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Letter from:

Gary Sherwin

Tourism Matters: A Special Tribute

Visit Newport Beach City President & CEO Gary Sherwin

Usually in this space, we talk about the phenomenal assets Newport Beach has including its beaches, harbor, excellent hotels and its aspirational brand, all of which make us a very successful destination. 

Today, I wanted to talk about another critical asset, people, and two of whom we lost on the same day. Former Newport Beach Mayor and Newport Beach & Company Vice Chairman Denny O’Neil and Werner Escher, the Executive Director of Domestic and International Markets for South Coast Plaza, two icons of our community, passed away Jan 6. 

There has been considerable media coverage of both their passing that are richly deserved. Both were instrumental in making our community considerably more economically vibrant. 

After serving two terms on the Newport Beach City Council as well as a stint as Mayor, Denny was appointed to our Executive Committee by the City Council in 2011. Denny admittedly didn’t know much about tourism when he joined the board, but that wasn’t the point. He was bringing the perspective of the city and that of a former city attorney. 

Denny relished his role and set to work learning about our industry, how it worked, the markets we pursue to bring visitation to the city and got to know our staff on a first name level. He was completely dedicated to his work on our board and his respect among our hospitality community soared. 

When we had legal issues such as contracts or lease agreements, Denny brought his legal mind to our benefit, volunteering to handle all of those on a pro bono basis. He championed our development into a broader marketing agency for the City by encouraging agreements to expand marketing of the Christmas Boat Parade and restaurant marketing with the Newport Beach Restaurant Association. 

More importantly, he was a sage counsel, as he was to so many city officials and business leaders keeping us all on the straight and narrow, and respecting the division between public and private partnerships. Denny leaves a hole in my heart and this organization that will not be easily filled. 

I have lost a good friend. 

Werner Escher, although working in neighboring Costa Mesa, was a long-time Newport Beach resident who was a national tourism figure. When he joined South Coast Plaza more than 40 years ago, it was a mall in a lima bean field. It had a handful of stores but it had big aspirations. Werner was literally the pioneer of retail tourism; the concept that people would actually get on a plane from a faraway place and come to shop. When he began this effort, he was mocked. Really, who would come all the way from Japan or China to go shop in his mall?

Of course, Werner was right, they did come and boy did they spend. Asian visitors now account for more than 20 percent of South Coast Plaza’s business. There was always a rivalry with Fashion Island, but Werner admitted he shopped there a lot.

Now retail centers across the country follow Werner’s lead and market themselves globally, but none do it with the flourish of Werner.

The man had a quick wit and an elegant goofiness that endeared him to all his colleagues throughout the country. You could always count on Werner to be a partner with you on projects and to help all of us tell the OC story to a wider global audience. It seemed like he was always everywhere and at every meeting. No one worked it like Werner.

Although he was a promoter of Costa Mesa, he was also proud to live in our city where he raised his family with his wife Diane, who would often roll her eyes as Werner told another corny joke at a social function.

Werner was indeed a character but he was also a visionary who was whip smart and developed a loyal following around the world.

Denny was a true statesman and Werner a true ambassador. Both of their contributions to our city, as well as their loss, will be felt in Newport Beach for a long time.

Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Newport Beach & Co.

Letter from:

Gary Sherwin

Tourism Matters: Taking a look at the year ahead

Visit Newport Beach City President & CEO Gary Sherwin

In 2016, we established a mantra in our office: do big things, do them smart and be emotionally impactful.

In a quick look back at our activities in promoting Newport Beach last year, I can confidently say that we scored a “hat trick” in delivering on our objectives. It was a record year based on a number of business metrics – including hotel occupancies and room night bookings through Visit Newport Beach – but perhaps one of the more exciting, emotionally impactful efforts will be broadcast on national television in a couple weeks.

Now, before I share that exciting news, let me cover some more recent accomplishments of interest to our tourism community.

