City hall designers observe view rules

Their plans take into account Newport’s stewardship of its ocean views. But some building features may stand taller.

October 02, 2008|By Brianna Bailey

At least three of five preliminary designs for the next Newport Beach City Hall include architectural features that could jut above city view plane limitations for the site.

On a clear day, a person can see all the way to Catalina from the site of the next City Hall, which sits next to the central library between MacArthur Boulevard and Avocado Avenue.

In Newport Beach, a home with a scenic view is as good as money in the bank — and something people will go to great lengths to protect.


A view plane ordinance passed in the ’70s protects ocean and bay views of homes east of MacArthur Boulevard. Planned community guidelines for the area set height limits at 45 feet above the grade of the site.

Design guidelines set by city officials take the view plane ordinance into account, but allow for architectural features, such as towers, to jut above height limits.

City hall plans from the San Francisco-based architectural firm Bohlin Cywinsky Jackson include a light-catching, translucent sail-like structure on one side of the building.

“That is the one thing we’ve allowed to go above the view plane,” said Greg Mottola, a principal of Bohlin Cywinsky Jackson. “It goes above landscape and marks the entry position into the site.”

The rest of the Bohlin Cywinsky Jackson plans were designed to work within view restrictions, Mottola said.

“One of the big influences on the design is the height limitation,” he said.

The Bohlin Cywinsky Jackson two-story design features a roof with a series of wave-shaped crests tucked underneath the view plane.

Irvine-based architectural firm LPA included a tower in their design, meant to reflect on City Hall “as a symbol and source of democracy,” said Dan Heinfeld, LPA president.

“We thought indirectly lighting the tower element would be something that would clue people into that there’s something going on at the chambers that night,” Heinfeld said.

All other elements of LPA’s design would sit below the view plane, he said.

Plans from Pasadena-based Gonzalez Goodale features a trellis structure on the roof that could protrude above the view plane, said firm principal David Goodale.

“We feel these could still function fine and the roof line functions within the view plane,” he said. “We would see that there would be no obstruction of the view.”

Two firms, Rossetti Architects in Newport Beach, and Los Angeles-based Johnson Fain, have designs that stay within the design parameters.

“We thought that was one of the most important elements of the design,” said Rossetti Principal Roberta Jorgensen. “You can look across the site and see Catalina. Those views are precious, and we feel it’s critical those would be unobstructed.”

The Rossetti design features a low roof line that would be covered with native plants.

Johnson Fain created a design featuring a low roof with plantings, or a “green roof.”

“I think we have to be very conscious of the community at large and what they are used to seeing and to have it perceived positively,” said Johnson Fain Principal Greg Verabian.

City officials hope to choose a design and begin negotiations by the end of the year.

For proposed city hall renderings, click here.

BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles