To get to a recent mid-summer respite, I parked near the entrance to Balboa Island, walked across the bridge, and continued along South Bay Front to Agate Ave. I boarded the Balboa Island Ferry, exiting at the Fun Zone on the Peninsula, and headed for dinner at the Balboa Pavilion.
We were four longtime friends, gathered at Harborside’s bar over happy hour appetizers, while outside brown pelicans panhandled for leftover bait from the fishing boats.
We felt like we were on vacation. None of us lives on the water, and we agreed that even in the height of summer, we too seldom partake of the salty pleasures of Newport Bay.
We are not alone in this.
“Last week I made a commitment to walk down to the beach, no matter what,” Newport Crest resident Dorothy Kraus, chair of Concerned Citizens of Newport Beach, told me. “I didn’t make it. I stood here, looking over the Banning Ranch, worrying about what’s going to happen there and how to keep the General Plan Land Use Amendment from passing in November. Instead I’ve been working on the argument against the ballot measure and the rebuttal to the in-favor argument! Right now, these issues are too important to our city. So no beach time for me this summer.”
The City Council’s decision to put the amendment on the November ballot has launched a campaign to influence the public’s perception of the issue. You will find the arguments pro and con at NewportBeachCA.gov/ballotmeasure.
After reading the document, “Measure ___ Direct Arguments,” I was astounded by what was mentioned and what wasn’t. The in-favor argument is sweetened with an appealing list of benefits:
“• Analyzing a traffic bypass system, which will free up congested lanes on PCH through Corona del Mar. • Investing in water quality improvements in the Back Bay and Lower Bay. • Reducing traffic and promoting safety through improved bicycle lanes and pedestrian facilities. • Requiring future development contributions to environmental and open space investment. • A West Newport Community Center near Hoag Hospital that includes amenities for senior citizens. • Providing for environmentally sustainable development that meets or exceeds all standards.”
None of these benefits would have triggered the costly requirement that the amendment be placed on the ballot. Moreover, some elements of the amendment are mandated by changes in state regulations. They all could have been handled by a vote of the City Council.
Nor does the in-favor argument explain that the only reason the General Plan Land Use Amendment is even on the November ballot is because it permits more than half a million (565,000) square feet of new development in Newport Center. The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce recently surveyed residents as to the most important issue in their neighborhood. They received about 1,200 replies, according to Steve Rosansky, President and CEO of the Chamber.
“[T]he most frequently cited concern was….’Traffic-Traffic-Traffic,'” according to a follow-up letter from Don Webb, a signatory on the in-favor argument.
Why, oh why, then, would Rosansky and Webb support the amendment? Why would the City Council ignore this elemental concern of the people who elected them, people who repeatedly asked at the July council meetings, “Who are you representing here?”
In my next column I’ll address the magical arithmetic used to support the in-favor argument. Meanwhile, I still savor that mid-summer respite. Newport Beach is an extraordinary town. By nature, however, it has traffic constraints, given that the ocean comprises one lengthy stretch of our border. So our town is innately limited in the amount of traffic alleviation that is possible. Ergo its residents are limited in their tolerance for traffic-generating development — residents like Allan Beek, whose family has operated the Balboa Island Ferry since 1919 and who has spoken passionately, in the interest of preserving Newport’s quality of life, in opposition to the amendment.
For an independent analysis by the City Attorney, ballot measure language, direct arguments for and against the amendment, and a list of upcoming candidate forums, visit NewportVotesNo.org.
The writer is President of the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club.