Last month we officially launched our new marketing campaign, fresh with creative visuals which speak to the breezy-yet-aspirational attitude of our destination. We are rolling it out across all of our public-facing marketing channels and you’ll be immediately drawn into its theme of encouraging our visitors to take their own unique tastes, interests and passions to the next level. We welcome all to “Journey Well Beyond.” Get a preview of our new campaign here.

In one of our more impactful events, we joined forces with the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Commodores Club to deliver the 108th edition of the annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. In marketing the colorful event, we released a series of creative materials celebrating the human, heartfelt aspect of the parade – the emotional connection visitors and locals have with the sparkling event each year. All local news channels covered the opening event and through interviews with our chamber leadership, the positive financial benefits of the parade to our community were reported.

In every list of the key reasons people travel and the expectations they have when exploring a destination, memorable dining opportunities remains among the top three. This makes our January “Newport Beach Restaurant Week” so important to our community. 

As Orange County’s longest standing restaurant week, Newport Beach Restaurant Week, from Monday, January 16 through Sunday, January 29 returns for 14 delicious days of exciting culinary offerings that spotlight the best of dining in scenic Newport Beach. Participating restaurants will offer special, two- or three-course, prix fixe menus priced between $10 and $25 for lunch, and $20 to $50 for dinner. We are proud to work with the Newport Beach Restaurant Association to present this event –bon appetite!

Finally, I’ve saved one impactful event for the end - buried the lede, as they say in media terms. But it’s a rose-filled doozey!

On January 9, ABC will air an episode of its wildly popular “The Bachelor” reality show. The reason we’re so excited is that the key “first date” of the show was taped right here in Newport Beach! We worked carefully with the show’s producers to create a spectacularly romantic date that showcases the best of our destination, and evokes dream-like aspirations of coming to Newport Beach for the ultimate dating experience. Tune in Monday Jan 9 to watch as Newport Beach accepts a rose and becomes a costar that evening!

Here’s to a wonderfully successful 2017 – we certainly are off to a great start!

Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Newport Beach & Co.

Letter from:

Keith Curry

Council voter suppression to cost taxpayers millions

Newport Beach City Councilman and former Mayor Keith Curry

In just a few days, Newport Beach residents gathered 13,730 signatures to require a public vote on the Museum Tower project. More people signed the petition than voted for councilmembers Peotter (11,920) or Muldoon (11,768). It is also clear to observers of this process that if needed, twice this number of signatures could have been obtained.

This accomplishment is all the more remarkable in light of the unprecedented deceitful media campaign, including paid thugs to intimidate petition circulators and signers. Councilman Peotter launched a series of weird, personal attacks on petition supporters like citizens of the year Jean Watt and Nancy Skinner. The city council attempted to suppress the people’s right to petition by requiring thousands of unnecessary pages such as the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and random staff report exhibits to be included in the petitions. This made them weigh more than ten pounds each and cost thousands to print. It didn’t work.

Now project supporters are alleging that the petitions are deficient because some maps are in black and white instead of color and the EIR was not printed in large enough type. Really? For the city council to reject the petitions for these reasons would require a breathtaking display of arrogance and contempt for the city’s residents.

The council’s tampering in the petition process is now backfiring as the council must print and mail ten pound ballot pamphlets (twenty pounds if you accept the arguments of project sponsors), to 57,020 registered voters. An election that would have cost less than $200,000 will now cost in the millions. This waste of millions of taxpayer dollars is directly and personally the responsibility of those four remaining councilmembers who required all the extra pages to frustrate the petition process. The new council can avoid these costs by rescinding the approvals for the project.

Not to be forgotten is the role of Team Newport puppet master Bob McCaffrey and Residents for Reform who filed a bogus Fair Political Practices Commission complaint to try to shut down project opponents. It was quickly dismissed. Those who may have supported McCaffrey and Residents for Reform on issues of dock fees or public spending may be surprised to see that this group is really just a shill for the high rise development clients of Dave Ellis. It always has been.

