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Newport considers asking voters’ permission to accommodate major state housing mandates

Newport Beach City Hall
Newport Beach currently is on the hook to plan for more than 4,800 new homes over the next decade, according to a calculation by the Southern California Assn. of Governments.
(File Photo)

In response to likely dramatic increases in state-mandated residential planning, Newport Beach has drawn up a multipath action plan that both resists and cooperates.

City leadership has indicated an interest in appealing the methodology used by the Southern California Assn. of Governments to tentatively require Newport to plan for 4,832 new homes over the next decade as part of a broader effort to address regional housing needs.

A formal challenge is still on the table and is on Tuesday’s City Council agenda for discussion. But other possibilities include pausing the ongoing overall update to Newport’s general plan — a comprehensive long-term planning guide that includes a housing component — to focus just on the housing and closely related land-use and circulation elements, forming a housing-focused advisory committee and calling a public vote to accommodate the state mandate.

SCAG voted in November to shift more of the 1.3 million new homes the state says Southern California needs during the next 10 years toward the coast — increasing the number of homes Newport Beach would need to make room for to 4,832 from the previous target of roughly 2,700 set in October. SCAG represents Orange, Los Angeles and four other counties.

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Though the state doesn’t directly require cities to build the homes, they must at least accommodate the need on paper through zoning for residential development.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development is reviewing the current SCAG figures. Final allocations — including any alterations based on appeals — are expected to be adopted by October. The deadline for certification of compliant city housing plans is October 2021.

Newport Beach and neighboring cities were taken aback by the November calculations and have called them unattainable. Laguna Beach, which would need to set aside enough land for 390 homes by 2029, and Costa Mesa, which may need to plan for 11,734, adopted resolutions in the past week opposing SCAG’s methods.

One path to compliance strikes against Newport’s city charter, which requires a public vote to allow developments with more than 100 new housing units. One way to avoid consequences if voters were to reject major developments would be to amend the charter to accommodate state-driven development, according to a city staff report. Such an amendment also would require a public vote, which could happen as soon as November.

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Tuesday’s City Council meeting starts at 4 p.m. with a study session on housing topics. The regular session begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive.

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