NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery gave his 2021 State of the City address on July 21, during Speak Up Newport’s annual mayor’s reception.
Avery took to the podium before a sold-out crowd of about 400 guests that included current and former city council members, city commissioners, city staff, and residents.
The annual event, presented by the nonpartisan residents’ group Speak Up Newport (SUN), was held on the lawn of the Newport Beach Country Club, breaking tradition from its typical, more formal indoor sit-down dinner format.
“We know that the COVID Delta variant is in Orange County and our city,” Avery told the crowd. “It is up to each of us to make the right decisions for our safety and encourage our unvaccinated family members and friends to get vaccinated.”
The mayor also spoke about the challenges of homelessness, referring to it as “the challenge of our times, a reflection of governmental failure to care for the most vulnerable of our society, including those who are struggling with mental health issues and drug addiction.”
Avery spoke about Orange County’s Be Well OC program, which recently opened a 60,000 square-foot mental health campus in Orange, with two more Orange County campus locations currently being planned.
The program helps cities by providing rapid response teams designed to mitigate the burden on police, fire, and lifeguard departments.
Dealing with the state’s housing mandates is also a focus for Avery and fellow mayors across the state.
“This is an extraordinary time,” Avery said. “Along with most cities in California, we must plan for a dramatic increase in housing within the next eight years.”
That increase will result in significantly more traffic and the need for more schools, public safety, infrastructure, and city services, Avery said.
Newport is required by the state to build nearly 5,000 housing units, a significant number of which are to be offered at below-market prices to meet state mandates.
But because of high building costs, Avery said the number could grow closer to 8,000 in order to include more market-rate units needed to encourage developer participation.
“This potentially means up to 15,000 new residents, more traffic, more services, schools, and public safety,” he said. “It means adding more capacity to our roads, water, and sewer systems.
“While there is very little room for us to mitigate this threat to our quality of life, I can tell you your city council, our city manager, and our city’s community development department is working hard on this issue.”
“Newport Beach is well known to be a fiscally conservative city,” Avery said, noting that the city’s pandemic budget allowed the city to navigate the crisis with no layoffs or reduction to public services.
It also allowed for another payment of $40 million toward reducing the city’s unfunded pension liability.
The city’s goal is to eliminate the debt in less than 15 years, in contrast to a majority of cities in the state that are unable to pay anything toward the pension liabilities.
Avery concluded by pointing out Newport’s many aspirational attributes, including its civic-minded and dedicated residents, successful business environment, world-class health care, and a commitment to the environment and continuing to provide outdoor spaces for the public’s enjoyment.
“It truly is an honor to be mayor of Newport, a beach town like no other,” he said.