Measure X, which would have put more stringent voter controls on development projects in the city, was rejected by 62.3% of voters, and 37.7% supported it.
Voter participation on those issues was around 35% of the city's nearly 60,000 registered voters.
The Greenlight group wrote Measure X as a follow-up to a successful 2000 ballot measure, officially called Measure S but commonly referred to as Greenlight. That measure set thresholds at which a project must go to voters.
Measure X essentially would have lowered those thresholds. Greenlight leaders thought it was necessary because the new general plan changes the types and amounts of development allowed in Newport.
Arst said he thinks the measure failed because supporters of Measure V advertised that their measure was "the people's plan" and would protect Greenlight voting rights and reduce traffic.
"Those were our three main messages," Arst said. "I think a lot of people thought they were voting for Greenlight."
He also took issue with the city-written ballot language for both measures — X for being confusing and V for falsely claiming it would reduce traffic. Arst even challenged the Measure X ballot description in court but later dropped the suit when it grew too late to change the ballot.
While even some who opposed Measure X were surprised that it failed, they disagree as to why, and whether it spells the end of Greenlight.
Since 2000, the city has held two Greenlight votes, on an expansion of the Koll Center near the airport, and a hotel proposed on the waterfront Marinapark property.
"To say that this is going to do away with any Greenlight I votes is not true, because there were lots of areas in the city that were not affected in terms of more housing and more density," Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau said.
"Certainly the new general plan isn't a blank check for people to build whatever they want wherever they want it in the community."
Bludau argued that both sides could say the other's advertising was misleading. He pointed to Greenlight's claim that Measure V is a developers' plan. A volunteer committee of residents helped city officials create the plan over a period of several years.
The vote tells Bludau that residents are pleased with the direction the community's going, he said. With the general plan update, the community got to speak at the ballot box, and that's what Arst always says he wants, the right to vote, Bludau said.
"I'm surprised that he has a different slant on the election because he's always placed a lot of faith in how the people would vote," Bludau said.