Town Hall Tackles Housing, Peninsula Projects

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Public Works Deputy Director Jim Houlihan speaks about city projects during a town hall meeting Monday at Marina Park.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

While Balboa Peninsula and West Newport projects were focus of a community forum this week, the highlight was a citywide issue: Affordable housing, and what the state is requiring from Newport Beach.

About 50 people attended the town hall, hosted by Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon at Marina Park on Monday. Dixon and city staff discussed several issues and projects related to district 1, which covers the Peninsula, Lido Isle, and West Newport.

A lively discussion came during Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis’ update on affordable housing requirements.

“The state actually mandates how many residential units that we’re supposed to build in the city,” Jurjis clarified.

In the past, the state has been a bit more flexible with housing unit numbers, Jurjis commented. During the recession, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers were low, he explained, because vacancy was so high. RHNA numbers deal with housing units, half of them are market-rate and half of them are low income, Jurjis explained.

Recently, the state Department of Housing and Community Development “pushed down” 1.3 million units for the Southern California region for the October 2021 to October 2029 planning period, he explained.

“That’s a really big number,” Jurjis said. “That’s double what we projected.”

The Southern CA Association of Governments is responsible for allocating units to individual jurisdictions.

“SCAG has to divvy up these housing units throughout all the cities,” Jurjis said. “The cities are going to fight each other… I can see the battle coming next.”

Jurjis laid out three options for Newport Beach.

Worst case scenario, Jurjis estimated, is that the city has to plan and zone for an additional 5,292 total housing units, including 2,426 for lower income.

Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis speaks about affordable housing requirements during a town hall meeting Monday at Marina Park.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

“I’m sharing bad news,” Jurjis said. “This is what we’re faced with.”

This process would likely include the city having to “un-zone,” convert, and re-zone properties, Jurjis explained.

It doesn’t mean they will be built; it just means that the zoning is in place so they could be, so they are planned for, he emphasized.

The “best” option would likely be 2,336 total units, including 1,070 for lower income.

“Where is that housing going to go? I don’t know,” Jurjis said. “That’s what we have to figure out.”

The city, directed by resident input, will determine where they ultimately place those units, he added.

“All that conversation is going to come in the next year,” he noted, during the General Plan Update process.

The city has to update its housing element, a section in the Newport Beach General Plan, and submit that to the state, which has to certify it.

“I’m not thrilled about this (either criticizing Jurjis said, responding to an audience member complaining about state’s involvement.

SCAG will propose a methodology of distributing the units before the end of the year. The 2021-28 housing element is due in October 2021.

Also on Monday, new Public Works Deputy Director Jim Houlihan updated the crowd on several Balboa Peninsula projects and the Capital Improvement Program for the city.

As of July 1, the city had about $93 million worth of CIP projects, about half new and half “roll-over” projects, Houlihan noted.

“We’ve got a lot of work moving forward,” Houlihan said.

Houlihan touched on a few district 1 specific projects, including Newport Island Park improvements.

The project includes new landscaping, furniture, and surfacing. Construction for the park is anticipated to start early next year.

“We’re happy with the design,” Houlihan said.

Staff expects to send the project out to bid after Council reviews it on Sept. 24.

Houlihan updated the crowd on the Balboa Boulevard crosswalk improvements, work that has been continuing over the last several years. The project includes street and bicycle signage and striping enhancements.

Concept plans for the project, along with the Lido fire station, are scheduled to be presented to Council on Sept. 24.

Houlihan also briefly discussed Balboa Boulevard median improvements, replacement of Lido fire station, oceanfront boardwalk and parking lot improvements, and more.

New Fire Chief Jeff Boyles spoke about the Corona del Mar fire station and library, dubbed the “fibrary,” which still has some “final work to be done” before opening to the public, hopefully by the end of the month.

The town hall also included updates from: Utilities Director Mark Vukojevic about water rates, Deputy City Manager Tara Finnigan about John Wayne Airport and General Aviation Improvement Program, NB Police Department officials on stats and and Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs about homelessness.

For more information, visit newportbeachca.gov

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