Museum House Petition Delivered to City Clerk

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Jack and Nancy Skinner of Line in the Sand PAC observe Assistant City Clerk Jennifer Nelson count signatures Wednesday for the Museum House referendum petition. / Photo by Daniel Langhorne
Jack and Nancy Skinner of Line in the Sand PAC observe Assistant City Clerk Jennifer Nelson count signatures Wednesday for the Museum House referendum petition. / Photo by Daniel Langhorne

A petition for a referendum on the Museum House condominium tower met the required 6,000-signature threshold on Wednesday, delivering a win to the project’s opponents after a highly-charged campaign.

Newport Beach City Clerk Leilani Brown and her staff continued counting signatures, which were delivered in 76 cardboard boxes collectively weighing more than two tons, to provide the Orange County Registrar of Voters with a preliminary count. The boxes were slated to be transported as early as Wednesday afternoon.

The final signature count came in at 13,730 signatures.

The petition’s proponents spent more than $46,500 to print 425 petitions, which each included about 1,100 pages.

In a decision harshly-criticized by petitioners, the City Council required that the petition include the extensive environmental analysis of the project and other supporting documents.

“In spite of hurdles and deterrents placed on the referendum process, there was a groundswell of support by thousands of Newport Beach voters to put the Museum House tower project on a ballot for a public vote,” Line in the Sand PAC, the group spearheading the petition, wrote in a press release.

Seven Line in the Sand volunteers showed up at the City Clerk’s office on Wednesday morning to monitor the counting and transfer of the petitions into a secure city records room called “the vault.”

Nancy Skinner, Newport Beach Citizen of the Year in 2014 and a board member of SPON (Still Protecting Our Newport) was among the Line in the Sand committee members who awaited the signature count.

“I’m going to sleep better once it’s all done,” she said.

The signatures were submitted more than a week before the City’s Dec. 29 deadline.

Gino Canori, executive vice president of Related Co. of California, said his team will wait to hear if the submitted signatures are certified and at that point will review their options for next steps.

“We continue to stand by the facts,” Canori said. “Museum House is 100 percent compliant with Greenlight, is designed by one of the world’s finest architects, and brings important public benefits including West Coast Highway Landscaping, a new Junior Lifeguards Headquarters, Library Lecture Hall, and money for public schools.”

He also sniped at the nebulous organization, Citizens Against High Rise Urban Towers, for funding an expensive advertisement campaign against the project.

“[I]n large measure, if the referendum does qualify, it will be thanks to the major campaign, funded by secret money, that has worked to torpedo Museum House with city-wide mailers, TV ads, and other activities,” Canori said.

But it may not be smooth sailing to the ballot for Skinner and her comrades.

The developer of Museum House, OCMA Urban Housing LLC, sent a letter Monday to the City Clerk, claiming the referendum was defective and should be rejected.

Canori wrote in a statement that his company is especially concerned because most of opposing petition is “completely illegible” because the documents were shrunk to fit four pages on 11 by 17 inch paper.

The developer also argues the petition should be disqualified because it did not include the full text of the resolution as the City Council required. An attorney for the developer pointed out that three pages out of 3,800 were missing from the petition packets.

Despite a counter-petition campaign coordinated by the developer, only 85 Newport Beach voters asked for the City Clerk to rescind their signatures.

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