Council OKs scaled-back development for Newport Center, Fashion Island, airport areas

The Newport Beach City Council approved an amendment to the city's development guidelines Tuesday, amid accusations from residents that it was rushing to pass the changes in time for them to be considered on the November ballot.

Residents fear that the changes will lead to over-development and further traffic congestion. At a council meeting two weeks, several people questioned how residents would benefit from proposed changes that they said seemed to favor developers.

On Tuesday, the council approved in essence the plan modified at the July 8 meeting. The scaled-back revisions to Newport Beach's land use element of the general plan still allow for increased development in the Newport Center, Fashion Island and airport areas, but not be as much as originally envisioned by the Planning Commission.

Identified shopping centers throughout the city, including Newport Coast Center, remained designated for reduced development.

Mayor Rush Hill and Mayor Pro Tem Ed Selich noted that few — if any — government documents are ever perfect and detailed at the start but rather they take shape with input and revision.

"I think you start someplace and you move forward," Hill said.

The modifications made at the July 8 meeting include removal of a proposed hotel at Newport Center Drive. They also deny increased development at two locations near John Wayne Airport.

City staff said the "average daily trips" — a traffic measurement tool — in the city will be reduced overall under the amended plan compared with the development standards outlined in the 2006 general plan.

But many speakers expressed skepticism over the traffic analysis and reasoning, saying new development will most certainly bring more traffic.

Noting that another publication had described the July 8 changes as a paring down, resident Barry Allen said he agreed but that paring down still spells growth.

He peeled part of the skin off an apple and said, "Now you'll notice 99.9% of this apple still exists."

Allen's request for the council to vote "no" went unheeded. Hill noted that much staff and community time had been invested in the plan.

Councilwoman Nancy Gardner's motion to continue the item for further discussion failed to get a second supporter.

"Why don't we continue to work on it?" she asked, taking issue with changes in the language that would make a Corona del Mar traffic bypass plan less certain.

With council members Mike Henn and Leslie Daigle absent, the changes were approved 4 to 1.



Also Tuesday, council members unanimously voted to lease nearly 0.7 acres of city land at the Big Canyon Reservoir site to the neighboring Harbor Day School for a parking lot.

The lot would be used to help with school pickup, drop-off and limited special-event parking, according to a staff report. Overnight parking will not be allowed.

Under the 25-year lease, the report continued, Harbor Day School will pay an annual rent of $11,440, adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index.



Council members plan to discuss the fate of a post office facility at 191 Riverside Ave. at their Aug. 12 meeting.

An applicant wants to change the land use from public facilities to mixed-use horizontal, but staff suggested Tuesday that the zoning discussion be delayed.

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