Ironically, the project has many positive attributes and could have competed well on its merits. Museum supporters should be asking some hard questions of their political consultants. 

Keith Curry is a former mayor of Newport Beach.

Letters to the Editor:

Reader disappointed in developer tactics, city hall and police for Museum House debacle

Absolutely, let’s bring it to a vote. Your comments on the Museum House developer’s tactics are sadly right on.  

Some of us, and particularly those women who were harassed day after day by the Museum House goons at Eastbluff Center are understandably frustrated. Our respect for city government and the Newport Beach Police Department in particular has taken a big and likely long lasting hit. City Manager (Dave) Kiff sent a memo out asking anyone with a harassment complaint connected with signature gathering to call him. They did and the effect was zip. Minutes after the police left, it was harassment time all over again.  

Another gatherer at Gelson’s was surrounded by nearly a dozen jerks preventing her from reaching citizens interested in signing her petition. The police officer who showed up for a few minutes did nothing as if he were under orders to make an appearance and then look the other way.  

No Kiff, no follow-up and certainly no police protection. Mr. Kiff needs to take the Chief out to the woodshed.

Michael C Smith

Newport Beach

Library Foundation Director expresses gratitude to the community for support

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Library Foundation members and supporters, program attendees and our email subscribers – the Newport Beach Public Library system is truly extraordinary because of you. Whether you brought a child to storytime, checked out a book or sponsored a lecture, it is your participation at any level that makes the library such a vibrant and beloved community center.

During the last year, the Library Foundation provided $220,000 in funding and $295,000 in programming for the Newport Beach Public Library. We receive NO government funding and minimal corporate sponsorship. Our support is primarily from people like you – individuals who understand the immeasurable value of a great public library. To see where your dollars went specifically, click here.

At this time, I ask that you help us keep up this strong momentum of support for the Newport Beach Public Library with a contribution of any amount.  We are a membership-driven, not-for-profit organization so every gift we receive is greatly appreciated and very important. 

Some of our membership premiums are shown here. Library Foundation members also get $5 discounts on tickets to our popular programs like The Witte Lectures. You deserve it for creating such a first-rate library in our community!

Thank you so much if you have already given. I wish all of you the very best of the season.  

In gratitude,

Tracy Keys
Executive Director

Letter to the Editor:

When exercising our right to vote invokes threats of violence, something is deeply wrong

I don’t know if this letter should be a “Letter to the Editor” or the front-page top news story of the day, none the less, the word needs to get out to the residents of Newport Beach – Be very wary of several thugs around town who are trying to stop you from signing a local petition! I have lived in Newport Beach for more 18 years and I have never, ever experienced anything like what I experienced on Tuesday night. While walking into the Ralph’s at East Bluff shopping center, I stopped by a table to review a local petition. While trying to engage in a conversation with the two people at the table about the petition, three young men in the background intervened, were talking over my conversation, insulting me, were making assertive remarks and overtures. This was a very uncomfortable situation, so I confronted them on their bullying and thug tactics. At that moment, I became very afraid of the encounter and I feared the situation could escalate into a violent encounter.

Immediately afterwards I called the Newport Beach Police Department to report the incident, but the police said they cannot do anything as these tactics are not illegal.  Make no mistake while these tactics may not be illegal they are tantamount to obstructing my right to exercise my democratic right to vote – and that is morally wrong. I urge the citizens of Newport Beach to be on guard for these people, but most importantly do not let them intimidate you if you chose to sign the petition.

After the encounter, I learned these people have been employing these bullying tactics city wide for several days. It was even reported these young men are harassing our senior citizens, women and children and there was even one violent punching encounter reported. It’s shocking and shameful that proponents of one side of an initiative have hired numerous outside people to interfere and try to stop our right to exercise our right to vote in our City – we are better than that in Newport Beach.

