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Zoning ordinance debates continue

Thursday night's failure to approve zoning ordinance has a long history before the vote.

July 16, 2010|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

NEWPORT BEACH — Entire stretches of bayfront may soon have condos instead of businesses. But that sweeping change to the city's landscape hasn't riled residents nearly as much as one that would affect the size and shape of their homes.

After two years of contentious public hearings and detailed committee meetings, the Newport Beach Planning Commission did not reach a consensus Thursday night on changes to its zoning ordinance. The commissioners voted 4-3 against approving a draft version of the revised code.

Essentially, commissioners split on how to determine the allowable size of future residences. Meanwhile, they compromised on new mixed-use zoning rules that could allow residential development in waterfront areas to replace some commercial uses, such as boat sales and service shops. But their greater impasse killed the vote and leaves the City Council with a heavily revised document and weighty issues to address — at least weighty in the eyes of some residents.

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"This is the big one because we're talking about people in their homes," Planning Director David Lepo said before Thursday's vote.

Currently, owners can build a home that is 1.5 times the buildable area of their land (the lot minus the required separation from the street or other lots). For example, if the lot has 3,000 buildable square feet, owners can build a 4,500-square-foot home.

Under the draft zoning code, new homes would no longer be subject to those conditions. Instead, owners and their architects would have to make a number of calculations that would ultimately dictate how large a home can be.

These calculations include the height of the proposed home, the indentations on a home's exterior walls, the slope of the home's yards and whether it has a third story.

Architects and commissioners designed the changes to limit the size of homes and make the architecture more interesting — hoping to prevent the "mansionization" of Newport Beach.

"With the ideas and the concept we've come up with, we're going to have buildings that are more interesting looking and less massive," said Todd Schooler, a Newport Beach architect who advised the Planning Commission.

The catch: Property owners on Balboa Island wouldn't have to follow the new rules, but everyone else throughout the city limits would. Islanders were able to sway committee members drafting these changes, and their recommendations were passed on to the Planning Commission.

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