Mailbag: It’s time for the Newport Beach City Council to step up

A view of Mariner's Mile looking south along Pacific Coast Highway.
A view of Mariner’s Mile looking south along Pacific Coast Highway. A reader writes to express her thoughts about the 2510 West Coast Highway project, which the Newport Beach City Council has approved.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

On July 27 the Newport Beach City Council approved the 2510 West Coast Highway project in the Mariners Mile area on West Coast Highway. The project has 36 apartments, three of which are affordable and 33 of which are market rate. Newport Beach has a state-mandated requirement to plan for 1,918 additional low and very low-income apartments during the next housing cycle, referred to as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. A housing cycle is eight years. The 1,918 number does not include a few projects in the pipeline or already planned from the last housing cycle.

We can lop off 1,000 units if we can develop 1,000 accessory dwelling units (granny flats), either by homeowners building new ones or by bringing some of the hundreds we have existing in the city into compliance with current building codes.

That leaves 918 low and very low apartments needed to meet our RHNA allocation. Any sixth-grader can do the math: 918 units minus three units in the 2510 West Coast Highway project leaves 915 units. Meanwhile, we have added another 33 market rate units to get the three affordable units.

The formula used for the Housing Element gets complicated. Developers can get density bonuses based on a sliding scale, so the more affordable units they include in their projects, the more units they can build at market rate, but in the simplest terms, we need to add 10,000-plus apartments. For context, we currently have about 45,000 residential units in Newport Beach. That’s nearly impossible to imagine!

The state does allow cities to have an “inclusionary ordinance” that requires a developer to include a certain percentage of affordable units in their project. This is less profitable than including 5% or 10% but is still common. For example, a 30% inclusionary ordinance would mean that in a project with 100 apartments, a developer would be required to include 30 affordable units, and 70 units would be allowed at market rate. The rent charged for the market rate apartments helps offset the loss the developer has on the reduced-rate affordable units.

Everyone can see we need to have some amount of affordable housing in our city for our seniors, young adult children and restaurant, hospitality and healthcare workers who are not yet able to afford housing in our city. It is to our benefit to let these folks live near the places they work.

But that’s not my point. My point is that the Newport Beach City Council could develop and approve an inclusionary ordinance in pretty short order, maybe within a few months. Instead, members spent a lot of time in the meeting last week blaming the state for the new housing laws that tied their hands. It is true a lot of recent housing laws restrict or remove a city’s right to control its zoning. However, given that there is something they can do to help reduce the overall massive numbers of residential units that are required to comply with our RHNA allocation, you would think that the council would get to work on an inclusionary ordinance immediately. Instead, the council majority has kicked the can down the road for a year. It’s time they get to work instead of muttering about being handcuffed and helpless.

Nancy Scarbrough
Newport Beach

Thoughts on H.B. council recall effort

You have published many articles and letters to the editor in recent days implying that the attempt to recall the Huntington Beach City Council over the appointment of Rhonda Bolton to the vacant City Council seat is among other things “disruptive,” “chaotic” and “thinly veiled anti-black racism.”

The outcry over this appointment is due entirely to the deceptiveness and underhanded abuse of power displayed by the council. After falsely advertising that the seat was open to all and conducting phony “interviews” to cover their tracks, the council appointed a friend of one council member who just happened to hold the same leftist political activist agenda of the three openly leftist council members.

Rhonda Bolton was not a candidate in the last election. She did not spend an ounce of time or any money meeting with the citizens of Huntington Beach explaining her qualifications or ideas as all the other actual council candidates did over many months leading up to the election.

Her appointment is patently unfair and nothing more than a raw grab for partisan power on a council that is supposed to be nonpartisan.

This is not the only issue the citizens of Huntington Beach are concerned with:

Millions have been spent on a homeless shelter, promising enforcement of no camping laws. The shelter has never been more than half full, and the homeless and attendant crime issues are ever increasing. Millions were spent on apartment purchases for “work force housing,” a council-created issue. The left-wing council members act to undermine our previous police chief and his second in command. They also work to undermine our current elected city attorney and attempt to change the language in our city charter to better fit and pass their agenda.

There are many, many more issues I could cite here, but with limited space, I will only say that I agree with former mayor Dave Sullivan that this is the worst City Council we have had in my 30 years of living in Huntington Beach.

Martha Morrow
Huntington Beach

I will admit that because I didn’t pay enough attention to local elections, I actually voted for Tito Ortiz whose resignation seemed to prompt this recall. He appears to be the kind of candidate the recall backers want. It is a viable assumption considering the so-called Save Surf City group did not target the only conservative member of the council, Erik Peterson. Recall backers need money to organize and publicize a recall. In California their efforts are made easier by enabling the hire of pay-per-signature barkers at high-traffic-stores like Walmart. Recent court rulings make it easier for corporate deep pockets to use their money through civic-sounding organizations to elect candidates who promote corporate agendas at all levels of government. Certainly, in the U.S. Senate, obstructionist Mitch McConnell collects a lot of money to do corporate bidding. Hopefully recall signers will keep this in mind and consider the cause for the recall. I found that local elections are important too.

