The Orange County Museum of Art's director, Todd Smith, standing in front of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.

Newport Beach City Council Halts Move by Orange County Museum of Art and Real Estate Developer

The Orange County Museum of Art had plans to sell its building at 850 San Clemente Drive in Newport Beach to the developer Related California in order to use the proceeds from the transaction to build a new space at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, reports Bradley Zint of the LA Times. The developer wants to turn the property on San Clemente into a residential high-rise called Museum House. The Newport Beach City Council, however, voted to halt plans on the sale on March 1 after a local activist group, Line in the Sand, collected enough signatures to certify a petition. (The council could have called another election on the decision or waited until 2018 to make a vote, but it didn’t—even the group had sought out a public referendum on the project.)

The museum’s director, Todd Smith, said he was “disappointed” by the council’s recent change of heart, as Museum House had received the council’s support last year. A lawsuit filed on the museum’s behalf states that the petition violated the state elections code. A representative from Related California did not say whether it will abandon the development project or submit another proposal to city hall.

Line in the Sand was against the project, as they were afraid the development would set a bad precedent for Newport Center and contribute to an increase in traffic. The developer is awaiting the outcome of the museum’s lawsuit to see if it affects Line in the Sand’s petition. The activist organization considers its petition a success, calling the council’s vote “a direct result of the strength of voter feedback.”