Newport Harbor Yacht Club

The Newport Harbor Yacht Club hopes to replace its facilities, built in 1919. (Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

For any social group, with age often comes prestige.

At the Newport Harbor Yacht Club — the oldest yacht club in Newport Beach — it also brings a crumbling building.

For at least a decade, a club committee has tried to find a way to address the issues that arise with a facility that is about as old as the 98-year-old club itself.

The proposed solution is to replace the existing two-story building with a new structure — one that looks nearly the same but larger.

The Planning Commission approved the new project last week. The Newport Beach City Council and the California Coastal Commission will now consider the proposal.

"Our club has been there almost 100 years now, and it's kind of going to fall down one of these days," said Jeff Gordon, chairman of the committee trying to solve the problem. "It's on its last legs, literally."

The new building would be about 4,000 square feet larger to comply with modern requirements for wider hallways, more restrooms and bigger food-preparation areas. It would also be a little taller, to the chagrin of at least one neighbor who enjoys his view of the bay over the current building. The foundation would be raised to 9.5 feet above sea level to address concerns about possible flooding.

But the facility would still be two stories, covered with white paneling and built largely within the same footprint. The layout would be similar, with major rooms in the same areas where they are now, in keeping with the wishes of members, Gordon said.

The current structure dates to 1919, when finalized plans for a development that promised to "be the finest thing of its sort in Southern California when completed" were announced in the Los Angeles Times.

Established in 1916, the club initially used a one-story structure that adventuring members of what became the Los Angeles Yacht Club once operated from, according to a historical review by the Chambers Group, an environmental consulting firm.

The Los Angeles boaters had abandoned the space — called Station A — in 1915 as dangerous and remote, and the early Newport Yacht Club members made an effort to restore it, the review says.

But they too moved on, occupying a rented home complete with a wharf and a rowboat instead, at least until the 1919 construction began.

The building has undergone so many changes since that it was not found to be of historical significance, though members want the feel to stay the same if it is rebuilt, Gordon said.

"We're not doing any of this to attract more people," Gordon said. "We are a yacht club. We could operate out of anything. It is what we do, not where we do it."

Other area yacht clubs have either opened new facility or plan improvements.  

Big Canyon Country Club, established in 1971, opened a new facility in 2010, and the Newport Beach Country Club, founded in 1954, has been given permission to replace its clubhouse too, said Larry Tucker, vice chairman of the Planning Commission.

The Balboa Bay Club has also made recent improvements.

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emily.foxhall@latimes.com

Foxhall writes for Times Community News.