Tense Meeting on Koll Luxury Condo Project

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An artist’s rendering of the Shopoff Group’s proposed development, Koll Center Residences, at Birch Street and Von Karman Avenue in Newport Beach.
— Photo courtesy the Shopoff Group

Discussion got tense this week during an informational meeting by a developer working on a project in the airport district.

Shopoff Group presented Koll Center Residences to about 50 people on Monday in the Friends Meeting Room of Newport Beach Central Library.

Koll Residences is a 260-unit mixed-use infill residential and retail development at Birch Street and Von Karman Avenue in Newport Beach. It’s considered a luxury condominium project in an office park on approximately 13.16 acres in the airport district.

The residences would be in three, 13-story, 160-foot tall residential buildings. There will be one, two and three bedroom units, with the top levels consisting of two-story penthouse units.

An average 1,800-square-foot unit would probably be priced around $1.5 to $2 million, Shopoff officials confirmed.

Plans call for two levels of above-grade and two to three levels of below-grade structured parking.

The development includes up to 260 residential condominiums, 3,000 square feet of ground-floor retail uses, a 1.17-acre public park, a free-standing parking structure, and the reconfiguration of some of the existing surface parking areas.

Most of the audience were critical of the project and several residents raised a number of concerns during a Q&A period.

Longtime local Susan Skinner said she is “horrified” that the city is considering approving the project.

“I don’t think this is an acceptable project to the residents of Newport Beach,” Skinner said, eliciting applause from the audience.  

Some made comparisons to the Museum House condominium tower that was proposed for Newport Center.

Shopoff officials said there are noticeable differences, once being that Museum House was “spot zoning,” Project Executive for Shopoff Realty Investments Michael Murphy said.

“This is the exact opposite,” Murphy said. “This was planned for.”

An artist’s rendering of the Shopoff Group’s proposed development, Koll Center Residences, at Birch Street and Von Karman Avenue in Newport Beach.
— Photo courtesy the Shopoff Group

The project won’t need any general plan amendments, but will need some zoning changes to include residential.

Murphy emphasized that it is acceptable according to what was approved in 2006, which allows 2,200 units, and of those 1,650 are marked as “replacement” only and 550 as additive.

“You cannot build unless you take something down,” said Shopoff community outreach consultant Coralee Newman explained during the Q&A period.

Because the majority are replacing current buildings the traffic impact would be “trip neutral,” Murphy said.

Following the 2006 vote, this project, along with Uptown Newport, was seen as a “really unique opportunity” to make the high-density residential happen, as intended, Murphy said. This is the final leg of the process, he added.

“It’s been underway since 2006,” Murphy said. “We feel like we’re fulfilling the prophecy of making that happen.”

The 2006 general plan update was a green light vote, Skinner pointed out during her public comments. The question residents were asked was if they wanted to remove traffic and density from the city of Newport Beach, she noted.

“Don’t say we, the residents, knew what we were getting when we did this, we didn’t,” Skinner said.

“I think this meeting is a great example of why neutral, public civic meetings should not be replaced by a developer presentation,” said Derek Ostensen, an owner in the office center where the project is located.

He expressed frustration at the process, the “massive” project and the “ridiculous” points being pushed by the applicant. Ostensen said he wanted an open, neutral and transparent process.

A couple of residents suggested the plans be reconsidered and incorporated into the upcoming general plan update.

“This is one area that we respectfully disagree on,” Newman said. “We need to proceed and take our project through the process. We’ve waited since 2010.”

Construction would occur over approximately four and a half years.

There are 1,651 existing office parking spaces. Over the first 10-month phase, officials expect that number to drop to 1,514, but then be at or above the current baseline. They’ll end with a net gain of eight additional spaces.

“Our team gave this a lot of thought,” Murphy said. “We recognized that we had to be considerate of the existing operations.”

Design-wise, architects behind the project are trying to keep it connected to Uptown Newport as an “urban village.”

The planned park has an “active” side with pickleball, bocce ball and more, as well as a quiet side with shady rest areas “more of a botanical garden” design, said Landscape Architect Mark Lenning, a principal with C2 Collaborative.

“Really a nice place to be,” he said.

It was designed with certain factors in mind in order to be “sensitive to the existing office environment,” said architect Paul Kearney, associate partner with MVE + Partners.

The aim is for the Koll condos to be self-sustaining residential project, he added. To build a place that people want to live, he added.

“Provide for the residents to truly be part of an urban village,” Kearney said.

They also wanted to maintain views and not impede on any existing views.

The proposed Koll Residences buildings “match the height” of the surrounding structures, Newman said. A resident later pointed out that there are several low-rise buildings in the area as well. Another owner in the office center said views from her building will be directly impacted.

Implementation of the proposed project would require the demolition of existing surface parking and landscaping within the limits of disturbance.

The public comment period for review of Draft Environmental Impact Report on the Koll project has been extended until Nov. 13

A number of issues are addressed in the draft EIR, including air quality, soil, traffic and noise, some of which could have potential long term impacts. The draft ERI also suggests mitigation measures to reduce the impacts to “levels considered less than significant with the exception of air quality impacts, land use impacts, and construction-related noise impacts.”

Copies of the Draft EIR are available for review in the Community Development Department at city hall, the library and online at the city’s website.

After being cancelled in October, a study session for the project will head back to the Planning Commission on Jan. 18.

 

For more information, visit newportbeachca.gov/trending/projects-issues/the-koll-residences.

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