But the most important question I had to ask was, what it is really that these people are seeking to accomplish that they go to such extremes? What is their hidden agenda?  As I understand it, the Museum House is a watershed issue for the residents of Newport Beach. Aside from the new museum funding that may result from the City’s first major high-rise residential building, the residents of Newport Beach need to wake up to the fact that we are at a fundamental crossroad as to the vison of what we want Newport Beach to be. Will we retain our more historical, residential, recreational character and way of life, or do we take the first and likely the precedent setting step to a community with more high rise buildings, greater density and traffic? And while the City Council and the Planning Commission have decided in favor of the high rise (…no doubt since they want the additional revenue for the City), and while the supporters of the new museum (most of whom are not even residents of Newport Beach) want us to harbor the building, the residents of Newport Beach have not yet had an opportunity to weigh in whether or not an almost 300-foot high rise is acceptable to us.

All this petition is proposing is that the residents of Newport Beach be allowed to exercise our right to weigh in, to decide the community vision and direction of our City that we want for many years to come.

With the bullying tactics of the Museum House supporters, I can only assume that the developers, the countywide supporters of the new museum and Museum House believe the residents of Newport Beach will vote the high rise down and will vote to retain our unique world-class character. Since the highrise supporters fear a vote, they have proven they will spend any amount of money and use any tactics necessary to stop the vote.

It’s a very sad day for the residents of Newport Beach not because of the thinly vailed threats of the thugs with their anything goes tactics, but that the supporters of the Museum House are trying to suppress the residents’ of Newport Beach fundamental right to vote.

Robert Mortenson

Newport Beach resident

A strong California economy

For years I have followed Senator John Moorlach as a member of the OC Board of Supervisors and now as state senator. I applaud him for his concerns about wasteful spending but it seems he doesn’t get that as a senator he’s also responsible for all the things needed to have a strong economy and healthy communities.

Moorlach recently opposed a bill addressing global climate change signed by Gov. Brown. Climate change is real, the CO2 emissions that contribute to climate change are harmful to our health. Trivializing or ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.  Not addressing the problem only makes it more difficult to deal with later. This summer was the hottest worldwide ever, last year was the 2nd hottest summer.  

Californians are already feeling the effects of climate change, from rising sea levels along the coastal communities to drought-stricken farming communities. It’s long past time that we address the problems and plan for our future.  We need to capture the rare rainfall we receive and if necessary, build desalination plants to supplement our water needs. Why isn’t John Moorlach able to see what we need and plan accordingly?

Moorlach wants only to address is pensions. Fair enough, but why does Moorlach attack the pensions of police, firefighters, and teachers when he’s taking an $84,000 pension from OC taxpayers? The LA Times said Moorlach blamed the pension problems on policies when Moorlach “knew better.”  The problem was caused by an economic crisis slowdown. 

The threat to our economy and our future isn’t pensions; the threat is not having clean air and available water. Without them our quality of life suffers, businesses are driven away, and our economy struggles.

I urge you to support Ari Grayson for state senate. Ari has the vision California needs to thrive.

Pat Grossman, MD

Newport Beach, CA

Letter to the editor:

Concerned about Johnson’s city hall thoughts 

(Tom) Johnson’s comments regarding city council are concerning for a few reasons, but I agree with him on at least one.

His statement that Peotter is a proponent of same sex marriage is backwards. Completely false.

His contention that Curry, Petros et al leaving the council is a bad thing is also not mainstream thinking.

Curry’s support of the city hall Taj Mahal cost him an election, the support of the average NPB citizens.

The current council has done nothing to stop unbridled development in the city, hasn’t fixed the crime and housing problems on the peninsula, has approved a hotel debacle on the old city hall site without a strong, planned traffic solution.

As for Muldoon, he may not be the strongest mayoral candidate but Dixon had no experience either.

Is that a good thing? Is new blood and ideas what the city seeks? 

Time will tell. 

Mark Adams

Newport Beach

Invictus not the only yacht blocking the view

The yacht Stimulus on the 200 block of South Bayfront, Balboa Island needs to relocate.  

