NOTE: Indy reporter Sara Hall compiled this look back at what made headlines in the NB Independent during 2015. This week, we cover July through December. Read Part 1, January through June here
► Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Los Angeles Diocese for the Episcopal Church, who sold the St. James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach to a developer and locked out the congregation, came under review by a panel of three bishops for alleged canonical violations.
The charges were brought after the surprising news in May of the pending sale of their church by Bruno to developer Legacy Partners Residential, Inc. for approximately $15 million. The developer plans to build luxury condos on the site.
The St. James congregation began conducting Sunday services outside in a park across the street from the church.
Earlier in July, the church had filed a formal complaint with the national Episcopal Church against Bruno over his abrupt sale of the St. James church, which resulted in the church congregation being locked out.
Rev. Voorhees, called Bruno’s actions “ill-considered and heartless,”
► Newport Beach resident Jack Wu and former forum columnist for the Newport Beach Independent, Daily Pilot and OC Register, stepped down from the Newport Beach Finance Committee after he was accused of stealing nearly $175,000 from U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher when Wu worked as his campaign treasurer.
Wu was appointed to the finance committee in January.
The discrepancy in Rohrabacher’s campaign account was reported to authorities, but no criminal charges had been filed.
► After several months of heated debate, one of the undergrounding petitions in Newport Heights (district 118) were withdrawn and terminated.
Undergrounding proponents said they wanted to take a step back, regroup and consider their choices for the future.
Residents could request a new petition process in the future.
The other Newport Heights petition in District 114 was still active.
►On July 20, the Flame of Hope (the official torch for the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015) was carried through the city on its journey to the opening ceremonies of the World Games on July 25.
Newport Beach Police Department runners joined an international team of law enforcement officers and Special Olympics athletes in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg.
► Stephen John Esser, 47, Dana Point, and David Roger Stanley, 40, Downey, were charged with animal cruelty (among other charges) on July 16 for cutting down a tree which housed migratory and protected birds at a Newport Beach home
The residence, located in the 1500 Block of East Balboa Blvd., was under construction when the incident occurred in May.
Knowing the birds lived there, the two men cut down the tree and about 12 nestlings fell out of the tree, five of which did not survive. The adult birds managed to escape and flew away.
► Paul Watkins was selected as the 2015 Newport Beach Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce.
Watkins has been a longtime servant of the city and been involved in a variety of groups and organizations.
► The tutor who hacked into a Corona del Mar High School teacher’s computer and changed grades for a group of CdM students during the 2012 to 2013 school year was sentenced to one year in jail and five years of formal probation.
Timothy Lance Lai, 29, pleaded guilty to a court offer to 20 felony counts of computer access and fraud and one felony count of second degree commercial burglary.
► City Council decided against a censure of Councilman Scott Peotter, instead voting to “disassociate” the city from his recent email about same-sex marriage.
Council voted 4-3 on Aug. 11 on a revised, more lenient resolution following more than two hours of discussion. Councilmen Peotter, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and Kevin Muldoon dissented. Peotter maintained that he did not misuse the city seal
The email newsletter in question had an image of the Newport Beach city seal, Peotter’s name, and the words City Council. Underneath the header was an image of the White House with rainbow lighting on it and men embracing in front.
In the newsletter, he voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage and questioned the Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay marriage and the LGBT community’s use of the rainbow symbol.
In another item, council voted 7-0 to prohibit use of the city seal or a photo of the city seal for anything other than official business.
► Police interviewed four suspects related to a recent incident at Edwards Big Newport 6 movie theater involving leaf blowers.
A group of people entered a theater screening the psychological thriller “The Gift,” held up loud machines later determined to be leaf blowers, and yelled, causing a disturbance.
Three of the suspects were described as young men, between the ages of 15 to 20. The fourth was a young girl, also between 15 and 20-years-old
Newport Beach Police Department detectives later finished their investigation and turned it over to county authorities.
The three juveniles were forwarded to Juvenile Probation and the adult was forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
► Ten new sculptures were installed at the Newport Beach Civic Center Park, including three steel saplings, a giant metallic fly, and a pebble weighing 12,000 pounds.
