NOTE: Indy reporter Sara Hall compiled this look back at what made headlines in the NB Independent during 2016. This week, we cover July through December. To read part one click here.
— Lifeguards rescued two people from the water after a nearly 20-foot wave overtook them while they were riding a personal watercraft jet ski and tossed into the ocean near the Wedge.
Both victims were treated on the scene and transported to Hoag Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
— A preliminary look at the Newport Beach Civic Center audit revealed some interesting findings, including a possible overpayment of $1.2 million.
City Council voted 4-3 to receive and file the draft audit report and direct staff to pursue the $1.2 million, either by finding documentation to justify the costs or recover the funds. Councilmen Keith Curry, Ed Selich, and Tony Petros dissented.
— A statue of fallen Newport Beach lifeguard Ben Carlson was unveiled July 6 in front of more than 1,000 people at McFadden Square near Newport Pier.
The event revealed a 9-foot-tall, almost 1-ton statue crafted out of marine grade stainless steel. He is wearing lifeguard trunks, holding a rescue tube and fins in one hand and using his other hand to shade his eyes, as if in perpetual watch over the coastline.
The concept behind the statue’s design was to create a stoic and iconic figure over looking the water that Carlson so proudly protected for 15 years. It will not only be a tribute to his heroism, but also serve as a symbol of respect to lifeguards everywhere.
On July 6, 2014, Carlson became the first Newport Beach Lifeguard to die in the line of duty.
— Marian Bergeson, longtime Newport Beach resident, community leader and former state politician, died July 6. She was 90.
Bergeson, who was the first woman to serve in both the California state Assembly and Senate, died at Hoag Hospital due to complications from surgery for pancreatic cancer.
Numerous people commented on social media, calling Bergeson a true leader, an excellent role model, and a courageous trailblazer, and a pioneer who helped pave the way for women in public service.
She was a woman leader who rarely let anything get in her way or dampen her optimistic mood, said Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon said in a statement from the city.
Bergeson was a “classy lady” who was well respected and made an impact on a number of people. She was known as a friendly, caring and gracious person devoted to community service. She was a supporter of local school water sports and enjoyed skydiving.
— Following the July 7 ambush shooting in Dallas that left five police officers dead and several more injured, law enforcement agencies around the country were showing their support, including locally in Newport Beach.
Flags at NB Police Department were at half mast and officers wore mourning bands on their badges.
Deputy Chief David McGill happened to be in Dallas on a pre-planned personal trip on the day after the incident. He visited DPD headquarters, visited the makeshift memorial, and spoke with officers and police staff. It was very moving and emotional, he said.
NBPD also reported an “incredible outpouring” of support from the community, including compassionate phone calls, words of encouragement and “tastier contributions,” including muffins, cupcakes, 15 pizzas, and more.
— The Newport Beach City Council agreed that public art is important to the city voted 7-0 on Aug. 9 to proceed with phases III and IV of the Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park.
Library Services Director Tim Hetherton made a presentation at the City Council meeting on Aug. 9 on behalf of the City Arts Commission.
He explained the Arts Commission’s proposal for funding the next phases of the exhibition, which began in the fall of 2014 with the first phase of 10 art pieces installed in Civic Center Park, and continued with phase II last fall Phase III is scheduled for this fall, while phase IV is scheduled for the fall of 2017.
The acquisition program that the Arts Commission developed for the exhibition created a model in which pieces are loaned for a two-year period.
In essence, the staff report noted, the exhibition has become a “museum without walls” that offers the temporary display of public art that allows the city to avoid the expense of owning public art.
Hetherton told the council that the arts commission wished to utilize the funding source created by Council Policy I13, the Public Arts and Cultural Facilities Fund, supplanted by fundraising from the Newport Beach Arts Foundation.
— Newport Beach Fire Department dispatched two engines and one battalion chief for a total of ten personnel assigned to two strike teams to the Blue Cut Fire in the Cajon Pass on Aug. 17.
