Coastal Commission OKs some permitting transfers to Newport, refuses others

Newport Aquatic Center rowers from Newport Harbor, CDM, and a mix boat of OC high schools, particip
High school crew teams compete at Newport Aquatic Center. The California Coastal Commission rejected a bid by the city of Newport Beach to take over permitting jurisdiction of the facility.
(File Photo)

The California Coastal Commission will not cede permitting jurisdiction to the city of Newport Beach around the Newport Aquatic Center, but is willing to make a few concessions around the Newport Sea Base, Balboa Bay Club and the U.S. Coast Guard-Harbor Patrol station — as long as the commission can reserve control over nearby beaches.

The commission unanimously voted with its staff’s recommendations Wednesday during its meeting in Santa Cruz, making some but not all of the tweaks that the city suggested.

Greg Benoit from the commission’s mapping division said the agency can transfer jurisdiction to local governments if the sites are filled, developed and within an area “committed to urban uses.”

Although all of the locations the city sought to fold under its local coastal plan, except for the aquatic center, are filled and in urban areas, the commission said they aren’t developed. And the NAC area is filled and developed, but not for urban uses.


“Staff do not consider beaches developed in that they are generally not subdivided, improved with structures, roadways, parking lots or other improvements or served by existing public service infrastructure, for example,” Benoit said.

Here are the areas the city sought to pick up:

Location: Orange Coast College School of Sailing & Seamanship-Newport Sea Base, 1801/1931 W. Coast Highway

Proposed alignment: Extend seaward of Coast Highway to the seaward extent of the bulkhead.


Staff recommendation: Approval.


Location: Balboa Bay Club, 1221 W. Coast Highway

Proposed alignment: Extend seaward of Coast Highway to the seaward extent of bulkhead and to the mean high tide line on the sandy beach area.

Staff recommendation: Approval, minus the open “pocket” beach.


Location: Harbor Patrol-Coast Guard headquarters, 1901/1911 Bayside Drive

Proposed alignment: Extended seaward about 20 to 120 feet to the seaward extent of the bulkhead and to the mean high-tide line on the sandy beach area.


Staff recommendation: Approval, minus the open “pocket” beach.


Location: Newport Aquatic Center, 1 Whitecliffs Drive

Proposed alignment: This would have included the center’s structures and parking lots.

Staff recommendation: Rejected.

The commission noted that the facility is surrounded by open-space wetlands designated as an environmentally sensitive area under the city’s coastal plan. That gives it more protections.

Commissioner Steve Padilla said he wrestled with protecting the small beaches around the Balboa Bay Club and Harbor Patrol-Coast Guard headquarters, which are surrounded by development and not large, pristine swaths of natural beach.

“I’m not trying to run afoul of the statewide interest … I’m very dedicated to that public trust doctrine, but at the same time also trying to have a little common sense given the facts on the ground,” he said.


Commissioners Effie Turnbull-Sanders and Donne Brownsey worried about setting a precedent.

“Especially in these urban areas, where open space and coastal space is so precious for me, I am very hesitant to establish a precedent such that I believe this would,” Brownsey said.

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