Venezia: Hopefuls and their land-use stances

This post has been corrected, as noted below

On June 25 I wrote about Jean Watt and the organization she co-founded, Still Protecting Our Newport (SPON), attempting to wake up residents and rally them against the city's efforts to update the land-use element amendment to the General Plan.

Watt says the plan would terribly increase traffic.

According to Watt, this is one of the most important issues facing residents in a decade.

I suggested she needed to wake up the current crop of City Council candidates, as none seemed to have weighed in on the issue.

Watt told me candidates tend to dance around issues dealing with developers.

"They look over their shoulder and see where the wind is blowing," she joked.

So what did candidates tell me about their views on the proposed amendment?

Diane Dixon, District 1

Dixon, a businesswoman, has attended all of the land-use committee meetings, read Planning Commission meeting minutes and the SPON website.

"To the best of my ability I have tried to keep up with it," she said.

Dixon said she doesn't see herself supporting anything that isn't traffic-neutral.

Michael Glen, District 1

Glen, a technology consultant, attended one city meeting on the issue. About 30 people attended, and he said he felt the city's outreach to residents fell short.

Of the plan itself, he said its green aspect is too expensive and reduces private-property rights.

"I would prefer a bit of a loosening, rather than a tightening, of the General Plan," he said, adding that he would like to see more focus on traffic concerns. "As it stands right now I'm not a fan of it."

Marshall `Duffy' Duffield, District 3

Duffield, founder of the Duffy boat business that bears his nickname, didn't respond to my email asking how he felt about the issue, but did point out that I mistakenly stated he didn't have a website in my previous column, which he does.

I apologized for the error, but he didn't comment on the amendment issue in our email exchange.

Timothy Brown, District 4

"I read your column last week and got the less-than-subtle hint that I have not commented on this yet," he wrote in an email.

We talked after he attended the council meeting on the 8th.

Brown, a planning commissioner, supports the periodic review of the land-use element of the General Plan. There are too many uncontrollable factors in any city impacting land use not to amend it every six to eight years, in his view.

"I support all of the efforts the council made last night to reduce traffic, not just mitigate the traffic impacts resulting from this amendment, but reducing [average daily trip] in and around the city, particularly in the Newport Center area," Brown said.

Kevin Muldoon, District 4

"Jean Watt is a great leader, and I personally support the General Plan update because it's traffic-neutral and protects property rights," says Muldoon, an attorney.

When I asked Muldoon if he'd read the entire city document regarding the amendment, he said, "only parts of it."

Roy Englebrecht, District 4


Englebrecht, a Parks, Beaches and Recreation commissioner, said he's only read the information City Manager Dave Kiff publicly sent out and hasn't yet looked at the SPON website.

He's following what's happening with Costa Mesa and its density issues, feeling they are parallel to Newport's.

Of the amendment issue he said, "I haven't formed an opinion yet, but will by Feet to the Fire," the series of the election forums I put on with other journalists.

Scott Peotter, District 6

Peotter joked that he hadn't read all six inches of the amendment document, but understands the basics of what's being proposed with entitlements and relocating traffic from Newport Coast to Newport Center.

"Corona del Mar will have fewer trips – Jamboree and McArthur will increase, and in that sense I'm in favor of it," he said." If you look at entitlement down in the Pelican Hill area it will never be developed. If you put it in Fashion Island then it will be developed."

Peotter's for development in the airport area, providing the details support what his understanding of the plan is.

Mike Toerge District 6

Toerge said the beneficiaries of this amendment plan — whoever they may be — "have to communicate to you and me."

Mobility is a key issue for him and looking at the city's arithmetic, he feels it's not very compelling.

He questions transferring development from Newport Coast, where the roads are wide, to Newport Center, where they're not quite as wide.

He thinks we need to look at solving regional traffic issues and would like to see a plan moving traffic off Newport streets to the 73 Freeway.

[For the record, 9:15 a.m. July 11: An earlier version of this column identified Roy Englebrecht as a Harbor commissioner. He is a Parks, Beaches and Recreation commissioner. An earlier version of this column referred to average daily traffic; the correct term is average daily trip.

BARBARA VENEZIA, whose column appears Fridays, lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World