Apr 25, 2008

PBS&J Honored by American Planning Association for California Project

PBS&J and Newport Beach, Calif., win award for city's General Plan update project

The city of Newport Beach, Calif., and PBS&J will be presented with an award from the American Planning Association (APA) on Tuesday, April 30, at the 2008 National Conference in Las Vegas. The team won the “National Planning Achievement Award for Hard-Won Victories” for the City of Newport Beach General Plan update project.

“We are honored to be recognized with this prestigious award,” said Woodie Tescher, PBS&J’s principal technical director for planning and urban design and the project lead. “The General Plan implements community values by conserving existing neighborhoods, while transforming auto-oriented commercial centers and corridors into pedestrian-oriented mixed-use villages. It’s a project we’re very proud of,” Tescher added.

The upscale, coastal community of Newport Beach, located roughly 45 miles south of Los Angeles and just west of Santa Ana, is known for its harbor and beaches. It is also home to movie stars, performance artists, sports legends, politicians and other luminaries. Newport Beach citizens are concerned about protecting their city from rampant development. In fact, citizens went to the polls in November 2000 to put limits on growth.

In 2002, the city hired PBS&J to update the General Plan and prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) with multiple land use alternatives for 12 sub-areas of Newport Beach. After thorough study, analysis and extensive public outreach, PBS&J recommended that the city improve its balance of jobs and housing by reducing land use capacity for retail and industrial activity by roughly 450,000 sq ft, while expanding residential units to 1,166 more dwellings above the maximum allotted by law citywide.

Other elements of the plan dealt with neighborhood conservation and setting land use policy to develop derelict harbor-side canneries into a vital, walkable retail district. In addition, the PBS&J team cut the number of adversely impacted major intersections from 18 down to three, which translated into an estimated reduction of 28,920 average daily vehicle trips.

“We knew at the time this would involve putting the new plan to a vote by the citizens of Newport Beach in order to get the approval to increase residential growth beyond the limits determined in an earlier election,” said Tescher.

The city faced many hurdles to revise the General Plan including a formidable opposition campaign that continued for several years and involved both legal challenges and a ballot initiative. However, based on the strength of the vision and the well-thought-out recommendations, city residents passed the comprehensive update of the General Plan November 7, 2006, enabling the plan amendments to be adopted by the city.