Lawsuit challenges wording of Newport’s Measure Y development question


Two Newport Beach residents have filed a lawsuit challenging the language of Measure Y, a proposed amendment to the general plan that would decrease development potential in some areas of the city and increase it in others.

The language of the measure, which will appear on the November ballot, is an “egregious violation” of the Orange County elections code, the suit alleges.

Susan Skinner and Bert Ohlig sued the Newport Beach city clerk and the county registrar-recorder Thursday. The suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, calls for a rewritten ballot question to introduce and describe Measure Y, saying there is a “complete lack of impartiality” in the current language.


Skinner and Ohlig said numbers used to describe a reduction in development and average daily vehicle trips inappropriately lead a reader to believe that traffic and building density will improve in the city.

The ballot question the city submitted reads: “Shall the land-use element of the Newport Beach General Plan be amended to provide for a reduction of nonresidential development by 375,782 square feet, while concurrently increasing the number of residential dwelling units by 138 units, resulting in a reduction of an estimated 2,922 average daily vehicle trips?”

“[T]he average voter reading this would be delighted to vote for what appears to be a clear reduction in density and traffic in Newport Beach,” Skinner and Ohlig wrote.

In reality, they said, the changes would remove projects that had a “low likelihood of being built” from areas without significant traffic problems — mostly Newport Coast — and add projects that are likely to be built in already congested areas — mostly Newport Center.

City Atty. Aaron Harp contended that the ballot language submitted by the city is accurate.

“It basically precisely tracks the effect of the update on the city by discussing what happens if it’s approved by the voters,” he said. “It’s based on all the planning documents and environmental documents that were done for the project.”

Opponents have argued that the traffic analysis was not being discussed fairly. Traffic should have been compared with current road conditions, they said, rather than with how road conditions would be if all development possible today were built.

Skinner and her mother, Nancy, who was recently named the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year, raised the issue with the City Council on Tuesday. No council members responded to their statements at the meeting.