Balboa Island Ferry supporters fight to keep it afloat in wake of state mandate

The Balboa Island ferry transports cars and people across the Newport Harbor.
The Balboa Island Ferry, which has been a part of the essential fabric of Newport Beach since 1919 and is one of the most iconic Newport Beach tourism experiences, has less than two years to go electric due to a California Air Resources Board mandate that all short run ferries in the state convert to electric engines by December 2025.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, March 29. We are Carol Cormaci and Vince Nguyen bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter. Together we’ve aggregated the latest local news and events for you.

A recent mandate by the California Air Resources Board will require the Balboa Island Ferry to equip its three boats with zero-emission engines by the end of December 2025. The challenge for the small, century-old business to meet that deadline is all about funding.

According to the owner of the iconic ferry, Seymour Beek, the cost to retrofit and replace the existing engines is astronomical.

In an interview with our Daily Pilot colleague Lilly Nguyen, Beek said the business has turned to a consultant to help find ways to pay for the conversions, which look like they’ll total somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million. So far, they’ve had no luck.

“We just can’t afford it,” Beek told Nguyen. “It’s $2.5 million to convert the first boat — to do the engineering and design — if it can even be done. The feasibility of it has yet to be proved. We’re not sure we can do it because of our cramped space and so on. Everybody talks about the funding that’s available, but we haven’t found it yet.

“We’re a business that, for the first time, exceeded $2 million in 2022,” he continued. “We don’t make a profit. Some years, we don’t make any profit. Expecting us to spend $2.5 million on the first boat and each boat after, $1 million, plus putting in the battery charging stations on shore ... is probably another half a million,” he continued. “It’s just out of our ballpark. We can’t do it. If something doesn’t give, we’re out of business.”

State Assemblywoman Diane Dixon, a former member of the Newport Beach City Council, said she plans to introduce a bill to try to protect the ferry.

“His current diesel engines have consistently met all state environmental requirements, so this isn’t an issue of him avoiding conversion,” Dixon said in an interview with Nguyen. “... The technology just doesn’t exist [for boats of the Balboa Island Ferry’s size]. It just does not make sense in my mind that he has to comply or go out of business as of Dec. 31, 2025.”

Also wading in to rescue the operation is Gary Sherwin, president and chief executive of Visit Newport Beach.

“It’s inconceivable that we could have Newport Beach without the Balboa ferry. Not only would it be heartbreaking but, from a visitor attraction perspective, it would be a major loss. That’s why we’re getting involved and putting energy into getting a resolution on this,” Sherwin told the newspaper, adding that he recently had a meeting with California Air Resources Board chair Liane Randolph on the issue.

With those advocates on his side, perhaps Beek can trust there will be an amicable resolution coming. If all else fails, there are other possible resources, one Newport Beach resident suggests.

In a letter to the editor published in the Daily Pilot’s Mailbag, resident Bill Spitalnick proposes that perhaps one or more of the city’s prosperous celebrities might help fund the new engines to keep the ferry business afloat.


A sign marks the entrance to a gender-neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt.
Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) has introduced SB 760, which would require public schools in California to provide gender-neutral bathrooms for students by 2025.
(Toby Talbot / AP)

— Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) has introduced SB 760, which would require public schools in California to provide gender-neutral bathrooms for students by 2025, according to this story by our Los Angeles Times colleague Vanessa Arredondo. These restrooms would remain unlocked during school hours and could be converted from an already existing gender-segregated bathroom, according to the bill text. “At some point in everybody’s day, you have to use the facilities,” Newman said. “And if you’re a transgender, nonbinary, or questioning young person, having to navigate that challenge — especially if you haven’t come out to your friends or family — it creates an immense amount of stress, anxiety, and even physical pain.”

— In other news out of the state Legislature, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Southland state senators aimed at cracking down on fentanyl dealers whose customers die stalled in a state Senate committee yesterday. Senate Bill 44, also known as Alexandra’s Law, was sponsored by state Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and state Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Redlands), according to the City News Service report. Orange County Supervisors and Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer voiced support for it at Tuesday’s board meeting. The proposed bill would provide fentanyl dealers with a warning that if they get caught dealing the drug and one of their customers dies, they could face second-degree murder charges.

— Approval for Huntington Beach’s general plan housing element update has been pushed back once again, shelved until its next regular meeting on April 4. Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland and Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark cited environmental concerns for why they voted against approval. The item required the City Council to sign off on the zoning despite “significant and unavoidable” California Environmental Quality Act concerns, they said, including air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, hydrology and water quality, noise and impacts on utilities and service systems.

