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Commentary: Labor union is attempting to block development that would benefit low-income residents

A rendering shows apartments and the retail area of the planned Newport Crossings in Newport Beach.
(Rendering courtesy of Starboard Realty Partners)

Recently, members of the Newport Beach Planning Commission unanimously approved the Newport Crossings project. This proposal allowed for the development of 350 apartments near the airport; 78 of which were deemed affordable, plus 7,500 square feet of retail space and a half-acre park dedicated to the city.

Recognizing the angst many residents in our city express when it comes to new development, the owner of the project spent countless hours to meet with community leaders, neighboring tenants and city staff, to integrate a thoughtful plan everyone could embrace. This open and transparent dialogue was well taken and is a much-needed approach.

Unfortunately a certain organization is looking to game the integrity of the California Environmental Quality Act as a means to dismantle the hard work put forward by the property owner. The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters has appealed our unanimous decision by claiming the environmental impact report that was prepared by the applicant and certified by the city was flawed and would provide negative effects related to air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

Upon looking into this trade union a little further, it appears the Carpenters have used this tactic several times in the past to shake down developers, in hopes to broker a deal so their members could be guaranteed work. This is an absolute abuse of CEQA and does nothing but hinder a process many see as burdensome to begin with. CEQA is there for a reason — to protect our environment — not a way to profit.

One of the biggest discussions in our state at the moment relates to affordability in the housing market. Numerous factors add to building costs, including frivolous lawsuits and attempts by those looking to profit. By exploiting the system, the Carpenters Union corrupts the process to benefit itself, while hurting average Californians who ultimately will be handed down these increased costs.

I am hopeful when this matter is before them, our City Council members see right through these shady actions of the Carpenters Union and will vote to support the project. As we’ve all read, our neighbor to the north, Huntington Beach, has been sued by Gov. Gavin Newsom for not implementing affordable housing. Here in Newport Beach, we have approved a project that actually increases the city’s stock of low and very low income units by 23%, yet there are those who threaten to impede responsible and affordable growth.

Erik Weigand is the vice chairman of the Newport Beach Planning Commission