Watch List

Watch List

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

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

2607 Ocean Blvd (Corona del Mar bluff face residence appeal to Coastal Commission)
Balboa Theater
Bayside Family Resort Hotel (formerly “Newport Dunes Hotel”)
Ford Road Residential
General Plan Update / SPON GPAC
John Wayne Airport
Koll Center Residences
Local Coastal Program Amendments
Newport Village (Mariners Mile project)
Tennis Club (Eastbluff)
Tennis Club (Newport Center)

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

Planning Commission videos
Additional Watch List resources

2607 Ocean Blvd . . . as of December 2019
Locally-approved project unanimously rejected by Coastal Commission, even with modifications

This application for what many consider to be an oversized (for the lot), out-of-character and view-blocking new residence on the lot adjacent to the top of the China Cove Ramp went before the Planning Commission at a hearing which began on November 9 and was continued to December 7. A slightly reduced proposal, still requiring variances from the City’s accepted development standards, was approved at that time. The City rejected an appeal of the issuance of the Coastal Development Permit to the City Council, but it has been appealed to the California Coastal Commission. A hearing for the CCC to consider accepting the appeal was set for March 7 in Oxnard, however the item was postponed.  That question was finally resolved at the Commission’s August 10 meeting in Redondo Beach (Item F22a) where the Commission unanimously agreed with their staff that the appeal raised substantial issues of statewide significance.  A full hearing on the matter was finally held as Item 15b on the Commission’s agenda for December 12, 2019, in Calabasas. The proponents withdrew the application (terminating the current proposal) when it became apparent the Commission was going to vote unanimously to reject a very slightly reduced project — despite Coastal staff having recommended it be approved . . . more here.

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

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

Bayside Family Resort Hotel (formerly “Newport Dunes Hotel”)  . . .  as of October 2019
EIR being prepared

The on-again/off-again plans for this resort hotel appear to be on again, with recent lease agreement changes having been approved by the County Board of Supervisors, and an application having been received by the City, which is seeking a contractor to prepare an Environmental Impact Report.  Although City Council action on the award of the contract was on their July 10, 2018, agenda, with a recommendation for approval, the item was withdrawn without explanation. It came back and a consultant contract was approved on the November 27, 2018, agenda. After much delay, a “scoping meeting” for the EIR (seeking public comment on the what topics need to be covered) was held on September 25, 2019, with the project rebranded as the “Bayside Family Resort Hotel.” Comments on the potential problems that need to be addressed in the EIR had to be submitted to the City by October 16. . .  more here.

Ford Road Residential . . . as of May 2019
Plan to build apartment or condo complex on vacant parcel near Port Streets

This is a proposal, requiring a General Plan amendment, 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. A Planning Commission study session introducing the project was held on April 18.  A Mitigated Negative Declaration document was circulated for review with comments due by May 6. A Planning Commission recommendation to the Council was expected in late May or early June, but the application seems to be in limbo . . . . more here.

General Plan Update . . . as of  November 2020
Council to review overall GPU effort on November 10; online Housing Workshops November 16 & 17; Planning Commission to discuss Circulation Element November 19; Housing Element Update Advisory Committee to meet again on December 2

SPON is preparing to send a resolution to the City Council protesting the recent announcement that Newport Beach needs to plan to add 4,832 new housing units by 2029, and suggesting ways to deal with it. See SPON email regarding this.  Those wishing to add their names to the resolution may do so here

