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Vote on controversial changes to development plan postponed

After hours of public statements and discussion Tuesday, a final vote on a proposed amendment to Newport Beach's development guidelines was postponed until the next City Council meeting.

The updated guidelines include reduced development in some areas of the city, but increased development in others, such as around Newport Center and Fashion Island.

The suggestions resulted from more than a year of reviewing the land-use portion of the city's 2006 general plan, a guiding document meant to preserve the city's character and oversee appropriate growth over time.

During the meeting Tuesday, residents cautioned council members against allowing for more development and traffic in the city, which they said is at risk of becoming like congested Los Angeles.

"I'm watching a place where I grew up as a little kid, and I'm watching it go away," speaker Wyatt Mitcham said.

Several people questioned how residents would benefit from proposed changes that they said seemed to favor developers instead of constituents.

"It has just become a real nightmare, I think for the residents who live here," said Karen Tringali, president of the Corona Del Mar Residents Assn.

The amended guidelines would not allow Newport Coast Center, Newport Coast Hotel and Harbor View Center, as well as several other places, to grow as large as envisioned in the 2006 plan.

But Newport Center and Fashion Island would be allowed to grow regional office space by 500,000 square feet, regional commercial space by 50,000 square feet and multifamily units by 500.

"That is going to be an absolute disaster as far as maintaining the character of this portion of the city is going to be," speaker Tom Callister said.

After the pushback from the public, council members decided to suggest changes to the amendment rather than approve or deny it as is.

Among the revisions, Mayor Pro Tem Ed Selich inserted language to direct the city to work on a Corona del Mar traffic management bypass plan. He also struck down a proposal for a 125-room hotel to be built in Newport Center where a car wash currently stands.

Councilman Tony Petros added lines to encourage the city's collaboration with the Orange County Transportation Authority to reduce traffic around Newport Center.

The councilmen said, with their changes, the plan would reduce traffic in the city overall.

The council voted 6 to 0, with Councilwoman Nancy Gardner abstaining, to direct city staff to prepare draft resolutions reflecting the agreed-upon changes to be voted on at the next meeting. The public will again be given the opportunity to share their thoughts.

If the council approves the amendment, it would still need to be cleared by voters.

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