Sometimes it isn’t what is said that’s so telling, but what isn’t said.
I thought about that as the “Yes on Y” flyers began flowing in our mailboxes, ads appeared in local papers, and signs were posted along our streets that promise “Traffic Reduction & Strong Neighborhoods” and “Let’s keep Newport Beach a unique and charming city by voting Yes on Y.”
Included in these ads and mailers are appealing images of kayakers in Back Bay, bicyclists on Balboa Island, the landmark Pavilion, and one of light traffic on PCH at Iris Ave. in Corona del Mar.
These statements and images, when tied to Measure Y, are misleading.
Let’s begin with why Measure Y exists. By 2000, many residents had grown increasingly frustrated at a series of city councils in thrall of the Irvine Company and other developers. The citizen-sponsored Greenlight Initiative was put on the November 2000 ballot. Its purpose was simple: Any development project that adds more than 40,000 square feet of building space, 100 peak-hour auto trips, or 100 homes beyond those allowed in the General Plan must be approved by a city-wide election.
A substantial number of Newport Beach voters agreed: 63% voted in favor of Greenlight.
Consider now the numbers in Measure Y: the development proposed in Newport Center and near John Wayne Airport includes more than 1,000,000 square feet of building space (including 500 residential units) and 9,100 daily auto trips.
You won’t find these numbers in the “Yes on Y” campaign.
Despite “Yes on Y’s” verbal acrobatics and 2+2=3 arithmetic, these building projects will increase traffic at two already impacted areas of the city: Newport Center (anybody tried to park near Whole Foods Market lately?) and the airport area.
Furthermore, the Corona del Mar Bypass, which aims to divert traffic onto Newport Coast Drive, is a particularly cynical ploy to encourage residents to believe that something is being done to alleviate traffic congestion at the east end of town.
The council should have addressed traffic flow through Corona del Mar years ago – Newport Coast Road opened in 1991. The Council ought to have been working with Caltrans and the Irvine Company all along to create signage that diverts westbound traffic on PCH headed toward Newport Center, the airport, as well as the 405 and 55 Freeways, onto Newport Coast Drive. Besides, legally the Bypass did not have to be included in Measure Y – it’s merely there to sweeten the proposal.
“Strong neighborhoods”? One could argue the opposite. According to Newport Votes No, “The City’s review required by the California Environmental Quality Act led to the conclusion that adoption of the General Plan Amendments would have significant adverse effects on the environment compared to sticking with the existing General Plan.”
Keeping Newport a “unique and charming city?” This is downright offensive. How does adding more office/retail in Newport Center represent “unique and charming?” How does Measure Y’s additional traffic translate foster the idea of “unique and charming?”
As for Measure Y’s claim to “provide funding for water quality improvements… [and] create environmental and open space fund,” these are important issues that the City Council should think creatively about and directly address.
To sum up, the one and only reason Measure Y exists is because the Greenlight Initiative of 2000 calls for voter approval of changes to the general plan that involve a substantial increase in development and traffic.
Some people have grown fond of referring to the recently built Civic Center as the “Taj-Ma-City-Hall.” I would argue that this City Council’s true Taj Mahal is Newport Center. During one council meeting I recall a council member referring to Newport Center as the “hub of our city.” As a business/retail district Newport Center is beautiful, but is not Newport Harbor the true hub of our city, surrounded by villages of diverse character and identity?
Newport Center sits amid an avowed residential town and should not be permitted to dominate the City’s identity or to increase objectionable traffic for its residents.
At last summer’s hearings on the General Plan Amendment, I watched as resident after resident addressed the Council and asked, “Who do you represent, us or the Irvine Company?”
None of the councilmembers responded verbally. They didn’t have to. Their approval of Measure Y (excepting Nancy Gardner, who opposed it) says it all.
Our current council remains enamored of enabling development in our city beyond all reason at the expense of the residents’ quality of life; come November we are likely to see the same attitude from the new council.
For the last 14 years, the Greenlight Initiative has given residents a voice in this.
Let’s use that voice and vote No on Y.
The writer is the President of the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club. She can be reached at [email protected].