NEWPORT BEACH -- The developer that has pushed for the expansion of
the Newport Dunes resort and bemoaned the city's slow deliberation on the
proposal performed an about-face Tuesday, requesting that any decision on
the project be postponed until after the November election.
Newport Dunes, which has been working to get approval for a 470-room
hotel and 31,000-square-foot convention center, stated its new position
in a letter sent Tuesday to the City Council.
"We feel there is simply too much on the table, for both the community
and the council, to allow for the extensive deliberation this project
requires and the thoughtful consideration it deserves," said the letter,
which was signed by officials from the Dunes and Evans Hotels, the San
Diego developer spearheading the project.
The letter suggested that the development be brought back for approval
"at such time as we and the City Council are prepared to once again
address this issue."
Representatives from Evans Hotels and Newport Dunes did not return
calls for comment Tuesday.
The developer's move was greeted with equanimity by city officials,
who said they regarded it as a politically realistic gesture.
"I think it's a diplomatic way of them respecting the Greenlight
initiative," said Councilman Tod Ridgeway.
The Greenlight initiative, formally called Measure S and set to appear
on the November ballot, would make voter approval necessary for projects
in the city requiring amendments to the General Plan.
Ridgeway said he did not think there would be any problem with the
Dunes project being removed from consideration.
"If they want to be taken off the calendar, that's their choice," he
Opponents of the project said they viewed the move as a savvy attempt
to avoid generating controversy during a politically dicey period.
"I'm sure the city is breathing a sigh of relief and hoping to lull
the people into thinking Greenlight isn't necessary," said Susan Caustin,
co-founder of the group called Stop the Dunes Hotel.
Phil Arst, spokesman for the Greenlight initiative, had similar
"We applaud [the Dunes] acknowledging the concern of residents who
have sponsored Greenlight, but we also recognize that this is an effort
to avoid generating more support for Greenlight," he said.
The developer's new position is a 180-degree turn from the one it took
in June when the council delayed a vote on the project for several
At that time, Tim Quinn, project manager for the Dunes, said he was
"shocked" by the holdup.
"We believe that this is really unfair to Newport Dunes and, more
important, to the hundreds of community members who have participated in
the process," Quinn said at the time.
Those community members will apparently now have to wait, however,
until the political waters of Newport Beach are a little less murky.