— Meanwhile, Strickland, who remains opposed to constructing large multifamily units in the city, responded to reports that the condo he lives in is part of a development for low-income families, adding he’s not entirely against affordable housing. His residence in the Cape Ann development is publicly listed as a state-mandated affordable housing unit, which his wife purchased with her former husband in 2000. Strickland said its deed rests with a living trust set up to benefit his wife’s children in case she were to unexpectedly die. Strickland adds that he is “for development,” but the city is “built out” and would not be able to support the kind of growth state officials are trying to make.

— Fountain Valley is raising campaign per-donor contribution limits from $500, set in 1986, to $1,372 to adjust for inflation. The ability for candidates to run a competitive political campaign was a consideration. Some residents expressed concerns about greater contributions, but Mayor Pro Tem Glenn Grandis cited new state legislation — Senate Bill 1439 — that provides protection against such concerns.

Irvine resident Alex Mohajer, 38, announced his bid for a State Senate seat in the 2024 election.
Irvine resident and president of the California Stonewall Democrats, Alex Mohajer, 38, has announced his bid for a State Senate seat in the 2024 election.
(Courtesy of Alex Mohajer for California)

— Irvine resident Alex Mohajer has announced his bid for state Senate, hoping to represent the 37th District. The 38-year-old is a first generation Iranian American who has spent the past 10 years investigating allegations of discrimination or sexual harassment for Los Angeles County. Currently the president of the California Stonewall Democrats, Mohajer hopes to improve Californians’ access to healthcare and “take bold climate change action.”

— Leadership of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce has flipped for the third time since 2020. David Haithcock tells the Daily Pilot he hopes to bring his skills to bear in his hometown as the new CEO of the chamber. He joined the team on Dec. 15, bringing with him more than 25 years of helping small business and nonprofit members of large trade associations thrive.

— After decades of flying model aircraft at Fairview Park, where protected species live, the Harbor Soaring Society may soon be grounded for good unless the Costa Mesa City Council grants a reprieve. Activities were put on hold during the pandemic, and city officials have been trying to determine how they impact the ecosystem. Wildlife experts say the vernal pools at Fairview Park are highly sensitive to disruption and degradation, with archival reports of previous disturbances caused by model aircraft. Others, though, say HSS members cause little harm to the land and provide a valuable benefit to the community. The council voted 7-0 to continue the item to its April 18 meeting so members could more deeply explore documentation and correspondence.


Tori Athey sits next to a garden gnome made by her neighbor, the victim of a shooting in Huntington Beach.
Tori Athey sits next to a garden gnome made by her neighbor, a mother of two who was killed in a shooting Huntington Beach police were investigating as a possible murder-suicide Sunday evening.
(Eric Licas)

— Huntington Beach police are investigating a possible murder-suicide after a resident in a home on the 9500 block of Kensington Drive reported a shooting Sunday evening. Officers found a man and woman with gunshot wounds when they arrived, according to a Huntington Beach police spokesperson. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman died later at a hospital. Their identities were withheld pending the notification of loved ones, but neighbors describe the woman who died as the victim, who was raising two middle school-aged sons.

A 46-year-old scuba diver who had been reported missing died after being rescued off the coast in Laguna Beach on Saturday. Orange County Coroner’s officials identified him as Leon Noel Boyer of Santa Monica. A search and rescue effort was deployed to the area nearby Shaw’s Cove Beach, and lifeguards located the scuba diver about 100 yards from shoreline about an hour after the search began. He was taken to Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach, where he was pronounced dead.

Lana Clay-Monaghan was hospitalized Sunday after police said she was targeted in a social media prank passed out in a Target.
Lana Clay-Monaghan was hospitalized Sunday after police said she was unwittingly targeted in a social media prank and passed out while shopping in a Target.
(Courtesy of Lana Clay-Monaghan)

— A Tustin woman fainted and was hospitalized after someone put a bucket over her head while shopping at Target as part of a TikTok prank. Lana Clay-Monaghan, 35, said she had been at the store for about 10 minutes looking for baby wipes and bathing soap for her twins when everything suddenly went dark. The shock and fear caused her to lose consciousness, black out and fall to the floor. The prank is popular on social media apps where a bucket or a basket is placed over the head of an unsuspecting shopper while their reaction is recorded and posted online. Sometimes the prankster will also place an object over their own head at the same time, pretending to be a victim as well. In a statement, Tustin police said four male juveniles were seen grabbing a bucket they put over Clay-Monaghan’s head. As of Tuesday, the individuals had not been identified, according to a department spokesperson.

— A 25-year-old man who attempted to sexually assault a woman cleaning offices in Irvine after hours in 2019 was sentenced Friday to seven years to life in prison. He was convicted Dec. 5 of kidnapping to commit a sex offense, assault with the intent to commit a sex offense, criminal threats and burglary, all felonies, and a misdemeanor count of brandishing a replica gun. Eduardo Godoy Gonzalez was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

— A 38-year-old man is accused of slamming a cat against the windshield of cars in Huntington Beach, killing the animal. Beau Browning Watson pleaded not guilty Thursday to cruelty to animals and two counts of vandalism, all felonies, in the jail courtroom in Santa Ana. He is next due in court April 4 for a pretrial hearing in Westminster.