Jim Hoover
Huntington Beach

Voters in Huntington Beach will have two recall situations to contemplate in the near future that are somewhat similar. Both recall efforts are being led by conservative Republicans who are dissatisfied with not being in power. Both recall efforts are being pushed by ideologues who object to everything but have a solution for nothing. Leading Republicans running against Gov. Gavin Newsom are plying the airwaves with the same right-wing dogma of cutting taxes and cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse. That doesn’t do anything to deal with the immediate challenges we are facing regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the wildfires, the need to keep our schools and businesses safe, climate change and other threats to our communities. Newsom’s opponents fulminate furiously but shed little light on what and how they could do better. The same is true for those seeking the recall of City Council members who have their hands full with the same issues. It is embarrassing for many citizens here to see their city descend into such calculated chaos and Surf City’s reputation take one hit after another. Protesters may think they mean business, but their only business is mean. It’s too bad we can’t recall the “recallers”!

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

I am very concerned regarding the state of affairs now taking place in Huntington Beach. Having lived here for the past 55 years I am appalled at the actions taken against our City Council by a very few individuals who have put forth a measure which is very harmful — a recall. Why is it harmful? The statements in their written documents and in their testimony at public hearings are filled with misinformation and outright lies. They never explain exactly what they mean but just state a lie. Much of their dialogue revolves around density housing and a specific project which is the large apartment complex at Main Street and Ellis Avenue. They state that the current council voted on a measure which would allow for this building. This is untrue. The members of this council did not vote on this issue! They also allude to backroom discussions but show no evidence. I ask them, please reveal who is giving you this information so that the citizens can take action and that whomever is releasing it can be made to account for their actions. They give incorrect information regarding the council’s action to provide affordable housing for those trying to live in Huntington Beach on middle incomes. Over the life of the program, the middle income housing project is an investment that will end up earning the city significant returns and will provide much needed housing for our teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters and many others. Council members were criticized for not bringing a lawsuit against the state, but the reality is, the city is party to a lawsuit brought by a coalition of Orange County cities against the state. In fact, the type of legal action they are being asked to sign-off on has no chance of being successful and would end up costing the city millions of dollars. And opponents to the council do not tell the citizens the great amount of money this recall election will cost all of us. It’s money that could be spent on projects that will benefit the entire city.

I just wish those behind the recall effort would take time to realize what this council has done under some of the worst conditions any council has worked under — the pandemic. They don’t know how lucky we are to live in this city. This council maintained a safe and secure budget, they made sure we had the very best police and fire protection, our streets are being maintained, housing issues were moved forward, we have a first rate library receiving national acclaim, eight miles of beautiful beaches that are well cared for. However I guess they don’t enjoy these wonderful resources and for what I believe are strictly political reasons, they must “have their way,” no matter the costs!

Shirley Dettloff
Former Huntington Beach mayor

Recall process is being abused

Orange County citizens will begin to receive their ballots for the California recall election on Sept. 14. The recall, initiative and referendum processes were adopted in 1914 as tools of “direct democracy.” Instead they have empowered minority political interests, needing only 12% of voters in the last election, fewer than 1.5 million voters in this case, to initiate the recall process. As columnist Michael Hiltzik points out in the L.A. Times, “These reforms are powerful instruments in the hands of the cynical and moneyed.”

The unfortunate office holder that proponents of the recall are attempting to remove from office is Gov. Gavin Newsom, who defeated one of the recall candidates, John Cox by 62% to 38%. Several leading candidates who want to recall Newsom are using his handling of the pandemic as their chief complaint, saying recently that they would do away with mask and vaccination mandates. That is ironic because for most Newsom proponents, it is his pandemic record that has endeared him to many Californians. When the federal government wanted to rid itself of the responsibility of the pandemic, Gov. Newsom was the first governor to take on the challenge, moving quickly to secure equipment and energize the medical personnel needed to fight it. Other governors, particularly on the west coast, were inspired by his leadership.

However, some local leaders from the beginning of the pandemic resented that Newsom made the critical choice to focus on saving lives rather than to focus on money.

The question now concerning the pandemic, which is again surging with the Delta variant, is whether to mandate masks and vaccinations. While Newsom is now leaving that question up to local counties and health leaders, governors in Texas and Florida are raving against mandates of any kind and are leading all other states with their extremely large number of infections due to the Delta variant.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel, who represents the 48th district in Congress and was on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, was a critic of Gov. Newsom’s initial handling of the pandemic. But rather than talk about issues related to the health and mortality of her constituents, her forever focus is on the economy, saying in an email statement that Newsom has pushed an “agenda of reckless spending and high taxes that is crushing California families.” Many of her constituents in her predominantly conservative district agree with her.

Another local leader, state Sen. Dave Min who represents District 37, including Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach says that the recall is an example of partisan politics and “a total abuse of the recall process.”

Lynn Lorenz
Newport Beach

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