Newport Beach : Group Backing Center Expansion Raises $4,000

A residents' support group said Wednesday that it has raised $4,000 of a projected $25,000 in its campaign for the Irvine Co.'s controversial expansion of Newport Center.

Members of Citizens for a Better Newport emphasized at a news conference that they were not just a "pro-business group" but a grass-roots collection of residents in favor of the proposed $300-million expansion plan, which will come before voters on Nov. 25.

Gridlock, a group of neighborhood activists opposed to the plan, spearheaded a drive to put the issue before voters. It will appear as Measure A on the special election ballot.

The plan, scaled down three times since it was proposed 10 years ago, calls for offices, shops, town houses, cultural amenities and road improvements on 518 acres around the Fashion Island complex.

"This group is not just a pro-business, pro-growth group," said Lee Spencer, a member of the pro-expansion group and director of the Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce.

"We're all citizens in this," Chairman William P. Ficker said. Other members include prominent business and civic leaders such as Fluor Corp. President David S. Tappan Jr. and AirCal executive William Lyon.

Ficker said the group has raised $4,000, mostly in small donations from residents. About 30 non-residents sent contributions of $10 and $20.

As approved July 14 on a 5-2 vote by the City Council, the plan calls for the Irvine Co. to build Pelican Hill Road, a $20-million highway that would divert traffic through as yet undeveloped company-owned land from Coast Highway north to Bonita Canyon Drive.

"The highest priority this city has . . . is to get Pelican Hill Road built," Ficker said. "If we don't do that, we will have (traffic) gridlock." Without center expansion, he said, there was "no other way" to get the road built.

Gridlock organizer Alan Beek disagreed. "It will be developed whether or not Measure A passes. The county has already started an environmental impact report on Pelican Hill Road," he said.

Ficker responded, "You have to plan for the future and not stop for today, no matter how good today is."

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