Commentary: Proposed development threatens quality of life

Newport Beach is our town, but it seems more and more that we’re constantly at odds with the city to keep it so.

Remember Measure Y?

Our City Council couldn’t trick us into voting for more high rises and traffic during that election, but it hasn’t given up its desire for more and more developments. All development in Newport Beach is supposed to comply with the voter-approved General Plan, which calls for reasonable growth while protecting the residents’ quality of life.

The General Plan is rather like the blueprint of the city. It designates the character of various parts of the city, such as the commercial zone in Newport Center or the residential neighborhoods of Balboa Island. The General Plan we approved in 2006 set reasonable limits on traffic and building height. The voters specifically chose to implement a conservative development plan to maintain the character of the city rather than opting for runaway growth.

However, the city is failing miserably in complying with the spirit of its own General Plan and zoning code, and granting exceptions that favor developers in ways that clash with the voters’ vision of our town. We have strong existing limits to height, density and traffic in our zoning codes, but these will become meaningless if the City Council continually grants exceptions to these limits. The additional high-rise developments that are being proposed would add substantial density and traffic to our already congested roads if approved.

Case in point: “Spot zoning” changes are in the works for the Beacon Bay Car Wash site in Newport Center, replacing that structure with seven stories of luxury condos. This project was recently renamed to 150 Newport Center Drive from Newport Center Villas. That project will be dwarfed by the 26-story Museum House high-rise condo project down the street at the OC Museum of Art location. Both of these projects replace low impact buildings with more cars, more people and yet more high-rises in the center of town.

Developers seem to be getting a free pass to sidestep the General Plan, zoning codes or other development guidelines, which ultimately undermines the General Plan, and will eventually make our city unrecognizable. By defeating Measure Y, the people sent a powerful message, but the city government seems to be deaf to our plea. It’s time to say enough is enough!

We can either end up looking like Laguna Beach or Los Angeles. It is time for our city to follow their own rules and stop approving a never-ending stream of exceptions to our zoning rules.

DOROTHY KRAUS lives in Newport Beach.