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Greenlight guidelines get green light

March 29, 2001

Mathis Winkler

NEWPORT BEACH -- The law has been in place since December, but it took

until Tuesday for the final nuts and bolts of the city's slow-growth

measure to be ironed out.

After months of discussion, six of the seven City Council members

adopted a set of guidelines, now known as council policy A-18, that will

help to put the Greenlight law to work. Councilman Gary Proctor was

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absent from the meeting.

Council members, a majority of whom had opposed the initiative that

voters approved in November, said they felt confident the guidelines

followed the intent of the city's residents at the polls.

Greenlight requires citywide elections on any general plan amendment

for a project that adds more than 100 peak-hour car trips or dwelling

units, or 40,000 square feet more than the general plan allows.

During several study sessions over the last couple of months and a

public hearing at the March 13 meeting, council members and residents

fine-tuned the proposed guidelines.

While Greenlight supporters said they disagreed with some aspects of

the final draft, they liked the overall result and said they were glad

months of tweaking and rewriting the new policy had come to an end.

"I'd rather be home watching Jeopardy," Phil Arst, a spokesman for the

group of people who had worked to get the initiative on the ballot, said

jokingly. "I hope that we can move forward and make this a better city."

As a result of Tuesday's decision, Dec. 15, 2000, was set as the

starting date for Greenlight's "look-back" provision.

That clause requires that 80% of previous general plan amendments

within each of the city's 49 distinct neighborhoods "adopted within the

preceding 10 years" should count toward the threshold, which triggers a

citywide vote.

While some council members and others, including Chamber of Commerce

representatives, said in the past that a 2000 starting date would

contradict the initiative's language, city officials said legal

precedents supported the decision to choose 2000 instead of 1990.

The move will probably reduce the number of Greenlight votes, and it

gained support from Greenlight opponents.

Another point of contention involved whether parking structures should

be included in the calculation of a project's floor area. Some Greenlight

advocates, such as Allan Beek and Susan Caustin, had argued for the

inclusion of parking structures because developers could increase the

floor area of the project's other buildings otherwise.

Looking ahead, Councilwoman Norma Glover said she hoped the guidelines

would not keep developers from coming into the city.

"I hope that the businesses that are thinking about coming to Newport

Beach will continue to come in," she said, adding that she also hoped

other groups, such as service organizations and churches, would not be

deterred by the possibility of citywide elections on their projects. "I

hope that we can still create a climate that's good for the community."

But one business already has announced it would not be coming to

Newport Beach, in part because of Greenlight.

David Wilson, owner of Toyota of Orange, said earlier this month that

he considered bringing a Lexus dealership to the city, but the wait and

cost was too much.

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