Upon arrival, the NB firefighters were immediately assigned to structure defense in the Lytle Creek area within the San Gabriel Mountains of San Bernardino County.
During their first 24 hour operational period, the NB teams successfully completed perimeter control and structure defense operations with no structures damaged by fire in their division.
In total, the fire burned more than 37,000 acres.
— A set of candidate forums kicked off the political campaign season in Newport Beach on Aug. 16 and 17.
Topics of discussion and questions at both forums included the unfunded pension liability, development, current proposed projects (Banning Ranch, Museum House, and 150 Newport Center), traffic, and property rights.
At the Chamber of Commerce event, questions included small business licenses, art in the city, short term lodging, and more. It also included a lightening round “thumbs up/thumbs down” portion, during which the candidates held up a sign indicating their position on various issues, including parking, public art, and the boardwalk.
There was also a bit of discussion about “Team Newport,” the slate of candidates voted in during the last election, and Dave Ellis the campaign manager for “Team Newport” and the three candidates absent from the second forum.
— Resident William Stewart filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court on Aug. 22 against Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley and Newport Beach City Clerk Leilani Brown to have City Council candidate Fred Ameri’s legal first name, Farrokh, appear on the ballot.
Stewart’s attorney, Bruce Peotter, brother of Councilman Scott Peotter, agued that Ameri‘s “fictitious” name would mislead voters. The presiding judge ruled that Ameri can use the name Fred.
— After about 13 hours of discussion in City Council chambers on Sept. 7, which included more than 200 speakers on both sides of the issue, the California Coastal Commission voted 9-1 to deny the controversial mixed-use Banning Ranch project.
The proposal included 895 residential units, 45,100 square feet of commercial use, a 75-room resort and 20-bed hostel, 329-acre nature preserve, and more on a 401-acre site in the 5100 block of West Coast Highway.
Commissioners noted that that there were still too many questions and concerns about the project to let it go forward, and that the location wasn’t appropriate.
Concerns were raised about the burrowing owl and other animals who call Banning Ranch home, the tribal nations and their history with the land, the extremely sensitive habitat, and more.
Commissioner Mary Shallenberger also questioned the partnership between the oil company, investment company, the developer, and the land trust.
The lone dissenting vote came from Commissioner Roberto Urango, who said he wants to see the property opened up. He had hoped to continue the discussion so they get to a “yes” vote.
The developer later filed a lawsuit against the Commission, challenging its denial of the controversial mixed-use project proposal.
The lawsuit seeks $490 million in damages and asks the court to overturn the CCC’s decision.
— The Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission voted 5-1 on Sept. 6 to relocate a pair of “iconic” palm trees at 239 Carnation Ave. in Corona del Mar about eight to 10 feet to the corner of the property.
The vote included the requirement to retain their memorable “goal post” configuration.
The homeowner wants to demolish the current single-level house and construct a new multi-level home.
The project was approved by the CCC in January. Newport Beach Zoning Code requires that a home of this size (larger than 4,000-square-feet) include a (minimum) three car garage.
However, because the property is so narrow (about 40 feet) the new layout of the house would require that the trees be removed in order to access the garage.
The Municipal Operations Director decided in February to allow the removal of the palms.
The Palisades Condominium Homeowners Association appealed the decision and there has been strong opposition to removing the emblematic palms.
— The Newport Beach Planning Commission voted 5-2 on Sept. 1 to recommend denial without prejudice of a scaled-down 35-unit, five-story version of the proposed 150 Newport Center project.
The proposed project consisted of the demolition of an existing 8,500-squarefoot car-wash, convenience market, and gas station to accommodate the development at Newport Center and Anacapa drives.
The group voted 5-2, with commissioners Peter Zak and Ray Lawler dissenting.
“There’s too much intensity here and I think there’s an alternate project that would be more appropriate,” said Chairman Kory Kramer.
The developer later withdrew their application right before City Council was scheduled to hear and vote on the project on Sept. 27.
