New housing near John Wayne Airport and Newport Center, another
anchor store at Fashion Island, and public open space including a
park with athletic fields at Banning Ranch all made the final cut
Tuesday, when the Newport Beach City Council decided which future
land-use options to study in detail.
Those suggestions may become part of the city's general plan,
which will outline how the city could be developed through 2025.
Officials have been working since 2002 to update the general plan.
Now that the council has agreed which land uses to study, the next
step is a report that will look at the environmental effects of those
options, such as traffic and noise.
What the council agreed to study in the environmental report is
far from final. City officials stressed that they normally make
environmental studies as broad as possible -- including more intense
land uses than they might actually approve -- because it's easier to
reduce a project's density and still comply with state environmental
Some of the most significant and controversial changes proposed
were for the airport area and Banning Ranch.
There's no housing near the airport now, and as many as 4,300
units could be added under the suggested plan. The council discussed
scaling back housing plans to so as not to foul up negotiations with
county officials that will give the city more control over the
The study will consider allowing a new major anchor store at
Fashion Island, but no new office space at Newport Center. Existing
tenants could be permitted to make small additions to offices.
Commuter traffic problems could be eased with the addition of up
to 600 residential units in the Newport Center area, which is now the
site of offices and hotels but little permanent housing. Resident
Allan Beek suggested Newport Center is a good opportunity to create
affordable housing where people who work in stores and hotels could
"If there's any place we want to subsidize employee housing,
that's the place we want to do it," he said.
Mayor John Heffernan revived the idea of moving the City Hall to
Newport Center, but that won't be studied in this report.
City officials have been moving ahead with plans to replace the
City Hall at its Balboa Peninsula site. The Newport Center property,
next to the central library, is slated to become a park, but
Heffernan and Councilman Dick Nichols have said it might be a better
place for a new city hall.
Residents were most interested in the future of Banning Ranch, a
roughly 500-acre plot that now includes oil production and
undeveloped open space. While some would love to see the land
restored as a wildlife habitat, the council pointed out that, because
most of the property isn't part of the city, forbidding all
development at Banning Ranch could drive the land owner to go through
the county's zoning process to develop it, ignoring the wishes of the
Although the Banning Ranch property is unincorporated county land,
Newport Beach is required to include it in land use planning because
it's in the city's "sphere of influence."
The city's general plan ad hoc committee had recommended 875
housing units, but the council agreed to study as many as 1,375
units. Councilman Steve Rosansky said he likely wouldn't support that
much density but was willing to include it in the study.
After an emphatic suggestion by Councilman Don Webb, the council
agreed to also consider using part of the property as a park with
Wood said the environmental report will likely be ready for public
review by February or March. Between now and then, council members
will discuss what policies they'd like in the general plan.
The general plan is basically a land-use map, while the policy
segment fleshes out details such as how much open space and what kind
of traffic circulation will accompany different types of zoning. The
council's discussion of general plan policies should start in