Newport Beach City Council overrides committee’s rejection of airport-area apartments

A rendering of the proposed Newport Airport Village, off MacArthur Boulevard immediately adjacent to John Wayne Airport.
A rendering of the proposed Newport Airport Village, off MacArthur Boulevard immediately adjacent to John Wayne Airport.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

The city of Newport Beach plans to override a decision by a John Wayne Airport commission against a private developer’s plans for a mixed-use project just across the street from the tarmac.

The Airport Land Use Commission deemed the 16-acre Newport Airport Village, with its 444 apartments and roughly 300,000 square feet of retail and office space at MacArthur Boulevard and Campus Drive, “inconsistent” with a land use plan for JWA’s environs because the proposed buildings are too high and in too noisy of a location given their proximity to the runways.

But the commission’s findings are advisory, and the Newport Beach City Council — mindful of state mandates that require the city plan for the construction of about 4,800 new housing units over the next 10 years — voted Tuesday to override the commission’s recommendation.

The council’s vote this week only signals its intent to go against the commission. It does not give the project a green light outright. The council will consider city approvals in September.

City Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis said the commission’s concerns include the possibility that a private plane — the project is adjacent to general aviation, not commercial operations — could slam into a building over 80 feet high. And runways are loud.

“Airports are inherently noisy,” Jurjis said. “They don’t want residential projects too close to the airport because they’re afraid that residents that live [there] will just complain about the noise.”

Estancia High School is the only campus that will start the new school year under the new schedule, which will have students completing half their courses in one semester, then finishing the rest in spring.

Councilman Kevin Muldoon said he stands with residents and their continuous quality of life concerns over already being in the JWA flight path, and he said he wants them to continue to complain about noise if it’s a problem. But he saw the strategy of allowing housing that close to the airport, especially under state pressure — housing takes away space from potential airport expansion.

“If the airport staff had their way, we’d have LAX,” he said.

Developers eyeing projects near JWA must go through the Airport Land Use Commission, a board under the airport’s direction, to ensure that building won’t adversely impact either side before the City Council can take action on proposals. When Newport Airport Village developer Starpointe Ventures did that on July 16, the airport commission determined the project inconsistent with JWA’s Airport Environs Land Use Plan.

Newport Airport Village would replace several retail, restaurant, office and car rental buildings and rezone the area to include residential. Starpointe representative Patrick Strader said it was conceptualized in 2006.

If the city ultimately overrides the commission’s recommendation, the airport operator will be immune from any liability.

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