Two residents filed a lawsuit this week disputing the language in Measure Y, the proposed general plan land use element amendment.
Petitioners Susan Skinner and Bert Ohlig allege there is a “complete lack of impartiality” in the ballot language and is an “egregious violation” of the elections code, according to court records.
The suit was filed aug. 14 in the Orange County Superior Court and name Newport Beach City Clerk Leilani Brown and OC Registrar-Recorder Neal Kelley as respondents.
Skinner and Ohlig criticize the ballot question claiming that the language is unfair and impartial.
“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Harp wrote in an email. “The ballot question was carefully considered by the City Council following an 18-month public hearing process and is an accurate summary of the impacts that will occur if the General Plan amendment is approved by the voters.”
It would “eliminate 375,782 square feet of non-residential development from the existing General Plan; add 138 more residential dwelling units and reduce traffic by 2,922 average daily trips,” Harp explained.
“All of these facts came directly from the material considered by the City Council and to say that relying on these facts is somehow unfair and impartial is nonsensical,” he added.
“I think one of the most egregious pieces about measure Y is that there is absolutely no mention of the massive development being planned as part of measure Y in any of the city’s information,” Skinner wrote in an email.
There is “550,000 square feet of commercial office space, 500 dwelling units and at least 9,000 new traffic trips daily,” she explained.
“You won’t find that in the ballot summary,” she said. “You won’t find it in the so-called ‘impartial analysis’ by the city attorney. You won’t find it on anywhere on the city informational website. There’s absolutely no way for an average voter to be able to learn about this massive development unless they read the EIR.”
“I think that is shameful of our city,” Skinner continued. “They have a moral and legal responsibility to make sure that voters have accurate information about what they’re voting on, and they have failed to do so. That is the basis of my whole lawsuit.”
“The average voter reading this would be delighted to vote for what appears to be a clear reduction in density and traffic in Newport Beach,” the petitioners claim in the suit. But, it’s misleading , Skinner and Ohlig allege.
There are allocations in the General Plan that are not ever expected to be utilized, Skinner and Ohlig write in the suit, and therefore the traffic trips that are attached to them do not actually exist and are unlikely to ever exist.
“Thus, Measure Y removes allocations that exist on paper and replaces them with allocations that are very likely to be built,” they state.
In the city’s opposition to the Ex Parte request for writ of mandate document, attorneys from Rutan & Tucker, LLP, claim that the petitioners “have not even come close to meeting their burden.”
“The ballot question is directly supported by uncontroverted facts,” the document reads.
Skinner and Ohlig responded that they are not challenging “the actual dwelling units nor the square footage described in the summary. Rather, the petitioners challenge the way in which that information is presented.”
The ex parte was granted and the case will be heard Monday.