Council selects land-use items

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

laws.

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

airport.

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

live.

"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

city.

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

athletic fields.

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

October.

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