The charade that Newport’s Greenlight movement is anything other than
anti-growth was neatly shattered a week ago with the announcement of
the start of the “Greenlight II” campaign. If voters approve this
latest proposal from the residents group formed before the 2000
elections, it will stifle nearly all development in the city -- the
good, the bad and the dense.
Greenlight’s latest foray into Newport politics takes the form of
an extension of its original development guidelines, which mandate
voter approval of any developments that greatly exceed what is
allowed in the city’s general plan -- its blueprint for growth and
development. But instead of basing its standards off what is allowed
in the general plan, Greenlight II would force votes on developments
that add 40,000 square feet of building, 100 dwelling units or 100
peak hour car trips to what already exists in the city.
That is a key difference, and it is where Greenlight irrevocably
switches from a slow- or controlled-growth movement to a no-growth
Under Greenlight, a developer can propose a development -- medical
office or condominiums, high-rise office or house of worship -- that
fits into the planned future growth of the city. A part of town, for
instance, might be slated eventually to include 500,000 more square
feet of office space than now exists. Another part might have plans
for a hotel or car dealership. Only if a proposal exceeds the general
plan by 40,000 square feet, 100 dwelling units or 100 peak hour car
trips do the voters get a say under Greenlight.
Under the new Greenlight initiative, which backers hope to get on
a November 2006 ballot, all such allowances would be void. Newport as
it is today would be the basis for any vote, and the general plan
would be stripped of any substantive meaning.
What might trigger a vote under Greenlight II? The planned Pelican
Hill resort includes 20,000 square feet of meeting space, a 204-room
hotel and 128 villas. The scaled-back senior housing under
construction at Lower Bayview, near Jamboree and East Coast Highway,
will have 110 dwelling units. A condominium plan announced this month
for Newport Center is set to be 200,000 square feet with 79 condos.
And the Lexus dealership, where construction began last month, is
about 130,000 square feet. That’s the Lexus dealership whose owner,
David Wilson, gave the city $100,000 for its centennial float.
Greenlight leaders were quick to pronounce their latest proposal
“not a no-growth initiative.” The group’s spokesman, Phil Arst, told
the Pilot: "[F]or meritorious projects like Hoag Hospital additions,
I’m sure the people would vote for it.”
We’re not so convinced. Thus far, Greenlight has proven only to be
a platform for no votes, and the group has not found a plan of any
importance that it approves of. It was only time before Greenlight
would attempt to tighten its hold, which is what this proposal does,
on development in the city.
Why now? The city is well down the road of updating its general
plan, and the Greenlight forces have loudly decried the changes being
proposed as a weakening of development standards. Greenlight II would
enable them to trump this update, making it meaningless.
That general plan update, by the way, is set to go before voters
in November 2006. But why would the Greenlight group want voters to
make a decision about future development in Newport?