If you are one of the dozens who regularly read my columns, you know that I think that Newport Beach is business unfriendly, between the environmental restrictions imposed by the City Council through just the planning process itself, to just plain old NIMBY-ism. For many years, it’s been no secret that if a business person WANTS to spend money to improve/expand their business, then the hoops needed to jump through sometimes just discourage the investor enough to just give up.
The Planning Department is supposed to automatically be the most difficult to get approval from so that the Planning Commission can look like heroes by overturning some of Staff’s decisions, but they are restrictive enough so that the City Council can then overturn some of the Planning Commissions decisions, but that’s only if the businessperson can afford the extra thousands and thousands of dollars it takes to appeal to the City Council and hire the proper City Council Lobbyist.
The City Councilmembers then are the ultimate heroes by being the good guys at the end of the day. Staff is hired, the Planning Commissioners are appointed, and the City Council are elected. Get it? We elect heroes to the people…
And this is a system that had discouraged businesses after businesses for years and, as a result, the dilapidation of many business areas has created another layer of Government, “the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee and Citizen Advisory Panel.”
It’s time to fix Balboa Village, time to fix Mariner’s Mile, time to fix Lido Village, blah blah blah…
All lip service … until now, it appears. And I’m actually somewhat optimistic … and it’s only because of Councilman Rush Hill.
The same Rush Hill I recently wrote, citing his about his lost campaign pledge regarding the Taj Mahal, started the Economic Development Committee decades ago, only to resign years later because he thought that the City was being too restrictive to Economic growth. His biggest platform in his 2010 campaign was to revitalize the City’s economic growth by ENCOURAGING local businesses, not hindering them, and so far … he’s doing just that. And he’s now taking on the Planning Commission, specifically Planning Commissioner Robert Hawkins, in the meanwhile.
In an effort to promote Democracy, the appointed Commissioner Hawkins decided to force a new Newport Beach restaurant to jump through some hoops just to keep its City staff-approved liquor license. Why? Considering that he later approved the aforementioned liquor license, other than to see his own name in the local newspapers, who knows?
But it doesn’t end there, as now Planning Commission appeals are constantly being brought up to the City Council and are getting regularly overturned.
From the Crow Burger Kitchen, to Mariners Pointe, to 3-Thirty-3 Waterfront Restaurant, to the Dolphin-Striker Way project, just since summer, the City Council has repeatedly overturned the Planning Commission’s denials. And with Hawkins’ posturing regarding the Pizzeria Mozza, the City Council was just chomping at the bit to jump to another business’ defense, almost WANTING the Planning Commission to deny the alcohol permit so they could do a Hulk Hogan-like smack down on the Commissioners.
And now it appears Councilman Hill is starting to question Commissioner Hawkins’ motives, saying that Hawkins is “trying to grab power back” and asking why the Planning Commissioners aren’t “supporting the City’s goal of developing Mariners Mile.”
Yet this time, instead of being just a frustrated member of the Economic Development Committee, Rush Hill’s a City Councilman with the ability to actually create a business-friendly Newport Beach.
But Hill, and the other Councilmembers, has essentially neutered the Planning Commission at the same time because who cares if they nix your plans, if it has merit, if it encourages business, if it improves a Neighborhood, the City Council will undoubtedly appeal on your behalf (eliminating the appeal fee), and allow a businessperson to invest in/improve/expand their business, which will in turn improve their surroundings. Makes perfect sense.
Perhaps it’s time for Chronic Tacos and even Malarky’s to come back to the table, with neighborhood-friendly plans of course, and roll the dice in this new era.
This new era of Rush Hill.
Dare I say thank you Rush Hill?