Seal Beach police have released body-camera footage and an audio clip of a fatal shooting of a 47-year-old man at a residence on Old Ranch Road on Jan. 16. Two officers reportedly fired shots during the incident, still being investigated by the Orange County district attorney’s office and under internal review. SBPD spokeswoman Lt. Julia Clasby said the city has not recorded a fatal police shooting in more than 20 years, so a “critical incident debriefing” video was created.

— Meanwhile, the Laguna Beach City Council voted, 3-2, to release body-camera footage from a traffic stop involving City Manager Shohreh Dupuis. In November, Dupuis was pulled over for driving while using a handheld cellphone. A California Public Records Act request filed by resident Michele Monda sought to obtain the video and dispatch logs from the traffic stop. Monda said she made two public records requests related to the incident and took issues with the length of time it took for the city to respond to her request, calling it a lack of transparency.

Irvine Police arrest 53-year-old Christopher Eduard of Los Angeles following the sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl.
Irvine Police arrest 53-year-old Christopher Eduard of Los Angeles following the sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl at an Orange County Public Library.
(Irvine Police Department)

— A Los Angeles man accused of exposing himself to a 9-year-old girl and sexually assaulting her at an Irvine public library last week has been arrested, according to the Irvine Police Department in a news release. Christopher Eduard, 52, was arrested Friday in the alleged assault at the Orange County Public Libraries Irvine Heritage Park branch in the children’s section, where the girl was looking at books. Eduard was released Saturday on bond, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.


The tacos at the family-owned Papi Tacos & Churros on South Main Street in Santa Ana.
The tacos at the family-owned Papi Tacos & Churros on South Main Street in Santa Ana. The shells are tinged red with red grease from a slow-simmered consomé.
(Edwin Goei)

— TimesOC food writer Edwin Goei provides recommendations for three Santa Ana taquerias specializing in birria. Typically cooked in a pot where the meat is slow simmered for hours with a combination of chiles and spices, birria has become one of the most sought-after proteins for tacos.

Disneyland guests head into the newly reopened Mickey's Toontown.
(Sarah Mosqueda)

— Mickey’s ToonTown at Disneyland has a new look with more green spaces and poured rubber playground surfaces in an effort to provide a more inclusive play area. One thing was evident for TimesOC reporter Sarah Mosqueda: less concrete. Mosqueda was 7 years old when she experienced the grand opening of ToonTown, and last week, she got a preview of the newly renovated area designed to eliminate as many barriers to play as possible.

— Orange Coast College’s student newspaper, Coast Report, received top honors in several categories during the Associated Collegiate Press/Journalism Assn. of Community Colleges’ Spring National Student Media Conference, including a Top 10 Best in Show News Website honor. Held in San Francisco on March 11 and 12, the event recognized the work of students and instructors on the Costa Mesa campus, bestowing a General Excellence award for news websites and 10 additional awards in the JACC state competition.

— Laguna Art Museum announced it raised more than $450,000 through its 41st California Cool Art Auction on March 4. The event acts as a fundraiser to support education programs and exhibits at the institution. Works of more than 135 California artists were featured in the auction, and a sold-out crowd enjoyed a live performance from Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats. The museum also secured a grant to expand access to programming for Title I students.

Christina Brody-Chafe, the owner of Christina's Confections, bites into a cookie at her home in Seal Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

— Christina Brody-Chafe started out by making cakes for neighbors and friends, but by 2021, she found herself and her business — Christina’s Confections — taking orders from well outside of Seal Beach. A former ER nurse, Brody-Chafe went on hiatus to prevent spreading COVID-19 to her family. Missing the fast-paced setting of her job, she turned to baking as an outlet. She said she loves including intricate details in her work to bring her clients’ vision to life, and her favorite projects are the ones that allow her to exercise creativity.

— Garden Grove resident Wynter Ho, owner of a Huntington Beach salon, was hospitalized at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and at UC Irvine for more than six months due to COVID-19. It has been a long road for Ho, but she recently finished her final physical therapy session at St. Joseph Hospital rehabilitation center in Orange, and our Daily Pilot colleague Matt Szabo caught up with her, penning a feature story on how she is doing today.

Anne Chen, a junior at Sage Hill School, recently published a book for her Girls Scouts Gold Award project.
Anne Chen, a junior at Sage Hill School, recently published a book as part of her Gold Award project for the Girl Scouts.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

— An enthusiastic reader and writer, Anne Chen, 16, said she decided the topic for her Girl Scout Gold Award project early: an activity book about women in history, “How to Make HERSTORY.” The Sage Hill junior’s work is geared toward young girls between fifth grade and junior high. She did much of the writing in the summer, then picked it up again in the fall before finalizing the book with a graphic designer in December. It has since been published and is available for purchase on Amazon. Chen said she will be hosting a workshop at this year’s GEMfest, hosted at Sage Hill School.

