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Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

SPON and Eagle Four Partners/Lyon Living agree to establish a private non-profit housing trust fund

TOM MARCHTuesday, I was invited to attend one of those meetings that you could almost never imagine taking place. This one was with a few of the leading proponents and officers of SPON (Jean Watt, Charles Klobe and Nancy Scarbrough) sitting across the table from “developers” from Eagle Four Partners and Lyon Living (Kory Kramer and Peter Zak).

And, perhaps even more surprising was, that when I arrived, everyone was happy and had a smile on their face. I quickly found out why.

The two groups were jointly announcing an agreement that will provide for a private non-profit housing trust fund that should dramatically impact the future of Newport Beach in an extremely positive way. Said agreement will potentially protect the way the city meets the state-required 4,845 dwelling units for affordable housing. 

The state, as most residents probably know, is requiring Newport Beach to build 4,845 units through the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers. That presents a difficult task.

There are several ways to make this happen. One is to start splitting up existing residential lots as defined in SB 9 and SB 10 and potentially overcrowd the neighborhoods. Another is to build enough market-priced new homes (probably somewhere between 11,000-25,000) to allot for the required number of affordable housing units.

Imagine for a second, where would 11,000-25,000 new homes in Newport Beach go?

Both of these ideas listed above also do not take into account the impacts on neighborhood parking, additional traffic on streets, additional calls requiring police and fire and the impacts on our school classroom sizes.

The great news is that the creation of this private non-profit housing trust fund will allow us to focus on affordable housing only, and not building so many that we could meet the 4,845 number. 

So, what’s the agreement? And, has something like this ever happened before?

The answer to the second part is “yes,” an agreement of this magnitude between SPON and developers dates all the way back to 1987 when a “tradeoff” agreement was made allowing the expansion of the Big Newporter theater in exchange for the land donated where the Muth Interpretive Center would be developed and still stands today.

That one was a definite win-win! And my sense is that this new agreement will also be a win-win.

First, a little background.

SPON, of course, stands for Still Protecting Our Newport. SPON is “dedicated to preserving the existing charm and beauty of our City.” Many opponents would argue that that translates to mean “no growth.” Representatives from SPON, on the other hand, would argue that it means “responsible growth.”

Jumping to the other side of the table, Eagle Four Partners owns the Balboa Bay Resort, Newport Beach Country Club, they recently purchased the Fashion Island Hotel, and, of course, they also own the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa

A point of clarification, the Marriott is actually a 50/50 partnership between Eagle Four and Lyon Living, which they’re jointly remodeling and rebranding as “VEA Newport Beach.” It’s going to be spectacular. And, it’s really the primary reason behind the joint meeting with SPON.

Interestingly enough, one of the major parts of the remodel is downsizing the hotel, or as Kramer would say, “rightsizing the hotel” from 532 rooms down to 400 rooms.

The next part includes the building of a 22-story Ritz-Carlton residential tower just behind the existing Marriott parking lot, where they presently have  multi-story buildings occupying those previously discussed 132 rooms that would be removed. 

That property is fortunately already designated in the General Plan for such use, so no General Plan amendment is required. 

What it means is at the end of the day, we’ll have a completely remodeled, rebranded hotel named VEA Newport Beach, with 400 rooms and all the terrific amenities.

Then, we’ll also have the Ritz-Carlton residential tower, next door, that will offer residents all the amenities of private living intermingled with those of hotel living.

One very important note on this is that residents will not be able to rent out these places to short-term rentals.

It’s also worthy of note that the height/sight lines would be in accordance with the gradual decline in place for the area from the existing 500 block high point.

Fair Game SNN 4 people

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Tom Johnson

(Back Row L-R) Charles Klobe, Kory Kramer, Peter Zak with Jean Watt (center front)

So, the agreement is that SPON supports this project. In exchange, Eagle Four and Lyon Living will establish with them this private non-profit housing trust fund.

This trust fund does several things. First of all, it will accept private donations that will come from the usual philanthropists, from businesses that want affordable housing within the city for their employees and, perhaps, even parents that hope their grown children might be able to move back home someday. Federal and state programs could also donate into the fund.

The trust fund would take funds and commit them 100% to building quality, community affordable housing. No longer would a developer have to build X number of market-priced homes in order to allocate just a few to affordable housing to make ends meet.

