the Irvine Co., Pacific Life Insurance, Pimco -- as well as beloved,
home-grown businesses such as Ruby's Restaurants and Steinberg and Moorad
But it is also a large generator of traffic -- the latest buzzword in
Newport Beach politics.
This dichotomy has been achieved through the years, as Fashion Island and
Newport Center have grown. Environmental activists and concerned
residents have kept close watch over that growth. In the early 1980s,
opponents threatened a ballot initiative, and in 1986, 58% of voters
defeated a measure to add 1.28 million square feet of commercial space to
the center.But the upcoming Greenlight initiative is an entirely new
animal because it has the potential to forever freeze Newport Center in
its present state.
Three of four Newport Center property owners who had submitted plans for
expansion have pulled out. If Greenlight passes, chances are they will
Trying to stay competitive
Groundbreaking for Newport Center was in 1965 and the retail and office
mecca has grown ever since. More than three decades later, the outdoor
shopping experience of Fashion Island provides 30% of the city's sales
tax revenue -- a whopping $4.4 million a year.
However, contrary to popular belief, the financial benefits do not come
from Fashion Island alone.
Though many -- including Greenlight proponents -- have argued that office
buildings only cause traffic, Newport Center has a symbiotic relationship
with its commercial half. Nearly 20%, or $700,000, of the retail sales at
Fashion Island come from nearby office workers, according to market
research. Moreover, conferences, events and clients at hotels also bring
in revenue for the city.
The Greenlight measure would require public votes on any new project that
triggers certain thresholds over what the city's General Plan allows for
traffic, homes and office space. It takes into account changes that have
been made in the past 10 years, which means an area such as Newport
Center that has grown over the years would require public votes for
almost everything.For developers, this extra vote tacked on to an already