Newport’s “Greenlight” City Charter Provision

Latest news: 

SPON has appealed a “Directors Determination” issued by City staff on April 30, 2021, and purporting to have discovered that without amending the City’s General Plan, 30% of the current General Plan hotel room limits at four resort hotels can be used alternatively to build permanent dwellings units. SPON believes this is an evasion of Greenlight, for Greenlight treats dwelling units (a residential use) separately from hotel rooms (a non-residential use), and if the City Council had amended the General Plan to incorporate such a policy, the newly-added allowance for dwelling units would count toward the thresholds of what the Council can add without voter approval.  SPON does not believe the Council can avoid this Greenlight counting by asking staff to effectively amend the General Plan for them, while claiming the Council has not actually amended it.

The appeal has been set for a hearing before the Planning Commission on July 8. Should they support staff’s “Determination,” it can be further appealed to the City Council.

Helpful Links


City charters, if adopted, allow the citizens of California cities to define the structure of their city government and what it can do.

California cities are also required by the state to adopt and maintain what are called “general plans.” A general plan is a legally-binding vision of the city’s future, typically looking out 20 to 30 years and stating development limits.  The Newport Beach General Plan divides the city into some 50 geographic sub-areas (called “statistical areas”) and sets limits on the development in each, sometimes on a parcel-by-parcel basis.

Greenlight” refers to a citizen-initiated charter amendment adopted by Newport Beach voters at the November 2000 election, where it appeared as “Measure S.” It is now codified as City Charter Section 423 and supplemented by the City Council’s subsequently-adopted Policy A-18 (Guidelines for Implementing Charter Section 423 (Measure S Guidelines)).

Greenlight is a “slow growth” measure, restricting the amounts by which the city council can increase those general plan development limits over a ten-year period without seeking voter approval. It sets separate limits for how much the Council is free to add, in 10 years, to a statistical area in terms of dwelling units (100), non-residential floor area (40,000 square feet) and traffic increases anticipated as a result of newly allowed development of either type (100 peak hour trips).


Coming soon.

Helpful Links

    • Mailer sent to voters by Greenlight proponents prior to November 2000 election.
    • Pages from November 2000 sample ballot describing Greenlight and providing arguments for and against it.
    • City staff’s Greenlight tracking tables showing General Plan amendments in the last ten years, the amount of potential development added by the amendment, and the remaining amount the Council could add without voter approval.