After hearing from architects, lawyers and more than a dozen members of the community, the Newport Beach City Council approved the Aerie condominium project in a 4-2 vote Tuesday night.
“I was on pins and needles,” said Karen Julian, who with her husband Richard Julian has been working for years to get the project approved.
The council spent about 90 minutes listening to presentations and comments from 17 members of the public — both for and against the project, which would replace a 60-year-old apartment building with eight multi-million dollar units.
Proponents told the council that the project was “first class” and that Julian deserved the chance to build his dream home.
Opponents wearing lime green stickers that said “No to Aerie/Just Too Big” said the Aerie project would decimate valuable coastal bluff, cause environmental problems, be too large for the site and create chaos in the neighborhood.
“The construction traffic is going to be terrible,” Marilyn Beck told the council. “Who will pay for the streets (damaged from trucks)? It doesn’t have to be so enormous…There are alternatives.”
Other opponents said the project would create a precedent for oversized development that would change the feel of the village.
One opponent, Lisa Vallejo, suggested that the project had been “railroaded” through the process — a comment that a few council members obviously disagreed with.
“I don’t think we could have asked for a more agreeable applicant,” said Mayor Ed Selich, who voted yes. The project had gone before City Council twice before, with Julian making changes to plans. Councilwoman Leslie Daigle — who voted yes — agreed. “I think the council has made an effort to be responsible — the developer would say meticulous,” she said.
Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, who represents Corona del Mar, was one of the two members who voted against the development at Ocean Boulevard and Carnation Avenue.
“I think we’d be better off with a smaller project,” she said. “This has not been a pleasant experience. I think it’s a very attractive building, it’s green, that’s great. At the same time, I have huge concerns.”
The Planning Commission and Harbor Commission both recently voted to suggest the Council approve the project. Councilmembers Mike Henn and and Don Webb also voted yes. Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry attended the meeting but excused himself to catch a red-eye to Philadelphia and did not vote.
Councilman Steve Rosansky voted against the development. “At the end of the day, my heart says this is not the right project for the site. It’s too big, too much of a good thing.”
Beck and others declined to comment about the vote, but they gathered outside the council chambers clearly planning their next move. “There’s always the Coastal Commission,” one woman said.
Julian, who watched the vote with no expression on his face, later hugged his family and supporters, shaking hands and accepting congratulations. “Champagne…lots of champagne,” Karen Julian said as they were leaving City Hall.