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    Housing approved for two aging commercial properties in Newport Beach near John Wayne Airport
    • May 2, 2024

    Two older commercial buildings near John Wayne Airport are set to be torn down, and developers plan to turn them into condominiums and apartments with a percentage of each set for affordable housing.

    The Newport Beach City Council recently approved the proposals, voting to override the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission determination earlier this month that the projects were “inconsistent” with the land-use plan in the airport zone.

    In January, the commission found that “aircraft noise” would be incompatible with the welfare of inhabitants, saying the airport zones are set up to “support the continued use and operation of an airport by establishing compatibility and safety standards to promote navigational safety and reduce potential safety hazards for persons living, working or recreating near JWA.”

    In 2006, the City Council approved development of up to 2,200 housing units in the airport area in an update to the city’s general plan. The applicants asked the City Council to change the zoning for the two commercial building properties from office mixed-use to residential and are using some of the 2,200 units for their project, said Seimone Jurjis, assistant city manager.

    The projects – at 1401 Quail St. to be built by Intracorp Homes and at 1400 Bristol St. to be built by the Picerne Group – were previously approved by the city’s Planning Commission in the fall.

    At the Quail Street property, the developer plans to build 67 condominiums, eight of which are set to be affordable housing. The development includes a 146-space parking structure.

    Another 229 apartments, with 23 affordable units, are planned for the Bristol Street property. That development will connect via a pedestrian bridge to another nearby Picerne property also being developed at 1300 Bristol St. that was approved by the council last year. A 422-space parking structure will accompany the project.

    The 2,200 units are almost all exhausted with approved projects. To meet new state housing mandates to plan for 4,845 housing units to meet future needs in California, city officials have identified the West Newport Mesa, Dover-Westcliff, Newport Center and Coyote Canyon areas, along with the airport area, as places for additional development. The city has identified the opportunity for an additional 2,577 units in the airport area.

    The airport commission will review the planning for the 2,577 units in the airport area and some others proposed for Newport Center on May 16 and the City Council is expected to discuss the housing opportunities on July 23. In November, Newport Beach voters will have an opportunity to make their voices heard about the housing plan under a city law that requires a vote if more than 100 units are added to an area.

    Jurjis said the airport commission could find the uses “incompatible,” but the city could again override because the ability is granted by state law.

    The city attorney has found no extra liability for the city by allowing the developments in the airport area despite the airport commission’s concerns, he said.

    “The city is in a tough spot. Where do you put what the state wants? At the same time, the office market is getting soft. Property owners are reconsidering what to do with their properties,” he said.

    “If a developer has affordable housing in its project, cities have little chance in voting that down,” Jurjis said. “It’s in the city’s best interest to approve where the housing will go. If we don’t, we lose local control.”

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    ​ Orange County Register