A Hard-Won Victory

Newport Beach General Plan Update

The Client

The City of Newport Beach is largely built-out and is experiencing increased pressure to convert older commercial areas to residential development. While the City is a popular destination for thousands of beach-goers during the summer season, the voting population is concerned about traffic conditions and has passed development restrictions to mitigate traffic impacts. As the City proceeded to update its general plan, the City Council wished to ensure that the fiscal health of Newport Beach could be maintained in the face of these anticipated trends.

The Approach

ADE conducted studies of Newport Beach’s retail centers, its tourism and lodging market, and job development opportunities to assist the City and the general plan consultant in developing scenarios of potential change in commercial and residential districts throughout the city. ADE also prepared an interactive software model to analyze fiscal impacts of eight land use categories, including an in-depth study of public safety services. The model separated the cost/revenue impact of the large visitor population in the City from the impacts of city residents and businesses.

The Process

In addition to working closely with city staff and the general plan consultant, ADE met frequently with both the general plan advisory committee and the City’s Economic Development Commission to review each economic study as it was prepared. During the alternatives phase of the process, ADE analyzed a number of detailed land use alternatives for 12 separate planning areas as well as citywide. This economic and fiscal analysis helped lead to an overall proposed general plan update that was met with widespread public acceptance and support.

The Outcome

The high level of public information dissemination and input throughout the planning process yielded exceptional public support for the adopted general plan. Despite concentrated efforts by opponents to use both legal and electoral strategies to overturn the plan, in 2006 Newport Beach voters approved the general plan by 54 percent and defeated by 63 percent a second measure that would have required voter approval of development proposals above certain thresholds.

The city of Newport Beach received a National Planning Achievement Award for Hard-Won Victories from the American Planning Association.

At the conclusion of the general plan update process, ADE assisted the city Economic Development Commission in preparing an economic strategy for Newport Beach, which is designed to help implement the new general plan. With a focus on retail development, fiscal impacts and future industry placement, the strategy includes a separate consideration of seafront and harbor development.

ADE completed its work by furnishing the fiscal model to city staff along with an operational manual and a training session. The City has used this tool to analyze individual development projects subsequent to adoption of the general plan.