While the huge yacht is a fine vessel, it is several times larger than any other boat on the Island. It hangs grossly over its dock on all three sides, encroaching on the slip next door. It sits immovable on the sand for hours on either side of low tide every day, and at medium and higher tides its bridge exceeds Balboa Island building height restrictions. It dominates views for several blocks of residents up and down the bay front. It causes navigation problems, particularly during the Beer Can and other regattas, and the only time it has left its tenuous side tie is when it was stolen and run ashore up in Long Beach.

I believe numerous other residents on this side of the Island have registered complaints about this boat with the Harbor Department – when I first talked with the Sherriff’s office 3 years ago they were well aware of the situation, citing dozens of similar calls about this boat. They cited the harbor rule (I think not written but adopted in practice) that the boat is okay as long as it does not protrude into the Bay more than its beam. In this case, its beam is 21’, and according to the Sherriff’s office they’ve measured it many times and it is less than that. I agree, I’ve measured it many times and it’s usually 20’ 11”.

I have rarely seen anyone staying in the house (which by the way violated building codes when it was built by a prior owner), but I believe the owner of both boat and home is a Los Angeles resident who rarely visits. I don’t remember ever having seen the boat leave except when it was stolen. Rarely are there people at the house, I›ve knocked many times to talk with them, but no one is home.

I respect property rights, and he appears to be within his rights. In this small community where we all make accommodations because we live so close to each other, this is inconsiderate and inappropriate, but apparently not illegal.

I wonder if the absentee owner has any idea of the ill will that festers on his Stimulus?

Matt Clabaugh

Balboa Island

South Laguna feeling the crush of summer visitors…Help!

In his interview with Tom Johnson, and in other venues (including in his testimony to the Coastal Commission on Sept 7, 2016), Mr. Mohler has repeatedly asserted that “One wintering owl visits the site for three to four weeks nearly every January.” But this is simply not true. For example, here’s a photo of a Burrowing Owl that I took on Banning Ranch – looking in from the north – on March 15, 2016.

Mr. Mohler’s biologists have not surveyed for owls every year, nor have they surveyed at various times of the year. The latest surveys, in January 2014, covered only 29.75 acres of the 400-acre property.

Banning Ranch includes approximately 122 acres of suitable habitat for the Burrowing Owl, so the 2014 survey covered only a quarter of the suitable habitat. By searching for owls on only a fraction of the property, surveying mainly in January, and by ignoring much of the information gathered over the years (some of it by his own consultants), Mr. Mohler has created a false narrative that he finds pleasing, but that others can easily see through.


Click on photo for a larger image

Dudek [an environmental and engineering consulting firm] biologists conducted focused owl surveys on 29.75 acres during three weeks in January 2014, and detected one or two owls on the southeastern mesa; they missed another Burrowing Owl that local resident Cindy Black recorded and photographed eleven times during that same month.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, it has stated that the surveys and analysis provided by Mr. Mohler’s team are inadequate to allow CDFW biologists to evaluate the status of the owl on Banning Ranch, its habitat requirements there, or how implementation of the project would be likely to affect the owls.

Mr. Mohler told you that his “low point” in attempting to build his project at Banning Ranch has been “dealing with a Coastal Commission process that is heavily weighted against Project Applicants.” During eight years of reviewing the biological information that Mr. Mohler and his team have submitted to the Coastal Commission and other agencies, I have encountered a consistent pattern of misinformation, downplaying both the sensitive resources present and the potential adverse effects of the proposed project. His demonstrably false statement about the Burrowing Owl, set forth in your publication, is typical. Readers may wish to consider whether the process might have gone more smoothly, and been more productive, had Mr. Mohler and his team established a basic level of trustworthiness in their dealings with both the agencies and the public.

Robb Hamilton

President, Hamilton Biological, Inc.

Consultant to the Banning Ranch Conservancy