The artworks join the 10 current works that have been on display for the past year as part of the city’s Civic Center Park Sculpture Exhibition.
The original 10 works will be rotated out next summer and replaced with a new set; the newly installed artwork will be rotated out in 2017.
► Around 2 a.m. on Aug. 19, a 10-inch water pipe broke in the 4100 block of MacArthur Boulevard, near Von Karman Avenue and spilled approximately 1 million gallons.
There was some damage to vehicles parked in a nearby underground parking structure that was flooded.
Water service was temporarily shut off while crews repaired the pipeline. It was restored to all buildings in the area, except the parking garage, by 10:24 a.m. the same day.
► Newport Beach police rescued a man from a partially submerged vehicle in the Back Bay on Aug. 31 in the area of Back Bay Drive and Shellmaker Road.
Responding officers found the car partially submerged and two of the three teen occupants, a male driver and a female passenger, already out of the vehicle and on dry land. The third was trapped inside the vehicle by his seatbelt and was struggling to keep his head above water.
Police officers entered the water and one officer, who wished to remain unnamed, helped the young man cut the seatbelt so that he could be safely brought to the shore.
There was no indication that drugs or alcohol or any other vehicles were involved.
► The Orange County Sanitation District provided details on Phase 2 of the Mariner’s Mile sewer pipe construction project on Coast Highway during a presentation Cliff Park community center.
Work began in late September and is scheduled to finish in May 2016.
The Newport force main rehabilitation project is rehabilitating approximately 28,000 feet of 20 to 36-inch diameter sewer pipe along PCH between the OCSD Bitter Point Pump Station just west of Superior Avenue to Dover Drive.
► A Newport Beach Police Department officer was injured in a single vehicle collision with a tree.
Police received a call around 2:14 p.m. on Sept. 6 about an accident on Jamboree Road, near the San Joaquin Hills Road intersection. No other vehicles or people were involved.
The officer was injured in the collision and transported to a trauma center. He suffered non-life threatening injuries and was released from the hospital on Sept. 8.
► Balboa’s ExplorOcean debuted a 45-foot-long, bright yellow catamaran during a ceremony Sept. 9.
The sunny twin-hulled boat will lead kids on educational excursions around the bay and harbor.
The 14 ½-foot, 13,000-pound craft was custom made specifically for ExplorOcean
► The controversial 401-acre housing and mixed-use Banning Ranch development was presented to the California Coastal Commission on Oct. 7.
After more than eight hours of discussion, commissioners unanimously voted to postpone their decision and hear the project again in 90 days.
The main reason behind the commission’s uncertainty and ultimate action for extension are the Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas.
Several of the commissioners acknowledged that there is potential for a project in the area, but maybe not exactly what was proposed. Most agreed that a lot of work still needed to be done.
Commissioners urged NBR officials to listen carefully to the commission, staff and public comments that were made.
► Plans for the Lido House Hotel, the boutique hotel slated to replace the old Newport Beach city hall on the Balboa Peninsula, cleared the California Coastal Commission on Oct. 7 in a 10-2 vote. Commissioners Martha McClure and Erik Howell dissented.
Commissioners focused their discussion around the proposed low/no cost educational program for kids, dubbed Fostering Interest in Nature, suggested since the hotel does not include any low-cost overnight accommodations.
Many of the commissioners expressed concerns about how the program will continue after the 10 years and $1.4 million obligation from the developer are up.
► Hundreds of spectators and participants took to the beach on Oct. 4 for the 54th Annual Sandcastle Contest.
This year’s theme was “Castles, Cars & Kids.” Nearly two dozen teams of family, friends, work, church or school groups joined in the fun.
Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.
► Dancing and late nights came back to Woody’s Wharf restaurant after City Council approved permit amendments 4-3 on Oct. 13 that would allow for more nights of dancing, later patio hours, and earlier opening hours.
The council also agreed to pay $355,000 as part of a settlement with Woody`s during a closed session meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon and councilmen Keith Curry and Tony Petros dissented on both votes.
