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Council Slates Referendum on Newport Center Plans

August 26, 1986|JODY BECKER | Times Staff Writer

No-growth activists forced the Newport Beach City Council Monday night to call a citywide referendum on the Irvine Co.'s general expansion plan, which includes the development of 518 acres surrounding Newport Center.

Following an announcement by City Clerk Wanda E. Raggio that the activists, known as Gridlock, had collected 5,856 valid signatures during a referendum petition drive, the council voted unanimously to hold a special election Nov. 25 rather than rescind its earlier approval of the plan.

The council's action was considered a victory by Gridlock members, who spent early August canvassing the city to gather more than 6,000 signatures.

The group exceeded the minimum 4,543 signatures--10% of the city's registered voters--needed to put the referendum on the ballot. According to the county registrar of voters, 968 signatures were declared invalid, but the extra signatures provided a large margin.

"It's a better percentage than I thought," said Gridlock organizer Alan Beek. Now, he said, "we're just going to campaign hard."

Monday night's action is the latest step in almost a decade of attempts by slow-growth and no-growth factions to hamstring the development proposal, which calls for building several office buildings and retail stores and hundreds of new homes in the area next to Newport Center.

On July 14 after two years of public hearings and amendments to the proposal, the council approved a compromise plan.

Gridlock contends that continued development according to Irvine Co. plans will aggravate traffic congestion in the coastal area and destroy the quality of many Newport Beach and Corona del Mar neighborhoods,

Irvine Co. President Thomas Nielsen attended Monday night's council meeting and told the council members and citizens: "We will continue our vigorous effort to communicate the merits of the Newport Center plan. . . . We believe the plan's balance and benefits are compelling."

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