Newport Beach City Council to look at initial draft for housing element update

The words "Home of the FREE because of the BRAVE" are inscribed into a stairway.
The words “Home of the FREE because of the BRAVE” are inscribed into a stairway at The Cove Apartments in Newport Beach. The Cove Apartments provides permanent affordable and supportive housing for homeless veterans and low-income seniors age 62 and older earning 30% to 60% of the area median income.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

No one’s sure what adding 4,845 housing units will look like in Newport Beach, but the City Council is getting a look at what that future may be at a study session this Tuesday.

City staff is expected to present the initial draft of the housing element update, a comprehensive document that details housing plans and policies in the general plan. Jurisdictions are expected to update their housing element every five to eight years by the state. The next such update is required to be adopted by mid-October.

A report prepared for Tuesday’s study session states that subsequent to adoption later this year, the update will apply for the next eight-year planning cycle, which will end in October 2029.

The draft accounts for the city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers, which quantify the need for housing and are mandated by state law as part of the process to update the housing element.

In November 2019, the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which represents Orange, Los Angeles and four other Southern California counties, voted to shift more housing in coastal cities as opposed to inland. That caused Newport Beach’s numbers to climb from 2,764 to its current 4,845 — a 75% increase.

About 1,456 of these housing units will be designated for those of extremely low or very low income and 930 for low income. Of the remainder, 1,050 is designated for moderate and 1,409 for above moderate incomes, according to city staff.

While the state does not require cities to build the homes, they do have to at least plan for them on paper through zoning. The problem then becomes where to zone those homes.

Officials in Newport Beach and other cities like Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley balked at the new numbers. Every city, including Newport Beach, appealed the numbers last fall and all their appeals were denied by SCAG.

The city of Huntington Beach recently voted to not move forward with the possibility of filing a legal challenge in court to fight the Regional Housing Assessment Numbers on Monday. How Newport Beach will proceed will depend on direction from the City Council on Tuesday.

No direct action will be taken.

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