That means we could potentially return to a focus of 4,845 dwellings versus the thousands and thousands the state would force us into with no plan.

And, just so we’re all on the same page, before you say, oh no, affordable housing means “poor people” or “rundown areas,” think again.

To qualify for affordable housing, a two-person family making $98,900 would be considered low income and still only qualify for a $427,800 home. So low income doesn’t necessarily mean poor, poor…just someone currently making a lot less than most people in Newport Beach.

Eagle Four Partners, Lyon Living and SPON should be commended for taking one of the biggest issues facing Newport Beach and joining together to find a “win-win” solution for everyone.

One other face and voice that was intimately involved with all discussions was City Councilmember Joy Brenner. Said Kramer, “Joy was the bridgebuilder, doing absolutely what a council person should be doing.”

Mark your calendar…we might not see this again for another 35 years. But in reality, that’s what tells you it’s the right thing to do.

• • •

The other big news/rumor in town is that Lee Lowrey has removed himself from plans to oppose Robyn Grant for the District 4 City Council seat. When I said news/rumor, I should clarify that we attempted to contact Lee, but to no avail, that and the fact that everyone’s talking about it all around town.

The departure comes just after endorsements from police, fire and lifeguard came out supporting Grant.

• • •

Christmas is coming early to our Newport Beach Fire Department. Beginning next week, new fire engines will be going into service at Newport Fire Station 2 (Lido) and Station 3 (Fashion Island).

Whatever it takes to keep our community safe!

• • •

First of all, Happy Mother’s Day to all of those fortunate enough to belong to this wonderful club. 

For me, personally, Mother’s Day 2022 is somewhat bittersweet. On one hand I’m extremely happy that next month my mom will reach the age of 92. Unfortunately, due to the constraints of Alzheimer’s or dementia, whatever someone wants to call it, my mother is deep within its throes.

This year she is in her own little world, lost from the rest of us. Still, she’s comfortable and wakes up every day with a smile on her face. Unfortunately, no more enjoying pictures of grandchildren, talking with her kids on the telephone and truly understanding who’s there, going to church, or just happily engaging with those around her.

Although for me it’s sad, I use this as a reminder to so many of you to make certain you enjoy those times with your mother. When the end comes, it’s punishing to all involved.

• • •

Because Mother’s Day is so special, check out our Winner, Runner-Up and all the Nominees in our WORLD’S BEST MOTHER Contest today. Our Winner was Ann Baker, nominated by her daughter Avery Jolliffe. Ann is going to enjoy a luxurious spa day courtesy of Spa Gregorie’s where pampering is taken to the next level, Flowers and Chocolates, courtesy of John Stanaland and a $100 dining gift card, courtesy of OLEA/Sapphire Restaurant. Our Runner-Up, Kristen Tomlinson, nominated by her mother Carol Tomlinson, will receive a $100 gift card to Spa Gregorie’s. You will be able to view all the nominees and find out why they are all indeed, very special Moms. A huge thank you to all our contest sponsors and to those who submitted nominations.

• • •

As I’ve mentioned, Sunday, May 8 is Mother’s Day. With that comes the release of the first virtual garden in the 26th Annual Newport Beach Garden Tour, hosted by the Sherman Library & Gardens’ Volunteer Association.

As part of the Tour, three gardens will be released throughout the summer. This first one is a tour of La Casa Pacifica, also know at President Richard Nixon’s Western White House

It should be fabulous.

Permission and special access to this historical home was granted to Sherman Library & Gardens by the homeowners.

The Annual Garden Tour culminates with a Summer Garden Party on Saturday, August 27 at Sherman Gardens.

Tickets start at only $25 and can make a great Mother’s Day gift for you late shoppers. Simply go to www.thesherman.org.

Proceeds support children’s education programs.

• • •

Speaking of gardens, Ann Apeles Brunning’s Flying Flowers exhibit will open Monday, May 9 in the Art Gallery of the Central Library. The exhibit, a beautiful collection of photographs of butterflies in the garden, will be on display through July 1.

• • •

Just an FYI, the Airport Land Use Commission has canceled their May 19 meeting and will next meet on June 16 at 4 p.m.

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