► Donald Fuschetti, 45, of Lake Elsinore, died after walking southbound across Westcliff Drive along Rutland Road inside a marked crosswalk around 8:15 p.m. on Oct. 11 when an SUV hit him.
The silver Lexus was headed eastbound on Westcliff Drive when the collision occurred. The driver remained on scene and was cooperative with investigators.
It did not appear that drugs or alcohol were contributing factors.
► An 8-foot hammerhead was seen in the water near the end of Newport Pier around 11 a.m. on Oct. 19. The beach between 10th and 40th streets (one mile in each direction from the sighting location) on the Balboa Peninsula was shut down.
The shark did not display any aggressive behavior. Signs were posted to notify the public. After no further sightings, the beach was reopened later that day.
► The city sent out a message on Nov. 17 asking for comments from the public about a proposed Coyote Management Plan.
The plan, which was modeled on plans used by other cities, included information relating to coyotes in urban environments, public education and hazing protocols.
The city aims to protect residents and pets, while attempting to change coyote behaviors that bring coyotes too close to urban environments.
► Conceptual plans for the CdM library and fire station project, or “fibrary” as it’s commonly called, were unanimously approved Nov. 24 by the Newport Beach City Council.
Council approved floor plan option D-4, and rendering option 3 as the preferred floor plan layout and exterior architectural style concept for the project.
The 10,000-square-foot building would include stroller parking, children’s area, and an exterior reading porch. The plans also include 30 parking spaces on site.
► Newport Beach Police Department Chief Jay Johnson announced his plans to retire before the end of the year in an email to NBPD staff in late November.
Johnson praised the city, and the department he has led since 2010.
His last day was slated to be Dec. 23, but he offered to stay on in 2016 until a replacement is found.
► Council members voted 4-3 on Nov. 24 to authorize a $300,000 contract with R.W. Block Consulting, Inc., for a one-phase plan with periodic reporting to the city council for the audit of the $140 million civic center and park project. The vote also included $52,920 for the independent manager’s agreement.
Mayor Ed Selich, and councilmen Tony Petros and Keith Curry dissented.
The total budget of $352,920 for the audit is triple the original amount of $100,000 that was originally approved by the council earlier this year.
According to the report, staff asked for the bigger figure because the original budget “may not be a feasible” amount to get the job done.
► The grand opening of the $35.8 million Marina Park was held Dec. 5 at 1600 W. Balboa Blvd., on the Balboa Peninsula.
The event featured an official ribbon cutting ceremony, program demonstrations, a christening of the fleet, an open house and tours, and more.
Hundreds of people attended the celebration of the 10.5-acre site, known as the “Window to the Bay.”
► City Council members voted unanimously on Dec. 8 for Diane Dixon to serve as the mayor for 2016 and Kevin Muldoon as mayor pro tem.
Both the new mayor, mayor pro tem and outgoing Mayor Ed Selich said a few words during the council meeting and later in night during the Chamber of Commerce’s Mayor Reception.
With Dixon in the middle, the council also reorganized the seating arrangements and played “musical chairs” as they divided the dais the same way several votes were split during the year.
Without saying a word, they swapped seats so that the newest council members from “Team Newport” (Muldoon, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and Scott Peotter) were to Dixon’s right and the seasoned council members from what’s left of the “Dream Team” (Ed Selich, Keith Curry and Tony Petros) were to her left.
► On Dec. 10, the California Coastal Commission voted 11-1 in support of the Back Bay Landing project land use plan amendment, paving the way to develop a proposed mixed use project on the bay front property. Commissioner Effie Turnbull- Sanders dissented.
Commissioners and public speakers focused their discussion and concerns on a currently private walkway around the mobile homes that is planned to open up to the public.
The application for the actual 7-acre site along East Coast Highway project still needs to be reviewed and approved by the commission, as well as city council, before any development begins.
► Nearly 100 decorated boats of all sizes cruised along the shore of Newport Harbor during the 107th annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.
On Dec. 16, Arte Moreno, owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Grand Marshal for opening night, boarded the lead boat at the Balboa Bay Resort.