Letters to the Editor

It’s time for City Council to step up

This last Tuesday the City Council approved the 2510 West Coast Highway project in the Mariners’ Mile area. The project has 36 apartments, three of which are affordable and 33 which are market rate. The City of Newport Beach has a state-mandated requirement to plan for 1,918 additional low and very low-income apartments during the next housing cycle. You’ve probably heard it referred to as RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation). A housing cycle is eight years. The 1,918 number does not include a few projects that are in the pipeline or are already planned from the last housing cycle.   

We can lop off 1,000 units if we can develop 1,000 new Accessory Dwelling Units (granny flats), either by homeowners building new ones or by bringing some of the hundreds we have existing in the City into compliance with current building codes. 

That leaves 918 low and very low-income apartments needed to meet our RHNA allocation. Any sixth grader can do the math, 918 units minus three units in the 2510 West Coast Highway project, leaves 915 units. Meanwhile, we have added another 33 market rate units to get the three affordable units.    

The formula that is used for the Housing Element gets complicated. There are Density Bonuses that developers get based on a sliding scale, so the more affordable units they include in their projects, the more units they can build at market rate, but in the simplest terms, we need to add 10,000+ apartments. By the way, for context, we currently have about 45,000 residential units in Newport Beach. That’s nearly impossible to imagine! 

The State does allow cities to have an “Inclusionary Ordinance.” Many cities around us have them. An Inclusionary Ordinance requires a developer to include a certain percentage of affordable units in their project. This is less profitable than including 5 percent or 10 percent but is still common. For example, a 30 percent Inclusionary Ordinance would mean that in a project with 100 apartments, a developer would be required to include 30 affordable units and 70 units would be allowed at market rate. The rent charged for the market rate apartments helps to offset the loss that the developer has on the reduced rate affordable units. 

I think everyone can see that we need to have some amount of affordable housing in our city for our seniors, or our young adult children, as well as our restaurant, hospitality and health care workers who are not yet able to afford housing in our city. It is to our benefit to let these folks live near the places they work. 

But that’s not my point. My point is, that the City Council could develop and approve an Inclusionary Ordinance in pretty short order, maybe within a few months. Instead, they spent a lot of time in the City Council meeting this week, saying that they were helpless and blaming it on the State for the new housing laws that tied their hands. It is true that there are a lot of recent housing laws that restrict or remove a City’s right to control its zoning. However, given that there is SOMETHING, ANYTHING, that they can do to help reduce the overall massive numbers of residential units that are required to comply with our RHNA allocation, you would think that they would get to work on an Inclusionary Ordinance immediately. Instead, the Council majority has kicked the can down the road for a year. I think it’s time they get to work on this instead of muttering about being handcuffed and helpless. 

Nancy Scarbrough

Newport Beach 

Speed bumps are the answer

Congratulations to city officials for finally addressing the issue of speeding cars in the Baycrest neighborhood. Speed bumps have been placed in three areas of the neighborhood. On my morning dog walk I cross Santiago Drive and Tradewinds on my way to the Back Bay entrance. In the past it was usual to see cars exceeding 45 miles per hour in a 25-mph zone…I can attest that this no longer occurs. The speed bumps are to be commended. 

Now let’s get more in place. 

Jim Padden

Newport Beach