Commission Upholds Approval of Redesigned Newport Marina

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A Google satellite image of the area where the proposed Newport Marina is located on Bayshore Drive, right next to the homes of the residents appealing the project’s current design approval.

Following a passionate discussion this week, the Newport Beach Harbor Commission denied an appeal by residents regarding the decision to approve a modified version of the proposed Newport Marina in the Bayshores community.

Commissioners voted 4-2 on Wednesday to uphold city Harbor Resource Manager Chris Miller’s approval of the proposed marina configuration at 2888 Bayshore Dr. About 50 people attended the meeting.

Although staff recommended the project to be exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act because it has “no potential to have a significant effect on the environment,” the motion included changing it so the project would be subject to CEQA.

Commissioners Paul Blank and Scott Cunningham dissented. Commissioner John Drayton was absent.

In 2016, the applicant submitted a proposal to reconfigure their commercial marina. A neighbor appealed because of the potential for the boats to drift into his water space.

Over a series of meetings, the Commission amended the decision and placed conditions upon the proposed project.

The applicant did not resubmit a revised proposal, instead, they spent the following two years searching for a solution for ingress and egress to a back channel via the north (opposite) side of the marina, adjacent to the Coast Highway Bridge.

The new proposed project, instead of having an ingress/egress on the southern border, like it was in 2016, the applicant “redesigned the entire marina” in order to have access on the northern side, Miller explained.

“In their eyes, they have addressed all the concerns that were raised in 2016,” Miller said.

Staff determined that this project was completely different than the proposal previously made and considered by the Commission, so city staff treated it as a new application.

Shawna Schaffner with CAA Planning, Inc., representing the appellants argued that the project is incompatible, not only with the residents and community, but also with the Coastal Act.

“This project is fundamentally flawed,” Schaffner said.

The new plan reduces the overall number of slips by three, but within those proposed 50 slips are a few more for large boats than previously planned, going from five 65-foot slips proposed in 2016 to nine in the current proposal.

“This new design moves small boat access from the south to the north and it moves the largest boat slips directly in front of the private residences,” Schaffner explained.

In the appeal letter, which Schaffner wrote on behalf of neighbors Kevin Moriarty, Glen Walcott, Zach Fischer, and Terry Morrison, argues several points of concern, including privacy, safety, view rights, due process and noticing, and setting a bad precedent.

“The marina owners are effectively increasing their revenue while avoiding impacts to their real estate, all at the expense of their neighbors,” Schaffner wrote in the appeal letter. “The marina owners should be able to redevelop their commercial marina, however, to do so at the expense of safety, common sense, and just plain being a good neighbor, would be a shame.”

Although the applicants’ lawyer, Mike Hewitt, pointed out that there has always been boats in front of that stretch of land. The residents knew and understood that this was a possibility, he added.

“This is no surprise,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt also reiterated city staff’s point that private view rights are not considered with harbor projects.

But the appellants commented that there has been no evaluation as to whether this plan is appropriate given its location.

They have tried to work to find a solution that works for everyone, Moriarty said. They have presented several compromised plans to the marina owners, Allyson and Ron Presta.

They are “shocked” the applicants proposed this design, Walcott added. They’ve met with the Prestas numerous times, Walcott reiterated.

“The purpose of those meetings was really to try to provide opportunities and solutions to allowing them to get a beautiful, great marina built here that we believe will work great for what they need to do economically for their marina and also be very compatible with our residences, and the rest of Newport Beach, from a precedent setting perspective,” Walcott said.

There are more plans that are more compatible with the nearby residential neighborhood, Fischer said.

“We do support the redevelopment of this marina, just not at the expense of the homeowners,” Fischer said.

On behalf of the marina owners, Hewitt later replied that this is the best designed marina for this location.

Everything is designed to be economical for the marina, while considering access for their tenants, and all within the city’s guidelines, Hewitt concluded.

Schaffner said that after reviewing 20 marinas in Newport Harbor, they didn’t find any like the proposed marina, she commented.

Although city staff found that the 2018 proposed plan conforms to the city’s Harbor Design Standards without any requests for variances.

Another key concern of the residents appealing the current project’s approval was safety. The redeveloped marina will be located within six inches of the common water-side property line where Moriarty’s 70-foot boat is side-tied within his own property line. This will allow the public to access his property by simply stepping off the marina and onto his boat, Schaffner pointed out.

“There is an inherent risk to safety and liability to the homeowner if the public is able to access a residential property,” Schaffner wrote in the appeal letter.

Hewitt responded by pointing out that if a member of the public wanted to reach the private property, they would could use a stand-up paddleboard or kayak to gain access. It’s not contingent on the marina, he said.

Other points of objection from Schaffner and the appellants included the lack of notification, and that the previous plan was less environmentally damaging, since the new plan will require more maintenance dredging.

An outline of the 2018 Newport Marina proposal overlaid on top of a satellite image of the area. (click to enlarge)
— Courtesy city of Newport Beach/Bellingham Marine
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