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Newport’s Airport Village development ready for takeoff after round of approvals from City Council

A Southwest Airlines plane flies over the 405 Freeway.
A Southwest Airlines plane flies over the 405 Freeway as it approaches the runway at John Wayne Airport in 2017.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

The Newport Airport Village project site is clear for takeoff as of Tuesday — at least as far as the city’s general plan is concerned.

The Newport Beach City Council unanimously approved adoption of a planned community development plan and resolutions that would amend both the city’s general plan and zoning regulations that would pave the runway for the redevelopment of 16.46 acres of land southeast of John Wayne Airport, which could potentially provide up to 444 dwelling units and up to 297,572 square feet of retail, office and other airport supporting uses.

Applicant Starpointe Ventures does not have specific development projects at this time and the request is for legislative approvals only, a staff report prepared for Tuesday said.

“This is just setting up the policy framework and regulatory framework to allow that construction to happen in the future,” said deputy community development director Jim Campbell.

The site under discussion is currently developed for commercial use by restaurants, retail, rental vehicle facilities and offices and is located in the “airport area” of the city’s general plan.

Two residents speaking on the item opposed the project.

The City Council also voted to approve a resolution that would override the Airport Land Use Commission’s decision in July, which decreed the project “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.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon raised concerns on how to proceed with the commission going forward for residential housing.

Councilmembers previously debated the merits of the potential Airport Village project, and the terms of the development agreement on Sept. 8, but much of the discussion in both meetings circled affordable housing and the city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers, which are mandated by state law as part of the periodic process of updating the local housing element.

The RHNA numbers quantify the need for housing. Cities are not required to directly build those homes, but must accommodate through zoning for residential development.

Current draft numbers by the Southern California Assn. of Governments indicate that the city of Newport Beach will need to approve 4,834 housing units over the next decade once those numbers are approved by SCAG this October.

Campbell said that the current proposal for the Airport Village project is being held to current standards, but that the city will need to revisit policies on development in the future.

“I’m worried about us getting to the end [of the planning cycle] and needing all affordable housing units because we haven’t met enough need along the way,” Brenner said.

Muldoon said that the numbers are assigned by the state and SCAG, arguing that he’d rather focus on housing at-large instead of trying to meet numbers that “Sacramento gives us for housing that we and most jurisdictions will not be able to meet.”

Mayor Pro Tem Brad Avery said he felt the development of the Airport Village project was good, but that, in another time, he wouldn’t agree with it.

“It’s what we need to do to start getting closer to just start. We have to start and this is an important start, to start moving that direction. We can’t run up to the deadline and be short on our plan and frankly short on providing housing all the way along up to it,” Avery said.

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