Although $1 million was budgeted for a General Plan Update in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, the City Council announced it would, instead, concentrate on promoting a Port Master Plan — an effort that has also since been abandoned. The GPU effort resumed on January 8,  2019, when the City Council heard staff’s latest proposal at an afternoon study session.  That proposal was to conduct the GPU in three phases, the first year being devoted to public outreach overseen by a five-member citizens Steering Committee, who were also to help write the request of proposals from consultants to guide the work and recommend which one to hire. On January 22, the Council adopted a resolution creating the Steering Committee, the members of which were selected by the Mayor from among 39 applications received by noon on January 30. The Mayor’s selections were announced and confirmed on February 12, with a public outreach meeting the following night. The two new members were added at the March 12 City Council meeting. The Steering Committee held its first noticed meeting on February 20 at which it recommended restricting the initial consultant to handling the public outreach (“listen and learn”) portion of the process. It signed off on the RFP on March 20, met again on April 3.  On May 1 the Committee reviewed the five responses to the RFP from potential consultants by the April 26 deadline. It interviewed three of those firms on May 15 and of them, tentatively approved recommending Kearns & West to the City Council. On May 29, it reviewed that firm’s cost proposal and detailed scope of work, and recommended the Council approve the contract at their June 25 meeting, which has now happened.  With minimal input from the Steering Committee, the consultant launched its interactive GPU website on October 11 followed by a community-wide launch event for the “Listen & Learn” effort at the City Hall Community Room on October 26. A series of more intensive, but sparsely attended, consultant-facilitated Community Workshops were held in each of the City’s council districts from November 12 through December 12. The steering committee last met on December 4, at which time, in view of an unexpectedly large state-mandated housing requirement for the next planning cycle, they thought they needed further direction from the Council on how to proceed. To the committee’s likely surprise, the Council, on January 14, voted to dissolve the Steering Committee and focus on a new “Housing Action Plan” that involves appointing a new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee charged with amending the Housing, Circulation and Land Use Elements to add the 4,832 new housing units expected to be demanded by the state. Applications to serve on the new committee were due by January 25 and appointments were made at the Council’s February 25 meeting. The committee was expected to hold its first meeting on March 25. It has been cancelled several times due to coronavirus concerns, but was finally scheduled for July 1. Meanwhile, City staff sought an outside consultant to guide this effort. A single proposal was reportedly received, and a contract with that firm (Kimley Horn) was presented to the Council and approved at their April 14 meeting — apparently without review by the  new committee. Also without committee review, staff has decided to assign the update of the Circulation Element to the Planning Commission. The PC, without much comment, heard about this on September 17 and is expected to hold a study session on it on November 19. Meanwhile, on October 13, the City Council authorized a RHNA appeal, revised the HEUAC duties and heard an update on the City’s failed legislative effort, AB 1063. An online public Housing Workshops to assess “site suitability” are scheduled for November 16 & 17. The HEUAC will meet again on December 2.

While the City was punting on the General Plan Update in 2017-2018, SPON formed its own citizens General Plan Advisory Committee, both to create a better informed populace and to generate independent ideas for improvement of the present General Plan. The last SPON GPAC workshop was held on January 12, 2019 . . .  more here.

John Wayne Airport . . . as of October 2020
2021 commercial allocations and final GAIP FBO lease to Supervisors on November 3

As a signatory to the historic 1985 Settlement Agreement, the threat that JWA poses to the quality of life in Newport Beach has been on SPON’s radar almost since SPON’s inception.  With mounting citizen complaints, the City appears to have taken a renewed interest and has held several community forums to air JWA issues.  SPON recently refused to agree to change the definition of “commuter” planes in the Settlement Agreement. Meanwhile, JWA staff has completed an Environmental Impact Report for its planned General Aviation Improvement Program. The City’s Aviation Committee discussed the GAIP, among other things, on November 5, and again on March 4. And it was discussed at a well-attended JWA Town Hall held by Mayor Dixon and  County Supervisor Michelle Steel in the Newport Beach Community Room on April 6. The City’s Aviation Committee discussed it on April 15. The Board of Supervisors considered the GAIP on May 7 and approved a compromise plan at its June 25 meeting without re-consulting their Airport Commission, which had asked for more time on May 1. In preparation for the Board of Supervisors meeting, the City Council was expected to authorize officials to endorse a modified position.  Instead, the City’s Aviation Committee meeting on June 10 was interrupted by a medical emergency in the audience. A newly-constituted Aviation Committee met for the first time on July 22. It last met on February 24, and was expected to meet again on March 23, but cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. Meanwhile, the Request for Proposals for vendors to build and operate the new facilities constituting the GAIP was considered by the JWA Airport Commission on September 4 and approved for release by the Board of Supervisors on September 10. Proposals were due back to the County by 2:00 p.m. on December 19. Airport staff promised the results of an initial evaluation of those proposals would be made public by March 13 at the latest, but that has been delayed to a date as yet unannounced. They were finally posted on July 9. The City’s Aviation Committee reviewed the proposals on July 27 and the City Council will review their recommendations on July 28. Following a separate review and recommendation by the County’s Airport Commission on August 5, the Board of Supervisors reviewed the proposals on August 11 and selected ACI Jet, Clay Lacy Aviation and Jay’s Aircraft Maintenance for lease negotiations. Following a closed session discussion on August 25, the Supervisors approved the first two of those leases on September 15. The City’s Aviation Committee meeting expected on September 28 was canceled. It is next expected to meet on October 26. The most recent JWA Quarterly Noise Meeting was held on September 16 with the next expected on December 16. Commercial carrier flight allocations for calendar year 2021, when the limit on million annual passengers will be increasing from 10.8 to 11.8, are expect to go the the Aviation Commission on October 21 and to the Board of Supervisors on November 3 along with the lease for the third general aviation operator, Jay’s Aircraft Maintenance.  … more here.

