Newport Beach adjusts zoning code for food, health and fitness facilities in Dover/Westcliff

Diana J. Smith

Restaurants and health and fitness centers will now be permitted along a stretch of Dover Drive in Newport Beach, provided they comply with parking requirements and secure a use permit from the city.

The Newport Beach City Council unanimously approved a zoning amendment to allow for the establishment of such businesses in an area predominately occupied by multi-tenant office buildings.

The zoning district is composed of six parcels of land on the westerly side of Dover, between 16th Street and Westcliff Drive.

City staff said in a report prepared for the May 11 meeting that the impetus for the proposed amendment to current zoning was that they heard from some property owners last year who were struggling to lease office space. Their hope was to lease underused spaces to operators of restaurants or larger health and fitness facilities.

Seimone Jurjis, the community development director, noted the zoning amendment was requested by Councilman Duffy Duffield.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — located at 801 Dover Drive — raised some concerns about parking problems.

David McPhie, a first counselor with the church, said the building sees heavy use relative to its size and that officials have made efforts to contend with parking issues over the years.

“It’s worked out OK because these uses are complimentary,” said McPhie, adding that the church has “struck a delicate balance.” “When you have an office building with a use during the business day in the work week and they’re using the parking, we fit very well with that because we’re in the evenings and on the weekends primarily.”

Church officials said they currently have an easement on an adjoining lot and some arrangements with nearby tenants and parking to ameliorate the parking issues on their specific parcel.

Councilman Noah Blom said he was concerned about “penalizing” property owners that were asking for the change, though they may have had previous agreements with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that allowed them to use their parking.

“The applicant came to me originally to express the need for this change. As we all know, the market for office space is tough at this point and the use within a few hundred yards away is restaurants and gyms and things,” said Duffield.

Duffield added that the question posed to staff was why it was that the six parcels were zoned as they were.

“I drive by [those buildings] every day and there’s very little activity and this is a way to rejuvenate that little zone and the impact that it may have to this facility is inevitable, but at the same time, these property owners are somewhat desperate to put a product there that is usable and has a future,” said Duffield.

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