Arch Will Welcome People to Balboa Village

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An artist’s rendering of the Balboa Village arch. — Courtesy city of Newport Beach ©
An artist’s rendering of the Balboa Village arch.
— Courtesy city of Newport Beach ©

Instead of a wagon or mat, Balboa Village will say “Welcome” with an archway.

Newport Beach City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday to approve the construction contract for the Balboa Village Entry Arch Sign Project.

The contract was awarded to AToM Engineering Construction, Inc., of Hemet for the total bid price of $234,398. Approval of the item also established an amount of $23,500 (approximately 10 percent) to cover the cost of unforeseen work not included in the original contract and $2,777 for printing and incidentals.

It will be funded with $179,675 from the previously approved 2014-15 Capital Improvement Program budget, and augmented with parking revenue of $81,000 earmarked for the wayfinding project.

The steel archway will display “Balboa Village” across the top in large letters, include LED lighting, with a lantern atop a pillar on both sides, and specialized ocean and beach themed inlays along the arch. In the center of the arch will be the Balboa Village seal, which displays the Balboa Pavilion, Ferris wheel and the words “Home of the Fun Zone” and “Est. 1906.” It will cross E. Balboa Boulevard at Adams Street.

The Balboa Village Advisory Committee has been working for several years on a revitalization plan for the community, noted Councilman Keith Curry, and this is just one part of the outcome for the complete plan.

“I am confident that it’s going to help part of our overall strategy to revitalize Balboa Village,” Curry said.

Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon, and councilmen Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and Scott Peotter dissented. Peotter pulled the item from the consent calendar.

“I’m concerned about its cost, I’m concerned about how it fits in the overall improvement of the district,” Peotter said. “I have a difficult time wondering why we even need an arch down there.”

Peotter suggested tabling the arch project for a year until the city has gathered more information.

He wants to see a “complete picture” for the other wayfinding signs, Peotter noted. He also expressed concern that there has not been enough input from some of the prominent stakeholders in the community, specifically ExplorOcean and LAB Holding, LLC, the company behind the new plans for the Balboa Theater property (still in negotiations).

It is a complete plan, it does have the support of the stakeholders mentioned, and is complementary of the vision of the redevelopment of the village, countered Councilman Tony Petros.

The archway is a key component of the way finding signage project, which was included as part of the revitalization effort in 2012, explained Community Development Director Kim Brandt.

The arch is one element that is interconnected with all of the other signs, Petros agreed.

“There (already) is a comprehensive sign plan that includes all of the elements,” Petros said.

The details have been hammered out, added Kelly Carlson, Vice President of Balboa Village Merchants Association. There was a lot of discussion about the lights and the extra cost, she said.

It’s disheartening to see it pulled from the consent calendar after all the hard work they’ve put into the plan, Carlson said.

As far as input from the stakeholders is concerned, there have been numerous Balboa Village Advisory Committee meetings where the project was discussed with residents and business owners.

Specifically speaking to Peotter’s concerns, Petros mentioned that ExplorOcean is a member of BVAC and has provided input on the arch and all the wayfinding signs. Petros also pointed out that Shaheen Sadeghi, creator and founder of LAB Holding, was on the Urban Land Institute’s Technical Assistance Panel for the Balboa Village and had direct input.

Duffield had other concerns about the archway. The people he spoke with were confused as to how the sign would stimulate business.

“I just don’t see the connection of the sign saving everybody’s businesses,” Duffield said.

He also didn’t think it would help visitors locate the area any better.

“There’s only one road there, you can’t miss it,” Duffield said. “Wayfinding… I’m not sure I buy that.”

The sign should also be smaller, Duffield said. The proposed arch is too “dominating.”

It’s also not the most “pleasant looking” sign, added Muldoon, who said he was swayed by the points made by Duffield because “there is no man I trust more for his judgment of business in the harbor area,” Muldoon said.

It is “utterly short-sided” of council members to substitute their own judgments and personal political views for the testimony from numerous businesses, residents, and others invested in the revitalization of Balboa Village, Curry retorted.

A handful of residents and business owners spoke during public comment on Tuesday, almost all in support of the project. A few urged the council members to view it as an investment, while others described it as a landmark and noted that it will help create an identity for the village.

“Balboa Village, unfortunately, has been a forgotten area for decades,” said Marcel Ford, President of Balboa Village Merchants Association.

The BVMA has been working hard with “nickels and dimes” to progress past the blighted image of the village, Ford said.

“The place needs a lot of help,” Ford said. “Balboa Village is kind of beat up.”

In letters written to the Council,  another handful of people voiced their opinion but in opposition of the archway.

Critics labeled the project a waste of funds and unnecessary.

“That is an absolute waste of money,” wrote Newport Beach resident Jennifer Perez. “Please be more responsible.”

She suggested the city invest the money in a more useful project, like flashing crosswalks, or save the funds.

“We don’t want or need this,” noted Martha Kerstner.

This is taking the money from residents and using it to decorate the city with “unnecessary garnishes,” wrote Perry Brown.

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