The Jewel of Newport

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While serving on the Planning Commission, I was struck with how different Newport Beach is FROM Newport Beach.

Newport Beach has several distinct and very different communities all within the city limits.  Unlike South County which is somewhat monolithic. With apologies to those neighborhoods that I leave out, Newport varies from the Peninsula, to Newport Shores, to Newport Heights, to Hoag, to Mariners Mile, to Dover Shores, to the back bay, to Santa Ana Heights, to the Airport Area, to Eastbluff, to the Port Streets, to Fashion Island, to the Dunes, to Balboa Island, to Corona Del Mar, to Newport Coast and all those areas that fill in and make part of those communities. 

The Peninsula has the Best and the Worst of Newport

The Peninsula is one of my favorite parts of the city. It probably has the most challenges of any area of Newport. As a Planning Commissioner, I found it the most unique and difficult to deal with. First it has the best beaches in all of southern California. There are literally miles of beaches with varying surf, for all users, all sandy and very clean (kudos to the city for keeping it that way). People come from literally all over the world because of the beaches.

The Peninsula also has the most bars, tattoo parlors, rental units, and police activity, but the beaches are great.

If you like to people-watch, there are few places better than the peninsula.

The number of rental units are higher here than anywhere else in the city. That is one of the reasons why the Rehab homes were able to proliferate here, before anyone figured out all the bad things that were associated with them. There are still more rehab homes on the peninsula than anywhere else in Newport, but the beaches are great.

Most Commercial Properties Don’t Make It on the Peninsula

Face it, if you don’t need to go to the Peninsula to get something, you don’t. If it is the only place to get what you need, you wait until the traffic goes down. Commercial businesses either sell to visitors or locals; generally speaking it is not a destination shopping area, although there are many great restaurants and businesses on the peninsula. Even Lido Village has never really been successful. Restaurants usually don’t get patrons that come from outside the city, unless they are visiting the peninsula already-which is significant, but the beaches are great.

Traffic and Parking

Do I really need to say more about this? Even the permanent residents have a tough time with this. Driving around the block six times looking for a parking space when you come home from work, isn’t fun, but the beaches are great.

 Coastal Commission Makes Things Worse

Then to add insult to injury, the Elites on the California Coastal Commission think that they know better how to manage or plan the peninsula then we do. They have different priorities then we do.  The CCC causes owners that want to redevelop their properties, investing their hard earned assets, to spend thousands of dollars unnecessarily taking literally years of additional permit time, while adding nothing to the finished process. That is one of the reasons why the Old City Hall (not to be confused with the Taj-Ma-City-Hall) will take two to four years to redevelop while we look at a green fence, but the beaches are great.

The Peninsula is the Jewel of Newport

My colleague over at the Register believes that Santa Ana Heights is the Step Child of the City. That may be, but clearly the Peninsula is the jewel. Everything happens on the Peninsula. All the fun and different parts of Newport are all in one area, anbd the beaches are great.

Scott Peotter is an Architect and former Planning Commissioner in Newport Beach.  Scott can be reached at [email protected].


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  1. Certainly the unique aspect and beauty of the beaches and the fact that the peninsula is a peninsula make the land mass a land use challenge. The obvious, great beaches, is easy- that’s where we came in. The issues of the current parking, the poor condition of the rental units and the land use travesty of the Rehab homes are a direct result of the difficult dance that the historic City (Planning Commission and Council and possibly their supporting constituents) has had with regulation. If in the 50’s and 60’s (and, in the Gen Plan revision) the City put into place more sensible zoning regs that demanded on site parking, reasonable regs and site coverage limits, the original fast buck land lords would have whined all the way into better properties. When the City revisits the General Plan, the first thing the staff told the GPAC committee was to keep things very loose because we are a City that, in it’s history, does not like regulation. As a result of this systemic approach, there are, the tax fighter is correct, literally miles of beaches to go with the sea of shabby west Newport properties, public streets lined with cars and many that worship an income stream and couldn’t care less about how they achieve it. The Peninsula is not a cause of the most bars, tattoo parlors, rental units, and police activity. The historic lack of regulation served the Peninsula to an almost inadvertent market of drug rehab.
    People-watching is easy but, retracing the arc of regulation and land use, that could have made an area (and, a City) better and doing something with that learning, is a better use of ones time. If your philosophy is to ‘leave every land lord to their own 18th century free market musings and reminisce of Reagan’s vacuous tax understanding, you will never get past the beauty of the beaches and you get the peninsula you deserve.