Newport plans to convert industrial to residential

NEWPORT BEACH — In the run-up to the housing bust a few years ago, the biggest buzz words in the development industry were “urban infill.”

Now Newport Beach, which is better known for its rolling hills of homes and beach villages, may soon join the likes of San Francisco and New York in reclaiming industrial land for gleaming condo towers.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a conceptual plan to build 1,504 condos, apartments and townhomes, parks and some retail stores near the intersection of Jamboree Road and MacArthur Boulevard, an area dominated by office and industrial buildings.

The property’s two landowners, Conexant Systems Inc. and the Koll Co., have proposed the first major mixed-use developments in the “Airport Business Area,” a part of the city near John Wayne Airport that was opened to residential development during the 2006 General Plan update.


“I view this plan as an example of the joint power and public guidance to try and revitalize the land,” said Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who represents the district that includes that area.

The roughly 90-acre, L-shaped parcel would actually have two developments: one on the Koll land with 260 homes, the other on the Conexant property with 1,504 units.

The new residential buildings and parks would be built alongside office buildings and a parking structure.

“People could work and live basically in the same place,” said Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, who worked on the General Plan update that encouraged the development. “This concept is right on target.”


Some, though, were not too happy with the plans. Nearby property owners of retail and office developments complained at the council meeting. Their issues ranged from traffic, disputed easements and other perceived problems.

Brian Adams, who represents the owners of a retail center with a Starbucks and a Wienerschnitzel, said his company would not grant public access over its property for the new development, as the plans call for.

City officials and representatives for the planned developments said such issues would be worked out in later discussion and the public would have time to comment.

A total of 2,200 homes are allowed in Newport’s airport area, which is bounded by MacArthur Boulevard, Birch Street and Jamboree Road. The majority of them would have to be built on the site of existing office or industrial developments, so there is no net gain in traffic.

It may take a while before these mid- and high-rise residential developments come to fruition, said James Campbell, acting planning director.

“When the market returns over time, I look for to seeing a new residential village,” he said.