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Newport Planning Commission OKs senior home over neighbors’ objections

Newport Planning Commission OKs senior home over neighbors’ objections
A rendering depicts the proposed three-story Harbor Pointe Senior Living facility near Bristol Street and Jamboree Road in Newport Beach. (File Illustration)

The Newport Beach Planning Commission voted Thursday to approve a 120-bed senior home proposed near Bristol Street and Jamboree Road over the objections of several nearby residents.

Neighbors of the proposed Harbor Pointe Senior Living, which would house senior citizens in assisted living and more-complex and secure memory care units, reiterated the points they made against the home during a commission meeting in September. They worried about increased traffic, the safety of the facility’s residents near major roads, noise and future land uses should the developer be cleared to build the 1.5-acre campus at 101 Bayview Place, currently the site of a Japanese restaurant that would be demolished to make way for the facility.

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A lawyer for the nearby Bayview Court homeowners association backed the neighbors in a letter telling the city that it was “on notice of the intent of the HOA to pursue all legal action available by law to protect the homeowners’ rights and maintain the value of their property, their personal safety, and continue to enjoy the lifestyle that currently exists in the master planned community of Bayview.”

But the Planning Commission went ahead on a 6-0 vote to OK the project and send it to the City Council for final consideration.

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Commissioner Erik Weigand said that while the project might be controversial to the closest neighborhoods, the project as a whole is important as Newport’s population ages.

“It is our responsibility to have a location for our residents once they can no longer live in their homes,” he said. “As public servants for our great city, one of the goals should be to help improve the quality of life of our residents. The proposed project does exactly that.”

Harbor Pointe would be three stories, reaching about 40 feet tall and covering about 85,000 square feet. It would be staffed around the clock with up to 30 employees at a time.

For the facility to be built, the city would need to rezone the lot from general commercial office to private institution.

Private institution zoning covers senior living facilities, which made neighbors concerned that the parcel could eventually hold a drug rehabilitation facility or psychiatric hospital. But Carol McDermott, who represents developer Centerpointe Senior Living, said the developer is requesting tailored zoning and permitting privileges that only would allow a senior home.

Kirk Snyder, president of the Bayview Court HOA, said the neighbors object to the zoning change, despite promises of tailoring, because a change sets a precedent that “threatens every community in the city, not just the Bayview community.”

“We just want a new business that fits within the zoning designations that are in place and that allow the quality of life that we now enjoy and we bought into,” he said.

Neighbor Rhonda Watkins said the project is massive and that she was wary of the influx of visitors and staffing at hours beyond those of the current Kitayama restaurant. She also said seniors can be noisy.

“Unfortunately, people with memory care issues do not know what time of the day it is and can and do make a lot of noise,” Watkins said. “Not because they can help it, but it’s part of the disease.”

Steve Greer, who also lives nearby and said he helped care for his grandmother with dementia, wants the home.

“I know it’s only a matter of time before my own aging parents are facing that, and it comforts me to know that we would have something close by,” he said.

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

Commissioner Kory Kramer said approval of Harbor Pointe would address a local demand but would not be precedent-setting.

“The Planning Commission takes seriously their duty and looks at each project separately,” he said.

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