On Saturday, Sept. 24, longtime citizen “watch group” Still Protecting Our Newport (SPON) held its annual meeting with community stakeholders at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach who were gathered in support of SPON’s mission to preserve the charm and beauty of Newport Beach.
SPON regularly tackles critical issues such as the expansion of John Wayne Airport, intensity of planned real estate development, growing traffic, building density, loss of open space, and the protection of the resources that promote the residential character of the city.
SPON President Charles Klobe delivered a comprehensive report on the organization’s efforts throughout the year, including their success working together with the community to defeat Measure B, the ballot measure that would have amended the city Charter to require an elected Mayor.
“Measure B was not well-crafted, which resulted in it being soundly defeated in the June primary,” said Klobe.
Klobe also discussed the proposed Newport Beach Housing Trust. With the support of SPON co-founder, Jean Watt, SPON joined with local developers Eagle Four Partners and Lyon Living to explore the possibility of forming a local housing trust to help finance one hundred percent affordable housing for seniors, veterans, and workers in the community.
On the “still to do list,” SPON will have several members apply for appointment to the General Plan Advisory Committee to participate in a comprehensive update of the City’s General Plan, so the organization continues to have input in outlining policy goals and objectives to guide and shape city development.
In addition, SPON will continue to advocate for adherence to the John Wayne Airport Settlement Agreement, which establishes curfew and maximum passenger restrictions, as well as participate in negotiations for the extension of the Agreement which is set to expire in the coming years.
SPON Treasurer Dennis Baker reported the organization is in proper financial shape with funds in reserve, but they are 100 percent reliant on donations and appreciate the community support through contributions to their tax-deductible organization.
Guest speaker Suzanne Forster, Vice-President of the Banning Ranch Conservancy Board of Directors, provided an update confirming the Conservancy has all the funds to complete the acquisition of the Banning Ranch property.
She gave thanks to an individual gift of $50 million by local philanthropists Frank and Joanne Randall, with the remaining funding largely contributed by public agencies.
The Board expects the property to be transferred in October to ownership by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), a state agency dedicated to the preservation and management of local open space, parkland, habitat, and trails, to be maintained and operated as a public park.
Featured guest speaker, recently appointed John Wayne Airport Director Charlene Reynolds, made clear her priorities to improve airport operations with measures to enhance community partnerships, sustainability, guest experience, financial health, and employee relations.
She also actively works to forge relationships with individual commercial airlines to add newer aircraft with quieter and cleaner operations.
Her vision for the guest experience will be unique to Orange County with expanded local food, beverage, and retail options to strengthen the local community.
On “greening,” Reynolds shared a comprehensive list of completed and upcoming airport improvements including environmentally friendly baggage handling systems, elevators, escalators, LED lighting, electric charging stations, electric shuttle buses, underground fuel farm operations, and water refill stations that will eliminate almost a million and a half disposable water bottles.
Retail vendors in the airport will be accountable for minimizing waste, diverting excess food to local pantries, converting to bamboo and other recyclable paper, and reduction in the use of single use straws.
Reynolds introduced Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, who reported about the Board’s recent roll out of the “Fly Friendly” initiative that encourages general aviation jet operators to be good partners with the community and voluntarily work toward meaningful noise reduction.
Reynolds closed with an earnest commitment that she “does not advocate for runway expansion.” However, Reynolds has stated in the past that expansion is a policy decision for the Board of Supervisors.
Reynolds did add the existing runways likely have room for additional capacity and that will be the subject of upcoming study.
For more information about SPON go to www.spon-newportbeach.org.