Koll Center Residences . . . as of October 2019
Project being redesigned; public hearing dates unknown

This is a proposal to build three high-rise (roughly 150 foot) residential condominium towers containing a total of 260 units in the existing street-level parking lots of the Airport Area office park adjacent to Uptown Newport (at the intersection of Birch and Von Karman, south of the courthouse). SPON and many neighboring business owners feel the proposal is out of character for the area. A Draft Environmental Impact Report was released for public review in September 2017 with comments due back by November 13. A study session regarding the project began before the Planning Commission on January 18, 2018, but was interrupted and continued to a future date while City staff sorts through which of the Commissioners need to be “recused” from the discussion due to financial conflicts of interest. At a special September 13 meeting, the conflicted Commissioners “drew lots” to select one to join the three unconflicted ones, thereby assembling a quorum.  The long-awaited study session was re-announced for November 8. However it had to be cancelled when one of the three unconflicted commissioners resigned, unexpectedly, due to health reasons.  A replacement was appointed, but also proved to have a conflict, so a new conflicted commissioner had to be selected by lot to serve on the panel. The study session was finally held on January 31. However, given community pushback, the owners appear to have decided to completely redesign the project. Based on City staff comments made at the October 3 Planning Commission meeting, a new application that will require a new EIR is expected, so the matter is not expected to return to the Commission for at least a year . . .  more here.

Local Coastal Program Amendments . . . as of October 2020
Numerous City proposals in various stages of consideration

Following a many-years process, the City finally obtained certification of its  Local Coastal Program  effective January 30, 2017, and has since been using it to issue Coastal Development Permits.  Almost immediately, the City began requesting changes to the LCP.  SPON has been  concerned about many of these requests, including a proposal, which seems to have been at least partially abandoned, to exempt “planned communities” from the City’s traditional height limits. Nonetheless, a large and somewhat confusing array of requests for changes from the City remains before the Coastal Commission, with Commission staff having been granted extensions of time to respond to most.  Some of the “clean-up” amendments, and a request to modify the boundary of the appeals area, were heard and accepted, with modifications, at the Commission’s July 11 meeting in Scotts Valley (Santa Cruz County). Meanwhile, a request to expand the scope of the City’s Categorical Exclusion Order (for residential construction) was approved as Item F21a on the August 10 CCC agenda in Redondo Beach and accepted by the City Council on September 11.  Setback map corrections were on the September agenda, and new provisions regarding Accessory Dwelling Units were considered as Item 15b on the October 12 CCC agenda. Some of the more controversial changes involving height limits and the City’s authority to deviate from the CCC’s certified development standards were approved, with modifications, on a 9:3 vote as Item 24b when the Coastal Commission met in Newport Beach on December 12, 2018.  The City Council accepted the modified amendments at its February 12, 2019, meeting, with final adoption scheduled for February 26.   The City’s latest proposal for an LCP amendment resurrects a plan, shelved since 2015, to exempt most resident-serving businesses in Balboa Village from the general citywide requirement to provide off-street parking.  That amendment is currently available for public review.  On February 21, the Planning Commission recommended the City Council submit it to the Coastal Commission and on April 9, the Council did that. At the Coastal Commission’s July 10 meeting in San Luis Obispo, the Commission considered, but unanimously rejected, the City’s request to allow private homeowner encroachments onto the ocean beach near the Wedge. Since then, on October 8, the City Council submitted to the Coastal Commission a proposal to allow the development allocations certified by the Coastal Commission to be transferred from the original property to another. And further proposals are under consideration to amend the Coastal Plan to address beach cottage preservation, increase Lido Isle hedge heights, tightening residential massing standards and short term lodging regulations.  . . . more here.