— Balboa Island commemorated its centennial Sept. 18 with a plaque dedication ceremony, the unveiling of the centennial sculpture “Sunset Years” and a mural, and a block party on Marine Avenue.
The sculpture, by artists Miriam Baker (an island resident) and Rhonda Jones, is of an elderly couple relaxing on a bench looking at Newport Harbor.
— After drunk and disorderly students reportedly caused a scene at the Battle of the Bay football game on Sept. 16, Corona del Mar High School officials cancelled the homecoming dance, pep rally and related activities.
CdMHS Principal Kathy Scott called the behavior “inappropriate,” “despicable and deplorable” and “embarrassing and inexcusable.”
Some students were “intoxicated to the point of being unable to control themselves,” said a CdMHS coach, and were stumbling or laying in their own vomit. In the stands, students were throwing items and leading profanity-laced cheers.
— Newport Beach Planning Commission voted 5-1 on Oct. 6 to deny AutoNation Porsche Newport Beach project proposed for the Mariners’ Mile area, at 320-600 W. Coast Highway.
The project proposed the construction and operation of a 38,473-squarefoot, 35-foot tall, automobile sales and service facility (dealership) including a showroom.
Several of the Commissioners said they were struggling with the project. A few commended AutoNation for the effort they have made on their part. Others raised concerns about the height, overall size, service center, traffic, enforcement of the conditions, the history of violations by AutoNation, past behavior of not being a responsible neighbor, among other issues.
— Newport Beach City Council unanimously voted 6-0 on Oct. 11 to sell the historic Balboa Theater on E. Balboa Boulevard to local developer Lab Holding, LLC, for $1 million.
LAB founder Shaheen Sadeghi thanked the council for their vision to preserve the theater, located in Balboa Village near the Balboa Pier, near Washington and Main streets.
The idea is to bring the building back to its original glory and preserve the authenticity, he explained, adding that there is elegance in the original structure and what it stood for.
Sadeghi estimated that they will spend approximately $2 million on the remodel of the existing building to meet current code requirements.
They plan on restoring the original architecture of the theater, including a marquee possibly designed in the original 1920’s wrought iron style or the historic neon style, according to the LAB’s written proposal. They also plan on restoring the entryway with the two side bays re-established as storefronts for an on-site café and box office.
The interior will be restored and repurposed for flexible, multi-use events and performances. The proposal also suggests including a music room (standing room only) with a pub counter and an adjoining room for guests to rent for private events and celebrations.
— City Council candidate Fred Ameri voiced outrage after someone posted a fake campaign sign reading “Vote for Fred” in Farsi, arguing it was a “racist” attempt to drum-up fear about his Middle Eastern heritage.
Ameri immigrated from Iran to Orange County 55 years ago.
“It was done to basically send a message, ‘hey people this guy isn’t one of us,’” Ameri said.
Specifically, Ameri believes it was done to play off of Newport Beach voters’ fears of the Islamic State and a nuclear weapon-armed Iran.
— An elderly man was transported to the hospital after being hit by a vehicle on the Balboa Peninsula, at the intersection of W. Balboa Boulevard and 7th Street, on Oct. 17.
The bicyclist, later identified as a 92-year-old Newport Beach resident, suffered major injuries as a result of the collision. The driver of the Mazda was not injured.
The incident highlights a concern residents have raised for many years regarding the safety of crossing Balboa Boulevard.
— On Nov. 8 Newport Beach voters elected onto City Council: Brad Avery in District 2, Jeff Herdman in District 5, and Will O’Neill in District 7.
Each race had some interesting ups and downs on Election Day, as all 63 precincts reported more than 25,000 votes for each district.
In Newport’s closest council race in District 5, Herdman was an early leader and held onto his lead throughout the night, finishing with 36.4 percent of the votes.
In District 2, Harbor Commissioner Avery finished on top with 58.4 percent of votes.
