Letter to the Editor: Former Mayor Weighs In on Measure Y

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I am a former Newport Beach City Mayor. I have continually lived in the Port Streets for over 35 years. I am voting No on Measure Y for the following reasons:

  1. Traffic in Newport Beach steadily gets worse, evenwithout any added development. Our City’s streets, esp. MacArthur, PCH, Irvine, Newport Blvd. and Jamboree, are major road conduits to and from adjacent populated areas. Also, our City is an increasingly attractive destination so more folks come here to shop, eat, enjoy our bay and beaches and just hang out. We residents know traffic is worse. Why give more major development rights which will add internal traffic on top of the increasing amounts of that external traffic?
  2. Almost all of the proposed development rights will occur in Newport Center – another 500,000 s/f of office space, 50,000 s/f more retail space and 500 more residential units. Currently underway, but not yet occupied is the new 520 Newport Center Dr.21 story/330,000 sq. ft. office building (which is 2/3 the size of the new office s/f at issue for comparison), or the 524 new apartment units underway in San Joaquin Hills Plaza area of Newport Center. Why add more development space in Newport Center until we see the traffic impacts of these major projects once occupied?
  3. I could never make much sense of traffic engineer projections because there always seemed to be a disconnect between their numbers and the actual traffic congestion once projects were built. Why should we take as true the very little traffic impact promises of the Measure Yes supporters? We bear the added hassle and delays – such as the back-ups across Mac Arthur on San Miguel trying to go left down Avocado or getting stuck up across San Joaquin Hills Rd. trying to make a right on San Miguel Dr. into Newport Center. I am sure you have your own real time examples of worsened intersections these days, and not just around Newport Center.
  4. An argument for voting Yes on Y is that the City will get more development fees from granting those development rights. But, this City Council has repeatedly broadcast to us all that Newport Beach is one of three California Cities with the highest financial rating, easily financed a $124 Million bond measure for the Library/City Hall/Park project, is in its best financial shape ever and adds more to its reserves every year. So, why does the City need these added development fees? And what will we residents get back from those fees? For instance, how will the City solve the traffic snarl at San Miguel Drive between MacArthur and Avocado, itself very recently widened, now that the City has built its pedestrian bridge overhead with its support piers lining the sidewalks on each side?
  5. Don’t necessarily rely on the City Council to prudently limit ever larger developments in our City in favor of increased traffic – which we residents are left to deal with. For instance, consider the Council’s approval of the newly built, but unoccupied, imposing retail building at Dover & PCH (itself a highly congested intersection), which it approved despite denial of that project by the City’s Planning Commission and also strong neighborhood objections to it. Just what was the approval justification for it versus its future traffic impact on the rest of us? And is that the City Council’s favored model for future developments along PCH down to the Arches? How more congested will PCH be if that model continues?

We residents get to vote on Measure Y because of the 2000 Green Light Initiative, which was meant to give us a vote on just these types of major traffic impact developments, like those now at issue for Newport Center.

You might ask if the horizon goal of the Yes on Measure Y is that our City evolve into West L.A., and Newport Center becoming another Century City? Consider the likely impact these new projects on you if Measure Y passes and join me in protecting our City’s fine lifestyle by voting No on Y.

John Heffernan

Former Mayor, City of Newport Beach

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