— We Are Ocean, a cancer support group out of Newport Aquatic Center, will enter a six-man canoe team into the Puakea Designs Wild Buffalo Relay on April 2. The race crosses the channel from Avalon to Newport Beach. We Are Ocean is looking to raise approximately $30,000 to send 18 individuals to a cancer support camp. The camp is available to those between the ages of 15 to 39. About $18,000 has been raised so far, according to the program’s founder, Jack Marshall Shimko.

The Coast Collective Co-Lab is a newly opened pop-up boutique and retail space that allows Orange Coast College fashion students and alumni to showcase and sell merchandise while learning entrepreneurial skills. The lab is open to the public Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Caedia Seo places a plastic egg in her bag on during the Beyond Blindness Beeper Egg Hunt in 2022.
Caedia Seo places a plastic egg in her bag on Saturday during the Beyond Blindness Beeper Egg Hunt held at the Newport Dunes & Waterfront Resort in 2022.
(Susan Hoffman)

— For the past 15 years, the nonprofit Beyond Blindness has teamed up with Newport Dunes to present roughly 350 vision-impaired students of the organization to participate in a sensory Easter egg hunt featuring “beeper” eggs supplied by the O.C. Sheriff’s Department. Organizers advised us this week that the event returns this Saturday at Newport Dunes’ Grand Gazebo and nearby grassy lawn.


Shohei Ohtani, right, celebrates with teammate Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.
Shohei Ohtani, right, celebrates with teammate Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels after hitting his game-winning two-run home run in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in 2021. The Angels begin their season with a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
(Kathryn Riley / Getty Images)

— At long last the Major League Baseball season returns tomorrow, and our colleagues at the L.A. Times put together a comprehensive list of previews ahead of the Angels’ opener. The Halos begin the season on the road with a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics. Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani will get the start for the Angels coming off of a nail-biting, 3-2 win to capture the World Baseball Classic at the expense of the United States and teammate Mike Trout last week. Ohtani reflected on his first and final spring training start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday following the international tournament, which will be a motivating factor to get the Halos to the World Series. “Today was a game, but I went into the game prioritizing what I wanted to work on,” he said Friday. First pitch against the Athletics is at 7:07 p.m.

— Newport Aquatic Center’s men’s and women’s varsity eight teams each placed first in a competitive field at the 58th annual Newport Regatta in Newport Beach on March 18. “The first varsity eight had a gritty race, and we’re currently ranked seventh nationally, so hopefully with the weekend’s win we’ll improve our ranking and look forward to defending our San Diego Crew Classic title,” NAC men’s varsity coach Nick D’Antoni said. Orange Coast College also won the freshman eight competition. The 50th San Diego Crew Classic takes place this weekend, March 31 through April 2.


Crystal Cove Historical District, built as a seaside colony between 1920 and 1940.
Crystal Cove Historical District, built as a seaside colony between 1920 and 1940, will host Art in the Park on Saturday, April 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

— After a three-year hiatus brought about by the pandemic, Art in the Park returns to the Crystal Cove Historic District this Saturday, April 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A variety of activities are planned, including yoga on the beach, guitar lessons, basket weaving, watercolor and squid ink painting, jewelry making and more. There will also be an arts and crafts bazaar, where guests can shop a selection of fine art paintings, candles, sea glass and upcycled jewelry, and painted wood wall hangings created by local artists. A full schedule of events can be found at Crystal Cove State Park Historic District, Los Trancos, Newport Coast. Parking is available at the Los Trancos parking lot located inland off Pacific Coast Highway. Day use parking costs $5 per hour, up to a maximum of $15 per day. To get to the Historic District, follow the trail located on the south side of the parking lot down to the beach. It is about a 15-minute walk. The Beachcomber shuttle (costs $2) runs between the Los Trancos parking lot and the Historic District every 15 minutes.

— In conjunction with its exhibition Figuratively Speaking, which opens Saturday, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art plans a free Ikebana Contemporary Art Lecture and Demonstration presented by artists Marilyn Drageset and Ravi GuneWardena of the Japanese School of Flower Arranging on Saturday, April 15, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The OCCCA is located at 117 N. Sycamore St., Santa Ana. For more information, contact info.occca@gmail.

— Multimedia artist, educator and community art advocate Adriana Martinez shares her immigration stories through a series of watercolor recreations of treasured family photos, designed to encourage viewers to reflect on their own familial backgrounds and stories. Martinez’s work will be on display as part of her “Dreamers” exhibit at the Grand Central Art Center opening April 1 during First Saturday Art Walk from 7 to 10 p.m. The Center is located at 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana.


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