Newport Beach council denies appeal of approved plans for new Bay Bridge pump station

A rendering of the planned Bay Bridge Pump Station.
A rendering of the planned Bay Bridge Pump Station. On a split vote Tuesday, the Newport Beach City Council denied an appeal of the Planning Commission’s earlier approval of the project.
(Courtesy of the city of Newport Beach)

The construction of a new wastewater pump station to replace an existing one near Bayside Village Marina can move ahead following a narrow decision of the Newport Beach City Council Tuesday to deny an appeal of an earlier approval.

The Orange County Sanitation District operates the old pump station, which was built in 1966 on East Coast Highway between Bayside Drive and the Bay Bridge. The station pumps wastewater flow from properties east of Newport Bay, including Balboa Island and Crystal Cove, to a treatment plant in Huntington Beach.

For the record:

11:14 a.m. April 25, 2024A previous version of this story stated O.C. Sanitation was a county agency. It is a special district.

The aging facility includes two single-story buildings, a perimeter wall with vehicular access and outdoor mechanical equipment that is not screened from public view. It also has force mains that connect to a vault.


Current plans call for increasing the footprint of the pump station from 4,879 square feet to 14,592 square feet, with O.C. Sanitation acquiring adjacent land to accommodate the project. In late January, the Planning Commission held a hearing and approved the plans on a split vote.

An overhead look of the Bay Bridge Pump Station and its new force main vault.
An overhead look of the Bay Bridge Pump Station and its new force main vault. Construction will be staged on lower Castaways Park.
(Courtesy of the city of Newport Beach)

In its application to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision, Terra Vista Management, which owns and operates Bayside Village Marina, contended the intended project was too large in scope. Appellants also stated it was their belief the proposal was inconsistent with the city’s existing coastal land use plan, the Back Bay Landing Planned Community Development Plan and the state Coastal Act. They also disputed claims by the special district that stated any further delays to the project increased the risk of sewage spills.

Attorneys for O.C. Sanitation refuted those claims in their response letter, in which they asserted they spent years engaging with Bayside Village Marina owners on the location and design of the project.

Michael Gelfand, president and chief executive of Terra Vista Management, issued a statement to the press Tuesday afternoon before the City Council meeting. “The [O.C.] Sanitation District is trying to stampede the city into approving this project by saying there is a threat of a sewage spill into Newport Bay from the current facility.

“The current facility was refurbished and upgraded in 2014. There should be no reason to rush the planning and permit process for its replacement.”

Appellants suggested three other possible locations, saying the most optimal would be across Coast Highway from Bayside Village. O.C. Sanitation said that site had a host of other issues, including flooding, extensive dewatering and limited site access.

The appellants also wanted the city to require the two parties to collaborate in identifying a new location, reducing the size of the project and minimizing truck-servicing impacts to the area.

A rendering of how the Bay Bridge Pump Station project will be set up.
(Courtesy of the city of Newport Beach)

Heath Clarke, president of the Bayside Village Homeowners’ Assn., said during public comments Tuesday night that residents understood the need for upgrades to the pump site, but they were concerned about the impacts of the project on the community.

Council members went back and forth on what those impacts look like for the community in both time and traffic but also how the project could potentially affect the Back Bay Landing development. Concerns were also raised about O.C. San’s usage of eminent domain, which allows the government to take private property to be made into public property even if its owners don’t want to sell. Ultimately, a majority of the panel conceded they were unable to make the findings necessary to support the appeal.

“Looking through the resolutions, reading through all of the staff reports and the attachments and then looking at the findings themselves, I think there’s nothing in the findings that I can find inconsistency with and I tried, I really did, so I’m of the opinion of going through ... and denying the appeal,” said Mayor Will O’Neill. “And I say that with a heavy heart ... because I really didn’t want to, given where we are. I do recognize as well, though, how important the pump station is going to be to our community.”

When it came time to vote, O’Neill, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Stapleton, Councilwoman Robyn Grant and Councilman Erik Weigand voted to turn down the appeal. Councilman Noah and Councilwoman Lauren Kleiman dissented. Councilman Brad Avery, citing a conflict of interest, recused himself.

“We are of course disappointed in the Newport Beach City Council’s vote to proceed with approval of the Bay Bridge Pump Station expansion despite reservations expressed by several members of the Council,” said Bayside Village Marina’s attorney John Erskine in a statement issued Wednesday.

“We are evaluating our options to mitigate the adverse impact of the significant expansion of this pump station on Back Bay Landing,” Erskine continued. “The thousands of truck trips during the four-year construction period and hundreds of annual truck trips during eventual operation of this project will not only adversely impact the Newport Harbor community but have a singularly huge impact on our current marina and our future Back Bay Landing development.”

According to O.C. San officials, staff would visit the site daily, and sewer cleaning trucks would come as needed. Equipment for pump removal could come around five to 10 times a year. Emergency equipment could potentially be dispatched once a year, with the occasional diesel refueling and fuel cleaning. The agency stated there is an agreement with the community that 15 vehicles would be allowed through the easement per week for periodic maintenance, inspections or chemical deliveries, with exceptions for emergencies.

“We are pleased with the positive decision made by the Newport Beach City Council in support of the critical wastewater infrastructure in their city,” O.C. Sanitation spokesperson Jennifer Cabral said. “This decision reaffirms both our commitment and the city’s commitment to serve the community and protect the public health and the environment.”