Tennis and Pickleball Club project gains Planning Commission approval, goes to Newport Beach City Council

Illustrated here is the site plan for the proposed project.
Illustrated is the site plan for the proposed project to decrease tennis courts and increase pickleball courts at the Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach. Hotel use at the site will also be amended, pending final City Council approval.
(Courtesy of the city of Newport Beach)

Final approvals for amendments to proposed developments at the Tennis and Pickleball Club in Newport Beach may finally come after the decade-old project received unanimous approval from commissioners at a recent Planning Commission meeting.

The Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach submitted initial plans for the redevelopment of its 7-acre property in 2012 and sought the reconstruction of its existing tennis club to build a small, 27-room hotel with five detached residences at 1602 E. Coast Highway. The then-City Council approved land use entitlements and a 10-year development agreement in March of that year.

But the project never came to fruition.

Instead, managing owner Robert O’Hill requested amendments in 2021 to include an additional tennis court, 14 more hotel rooms, additional hotel uses, three attached condos and two detached condos instead of the five detached single-family residences. Planning commissioners voted to recommend the revised project for approval in September 2022, but the City Council rejected the plan twice — first in September, then again in October.

At the last hearing, held Oct. 25, council members bounced the project back to the Planning Commission, requesting O’Hill provide a pickleball study and explicitly include the proposed courts in the plans after pickleball players turned out in droves to ask the council to reject the plans for fear of the disappearance of their courts.

As of March, redevelopment plans now state that four tennis courts will be maintained, and 14 pickleball courts will be added. Additionally, the hotel will expand to 41 rooms, with additional ancillary uses and three of the five single-family units planned as condominiums. City staff said plans also include noise-reducing blankets at the pickleball courts for the abutting Granville community and hotel and residences.

The Planning Commission reviewed the revised plan last week, and it is on track to return to the City Council on May 23 and, if approved, eventually the state Coastal Commission for a local coastal program amendment.

Planning Commissioner Lee Lowrey said the project considered last week seemed similar to what the commission reviewed before, except for the pickleball courts.

“I know that last time we had a lot of the members here, and it seems like with not as many members coming up and speaking that seems like the membership is at least satisfied or is not concerned enough where they’re here,” Lowrey said, adding that from his perspective, the plans were improved from when they were last reviewed, as they specifically outline the courts.

Commission Chair Curtis Ellmore said he wanted to see an update of the development agreement to reflect the current consumer price index as numbers outlined are now no longer in concert with current dollar values.

City staff noted that construction of the proposed project is anticipated to take almost two years. Groundbreaking is expected in January 2031, with completion expected by October 2032.

Planning Commissioner Tristan Harris said he felt a lot more clear about the parameters of the project with the new revisions, adding that it “checked more boxes than it did [before]” but that he was confused about the timeline — specifically the significant delay between when amendments gain approval and construction of the project.

“I feel like we’re giving 20 years away,” Harris said, adding that the City Council should review the development agreement as it does not fall under the Coastal Commission’s purview. “This 2032 promise not to build until then, I mean I’m slightly confused. I just think that’s — Coastal’s going to take eight years? That’s just a long time.”

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