Balboa Peninsula projects were at the center of a community forum this week, which included several important updates.
Mayor Diane Dixon hosted a town hall at Marina Park on Monday, covering several issues and projects related to district 1, which covers the Peninsula, Lido Isle, and West Newport.
Topics included conceptual ideas for a boardwalk infrastructure project, an update on the relocation of the Lido fire station, and progress on the Newport Pier and restaurant.
The liveliest discussion revolved around a popular hot topic: The Boardwalk.
Public Works Director Dave Webb explained that traffic and mobility conflicts on the Balboa Peninsula Boardwalk have been discussed several times at past forums, and they concluded that a separate, parallel trail was needed.
There is funding in this year’s budget to start a study to add a separate trail between 15th to 36th streets. It will likely take a five-year study, Webb said.
The goal is to reduce the mobility conflicts, clear up some of the congestion, and get people moving, Webb explained. Other cities have added a separate trail and found that it works well, he noted.
The challenge will be getting through McFadden Square and the parking lot at the pier, he added. It’s been about 30 years since that area has been rebuilt or seriously worked on, so the project will probably include plaza improvements.
“We’re really going to have to work with the community to come up with some ideas on that,” Webb said.
Going the other direction, they may have to just widen it, he added.
The 15th to 36th section is a “manageable chunk” for the time being, not necessarily where the most volume is, Webb pointed out. There is a restroom facility and a commercial center at 15th Street, which create a definable node where the project could end.
If the community feels another section of boardwalk, like between Newport and Balboa piers, is a higher priority, staff will look at that section, Webb confirmed.
Staff will soon request proposals and get a consultant on board, Webb explained. They will then have to determine project constraints and meet with the California Coastal Commission, which will likely be the biggest hurdle, figuring out how to work with what the state agency will allow the city to do, Webb said.
The next step will to come up with some rough concepts to bring back to the community and start the discussion and gather resident input. Then it’s back to the regulatory agencies, like the CCC, to get approvals for construction.
This is all assuming there is funding available for the entire project and a majority support on the Council.
“This is going to be an expensive project,” Webb said. “Running that much trail is going to be expensive.”
Resident Craig Batley questioned why this project was even being considered. Apart from a few months every year, congestion is not that bad.
“The problem is not the traffic or the number of people on the boardwalk, especially during the off-season, the problem is electronic vehicles,” bicycles and skateboards, Batley said.
Extending or widening the boardwalk probably won’t be very popular among locals, he commented.
More enforcement is needed, several residents agreed.
Enforcement is part of it, Webb concurred. This project is just the start to try and address the overall issue, he added.
“I don’t know if we’re ever going to solve (all) the mobility issues we have, we’ve been talking about this for 40 years, so that’s the plan right now,” that might mitigate some of those issues and there seems to be some consensus from previous forums, Webb said.
They anticipate the vehicle traffic will likely be on the outside path and pedestrians on the inside, along the houses, which will hopefully help congestion.
Another highlight from Monday’s meeting was an update about relocating the Lido fire station.
The current station is currently located at 475 32nd St. In late 2017, the city purchased the old McDonald’s property at 2807 Newport Blvd. (at the corner of 28th Street) for $4 million from MNG Newport Beach, LLC.
The existing fire station is more than 60 years old and is at the end of its useful life. It does not meet operational needs for equipment.
At the time the Council approved the relocation, some neighbors were concerned about the noise and lights the new fire station would cause in their community. A few residents spoke at the 2017 Council meeting, saying the “McFire station” would be a nuisance, negatively impact their quality of life, and change response time.
Some of those concerns were raised again on Monday.
Newport Beach Fire Department Chief Chip Duncan said the department makes an effort to use the audible sirens only when absolutely needed (and sometimes when required by the vehicle code).
When they were studying response times from the new station, the very tip of Lido Isle was the most concerning location, Duncan noted. The move will make it a slightly longer route to that neighborhood, but it will still be under four minutes, he confirmed.
Overall, it’s a more central location, so an engine can get down to either end of the peninsula quicker, Duncan noted. It also decreases their response time to Newport Shores, he added.
“It’s kind of a Rubik’s cube,” moving the station will cause some neighborhoods to gain time and take a little longer to reach, but others will see a reduced time and response will be faster, Duncan explained. “The goal is to make sure that we don’t gain a lot on one end.”
It’s a bigger and better location for the station, Webb said.
“From a circulation standpoint, it works really well,” Webb added.
Parking will be in the back, with access on 28th Street, Webb explained. The project will also include public restrooms, he confirmed.
The public informally voted on a few design options at previous community meetings, with residents preferring a “Lido House” style. Webb also added a more traditional, “brick-type” option that was suggested by the community. Monday’s audience strongly preferred the Lido House styled station.
Staff hopes to get some consensus from the community and then take the design concept to City Council for review, hopefully by July or August. There will be more opportunity for public input, Dixon noted.
There is also some environmental work that needs to be done before construction starts, which won’t be for another year to 18 months.
The city will decommission the old station and the Council will consider options for the property.
Monday’s meeting also updated residents about the Newport Pier and restaurant project, another project that has been in the works for several years.
Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis said the existing building is dilapidated. The actual pier structure also needs some “TLC” because it’s been “beaten up by the waves,” Jurjis noted. Some structural upgrades are needed, he added.
City staff has strategized if there are any opportunities to move the new building inland, but found it to be cost-prohibitive, Jurjis noted.
The 1000-foot long pier presents some logistical challenges, including bringing utilities and equipment to the end.
City staff has been working with Bluewater Grill for the last few years to come up with a deal to get a new structure at the end of the pier.
“It’s complicated because the pier structure sits over the ocean and the Coastal Commission has jurisdiction over it,” Jurjis explained. “We’re being strategic about it.”
They haven’t torn down the old building yet for good reason, he said.
Instead of removing the existing building, letting the pier sit empty while a deal is worked out, and then applying to the CCC for a new restaurant project (which would be scrutinized as taking away a public amenity), staff wants to work out a deal first, then “do everything in one shot,” Jurjis explained.
Staff plans to bring a proposal to Council on July 23, then submit an application to the CCC. They hope to start work in spring 2020, with an opening in spring 2021.
City officials also spoke about the current status of the John Wayne Airport General Aviation Improvement Program, the General Plan Update process, and police strategies for Fourth of July this year.