A new development near John Wayne Airport plans to create up to 444 residences and 300,000-square-feet of commercial space in Newport Beach, although concerns remain about the project’s impact on the environment.
Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Youth Media program, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Digital Editor Sonya Quick at [email protected].
The project, called Airport Village, will be built on 16 acres and will be located across the street from the airfield. The site is west of MacArthur Boulevard, south of Campus Drive, north of Birch Street, and about 550 feet north of Dove Street, according to a city staff report. The plan was proposed by Saunders Property Co., in conjunction with Starpointe Ventures, which has agreed to pay a $6 million public benefit fee, a $2.5 million park in-lieu fee, and a $1 million public safety fee.
The Newport Beach City Council in September voted unanimously to approve the housing component of the project. The apartments to be built are expected to dedicate a portion of housing to low-income residents, said Seimone Jurjis, the community development director.
At the Sept. 22 council meeting, Council member Joy Brenner expressed her support for the project, while also pointing out the importance of the inclusion of affordable housing.
“We can do quality projects in Newport Beach that also meet our requirements for housing,” Brenner said.
Council member Kevin Muldoon is in favor of the development, but said he dislikes having a mandate for a certain amount of low-income housing.
“I’d rather focus on providing housing in general and let the free market decide the price,” Muldoon said.
On July 16, the Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) by a unanimous vote noted that the project was inconsistent with the airport land use plan based on problems with noise, safety, and height. On July 28, the City Council adopted a resolution to override the commission’s findings. As long as the council has a two-thirds majority vote, it has the authority to override, and the project can continue.
In response to the commission’s concerns and the override, Mayor Will O’Neill said it is normal for two bodies to have opposing opinions because of contrasting policy standpoints.
“Just because one disagrees with another doesn’t mean that there’s any disrespect, it just simply means that there is a determination made differently,” O’Neill said.
Although the council has consistently supported the Airport Village plan, the public still is unclear about the project’s impact on the city.
Jim Mosher, a Newport Beach resident and writer for SPON (Stop Polluting Our Newport), a nonprofit public education group, is worried about how this plan will affect residents and its impact on the property value of the project site.
“This project will lower the value of the property by $620,000 per year … and the housing development is going to generate more complaints about noise,” Mosher contends.
Stephen Blythe, president of the Southern California Pilots Assn., advised the council to listen to the Airport Land Use Commission as he said he believes the new residences will be incompatible with their surrounding environment.
“Moreover, if the ALUC recommendations are overruled, there is likely to be significant liability and cost to the city, county, and developer. The occupants of this property will be subject to an intolerably noisy environment which will violate the right to quiet enjoyment as well as other basic tenant protections,” Blythe said.
While there is no estimated timeline of when the village will be completed, the project will still have to undergo a review process by the Planning Commission, where more specifics of the plan will be outlined.