Proposed Newport senior care home gets needed rezoning

A rendering depicts the three-story Harbor Pointe Senior Living facility proposed near Bristol Street and Jamboree Road in Newport Beach.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

Newport Beach is closer to getting its first new senior care home in 20 years after the City Council on Tuesday approved a zoning change that allows a facility to be built near John Wayne Airport.

Harbor Pointe Senior Living now has the zoning it needs for a 1.5-acre, 120-bed campus near Bristol Street and Jamboree Road, where a Japanese restaurant now sits. The parcel’s zoning will change from general commercial office to private institution.

Supporters of the project say Newport needs skilled residential care for an aging population, especially for locals who would have to be uprooted when they need help with self-care.

But Harbor Pointe has drawn consistent opposition from neighbors who worry how it might affect traffic, area property values, future land uses and the safety of neighbors and facility residents.

Residents of the adjoining Baycrest Court neighborhood continued their resistance Tuesday.

Patti Lampman, who is on the board of the Baycrest Court homeowners association, said the issue is about property rights.

She said she chose to buy a home in the community based on the zoning and doesn’t think the Harbor Pointe landowner should have greater property rights than her or her neighbors.

“The City Council is here to protect and enforce the property rights of the Bayview planned community and development standards,” she said. “I ask the City Council to please, please, please protect our rights.”

The council ultimately voted 5-1, with member Brad Avery opposed, to approve the rezoning. Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield was absent.

Carol McDermott, representing developer Centerpointe Senior Living, which owns the land, said neighbors of prospective senior care facilities generally fear negative effects on property values. But she said the quality of the Harbor Pointe architecture, the quiet population and narrowly tailored conditions of approval would make it a harmonious fit.

She noted that the facility would have stacked stone pillars, a rustic exterior design touch listed in the design standards of the nearby Santa Ana Heights neighborhood and yellow lantana flowers in its landscaping, also like some neighbors.

The three-story building would reach about 40 feet tall and cover about 85,000 square feet. Its 101 units — some would be double occupancy — include 81 for assisted living and 20 in a more secured unit for residents with dementia. The facility also would have a theater, a small store, a fitness room and spa, a salon, a library, computer labs, a grill and dining rooms, laundry rooms and other communal areas, along with 53 subterranean parking spaces. It would staff up to 30 employees at a time.

A version of the project that Centerpointe Senior Living pitched in 2017 was five stories with 144 beds in 128 units.

“We’ve done everything we can to provide the kind of compatibility that we think will result not only in a good use, but what we will find is that a year after it’s open, everybody’s going to say, ‘Well, that wasn’t so bad after all, was it?’ ” McDermott said.

Kirk Snyder, president of the Bayview Court HOA, said the facility is “not the fabric of the neighborhood we bought into,” like the Kitayama restaurant has been.

The immediate area has several traditional low- and mid-rise office buildings, but the general commercial office zoning is broad enough to allow restaurants like the single-story, 8,800-square-foot Kitayama, which is to be demolished to make way for the senior home.

“It’s about our quality of life. It’s a wonderful place,” Snyder said of his neighborhood. “We’ve recently invested over a million dollars to completely regenerate where we live. We’re so proud of it.”

He said another restaurant would be a better fit for the area.

Avery said Wednesday that he liked the senior proposal and was prepared to support it but was convinced by Snyder’s argument that the facility would change the neighborhood’s character by replacing a restaurant with an institutional use.

Doug Pancake, an Irvine-based architect whose firm is designing the Harbor Pointe campus, specializes in healthcare and senior living facilities and completed his master’s thesis on housing for Alzheimer’s patients. He said he has worked on more than 200 memory care facilities and said they are designed to keep patients secure.

“It’s just a lack of understanding as to how these facilities actually work,” Pancake said.

He added that the 53 planned parking spaces exceed the facility’s needs. City regulations require 40 spaces for a building its size.

Councilwoman Joy Brenner said she had a positive experience with Crown Cove in Corona del Mar, a few blocks from her home, when she needed to move her mother into assisted living 15 years ago. The facility blended well with the neighborhood, Brenner said.

McDermott said Newport Beach hasn’t had a new comprehensive senior care home since the 61-bed Crown Cove opened in 1999.

Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill said the council rarely has a chance to decrease traffic and intensity when making land-use changes. City staff projected the new facility would reduce traffic by more than half, compared with the restaurant.

“We know seeing all the data that, as our community gets older, we need senior facilities,” he said.

It’s unclear when Kitayama would close and construction on Harbor Pointe would begin.