Latest ‘Listen & Learn’ Workshop Echoes Previous Comments, Concerns

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Resident Debra Allen talks about what areas of the city her group chose to plan for housing, as represented by the legos, during the city’s district 5 “Newport, Together” listen and learn workshop on Tuesday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

As the city is working its way through the districts with the recently launched community engagement effort called “Newport, Together,” which includes a series of interactive workshops designed to involve citizens in discussions on community values and the city’s General Plan Update, a few common trends are starting to emerge.

The “listen and learn” process included a workshop for district 5 on Tuesday, held in the Friend’s Room at the Central Library.

Councilman Jeff Herdman, who represents district 5, which covers Balboa Island, Newport Center, and Big Canyon, was among the approximately two dozen people who attended the event.

Jenna Tourje, from the city’s consultant Kearns & West, led the meeting.

Tourje outlined what the General Plan is and what the process will be as the program moves forward.

“Newport, Together is an opportunity for the city to listen and learn from the Newport Beach community as the first step toward the General Plan update,” she explained.

The workshop included several interactive activities, including a few live polling events, smaller group brainstorming session, and a visual representation of potential development in the city through legos placed on a map of Newport Beach.

The first poll asked the audience members to share one word they would use to describe their community. As the answers showed up on the screen at the front of the room, a few stuck out. There were several positive words, like beautiful, great, warm, nirvana, opulent, and heaven. And a few words of concern, including threatened and expensive. And one that was censored, but an audience member announced it was a locally-loved word: “Badass.”

Several of the words used echoed what residents said in the city’s first Listen and Learn workshop in District 2 in early November.

Participants at both workshops displayed a mixture of appreciation for the beauty of the area and the overall community, with concerns focused on development, affordability, and crime.

The General Plan is the “aspirational blueprint” for the future of Newport Beach, Tourje commented. It’s the framework for decision-making about the management and growth of the city.

Residents place legos on a map of Newport Beach to represent potential areas to add housing during the city’s district 5 “Newport, Together” listen and learn workshop on Tuesday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The last comprehensive update to the GP was in 2006, Tourje confirmed.

The Newport Beach General Plan incorporates the seven state-mandated elements: Land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise, and safety; as well as natural resources, harbor and bay, historical resources, recreation, and arts and culture.

In another live poll, Tourje asked the group what element stood out the most. On Tuesday, noise was the most popular, followed by land use, housing and circulation.

Notably, at the city’s first Listen & Learn workshop in district 2, land use and housing were also top options. Most of the concerns at both meetings revolved around how the city was going to plan for the state-required housing.

The plan is to start with a vision statement and three foundational elements: Land use, housing, and circulation.

The next activity of the night broke the audience into smaller groups and asked them to discuss and list their top five values.

Some of the common answers included safety, quality of life, environment, and community/people.

Again, this activity echoed the earlier district 2 workshop, with safety was a top value among all groups.

On Tuesday, others also mentioned city services, ocean access, walkability/bicycling, peacefulness/tranquility, and more.

The final activity tasked the attendees to place legos on a map of Newport Beach of where they think future housing should go. Most groups stacked (emphasizing the density) legos in the airport area, a few placed them in Newport Coast, and one group suggested floating homes.

Residents from both workshops mostly focused on the airport area.

City Associate Planner Ben Zdeba also explained housing requirements and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment and more.

Other meetings scheduled: Dec. 11 in District 4, at Bonita Creek Community Center, 3010 La Vida; and Dec. 12 in District 1, at Marina Park Community Center, 1600 W. Balboa Blvd.

All workshops will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The meetings are open to all community members and citizens are welcome to attend a workshop in a district other than their own if a different date better fits their schedules. A map of the Council districts can be found on the city’s website at

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