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Contact: Elizabeth Hansburg
714 872 1418
For Immediate Release
August 13, 2021
Judge rules in favor of housing advocacy non-profits fighting corporate NIMBYism in Newport Beach
Orange County, California – In Newport Beach, housing advocates have found a particularly egregious example of NIMBYism. Olen Properties, a Florida-based developer, brought suit against the City of Newport Beach for approving a new apartment development on a site identified for housing since 2007. Housing advocates– People for Housing Orange County, YIMBY Law, and Californians for Homeownership— are legally intervening to ensure more housing is built in this exclusive, high-opportunity community.
Judge Kirk H. Nakamura of the Superior Court of California in Orange County ruled on Friday, August 6, 2021, “The Court finds that Intervenors and its members have a direct and immediate interest in ensuring that the approved 312 residential unit development at-issue, The Residences at 4400 Von Karman, be built without delay.”
Development at 4400 Von Karman Avenue has been embattled for several years. The city has included the site in its state-required Housing Element inventory of sites available for new housing development since 2007. The California State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) approved it. However, previous proposals failed to win the approval of past city councils because of NIMBY objections to building heights.
The current developer, the Picerne Group, was able to craft a viable project acceptable to both city leaders and residents. Following years of community meetings and amendments to the proposal, 312 much-needed new homes were approved in January 2021.
The 4400 Von Karman site is currently a flat grassy field surrounded by parking lots and office buildings. Olen Properties owns a 52,000 sq ft office building adjacent to the development site and brought a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit against the City of Newport Beach. Newport Beach is currently working on its 6th cycle Housing Element, which requires the city to plan for 4,834 new housing units to be built over the next eight years.
“CEQA abuse is one of the biggest impediments to housing affordability in California,” said Matthew Gelfand, the in-house lawyer for Californians for Homeownership, which has joined People for Housing OC and YIMBY Law in intervening in the case. “We welcomed the opportunity to join in the fight against this particularly egregious anti- housing CEQA lawsuit.”
“Getting involved with a CEQA lawsuit on the side of the city is a new strategy,” said YIMBY Law Executive Director Sonja Trauss. “We are usually in an oppositional stance with cities, unlike here, where we are supportive of what Newport Beach is trying to do.” YIMBY Law enforces state housing law by suing parties that illegally block the development of new homes.
“The Residences at 4400 Von Karman includes housing affordable to service sector workers, who fulfill the essential roles that keep our communities moving,” said Elizabeth Hansburg, Executive Director of People for Housing OC, the Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) organization in Orange County.
“We have been supporters of housing on this site starting back in 2019 when we wrote several letters and addressed the city council in support. Since then, the project has been through several iterations. When its current version was approved in January of this year, it was exciting to see more housing supply coming to a high-opportunity community in OC.”
“When Olen Properties filed a CEQA suit to stop the new housing development from moving forward, it was surprising because they developed and own a similar project in Orange County, the Olen Pointe office park off of Lambert Road in Brea.”
Olen Pointe Brea currently includes six (6) Class A office towers, 260 apartments, and several restaurants on 29 acres east SR 57. The development was initially entitled for office and commercial use only, which was built over a 20 year period. In 2007 the owner/developer, Olen Properties, requested a change to the city’s zoning and general plan to build 260 apartments, which was approved. The Pointe Apartments were built on the site of a surface parking lot within the office park.
Hansburg also stated, “The rationale used by the city of Brea to accommodate an apartment development on the surface parking lot of the Olen Pointe office park is comparable to the rationale by the city of Newport Beach in their approval of The Residences at 4400 Von Karman: providing for diverse housing supply, meeting the city’s state-prescribed housing goals, and creating a ‘24-hour community’ where people can live close to where they work. It begs the question, ‘Why was the decision to allow apartments in an office development a good idea in Brea in 2007, but not in Newport Beach in 2021?’ The housing shortage has only gotten more desperate in those intervening 14 years.”
People for Housing Orange County is a chapter of YIMBY Action, a network of pro- housing activists fighting for more inclusive housing policies and a future of abundant housing.
YIMBY Law’s mission is to make housing abundant, affordable, and accessible. They advance the national discourse on housing, train and mobilize housing advocates, and enforce housing law.
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