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Committee reviews initial draft of Housing Element Update, considers potential sites


After months of work, an initial draft of the Housing Element Update was recently shared by the city and the committee spearheading the effort reviewed it for the first time this week.

The 339-page initial draft was made publicly available on March 10 and the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee discussed it during a meeting on Wednesday, March 17.

Comments from committee members focused on several housing policies and an appendix that analyzes adequate sites for affordable housing, with speakers particularly highlighting the potential in the Coyote Canyon area.

This is a representation of the work done by the committee, staff and public feedback, said David Barquist of Kimley-Horn and Associates, the consulting firm on the project. 

“This is really the beginning to see the fruits of that labor,” Barquist said.

City staff and its consultant team have been working with the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee and the community over the past eight months to prepare an initial draft of the updated General Plan Housing Element.

This effort is required by the California Department of Housing and Community Development in response to the 6th Cycle Regional Housing Needs Assessment allocation of 4,845 new housing units for Newport Beach.

The General Plan update effort builds on the broader “Newport Together” community outreach conducted in fall 2019. The General Plan’s Housing Element details the city’s strategy for enhancing and preserving community character and identifies strategies for additional housing. The Circulation Element guides how people move through the city through various forms of transportation. “The city greatly appreciates the community’s continued participation and engagement in this challenging and unprecedented update process,” officials wrote on the website.

Public comments on the initial draft can be submitted until April 30. A revised version is anticipated to be available for review late spring.

Committee reviews housing

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Photos by Sara Hall 

The city recently released the initial draft of the Housing Element Update 

This is an initial draft, Barquist emphasized; they are working their way through the document and are looking for review and feedback from the committee and public. It will likely be updated several times before the final document is finished. The draft document will undergo additional internal review to verify compliance with statutory requirements related to data, analysis and policy.

The draft is comprised of different sections, mostly regarding statutory requirements. The four sections in the draft document include: introduction; community profile; housing resources, constraints and affirmatively further fair housing; and the housing plan.

“In the overall context of the housing element, it’s an expression of Newport Beach goals and aspirations for housing in the community,” Barquist said. “It’s about today’s needs and the needs of tomorrow.”

The policy program addresses both the growth issues for the future, but also the existing housing needs in the community, like senior housing or special needs housing.

The plan has policies that relate to the implementation of those goals, he explained. The plan also includes specific actions that the city can take to address the overall housing goals, including timelines, responsible parties and funding sources.

“Everything won’t happen ‘tomorrow’ once it’s adopted,” Barquist said. “But there is a timeline to allow the staff to do the requisite research, integrate with the community, have discussions with the Planning Commission and the City Council, to have a viable policy that has gone through the process and deliberation that it deserves.”

The document also includes three appendices: review of past performance; adequate sites analysis; and community engagement summary.

Community reviews houses harbor

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Houses around Newport Harbor 

The housing plan will “raise your eyebrows,” Committee Chair Larry Tucker said. 

“There are several policies…that I scratch my head over, ‘Do we really want to do that?’” Tucker questioned. 

There are a lot of concerning provisions included in the plan, he added.

Some of the policies in the housing plan include: establishing an accessory dwelling unit monitoring program during the 2021-2029 Housing Element Planning Period to formally track ADU development; support all reasonable efforts to preserve, maintain and improve availability and quality of existing housing and residential neighborhoods; and mitigate potential governmental constraints to housing production and affordability by increasing the city’s role in facilitating construction of market-rate housing and affordable housing for all income groups.

The first policy listed in the housing plan aims to identify a variety of sites to accommodate housing growth need by income categories to serve the needs of the entire community. It mentions Newport Mesa, Newport Center, Dover/Westcliff, Banning Ranch and Coyote Canyon as identified areas.

Committee members focused several of their comments on the related Appendix B, which covers an analysis on adequate sites that can accommodate the city’s 2021-2029 RHNA allocation. The appendix item includes mapping and identification of what will constitute the inventory of sites available for residential uses during that planning period. All sites considered and the rationale for their inclusion are detailed.

“I think we’ve missed the boat on some of these sites, particularly Banning Ranch and the landfill (Coyote Canyon),” Committee member Paul Fruchbom said. “I understand why we were reticent on Banning, given the Coastal Commission, but there’s such a drive for affordable housing I think if we put some more recommended units there it will put pressure on the Coastal Commission at the appropriate time, if something is going to get developed.”

Coyote Canyon presents an opportunity, which may require a bit of work, for affordable housing, Fruchbom added. Several members agreed that the area has more potential than what the draft document lists. 

Coyote Canyon is a closed landfill area with limited opportunities for active uses. A portion of the area is not subject to these restrictions and is considered an ideal opportunity for future residential development, the initial draft study reads.

In the redevelopment graph for the Coyote Canyon area, it lists the feasible acreage as 22 acres with an assumed density of 40 dwelling units per acre. The parking could be creatively placed on the overall property, Fruchbom said.

Committee member Susan DeSantis suggested a portion of Coyote Canyon land go toward affordable senior housing. 

The language could prioritize that type of use, which the committee could eventually suggest to the Planning Commission and council, Deputy Community Development Director Jim Campbell said. At this stage it should be left as broad as possible and narrowed down as they move forward, he added.

The comments about Coyote Canyon are appropriate, said Will O’Neill, a current city councilmember and ex officio member of the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee. 

“We probably need to go back and talk with the developer on that project, especially given the fact that they are leasing from public land already,” O’Neill said.

Community reviews plane

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A plane flies over homes in the Bluffs neighborhood 

O’Neill also mentioned spreading the units out across Newport Beach. Looking at the city by council districts, more than 80 percent of what’s anticipated is in District 3, the airport area, O’Neill pointed out.

“I worry about the over-concentration of affordable housing in one area of our city,” O’Neill said. “I think that will cause a substantial decrease in the ability for us to adequately plan for the future.”

The focus should be on mixed-income units, spread out more evenly across the city, including into the Newport Center area and in his own district (Council District 7), which covers Newport Coast and San Joaquin Hills.

Public comments included waiting to submit the draft document to the state, being careful about over-building affordable housing that opposes the community’s aesthetic, ensuring that this update will satisfy the state requirements and working with other cities to challenge the mandate from the state.

A virtual workshop on the Initial Public Review Draft Housing Element Update is scheduled for Monday, March 22 at 6 p.m.

The committee will discuss the draft document again on March 31.

Questions or comments can be sent to city staff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The initial draft and more information are available online at


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

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