Plan for Newport senior-living home faces strong opposition from neighbors

A proposed Newport Beach senior care facility triggered a long list of complaints from unhappy neighbors at a Planning Commission study session Thursday night.

Harbor Pointe Senior Living would house 120 senior citizens — split between assisted living and more-complex memory care units — with up to 30 employees at a time on a 1.5-acre campus at 101 Bayview Place, off Bristol Street near Jamboree Road.

Nearby residents said they are anxious about how the facility — which would be staffed around the clock and need rezoning to replace a Japanese restaurant currently at the corner — would affect traffic, area property values, future land uses and the safety of neighbors and the facility’s residents.

“We have a right to expect that the city will protect our property values and physical safety,” Charlotte Miller told the Planning Commission. “Restaurants and offices are not open all night. An institution is, however, open all night with employee shift changes, ambulances, police activity, even coroner’s and mortuary vehicles disrupting our neighborhoods and our lives.”

About 20 residents spoke to the commission and about as many submitted letters, mostly in opposition.

The commission did not vote on the matter, which is expected to return to the agenda in late October.

For the facility to be built, the Planning Commission and City Council would need to rezone the lot from general commercial office to private institution. The immediate area has several traditional low-rise and midrise office buildings, but the office zoning is broad enough to allow restaurants like the single-story, 8,800-square-foot Kitayama, which would be demolished to make way for the senior home.

Neighbor Patricia Blakeney said she isn’t against the facility’s services so much as the location.

“It doesn’t belong here,” she said. “The people that live here don’t want it.”

The proposed building would be three stories, reaching about 40 feet tall and covering about 85,000 square feet. The 101 units — some would be double occupancy — would include 81 for assisted living and 20 in a more secured unit for residents with dementia. The facility 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, 53 subterranean parking spaces and other communal areas.

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

Developer representative Carol Mentor McDermott said feedback from meetings with a neighborhood homeowners association and a 2017 Planning Commission study session led to the scaled-back proposal.

Mentor McDermott said the population is aging but Newport Beach hasn’t seen a new comprehensive senior care home since the 61-bed Crown Cove opened in 1999.

A draft of the city’s environmental impact study for Harbor Pointe Senior Living says the proposed private institution land use would have fewer effects on traffic, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions than office use.

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

Nearby resident Peter Dugan said the precedent of rezoning could be the beginning of the end for his “tranquil” neighborhood.

“The impact that this one represents is scary enough, and then you start to change all of that area into this type of use, it’ll spell the end of our neighborhood where we raised our kids, where we potentially want to retire,” he said.

Neighbors also worried about the facility’s water use, limited outdoor recreation space for residents and proximity to noise and pollution from John Wayne Airport.

However, the project also had supporters. Dave O’Keefe, who lives four houses from the site, said “there’s an absolute huge need for this in our community.”

He said his uncle had lived in Newport Beach throughout his life, but when he recently needed to go into assisted living, he had to leave the city.

“I think it’s a great project,” O’Keefe said. “They’ve spent a lot of time listening to the community, reducing the heights.”

Ann Janes said the area will always have traffic issues and that people need to be open to change. She said she’s seen plenty in the 34 years she’s lived in Newport.

“None of us know what’s going to happen to any of us, so I’d like to have the opportunity of having someplace here for myself,” she said.

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