Newport Village . . . as of December 2019
EIR scoping in progress

An application to redevelop 11 acres of largely open and storage areas flanking Pacific Coast Highway in Mariner’s Mile was submitted to the City on December 4, 2017. As described on a City web page, revised plans, still incomplete, were submitted on November 20, 2018,  Those call for 14 condos above offices on the waterfront, 108 apartments on the inland parcel, and, between the two, a total of 121,370 square feet of office, boat sales, vehicle sales, retail, and restaurant uses. On October 18, prior to the submission of the new plans, the Planning Commission heard an application to convert an existing office building on the inland side into a luxury used car sales operation.  That was approved on November 8.  On March 21, 2019, City staff posted a Request for Proposals for a consultant to prepare an Environmental Impact Report. The City Council approved a contract on September 24.  On November 11, the developer held a non-City-sponsored public outreach meeting, followed by the EIR contractor’s  “Scoping Meeting” held on November 20, the at which the public was invited to offer topics that need to be addressed in the EIR. The deadline for submitting additional scoping comments in writing was December 9  . . . more here.

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

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

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

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

Planning Commission Meeting Videos here!

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

The City has also been recording the meetings of its General Plan Update Steering Committee.  Those can be found here.

The City’s Council meeting video archive, which goes back to 2005, is here. (earlier meetings were recorded — on audio since the 1960’s and by video from the 1990’s — but the recordings have not been preserved).

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

  • Key Private Sector Projects Lists and Presentations
    • “Citywide Project Update” by Community Development Director Semione Jurjis at Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Wake Up! Newport breakfast meeting on September 6, 2018:  PowerPoint and YouTube video
    • Sample projects (and planning process) as presented at Planning Division Open House, February 2018 (projects start on page 35)
    • Project list as presented at the January 14, 2017 City Council planning session ( video also available)
    • Project list as presented at the January 23, 2016 City Council strategic planning meeting (note: there does not appear to be any recording available of this meeting)
  • CEQA Cumulative Projects List   (most recently updated 4/14/2020)
    • Updated by city staff as new Environmental Impact Reports are prepared
    • The actual California Environmental Quality Act documentation for individual projects is online here.
  • New and Pending Applications — the “Case Log”
    • New applications can be monitored by following the Planning Division’s Case Log (also available in an older format with additional “filters”).  The most recent applications have the highest numbers and currently appear at the top of the list.
    • Some applications require public hearings to be approved, others do not.
    • When a public hearing is required, it will be preceded by a published hearing notice (usually 10 days before the hearing), and then, at least three days before the hearing, by an agenda (usually accompanied by “staff reports” detailing the particulars of the application and making a recommendation to the decision makers).
    • To receive an email from the City when a hearing is set, sign up for e-notification here.
  • Public hearings, agendas and staff reports
    • Notices and agendas of upcoming public meetings, including those at which formal hearings will be conducted, and the staff reports and recommendations related to them, are posted on the City’s Legistar/Granicus website (to see all, be sure to select “All Years” and “All Meeting Bodies” in the drop-down boxes).
    • In addition to the Case Log and official hearing announcements, anticipated dates of public hearings can be found in the “tentative agendas” distributed at most City Council and Planning Commission meetings. During those meetings, tentative agenda dates for future meetings are usually available in hard copy format in the City Council Chambers lobby.  They are sometimes posted with the “live” meeting materials (on Legistar/Granicus), and almost always archived in the permanent records of the meetings.
      • Although tentative agendas have not been distributed at the City Council meetings since March 12, 2019, they are still presented to the Planning Commission. The one from the June 4, 2020, Planning Commission meeting is here.
    • For email notification from the City when hearing notices and agendas are posted, sign up for e-notification here.
    • After public hearings have been completed, the staff reports, meeting materials, videos, minutes and resulting resolutions of approval or denial (but not the notices) are eventually posted to the Archived Meetings site within the City’s Laserfiche document system.
  • Approvals without public hearings
    • The municipal code gives Planning Division employees authority to grant “staff approvals” for certain kinds of discretionary applications.
    • Those decisions are posted online weekly, on Fridays, in the Administrative Approvals folder (along with the decisions rendered by the Zoning Administrator — which are made at a public hearing, but by a City employee rather than by a body of elected or appointed citizens).  Each includes a statement of the time in which the staff decision can be appealed to a higher body.
    • Planning Division staff as also recently started posting a running list of the residential building applications in the Coastal Zone that it has deemed exempt from the requirement for a Coastal Development Permit as a result of the City’s Categorical Exclusion Order.  That list is here.  In theory, staff’s decisions on this can be challenged.

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

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