Council to consider terminating sober home agreement, overriding airport commission on housing projects

By SARA HALL

There are several interesting items on the agenda next week for the Newport Beach City Council.

At the Tuesday (Feb. 13) study session and regular meeting, council will consider: Terminating the agreement with Sober Living by the Sea; resolutions with the intent to override the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission’s findings of inconsistency for two proposed housing projects in the Airport Area and a presentation on the housing element implementation program amendments.

Up first during regular business, council will consider terminating the agreement for Sober Living by the Sea (doing business as Sierra by the Sea).

The city entered into the agreement with Sober Living by the Sea in 2009. According to the staff report, the document authorized the operation of residential care facilities and up to 204 beds throughout the city, subject to specific limitations, for drug and alcohol recovery. Other limitations include dispersal of facilities to reduce concentration in residential neighborhoods and the placement of operational controls on each facility to reduce negative impacts.

Sober Living by the Sea has been subject to annual reviews to demonstrate a good faith effort in meeting all of the terms or conditions of the agreement. During the latest review in October, it was brought to the city’s attention that the operator had decided to close all its facilities in Newport Beach effective December 10. The operator then requested to terminate the zoning agreement.

According to the staff report, Sober Living by the Sea officials “explained that the recovery care model had evolved to re-focus treatment from smaller residential facilities into larger hospital-type facilities in other areas of the United States.”

Staff also explained in the report that although they were only using 43 of the 204 permitted beds for the past eight years, by cancelling the agreement, the vested right for SLBTS to operate the potential total of 204 beds will fully terminate. Should they choose to re-establish operations in the city, any future facility would be subject to the current zoning code regulations applicable to residential care facilities as described in city code.

The Planning Commission heard the item on December 21 and unanimously recommended terminating the agreement.

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Rendering by The Picerne Group/Courtesy of City of Newport Beach

A rendering of the Residences at 1400 Bristol view looking at the main vehicular entry from Bristol Street

Also during regular business, in two separate items, council will discuss and vote on resolutions with the intent to override the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission’s finding of inconsistency for two residential projects in the Airport Area: The Residences at 1400 Bristol Street and the Residences of 1401 Quail Street.

If approved, the resolutions will notify ALUC and the state of the city’s intention to override the inconsistency finding.

On December 7, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the Residences at 1400 Bristol. Plans from the applicant, The Picerne Group, call for construction of 229 apartment units atop of a 422-space parking structure.

On December 21, commissioners unanimously approved the Residences at 1401 Quail Street project, which includes 67 for sale condominium units and a 146-space parking structure from a different applicant, Intracorp Homes.

According to the Airport Environs Land Use Plan for John Wayne Airport and state code, the city of Newport Beach is required to submit both projects to ALUC to determine whether they are consistent with the JWA Airport Environs Land Use Plan.

The commission conducted hearings on January 18 and found both projects to be inconsistent with AELUP.

In the determination letters sent to the city, ALUC Executive Officer Lea Choum notes that the commission found the projects inconsistent with three sections of the AELUP.

Related to aircraft noise, Choum notes that “aircraft noise emanating from airports may be incompatible with general welfare of the inhabitants within the vicinity of an airport.”

In the section on safety compatibility zones, Choum writes that in which “the purpose of these zones is to support the continued use and operation of an airport by establishing compatibility and safety standards to promote air navigational safety and to reduce potential safety hazards for persons living, working, or recreating near JWA.”

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They also found inconsistency with a portion of the general policy that states “within the boundaries of the AELUP, any land use may be found to be inconsistent with the AELUP which: Places people so that they are affected adversely by aircraft noise, or concentrates people in areas susceptible to aircraft accidents.”

After council adopted the 2020-2029 Housing Element last September, the California Department of Housing and Community Development certified the document as substantially compliant with state housing laws on Oct. 5, 2022.

The housing element includes an inventory of potential candidate housing sites by income category to meet the city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment allocation. As identified in the Housing Element, the Airport Area includes 62 new housing opportunity sites that could accommodate up to 2,577 housing units.

Several of the sites identified in the housing element are proximate to John Wayne Airport and within the existing 65 dBA Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL) noise contour area. Staff previously argued that the potential sites are necessary for the city to meet the RHNA allocation. Both project sites at 1400 Bristol and 1401 Quail are part of the identified opportunity sites in that area.

The city has policies and regulations related to noise that prohibit residential uses in the area, so the code needed to be updated in order to allow the housing opportunity sites. In another earlier hearing, ALUC determined that the amendments needed to city code to allow residential in this specific CNEL noise contour area are inconsistent with the AELUP. On September 12, council unanimously agreed to override the commission’s finding of inconsistency on the related amendments.

According to the city staff report for next week’s agenda item, it’s a two-step process to override ALUC’s determination. The first step in the process is to conduct a public hearing to adopt a resolution of intention to override. The resolution to overrule ALUC must be adopted by a two-thirds vote. The second step in the process is that not less than 45 days after notification has been sent to the ALUC and the state, the council may conduct a second public hearing to consider adoption of a resolution to override the ALUC. At this time, the council may also consider the project entitlements and take final action on the application.

As an alternative to overriding the ALUC findings, the council can direct the applicants to redesign the projects in a manner that the ALUC would find consistent with the AELUP. However, in both cases, city staff believes “there may not be an alternative given that the ALUC simply does not want residential uses within this proximity to John Wayne Airport, despite the project’s apparent consistency with the AELUP.”

Staff notes in both reports that the project sites are “ideal for the development of a residential project.”

Earlier in the meeting, during the council’s study session, staff will share a presentation on the housing element implementation program amendments.

In September 2022, the council adopted the city’s General Plan 6th cycle housing element for 2021-2029, which was later certified by the state department of housing and community development. The document sets a housing strategy for Newport Beach to meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment allocation of planning for 4,845 new housing units by 2029.

To implement the plan, the state also requires updates to the land use element and rezoning to enable redevelopment of identified housing sites, with a February 2025 deadline. The city is in the process of releasing a draft environmental impact report.

Revised drafts of the land use element, housing opportunity overlay zoning districts, and objective design standards have been made available for community review. These revisions, influenced by public feedback, aim to ensure a balanced approach to urban development, fulfilling state housing requirements while preserving Newport Beach’s unique character and retaining local control. An overview of these documents and the overall project timeline will be presented to the City Council for further input.

The council agenda is available online here. The study session starts at 4 p.m., followed by the closed session, and the regular meeting at 5:30 p.m.

The meeting can be watched live on the local NBTV channel (Spectrum 3 or Cox 852), or on the city’s website here.

Members of the public may speak in person in council chambers (there is not a remote or online option to participate).

Questions and comments can be submitted in writing for City Council consideration by sending them to the city clerk at cityclerk@newportbeachca.gov. To give the council adequate time to review comments, submit any written comments by 5 p.m. on February 12 (the day before the City Council meeting). Correspondence received by this deadline will be uploaded to the agenda packet by February 12 at 5:30 p.m. and can be viewed here.

Material received after the deadline and prior to 2 p.m. on February 13 (the day of the meeting) will be provided to the council in hard copy and will be available to the public at the meeting.

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Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.