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What will 2022 throw our way?

By AMY SENK

The kids returned to school, the trash guys picked up the dead Christmas tree, we are stuck in the middle of January. As one of my favorite comics Billy Eichner would say, “And away…we…go!”

I spent the past few weeks trying to clear the holiday cobwebs from my brain, and a big part of that included making lists of issues and events to pay attention to over the next year in Newport Beach.

What will 2020 California

Click on photo for a larger image

Photos by Amy Senk

The California Pizza Kitchen in Fashion Island with its sign torn off. The space will be part of the new RH that includes a rooftop wine bar and restaurant.

Let’s start with one that’s fun – construction of the new RH (formerly Restoration Hardware) store at Fashion Island. Construction is going to begin this year to turn the old Forever 21 space into a four-story, 80,0000-square-foot shop that will include in-house designers and a rooftop wine bar and restaurant. The company’s November announcement included the news that some nearby merchants would have to be relocated as part of the work – and a spokeswoman for The Irvine Company confirmed that California Pizza Kitchen decided to close instead of move within the center. Le Pain Quotidien may close or relocate, Victoria’s Secret will move and its sister retailer, Pink, will close, and the Apple Store with lose some non-public space but will remain in the same spot. No other information was available. The new RH could open by May 2024.

What will 2020 Forever 21

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This space, which used to be Forever 21, will be turned into the four-story, 80,0000-square-foot RH store

Other things to pay attention to – the city’s East Coast Highway and Marguerite Avenue Pavement Rehabilitation project that will start January 24. The work is scheduled to take up to 80 days and will cold mill and overlay the existing pavement on East Coast Highway, from MacArthur Boulevard to Newport Coast Drive, and on Marguerite Avenue, from Bayside Drive to Fifth Avenue. The end result will be nice – smoother and quieter rides – but traffic will not be fun while they work.

I’m also very interested in the city’s redistricting efforts, which are required every 10 years so district lines reflect the latest census data. Newport Beach formed a committee last fall to explore options, and the public was allowed to submit their own ideas for maps – and now there are 11 to choose from. One is basically the same, while others chop up Corona del Mar, or lump Balboa Island with the Peninsula, or with CdM, along with other dramatic shifts. The City Council will discuss this all at a February 8 Study Session meeting and a final vote is scheduled for March. This could be a nothingburger or result in very big changes – we shall see.

There are other issues that I will be monitoring over the next few months, including fractional home ownership as orchestrated by companies like Pacaso, which uses the slogan, “The modern way to buy and own a second home.”

The City Council last year talked a little bit about what if anything they can do to keep homes owned by multiple owners from becoming unruly party houses. On one hand, property owners should be able to invest with their partners. On the other hand, companies like Pacaso have been causing headaches for city officials from Napa to Jackson Hole as they buy luxury properties in resort areas and sell fractional ownership stakes. In Newport Beach, some of those “owners” are acting more like party people than responsible neighbors, some residents told our City Council. It will be interesting to see what happens, if anything, to manage this new vacation home business model.

I’m also going to follow the issue of sober living and other group homes, which have a long history in this city of causing problems with neighbors, but which became headline news last August when a Santa Ana Heights detox house resident forced his way into a neighbor’s home. The neighbor shot the man to death and was cleared by the district attorney.

At first, some City Councilmembers seemed disinclined to tackle this issue, saying their hands were tied and pointing partisan fingers at Democrats in Sacramento. Later, meetings were held, including one with city, county and state officials, and in October 2021, the city formed a Residential Care Facilities Ad Hoc Committee to provide recommendations to the council on Residential Care Facilities regulations and policies. Then Deputy City Manager Tara Finnigan said the City Council approved a resolution last week, initiating zoning code and Local Coastal Program amendments related to residential care facilities. 

“This was the first step in the amendment process and once staff drafts the proposed changes, the recommendations will go to the Planning Commission for review before they go to the City Council to consider adoption,” she said. 

Changes will be good, not just for concerned neighbors, but to ensure the residents in such group homes are safe.

There’s more! We also have a city budget surplus, and how will we spend the money? Will part of it go toward rebuilding Newport Pier with on-pier parking and a Ferris Wheel? 

We also will have a special election in June about whether we want to directly elect our mayor or stick with the longstanding current system of electing City Council representatives by district who, in theory, rotate the mayor’s position. There are passionate views on both sides of this topic, but as I’ve written before – educate yourself because it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds, with deeper ramifications than you might think. 

And of course, as soon as that is over, we are likely to start hearing about November elections, where voters will decide who will be on the City Council for districts 1, 3, 4 and 6.

So stay tuned – and let me know if I’m missing anything. There’s a lot happening. Paying attention and staying engaged should be a priority for us all.

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Amy Senk has lived in Corona del Mar for 20+ years and was publisher of Corona del Mar Today, an online newspaper that ran daily for seven years. Senk, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is involved in the Corona del Mar Residents Association. She and her husband have two children attending college at the University of Missouri and Duke University. She is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.