City Council Stays the Course on Housing Projects

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An artist rendering of Museum House. — Courtesy Related California Urban Housing LLC ©
An artist rendering of Museum House.
— Courtesy Related California Urban Housing LLC ©

The Newport Beach City Council has rejected a proposal that a proposed condominium tower where the OC Museum of Art currently stands should be considered at the same time as a condominium project at 150 Newport Center Drive.

At the heart of the discussion was race between two housing developers seeking to avoid a “Greenlight” vote by Newport Beach residents on whether their project should be built.

Both projects would require the planning commission and city council to approve a General Plan amendment, requiring an extensive investigation of environmental impacts.

The developer of 49 condominiums at 150 Newport Center (where a car wash now sits) started this process in December 2014, giving it a substantial lead on the 100-unit Museum House tower which only filed its application earlier this year.

“I don’t think we should provide any direction on the timing,” said Councilman Ed Selich. “There is a timing process that is in place right now. I served 10 years on the planning commission and I can say I dealt with my share of controversial projects, popular projects, projects that were not popular. I never received nor the other commissioners I served with received direction from the city council on how to move ahead on these projects.”

The museum plans to sell the their San Clemente Drive property to Related California to finance the construction of a new building at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

“We are very happy that we spent a lot of time on this project (and) we ask you to consider both of these projects at the same time,” said Crag Wells, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. “They both have their merits.”

Under the terms of the slow growth initiative a vote would be required if a new development in Newport Center, plus any approved over the past 10 years, add 100 peak morning or evening vehicle trips, 100 dwelling units or 40,000 square feet of commercial space.

Councilman Scott Peotter recommended that the two projects be reviewed simultaneously to ascertain which would have the greatest benefit for the community. He wanted to see a project’s community benefit rather than timing of their application filing determine what gets built.

“I would hate to have an applicant go through all sorts of expense if the council were to say, ‘hey we like this other project better because they provide better community benefits,’” Peotter said.

He was only joined by Councilman Kevin Muldoon on a motion that would have brought projects before the council at the same time.

Councilman Tony Petros opposed this proposal because he questioned the fairness of moving goal posts after the developers had already filed their applications.

“There is a prescribed time and effort that goes into these by our ordinances and laws, regional laws and state laws,” he said. “To now try to interfere with that would put an undue pressure on the car wash over the other.”

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