The Orange County Museum of Art needs Newport Beach to approve the construction of a 25-story condominium tower at its San Clemente Drive campus to fulfill its mission and remain fiscally sustainable, according to Todd Smith, the museum’s CEO.
The museum’s leadership wants to move the art institution to a plot next to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, providing more foot traffic because of its proximity to performing arts venues and freeways. The relocation would be made possible by the sale of the current building to real estate developers Related California.
“We have an opportunity with an expanded building to live up to the mission that we have built for ourselves,” said Smith.
But if last week’s planning commission meeting is any indication, Smith and his supporters may have an uphill battle in winning Newport Beach residents’ support for their project, named Museum House. The meeting was so packed that guests who couldn’t find a seat lined up against the walls of the City Council Chambers.
Residents have already been living with the construction of the Irvine Company’s six-story apartments at Villas Fashion Island on San Joaquin Hills Road near Jamboree Road.
“I’m extremely concerned by the traffic that going to be generated by the new apartments and this new building,” said Newport Beach resident Chip Long.
A big part of the discussion is whether the 100-unit condominium building meets the threshold for a “Greenlight Initiative” vote, which requires a vote of the people on major general plan amendments. This includes any project that adds 100 vehicle trips during the peak rush hours and over 100 new dwelling units.
Kim Brandt, community development director for Newport Beach, said the city will do a thorough analysis of the project’s potential impact before making a decision on whether a vote must be held.
“At this point we are not ready to make any definitive conclusions regarding this project as to whether or not it will require a Greenlight vote,” she said. “As I said in my opening comments, we are still going through the analysis of this project. We have another project in Newport Center so there are a lot of variables that are in play.”
Due to its small size, the art museum is currently restricted in its operations because it can only display one exhibition at a time despite its collection of 20th and 21st century California art.
In order to switch out exhibitions, the museum can be closed to visitors for several weeks at a time.
Moving to Costa Mesa would not only allow the museum to add enough space to rotate exhibitions without having to close down, but also provide amenities like food service, retail opportunities and a gathering space for events.