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Wu: Newport should sue if OCTA doesn't acquiesce

April 14, 2012|By Jack Wu

Well, Councilwoman Leslie Daigle's "vote-gate" has passed, and the Newport Beach City Council officially voted this week to sue the Orange County Transportation Authority for removing the 19th Street Bridge from the county's Master Plan of Arterial Highways (MPAH).

The bridge, which was originally placed on the MPAH in 1957, has been formally opposed by both Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa for decades but was supported by Newport Beach, as Councilman Keith Curry says, "as long as I have been on council [2006] and likely before that."

So at the March 12 OCTA meeting, the board officially deleted the bridge, without Newport Beach's approval, and that same day filed a notice of exemption with the county clerk/recorder, effectively giving Newport Beach a 35-day statute of limitations to act. After that 35 days expired, Newport Beach would have no claims to dispute the OCTA board's action.

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This led to the council's March 27 closed session, where a vote/consensus/concurrence took place to direct City Attorney Aaron Harp to proceed with litigation against OCTA. I sent emails to Curry (whom Harp identified in an email as the one dissenting "vote"), Mayor Nancy Gardner and council members Ed Selich and Daigle for their reasoning behind their "votes."

I received email confirmations from all of them, as well as their justifications.

My column came out April 1 and Daigle disputed an official vote was ever cast ("Vote on bridge helps in Newport, hurts in Assembly race"). Nevertheless, Harp officially declared that the council only gave consensus/concurrence to sue and that an official vote would take place at the next meeting, April 10 (the 35-day clock began March 12).

This time the official vote was again in favor of litigation, but instead of the 6-1 vote/concurrence/consensus, it was 5 to 2, with Curry and Daigle opposed, for the city to pursue legal remedies.

But right before that vote, the council unanimously directed City Manager Dave Kiff to pursue a tolling agreement with OCTA, which would essentially suspend the 35-day statute of limitations and give Newport Beach more time to convince the county to conduct more mitigation studies before completely wiping the 19th Street Bridge off the map.

However, due to an error, the OCTA board decided that it was going to retake the vote on the deletion of the bridge, thus rescinding the notice of exemption, but it would reconsider approving a new notice of exemption at the next board meeting.

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