The city released the draft Environmental Impact Report on the proposed Museum House project this week, and staff found little to no significant impacts.
Newport Beach was the lead agency on the report that studied the environmental effects associated with the implementation of the 25-story, 295-foot tall, 100-residential-unit project.
Museum House has been proposed to replace the Orange County Museum of Art at 850 San Clemente Dr. in Newport Center. OCMA is moving to Costa Mesa.
The museum has entered into an agreement to sell its Newport Center site to Related California Urban Housing, LLC, which has proposed the Museum House project.
The 45-day public review period for the draft EIR began Aug. 17, and ends Sept. 30. Copies of the document are available for review in the city’s Community Development Department, the library and online.
Citizens can also voice their opinion at the upcoming Planning Commission study session on Sept. 1. The city also anticipates that a public hearing will occur in November.
Members of Still Protecting Our Newport (aka Stop Polluting Our Newport), a local group of concerned residents, said they will begin their review process soon and will submit their comments to the city.
Related California Chief Executive Officer Bill Witte has previously said that he feels they have designed a project that minimizes or eliminates most impacts, despite its height. At public forums and presentations, Witte has noted that traffic and the views will not significantly be impacted.
“It’s very important to us that Museum House is not only exquisitely planned, but seamlessly fits into the surrounding community as an extension of the luxury brand that is Fashion Island,” Witte noted in a prepared statement released this week. “Since the start of the EIR process, we made it our utmost priority to meet with the community and get their feedback, because we understand that this project works best when we work with our neighbors.”
Most resident concerns have centered around height, view, water usage, and alternate locations, all of which the report covered. The draft EIR studied aesthetics, air quality, land use, transportation and traffic, and more.
Although it would alter the visual appearance of the area, views and the “existing visual character of the area” would not be significantly impacted, according to the report.
“The proposed tower would blend well into the existing visual character of the overall Newport Center/Fashion Island area and would not stand out among other existing high rise buildings in the area,” staff confirms in the report. “Existing structures and tree lines also partially or completely obstruct the proposed tower from various viewsheds. Thus, the visual character and scenic quality of the project area would not be significantly impacted.”
Officials also concluded in the report that the project-related traffic would not result in significant impacts to congestion.
If approved, the applicant will be required to identify planned travel patterns for haul vehicles, obtain a haul route permit from the city, and prepare a construction traffic management plan.
Overall, the proposed tower is not anticipated to cause significant shade or shadow impacts.
Findings from the draft EIR also explain that the project would only cast a shadow on a small building corner of the southeasternmost building on the Villas at Fashion Island site. The project would not cast any shadows on the remaining Villas at Fashion Island site. The tower would cast more shadows on the Villas at Fashion Island site in winter than during the fall and spring equinoxes.
A potentially significant impacts include construction activities that would generate short-term emissions that exceed the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s regional construction threshold for volatile organic compounds.
Construction would also result in potentially significant temporary noise increases in the vicinity of the project site.
Based on the development limit and allowable density in the available areas, the alternative locations considered include Banning Ranch, John Wayne Airport Area, or Newport Center.
Citing other currently proposed projects, land use entitlements and other constraints, staff found that “there are no feasible alternative project sites within the city that would accommodate the proposed project and reduce or eliminate significant environmental impacts.”
A “reduced height alternative” was also considered.
The option would decrease the proposed tower height from 295 feet to 65 feet, and only six stories of residential floors over two levels of parking (one underground, one ground level).
“Given the substantial decrease in height, the building footprint would be much larger and encompass 78,426 square feet, covering approximately 90 percent of the project site compared to 30 percent under the proposed project,” officials explain in the report. “The larger building footprint would also decrease the amount of open space amenities and circulation area on the ground level compared to the proposed project.”
The city also considered not building anything and reduced density as options.
The draft EIR can be viewed at newportbeachca.gov/index.aspx?page=1347.
For more information or to comment on the draft EIR, contact Senior Planner Gregg Ramirez at (949) 644-3219 or [email protected]