hearing could very well decide the fate of the Banning Ranch. A standing-room-only turnout is needed!  The Coastal Commission Staff Report for the proposed project at Banning Ranch can be downloaded here.

Here are a few immediate and important action items for you to consider:

Update August 1, 2015: Coastal Commission Meeting October 7/8, 2015:
The Banning Ranch Conservancy and the Quality of Life Coalition are urging everyone to attend the California Coastal Commission hearing on the Banning Ranch October 7/8 at the Long Beach City Council Chambers. This Commission could decide the fate of the Banning Ranch. This is it . . . a large turnout is needed! Let this Commission know that the community opposes the Banning Ranch development.

Sign up now for a seat on the bus.   Transportation will be provided.

Sign the online letter to the Coastal Commission.  Better yet, personalize the message to your liking. It only takes 30 seconds!

Don’t trust the Trust! The Newport Banning Land Trust was created and is supported by the developers of the Banning Ranch. Watch this short video to learn more.

Update March 18, 2015:  Presentation to the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club by Banning Ranch Conservancy and SPON:   The Banning Ranch:  Fact vs. Fiction was presented in partnership by Banning Ranch Conservancy and SPON at the March monthly meeting of the Women’s Democratic Club.  A copy of the presentation is here.

Update March 17, 2015:  Caring People, United in a Worthy Cause, Can Make Things Happen! By Suzanne Forster:   On Thursday, March 12, at the California Coastal Commission Enforcement Hearing in Chula Vista, the Commission reached a Settlement Agreement ( with Newport Banning Ranch LLC (NBR), the developer, regarding violations of the Coastal Act charged by the Commission against the developer.  Without admitting guilt, NBR agreed to stop committing the alleged violations and perform actions (restoration, mitigation and dedication of permanent open space) to correct them. The heart of the victory was that the annual mowing of 40 to 50 acres of critical habitat has been stopped allowing coastal sage scrub to return to these areas.

Over 60+ people rode the bus to Chula Vista and many other supporters drove down to carry tables, banners and supplies. This large turn-out sent a powerful message to both the Commissioners and the developer demonstrating that citizens can and do make a difference.

We will never be able to outspend the developer, but with help from supporters, existing and new, we can show that citizens working together will make a difference.  Here’s how —

Original Post February 2015: Petition to Halt Habitat Destruction at Banning Ranch by Suzanne Forster:  The California Coastal Commission Enforcement Staff has cited the owners of Banning Ranch—Newport Banning Ranch LLC and West Newport Oil Company, the oil field operator—with two major violations of the Coastal Act.  The violations are unpermitted habitat destruction and unpermitted oil field operations. The Banning Ranch Conservancy has initiated a petition asking the California Coastal Commission to permanently halt this habitat destruction and to ensure permanent restoration and protection of the degraded habitat on Banning Ranch.  The petition will be presented to the commissioners at the March Enforcement Hearing (details below).  A large number of signatures will tell the commissioners that the public is serious about protecting our finite coastal resources.

Please sign the petition here.

The Enforcement Hearing is expected to be scheduled during the regular monthly Coastal Commission hearing on March 11-13 at the Chula Vista Council Chambers in Chula Vista (meeting information here); South Coast District (future agenda items here).  The exact date of the hearing will also be posted to the Banning Ranch Conservancy website when it’s available.

Newport Banning Ranch LLC and West Newport Oil Company (the oil field operator) were recently cited for two major violations of the Coastal Act. The violations are for unpermitted habitat destruction and unpermitted oil field operations.  The CCC staff’s enforcement action against the Banning Ranch owners could result in a consent order or a unilateral hearing.

A consent order is an agreement between staff and the owners regarding the appropriate restoration and mitigation orders for the violations. Fines can also be levied. If no agreement is reached prior to the hearing, a unilateral hearing will be held, during which the Coastal Enforcement staff will present their case against the owners and the owners’ attorneys or representatives will respond. Interested parties, such as the Banning Ranch Conservancy and other environmental organizations can also make presentations that include expert witnesses. The Coastal Commissioners will hear all the testimony and make their decision.

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