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Coastal Commission to hear appeal of Newport office project

A rendering shows the proposed office building with adjoining parking garage on Riverside Avenue.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

Local opponents of an office building and parking garage project in Newport Beach, unable to stop the development with an appeal to the City Council, have delayed the project again with an appeal to the California Coastal Commission on environmental grounds.

The development features a roughly 2,750-square-foot, two-story office building with suites for one or two tenants, plus a 40-space, roofless two-level parking garage. It would replace a larger, aging office building and small surface lot at 215 Riverside Ave., about a block off West Coast Highway at Avon Street. But protection of the nearby bluff face, a small patch of wetland less than 40 feet away and neighbors’ views could block the project.

The Coastal Commission determined without discussion Thursday that a “substantial issue” with the project exists. A full appeal hearing will be set for a date to be determined.

Some neighbors in adjacent Newport Heights have cited wide-ranging concerns over the last several months the project has been in the city pipeline, criticizing traffic, noise and light that they said would threaten their quality of life, viewshed impact, and “piecemealing,” or separating the office and garage from approvals for a possible new restaurant across the street.

A group that banded together to lodge a formal appeal to the City Council of the Planning Commission’s October approval alleged improper public notification and incomplete consideration of environmental impacts. The council rejected the appeal in May.

That led to an appeal to the higher Coastal Commission, as the parcel is within the state’s “coastal zone” jurisdiction. More than 40 Newport residents signed on to the appeal.

The commission agreed to look into how the city justified its approvals using its commission-granted local permitting system for coastal zone development.

The project would require extensive grading and new retaining walls, altering the bluff face, commission staff said. It is also 39 feet away from a narrow wetland that is about 100 feet long and 3 to 6 feet wide. Generally, a 100-foot buffer is needed around wetlands, and wetlands are a rare coastal resource in the region, according to commission staff.

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