Council Approves Bayview Heights Drainage Project

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City Council approved funding for the Bayview Heights Drainage Improvement Project Wednesday.

After some debate, council members approved the motion 3-2, with councilmen Mike Henn and Tony Petros dissenting and councilwomen Nancy Gardner recusing herself because of a relationship with Newport Bay Conservancy and Leslie Daigle absent.

Mayor Rush Hill made the motion to accept the terms as presented by the staff with the exception of the $25,000 donation from each of the two property owners and have the city look to the general fund to fund the balance.

When the track was built in the early 1950s, the drainage of the track was concentrated down to Mesa Drive, put into a storm drain system. The storm drain daylighted out of Mesa Drive onto the adjacent properties, flowed across the properties in a natural swell, working its way to the back of the property and then worked its way down the back slope into the upper bay.

Over the years this has caused some erosion, said Public Works Director Dave Webb. It’s formed “quite a little gully” back there, he noted.

Hill commented that when he saw the severity of the drainage and found it to be “very shocking,” he said.

The city inherited it from the county, Webb pointed out.

The city was approached by two of the property owners about four and a half years ago about the project. There is also a third property owner, the county of Orange.

They met, along with the Newport Bay Conservancy, to figure out how to deal with issue.

The plan was that if the three property owners contributed to the design of the project the city would go ahead and work through the grant process, which they did get through Measure M.

The agreement was that the property owners would contribute $50,000 each toward the design, Webb said.

It’s about $160,000 for the design, Webb said.

The Measure M grant funds that the city acquired equal $305,000. From that, Webb continued, about $30,000 would go toward the design, $275,000 for construction

At the last meeting, one or both property owners wanted to see if they could lower their contribution, Webb explained.

Property owner Justin Cox said his understanding was that the property owners would contribute a total of $50,000, he said, or $25,000 each.

The original discussion was $50,000 each, Webb responded. Cox was referring to the current agreement that is written up in draft form that has a typographical error that refers to a total of $50,000, Webb explained.

“The intent was $50,000 each. The word ‘each’ is not there, so they’re reading that as $25,000 each and the county of Orange is also going to pay $50,000,” Webb noted.

Henn questioned where the county will stand if the two property owners pay less. They may want to also pay less, he pointed out.

Cox replied that the county has agreed to pay the $50,000 regardless of the property owner contribution, he said.

“We’re not trying to be greedy,” Cox said. “But we’re looking at it like, the city and the county originally caused this problem.”

“A general member of the public wouldn’t expect the county, and now the city, to dump storm drain water on the property,” he said.

“While I appreciate the arguments of the property owners and I have some sympathy for those arguments,” Henn said, “neither though, do I think that the city should have to step up for an ever larger share in recompense for that when it was a county issue to start with and especially if the county share would go down because of the private property owners. The city did not cause this problem.”

“I don’t know why we require the private property owners to do anything,” Hill said.

“Because it was an agreement,” Petros responded. “As a private property owner, I wouldn’t have stepped up and made the agreement to participate. But somebody did. That’s the point.”

There was no signed agreement, Cox pointed out. They understood it as $25,000, he reiterated.

“I understand there is some discrepancy on that,” Cox said. “I say again, I don’t know why we’re paying anything for this issue up here, but we’re trying to volunteer and come forward and correct an issue. I think the property owners should be commended for stepping forward and putting any money into something that was created by a government situation.”

It still remains that private parties agreed to participate, Petros emphasized.

“It was your word,” Petros said. “I agree with this project, but just the principle of saying, ‘Yeah, I agree to something,” and then when there’s some daylight to say ‘Ah, I was only kidding.’ It kind of just smacks me a little bit.”

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