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Newport Beach to begin environmental study for latest Dunes hotel pitch

Newport Dunes Bayside Family Resort
This birds-eye site plan shows the proposed Bayside Family Resort Hotel that would be built at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina. The western shore of the Dunes lagoon is at the bottom.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

The city of Newport Beach is embarking on an environmental impact study of an area that could become a new three-story, 275-room hotel at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina.

Under a tentative timeline, the environmental report for the roughly 200,000-square-foot Bayside Family Resort Hotel, proposed west of the resort’s placid lagoon, is expected to be ready for public review next spring — with city Planning Commission and City Council hearings to follow in mid-2020.

The report will cover topics such as potential impacts on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, soils, traffic, noise and aesthetics at the Back Bay site.

If the project sounds familiar, that’s because various permutations of the concept have existed on and off for about 40 years but have been paused by environmental concerns and claims of overdevelopment.

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The 100-acre area known to most as Newport Dunes also is Orange County parkland, held in trust for the state and leased to the Dunes’ operators since 1958. The Dunes, at 1131 Back Bay Drive, has a campground with RV spaces, beachfront cottages and other resort amenities such as a pool and restaurants. The area also is home to two children’s camps and a 430-slip marina.

The Dunes and the county started negotiating redevelopment of the site in 1976, and by 1980 had a plan for a more traditional 350-room “motel or family inn,” among other amenities. The city stepped in the following year and filed a lawsuit to try to overturn the county’s environmental findings. The city, county and the Dunes agreed to a settlement in 1983.

Dunes officials pitched another concept in 1997 that included timeshares, a convention center and a 470-room hotel. Though that passed Planning Commission muster in 2000, the approval kicked off the ultimately successful referendum for the slow-growth Greenlight Initiative, which requires voter approval of certain major developments in Newport Beach. With the referendum on the ballot, the Dunes withdrew its proposal and talk of a hotel addition went quiet until 2016, when the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a twin hotel proposal.

The plan under consideration now is a single-hotel proposal the Dunes filed with the city later in 2016.

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The potential hotel’s 14-acre grounds also would include a pool, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, a picnic area, a full-service restaurant, a coffee shop, a bar and lounge, a spa, a fitness center, meeting rooms, a shoreline trail, outdoor areas for weddings and other special events, and 432 surface parking spaces. Access would be off Bayside Drive by way of East Coast Highway.

To review an initial environmental study for the project or to give feedback on the scope of the upcoming, more advanced report, visit newportbeachca.gov/ceqa.

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