Balboa Marina Project Takes a Step Forward

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CITY OF NEWPORT BEACHCity Council unanimously agreed last week to uphold the Planning Commission’s approval of the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Balboa Marina project.

After more than an hour of discussion during the Nov. 25 meeting, council voted 7-0 to “uphold and affirm” the commission’s decision.

The Linda Isle Homeowners Association had filed an appeal of the commission’s approval of the environmental document for the project located at 151 and 201 East Coast Highway.

The project would expand the Balboa Marina with 24 new private slips and relocate four and build eight new public slips for a new public dock.

It would also include construction of a 19,400-square-foot marine commercial building for a yacht brokerage office, public restrooms, possibly a restaurant, and reconfigured parking.

Several of the council members clarified that they were considering just the environmental document, not the entire project of what will eventually be built on the site.

Planning Program Manager Patrick Alford provided some background and project information during a short presentation.

“This is just one step in the process,” Alford said.

This is the still-conceptual landside of the project, the water-side will go through the Harbor Commission, staff explained.

It is not the last discussion about the project, staff noted.

The purpose of the document is to identify potential significant environmental impacts, Alford explained, and then offer ways to either avoid or mitigate those impacts.

The appeal presents seven issues concerning the MND: Failed to analyze the cumulative impacts on the Back Bay Landing Project; noise and vibration impact analysis was inadequate; more water and wastewater data needed; more analysis of aesthetic impacts; more information on grading; failed to address the full range of potential uses; and revise and re-circulate the MND.

The city’s environmental consultant Tracy Zinn, vice president of T&B Planning, the firm that prepared the MND, addressed some of those concerns.

“The MND was very thorough,” she said of the nearly 200-page document.

It describes six areas that would be significantly impacted and proposes mitigation measures to deal with those issues and lessen the impact in all six cases, she explained.

The identified areas include: Aesthetics, biological resources, hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use and planning, and noise

It was circulated as required by CEQA, she said.

The city received 11 letters from residents, she added, including one from the firm representing the homeowner’s association filing the appeal. Her firm responded to each comment and specifically addressed the concerns raised by the HOA prior to and again during the Planning Commission meeting, Zinn explained.

Paige Gosney, an attorney at Jackson DeMarco Tidus Peckenpaugh representing the appellant, Linda Isle Homeowner’s Association, also spoke.

“There are several deficiencies with the MND,” he said. “There is information that’s not defined, not analyzed, impacts that aren’t factored in.”

He didn’t want to “rehash” the same points that have been previously discussed and debated, but those concerns were not properly addressed, he said.

“The reason that we’re here tonight… is because the city’s responses are not adequate and they haven’t addressed the issues that have been raised in our letter,” Gosney continued.

Their real objection is that the document is being approved without an actual project, he emphasized.

Gosney briefly explained a few of the issues raised in the letter, specifically pointing out the impacts on the Back Bay Project, the piecemealing of the entire project and the inadequate noise testing.

Residents also raised several concerns during public comment, including noise, Back Bay Landing Project, potential issues with the very narrow channel, loss of view, lack of community outreach, and more.

Many of the concerns will be addressed as the rest of the project goes through the review process, staff noted.

All of the comments and concerns that the city received were discussed by staff, along with the co-applicant and the consultant, Assistant City Attorney Leonie Mulvihill pointed out.

“I haven’t heard anything new this evening,” Mulvihill said.

She did clarify that the project was evaluated against the city’s water management plan, although some of the information did reference the Irvine Ranch Water District. It will be served by the city’s water service

She also addressed a few of the other issues raised by residents.

“I think we are going to agree to disagree, both on the case analysis that was presented in the responses, as far as deferred mitigation,” she said, “and as well as whether or not this document did adequately analyze the environmental impacts as required by CEQA. Our office has concluded based on what we’ve seen and based on what we’ve known, that it does.”

“I can certainly empathize with the concerns that the residents of Linda Isle have,” Councilman Ed Selich. “It’s something that I’m certainly concerned about.”

But, this is the first step in the process, he continued ,there will be time to make decisions and study the project details when the plan actually comes in and there is a site plan review. The environmental document is completely adequate, he added.

“You can be assured that if I’m still on the council when the project comes before the council that it will get a thorough review for all the concerns that you have, that you’ve expressed in your correspondence and in your testimony tonight,” said Selich, who moved to approve the item.

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  1. So lets get things clear, is the Back Bay Landing Project the same as the Bayside Village LLC just on the other side of the PCH bridge? The combination of the two projects are never spoken about together, and COMBINED impacts to Linda Island, Bayside Village, and the Dunes. Or is it the Irvine Company gets its way because they’re the Irvine Company, owners of the “Golden Monopoly Board”? I really don’t care one way or the other, but the playing field needs to be a level one when our taxes are being used to make the decisions. Water Quality is still a joke because of the upper bay and the massaging of all the wonderful BS is embarrassing to say the least.