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Newport Beach

Letters to the Editor

Unhappy with school district’s deceit in tree cutting

NMUSD = Arrogance. This is the institution responsible for educating future generations. This is the example set: Don’t let the issue be resolved in a civilized way, i.e. the courts. Sneak in and destroy.

Dennis Baker

Corona del Mar

School Board correctly chose safety over trees

I am writing this letter in support of the Cliff Drive encroachment permit issued to NMUSD for Ensign. It seems much of the controversy about this permit centers around many in the community believing the school board errored in not moving forward the Newport Beach drop-off alternative. They viewed this alternative as a “silver bullet” since it would simultaneously save the trees and provide quality student security and safety. The Newport Beach drop-off alternative may have inadvertently fooled them. Either you save the trees, or you provide top-notch student security and safety. But, you can’t do both. Therefore, the school district made the correct decision at Ensign and their permit should stand.

The Newport Beach drop-off alternative shouldn’t be material in any decision by the city council.

A few comments in the ThoughtExchange reference the state of California’s drop-off building regulations for schools. Using Google with the ThoughtExchange verbiage, we found drop-off building regulations online at the state of California’s Department of Education website.

After reviewing the state’s rules and examples covering drop-off regulations, it seems that the Newport Beach drop-off alternative might not fulfill state regulations. I called Jim Houlihan, a city engineer, with my reservations. He said he did not know if the alternative fulfills the state regulations and said such a determination would require an outside expert opinion.

Furthermore, after my discussion with Houlihan, I came away with the impression that it is unknown if the Newport Beach alternative could support as many cars as the school district’s banana lot.

The school district’s banana lot was designed by an architect who is proficient in school design, school building regulation and security protocols. The banana lot is a standard approach that is shovel-ready. In contrast, the Newport Beach alternative is just a rough sketch that likely could not provide the same level of efficiency or safety and may not be allowed under state build regulations for schools.

Many in the community thought they had a silver bullet.

Since the Newport Beach drop-off alternative came from a city engineer, some community members incorrectly assumed the alternative was fully vetted and shovel-ready even though the city never presented it that way. Community members voraciously supported the city’s alternative to the school board and other community members as the “silver bullet” that would save the trees and provide student safety and security. In hindsight, if the city had known their rough sketch would be misread as fully vetted and shovel-ready they would have put a warning on the drawing. Even better, the city could have hid their alternative unless it survived a deeper analysis. The city council could cool off tensions in the community if they would explain this to the public at Thursday’s hearing (yesterday).

NMUSD opted for the safety and security of students over the preservation of trees.

Removing the Newport Beach drop-off alternative from the running only leaves the banana lot alternative. After two years in the public forum, no other viable alternative has been presented by anyone. Since the banana lot drop-off alternative was designed by architects proficient with state regulations and security protocols, it should provide abundant student safety and security.

Unfortunately, this leaves the community with the age old problem of selecting the lesser of two evils. Do we save the trees while we compromise student safety and security? Do we remove and replace the trees so we can keep the students safe and secure? To me the answer is clear. Student safety and security is utmost, so the trees have to be removed and replaced. I think the school board was presented with a tough decision and sided on behalf of student safety and security. This was the right decision. The city council should support their decision and let the permit stand.

Jim Kociuba

Newport Beach

SPON gets injunction against District

OC Superior Court Judge Robert Moss granted SPON a Temporary Restraining Order on June 23, 2020 to prevent the further removal of any trees that still remain on Ensign Intermediate School property. The Rehearing is scheduled for OC Superior Court Department 13 on June 29 at 1:30 p.m.

The Declaratory Relief Action filed by SPON against the Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) sought a definition of the rights and obligations of the parties involved regarding the planned removal of trees and reconfiguration of the parking lot at Ensign Intermediate School located in the Newport Beach Cliff Haven neighborhood.

The action alleges that NMUSD has denied SPON, its members and the community at large their due process rights by limiting and/or denying participation in the planning process which included the review, discussion and ultimate approval of the construction plans. The NMUSD is obligated by code to seek out and encourage public participation in any and all projects of this nature. 

For more information about this issue, please visit 

Bruce Bartram, President 

SPON, Still Protecting Our Newport

Newport Beach

Nearby resident wants brakes applied to W. Coast Highway widening

I request the City Council send this item (Old Newport Blvd. and West Coast Highway Modifications) back to the Planning Department with instructions to delay further consideration until the ongoing General Plan Update is completed. It appears the planning staff is attempting to piecemeal the widening of Coast Highway into small parts in order to get the entire roadway to three lanes without completing the General Plan Update. This is poor timing because while the Newport Beach community is continuing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, only virtual meetings are occurring. Also, stakeholders may feel potentially controversial items are being placed on the agenda when the City Council is unable to hear firsthand community concern.

The origins of this project go back at least seven years and include the widening of West Pacific Coast Highway in front of the A Restaurant to three lanes and provide a dedicated right turn lane and bike lane. 

A key concern of Mariner’s Mile stakeholders is the expansion of West Pacific Coast Highway. This concern dates back to the early 1970s by a group called the “Freeway Fighters” and included the father of one of our current council members. Since then updates to the General Plan have discouraged the widening of WPCH. For instance, this concern is most evident in the Mariner’s Mile Strategic Vision and Design Framework dated October 4, 2000, that set forth a strategy “to discourage the policy of widening WPCH through Mariner’s Mile.” The City has also recognized that Pacific Coast Highway and the proposed expansion of PCH require further evaluation. A speedway through the heart of our town is not safe for our children or community. 

Further, evolving transportation trends and the coronavirus pandemic impact of working at home are materially changing how businesses, residents, and the City will operate and use the existing transportation system. 

[I] request my comments be part of the June 23, 2020, City Council Meeting record and please acknowledge receipt of these email comments.

Be well and stay safe,

Patrick Gormley

Former Bayshores Community Association President 

Member of the Coalition to Protect Mariner’s Mile

Newport Beach

Make masks your new fashion accessory

 It’s official now. We are finally seeing our male political leaders from California wearing face masks. The Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, was the first one to do it. Now we are also seeing Governor Newsom, Congressman Rouda and Mayor O’Neill in basic black, as I recall. And, if you scrolled too quickly past the beginning of Stu News Newport, you may have missed Tom Johnson’s colorful mask. So our “savvy” leaders have shown that a face mask does not compromise your masculinity. To the contrary, it enhances it, showing how “secure” and confident you are. 

Let’s put on those face masks before it is too late!

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach


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