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Letters to the Editor

City Yard on the west side of NB could become the “Homeless Hub”

Could West Newport Beach soon be referred to as the “Homeless Hub?” Recently, the City Council further kicked the “problematic can” down the road to propose that the new homeless shelter for the City should reside at the City Yard located at 592 Superior Avenue. 

This particular area borderlines Costa Mesa and has a propensity to channel more crime and transient activity into West Newport Beach. Recently, developers have been investing millions of dollars to revitalize West Newport Beach. This is the case of the Newport Beach Ebb & Tide detached luxury homes and the adjacent Level One and Superior Point in Costa Mesa.

Unfortunately, besides all of these continued gentrification efforts, this area, known as Area 24 to the Newport Beach Police Department, has the highest crime rate in the City. As the young families and professionals pleaded with the City Council to consider an alternative location for fear of the impeding health and safety issues and the loss of potential property values, anxiety loomed as the decision by the majority of the City Council automatically advanced the proposal of the City Yard to become a homeless shelter, aka, navigation center.

What wasn’t discussed was the over-concentration of services that are in the immediate area: Share Our Selves (SOS), Hoag’s SolMar recovery center, Hoag’s low-income Wellness Center, Superior Medical Walk-In Clinic, which services the drug rehab patients from the surrounding rehabilitation homes. The multiple convenience stores, including Minute King, 7-Eleven, Circle K and the 76 Gas Station are located in this vicinity and within 300 feet of one another.

Further clarification was not provided with regard to the specific hours and operation, nor how the shelter would coincide with the existing functions of the City’s Yard. The City’s myopic approach apparently didn’t consider where the homeless would go during the day; perhaps, they will walk to Sunset Ridge Park and relax while enjoying an ocean view. At dusk they could go to SOS for a hot meal and retire in a comfortable and fenced in facility at the City Yard. 

The proposed cost is estimated at $30,000 annually per bed with a 14-night maximum stay. When the word gets out, the unsheltered will be clamoring at these inviting doors. The City acknowledged that the facility will accommodate those with reservations only and will not welcome walk-ins, unlike the Lido House Hotel. 

Let the California Department of Transportation lease property to the City of Newport Beach at a cost of $1 per month for emergency shelters that would keep the homeless from loitering around schools, residential and commercial centers, while seeking the medical and professional help that they require.

Peggy V. Palmer

Resident Newport Beach 

Differences seem to be widespread throughout the citizenry

Does anyone else feel like our whole country is just itching for a fight? I don’t remember a time before when we as a nation, and more specifically as a community, were so ready to go to battle, even with our friends and neighbors. Even in the city hall and Museum House debates, we could hear from our friends that some of them they actually liked the projects without demonizing them and calling them names.

So how did peaceful, beautiful and charming Balboa Island erupt into warfare? Why are we now so ready to assume the worst instead of working together to resolve our differences? That may be necessary in other places but it’s not historically the way it’s been done here. The people’s voices have been heard and, in many cases, have been able to prevail over what has been perceived as the rich and powerful developers and politicians. Some tried to make the issues on Balboa Island fit into that paradigm and they were wrong. There were no developers pushing those improvements.

I suspect the anger and distrust we witnessed had to do with a lot more than the obvious. We are all struggling with the changes we see in our little piece of paradise. People are fearful about losing our way of life and powerful people buying up our iconic landmarks. We know things are changing, but we are desperate to try to hold on to what we love.

After all the hateful remarks, I hope it is possible for us to just let the past stay in the past and not try to figure it all out. Could we move forward as friends and neighbors who sometimes disagree, but all love our community? Newport Beach is, in my opinion, the best place in the world to live. We have issues to deal with, but we can do it together with love and understanding in a reasonable and collaborative way.  

As I have for 50+ years, I promise to tell you the truth and if I see something going on behind our backs, I’ll investigate and get the facts straight to share with you. That’s why I think I was elected. You may not always agree with my votes, but I will be glad to discuss with you the factors going into them. Eucalyptus trees are being replaced as necessary with eucalyptus trees and the infrastructure improvement project is on hold indefinitely. There will be plenty of public meetings whenever they think about it in the future and all the citizen groups both old and new will be invited to the table. Now can we please get back to just having honest differences of opinion and talking about the issues?  

Joy Brenner

Newport Beach City Council, District 6

Do our councilmembers vote for what’s best for the city, or for personal gain?

You can’t go away on vacation from Newport Beach and return without hearing about a political calamity or two.

Yes, sometimes the actions of just a few people can have a major impact on many. Such was the case during the last few weeks with the City Council’s involvement in two controversial decisions, one over the placement of the planned homeless shelter, and the second over the issue of the construction of a house on Kings Road, a case appealed to it from the Planning Commission. 

There were articles a month ago in all of the local papers about the problems surrounding the development of a single house on Kings Road, which was to be at least three times larger than the neighboring houses. In order to build the large house, the property owners applied and were granted five “luxury” variances from the Planning Commission. 

The meeting at the PC was a most lively one, with spirited speakers showing up on both sides. Many neighbors of Kings Road told of how they had not received similar “priority” treatment from the building department that these current owners were receiving. 

It was also brought out that the monstrous size of the house would cause damage to the protected coastal bluffs and threaten to affect the public views from Pacific Coast Highway, a designated coastal view road. At the end of the evening when the PC voted in favor of the new property owners, a large group at the meeting was stunned. But the drama and the chicanery did not stop there.

The neighbors’ plight came to the attention of SPON, who backed them in their appeal to the City Council. After making their case to the City Council, the majority of the residents were greatly disappointed as one of the votes they expected to carry was that of Councilman Herdman. Instead, he voted with the majority to allow the variances while Councilwoman Joy Brenner, Mayor Diane Dixon and Councilman Brad Avery voted to deny them.  

By the time that last Tuesday’s City Council meeting came around, it was learned by many that Mr. Herdman had regretted his vote with the majority at the previous council meeting and was waiting for the opportunity to ask for a revote that very evening. That opportunity, by accident or by design, did not occur until around midnight.  

To the surprise of the residents of the Heights and Cliffhaven who felt that the new neighbors at King’s Road were unsympathetic to their concerns, when Jeff Herdman asked for a revote intending to change his stance to vote with the previous minority, denying the variances, Mayor Dixon and Councilman Avery had changed their minds. Hence, they were voting in favor of granting the variances. What had seemed to be a victory for the established residents, turned into defeat as the Mayor and Councilman Avery changed their votes.

It came out slowly to a majority of residents that a very small number of neighbors had placed a sign on their property expressing their anger and incredulity over the gigantic house that was to be built on their block. Evidently the sign came to the attention of Mayor Dixon and other councilmembers who purportedly had visited the potential builders on previous occasions accompanied by a former councilman (who keeps popping up in questionable places).

Evidently, as a result of that visit, knowing that very few people were responsible for the sign, and that most likely the language would be protected by the first amendment, Mayor Dixon had decided to change her vote to allow the variances. And Councilman Avery followed suit. There are many people who conjecture that these changes were not spontaneous.

You get two types of people in City Council, those who genuinely want to serve the needs of the city and those who want to use the city to pursue personal gain. Sometimes you get both traits in the same person, but that is rare. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of the council members of Newport Beach had the best interests of the city as their goal?

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach