“To me, housing is transportation; transportation is housing. You don’t reach those goals, we’re going to take [state transportation] money from you,” Gov. Gavin Newsom told the Associated Press earlier this month.
This quote makes it clear the new governor is playing hardball with cities that do not approve housing. If a city rejects General Plan-compliant projects, he’ll withhold millions of dollars of transportation funding.
This is the type of Sacramento tactic that I have come to expect. However, it should not bother Newport Beach at all. That’s because the voters approve our General Plan. In fact, Newport Beach residents decide where and how much housing should be built. Approving General Plan-compliant projects is not simply common sense; it is also upholding the will of the people.
The governor’s actions — though overbearing — simply give us another incentive to approve General Plan-compliant projects, including Koll Center Residences. This is a project that is defined by the General Plan. It’s been in the works for a decade. It can have immense benefits to our community. It should be approved.
Newport Beach does not have to like Sacramento tactics, but it must respect the will of the voters and approve General Plan-compliant projects.
High rises are wrong for Newport Beach
I am opposed to the Koll Center Towers development for several reasons. It is incompatible with the surrounding area. It will increase traffic. Already on a Wednesday afternoon in January I sat through two signal changes. Imagine what it will be like on a Saturday in July? We can’t widen most of our streets. Prevention is easier than a cure.
We are almost built out, so the obvious way to go is up. I do not want to live in a metropolitan area surrounded by skyscrapers. I believe the majority of citizens of Newport Beach feel the same way. The overwhelming opposition for the Museum Tower petition is evidence of that. I had people running down the street after me to sign that petition opposing the Museum House.
Laguna Beach is a beach city too and it is managing to run without skyscrapers. There is no reason why Newport can’t do the same. The time to stop the trend is now.
Koll Center promises public benefit
The Koll Center Residences have been in planning for a decade. The project is poised to bring tens of millions of dollars in public benefits, like new parks, public safety and other city priorities. It is also designed precisely to what we, the people, have asked for. Its density, height, location and amenities, including a new public park by the airport, are all defined and the project passes these tests with flying colors.
So what’s the hold up? I encourage the city to advance this project as quickly as possible. We were ready to support the project in 2017 when it was first scheduled to go before the Planning Commission. We’re event more eager to support it today.
Come together for the Newport General Plan
Can a tiger change its stripes? The residents of Newport Beach are going to be weighing in on this metaphorical question as they face the new year, and along with it, the new City Council. Unlike some surrounding areas that experienced significant changes in leadership, Newport Beach experienced only one. Hopefully that one change, which was a considerably positive one, will be enough to create a new group dynamic.
Despite the disappointment of many at the end of last year, we really want to believe that we can experience the positive changes that Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill spoke about at the inaugural meeting of the new council. We want to believe the council will be more sensitive to the concerns of the community. Interestingly, the General Plan rolled out at the council meeting in early January presents the perfect opportunity for the council and the community to enter a new stage of cooperation and development.
This General Plan that has been long awaited by residents will be divided up in three phases spread out over three years, with two opportunities for community participation. In the near future the first community group, the Steering Committee, will be chosen. Concerned community members are hopeful this will be a thoughtful process and diverse views will be represented. In the second and third phases, there will be a General Plan Advisory Committee, consisting of 25 residents who will be involved in “shaping the goals and policies for the plan and act as a community forum.”
There will no doubt be obstacles to overcome in such a long and multifaceted process, but if all the shareholders are sincere about their desire to work together effectively for the good of Newport Beach, there is reason to be hopeful about its future.