The city of Newport Beach will spend more than $360,000 on improvements to the sand-choked Newport Elementary School play field that it shares with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
The city will contribute $363,000 toward the project while the school district will pay $250,000, bringing the total cost to $613,000. Work will begin during spring break in April.
Public Works Director Dave Webb said the city and district planned to refurbish the field last summer at a cost of about $500,000, with the city and district expecting to pay roughly equal amounts.
But complexities of the school calendar and the coastal development permitting process pushed back the work, Webb said.
In that time, construction costs have climbed, and the city expanded the scope of the project, he said.
The recent added costs are being borne by the city.
The city uses the ocean-facing field behind the historic campus, 1327 W. Balboa Blvd., as a municipal park when school is not in session. Newport-Mesa leases the field and adjacent blacktop playgrounds from the city under an agreement that has the district covering maintenance in lieu of rent.
The council agreed to the project on a 6-1 vote Tuesday, with Councilman Kevin Muldoon dissenting.
“I think the school district has an obligation and plenty of money — they’re spending to buy new fields throughout the school district — to take care of their legal obligation, and that this is not the best use, in my opinion, for the funds,” he said. “But I certainly understand why the parents are supportive.”
Councilwoman Diane Dixon — who said she was “delighted” to have Newport-Mesa’s buy-in — and Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill also suggested that the split could be more even.
The school district governing board approved Newport-Mesa’s $250,000 share at its Feb. 13 meeting. The agenda for that meeting says that the city will “be contributing an amount of at least $250,000, with the understanding that the district will provide a one-time matching contribution in the amount of $250,000.”
A representative from Newport-Mesa did not immediately respond to further request for comment this week.
The city’s portion of the bill will come from oceanfront encroachment funds, which are fees waterfront property owners pay the city for their landscaping and any other yard adornments that extend onto the public beach.
The field will be graded, planted with sand-tolerant sod, and ringed by a 21-inch-high seat wall to block the windblown sand that has created uneven berms and obstructed grass growth over time. The field is currently fully exposed to the elements.
The field was last rehabilitated about 20 years ago, Webb said.
“It becomes a high-maintenance cost to try to keep up this field,” he said.
Workers will also widen the nearby boardwalk by 6 feet to improve separation from passersby and improve drainage, replace the adjacent strip of sidewalk that reaches perpendicular off the boardwalk into the sand, and move the playground equipment farther back from the hard surface.
The sod will be planted after school lets out in June, and the field will be closed over the summer to allow the turf to take root. The contractor would maintain the turf through the next school year before turning upkeep over to the school district.
GMC Engineering Inc. of Tustin won the construction contract, worth about $520,000. Contingencies, playground equipment relocation, testing and incidentals bring the total to $613,000.
Matt Wiley from the Newport Elementary School Foundation said school boosters were pleased with the district’s contribution.
“I know you probably have to hold your nose a little bit on the way the allocation of these funds is here at the tail end of this thing,” he told the council. “Hopefully the larger goal of not waiting any longer to get a field that really is in crummy condition finished (will be realized) so that the kids at that school, who are all citizens of Newport Beach, can use that field.”