Over in District 7, O’Neill maintained his lead throughout the night, with only slight increases and decreases with each update, and finished with more than half the votes.
In the Newport-Mesa Unified School Board races, the three incumbents – Martha Fluor, the trustee of Area 3, Vicki Snell in Area 1, and Dana Black in Area 6 – retained their positions.
— Newport Beach Police detectives took Sean Robert McLaughlin, 42, into custody at his home in Aliso Viejo on Nov. 18 and booked him for involuntary manslaughter surrounding the death of a patron at American Junkie Restaurant and Bar on the Balboa Peninsula.
The arrest came after four adult males were transported to local hospitals after ingesting an unknown narcotic at the bar in the early morning of Nov. 18 and one died as a result.
During their investigation, police discovered that the four men had obtained the narcotic from McLaughlin, an employee at American Junkie.
— City Council voted 6-1 on Nov. 29 in favor of the controversial 25-story, 100-unit condominium tower known as Museum House in Newport Center.
Councilman Tony Petros dissented and explained his no vote by saying he had to vote with the will of the people.
Many people spoke during public comment that objected argued that it wasn’t an appropriate location, it would increase traffic, and it’s too dense.
— The Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission reviewed a sound study and unanimously approved 6-0 the conceptual designs for the proposed pickleball courts at Bonita Canyon Sports Park on Dec. 6.
The independent noise consultant found that the noise from the new courts will not by heard at the homes.
About 45 people attended the meeting, nearly all of them interested in the item about the pickleball courts.
Longtime resident and avid Pickleball player Ken Krum first tried pickleball during the city’s trial program.
“It’s been a life-changing experience for me to play that game,” Krum said.
—The three new councilmen elected in November took office during the Dec. 13 City Council meeting and, along with the rest of the council, unanimously elected Kevin Muldoon as mayor and Marshall “Duffy” Duffield as mayor pro tem for 2017.
Muldoon made the announcement at the meeting that he plans to place a measure on the 2018 ballot that would require city officials to get voter approval before taking on additional debt for new infrastructure or buildings. He also highlighted the unfunded pension liability.
— Sherri Haughton, 52, of Newport Coast was charged Dec. 14 with animal neglect for failing to provide care for her seven-year- old golden retriever, Henry, resulting in the dog’s cancerous tumor growing to 42 pounds.
She is accused of bringing Henry to an animal hospital on May 12, claiming that she found the dog abandoned on the sand in Newport Beach.
The tumor was affecting his mobility and other basic functions. Hospital staff told Haughton that the dog should be taken to the Newport Beach animal shelter. She allegedly refused to transport the dog and abandoned him at the animal hospital.
NBPD Animal Control took custody of Henry and provided a veterinary assessment. In June, NBPD Animal Control coordinated surgery through donations. Since the surgery, Henry has lived with a local foster family.
— Millions watched the 108th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade in Newport Harbor between Dec. 14-18.
This year’s Grand Marshals: Mickey Mouse, local Olympians, “The Voice” contestants, Members of USC Trojan marching band, and Newport Beach local heroes (first-responders and lifesavers).
In addition to the boat parade, this year features a special charity event to benefit the American Childhood Cancer Organization.
For the first time, the organization’s National Golden Ribbon Awareness Tree will be erected on the west coast in Newport Beach’s Marina Park.
The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and Newport Beach & Company are teaming up to make a significant donation to the group.
Fireworks again opened and closed the event.
— Supporters and opponents of the petition for a referendum on the 25-story Museum House condominium tower made allegations against both side of intimidation and spreading misinformation.
The tactics allegedly include contractors hired by the developer, OCMA Urban Housing LLC, standing in front of legitimate petitioners’ tables and handing out brochures warning of a “fake petition.” There were also claims of petition “blockers” at Ralph’s and Oasis handing out flyers about Museum House and yelling and intimidating people.
The petition’s final signature count came in at 13,730 and was to city several days before the deadline on Dec. 21.