Letter to the Editor: Citizen Involvement Needed in General Plan Issues

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I would like to talk about the General Plan update and specifically the circulation and housing elements.

First the General Plan update has been hijacked by COVID-19 and my observation is that the circulation element is largely being advanced by a consultant and staff.

I challenge our new Mayor, Mr. Brad Avery, to refocus this effort with real citizen involvement.  All we hear at the few Zoom meetings for the circulation element is how West Coast Highway must be widened through Mariners Mile. Adding traffic lanes, building pedestrian bridges and removing pedestrian crosswalks to speed up traffic are not the answers that residents or local businesses are seeking.

Another death surely due to excessive speed on West Coast Highway occurred just last week.

The housing element has a council appointed committee that is solely focused on finding landowners who are willing to rezone their property for high density housing where 95 percent are market rate apartments and 5 percent are very low-income apartments. Last Tuesday’s approval of the 4400 Von Karmen project proves this argument.

Without government subsidy landowners can only make this work at this 5 percent ratio.  Newport Beach residents do not want 48,000 new apartments to meet the state mandate of 2,400 low to very low-income units. Yet that is the strategy being advanced.  The 2,400 figure is roughly half the state requirement for 4,834 total, but we can probably meet the higher income 2,400 number without changing anything.

This should be the biggest issue in Newport Beach. Unfortunately, everyone is focused on staying alive and getting their kids back to school. I understand.

Under previous laws the state is forcing cities to allow Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADU’s, and Junior Accessory Dwelling, or JADU’s, on nearly every residential property in Newport Beach.

The state laws that allow this have been in effect for only a few years. There is little permitted track record in Newport Beach, but they are taking off in many areas of the state.

The former Coronado apartments at 880 Irvine Avenue between Sherington Place and 15th Street have 10 units permitted so far. And this is already a notoriously under parked project. I am not advocating for more ADU’s, but I believe they are inevitable in many neighborhoods.

According to the state Housing & Community Development Department ADU handbook dated September 2020, they are required to be considered to meet the Newport Beach RHNA allocation. Yet our city staff rejects the notion of using them to meet the bulk, if not all, of this mandate.

Advantages of this approach include spreading the additional units all over the city, existing housing is already served by local services, residents and not outside developers will likely benefit from building these on their own property and getting credit towards our RHNA mandate for something that will happen anyway.

And there won’t be 95 percent market rate apartments to support 5 percent affordable units. Staff continues to argue that this approach will not work but I cannot find any documentation from HCD supporting that argument.

Mayor Avery and City Council please direct staff to fully explore this approach. You may find some success following the current approach, but you will only comply by zoning for 48,000 new apartments in Newport Beach. That will get the residents attention.

I urge you to write to the City Council and advocate this approach. This will be discussed at the February 9 City council study Session.

Charles Klobe / Newport Beach

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