NEWPORT BEACH -- City leaders, viewing a planned expansion of the
Balboa Inn as the centerpiece in the revitalization of the village, are
confident about the project's chances when it goes to the California
Coastal Commission on Tuesday.
The $1.5-million project, approved by the City Council almost exactly
a year ago, would go hand-in-hand with the city's $8.8-million revamp of
the area's streets and parking, and the $4-million restoration of Balboa
"It's the first step of landowners revitalizing their buildings,"
Mayor Tod Ridgeway said about plans to upgrade the historic hotel. "We're
just trying to redo the village."
That effort could be thwarted by coastal commission staff members, who
are opposed to the inn's expansion. Fernie Sy, the commission analyst
handling the project, said it would cut off some scenic views of Newport
Harbor and adversely change the "community character" by adding too much
"Staff is recommending denial of the project," Sy said.
The historic hotel has undergone a series of face lifts in recent
years, owner Michel Pourmussa said. After buying out his partner in 1998,
Pourmussa said he has spent about $300,000 in new work.
Pourmussa hopes to add 2,000 square feet of additional retail shops, a
24-car parking garage and 11 high-end suites to the 34-room hotel. Guests
could stay in the suites -- which would face the harbor and include a
fireplace, Jacuzzi, balcony and kitchenette -- for between $250 and $400
The hotel's swimming pool would be relocated to the second-floor deck
above the new parking garage.
Since he isn't accepting any federal tax credits on the renovation of
the Mission-Spanish Revival building, Pourmussa said he isn't following
federal standards for the restoration.
The inn, built in 1929, was placed on the National Register of
Historic Places in 1986. Since Walter Roland Hagedohm built it, the
building has served as a hotel for all but several years during World War
II, when it was used as a girls school.
During the early 1980s, the inn was owned by Kareem Abdul Jabbar,
Ralph Sampson and a group of other NBA players.
Last year, Pourmussa hired chef George Ristic, the well-known
restaurateur who ran George's Camelot Restaurant for nearly two decades.
Ristic lost the restaurant during a bankruptcy. He opened George's
Place in the hotel in November.
The quaint inn is in desperate need of restoration work, said Richard
Luehrs, the executive director of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.
"It deserves a face lift and expansion," Luehrs said. "It's an ideally
situated property . . . [in] a very desirable location."
A handful of shop owners near the inn have raised concerns about
Pourmussa's plans. James W. Read, one of those to object, had filed an
appeal with the city last year to overturn a Dec. 7 Planning Commission
approval. Read had hoped to force a public vote under the city's new
Greenlight law, but the expansion is not large enough to fall under that
Pourmussa has also agreed to settle a long-running debt with city
planners, who contend that he owes about $50,000 in back fees.
"We are trying to resolve it with the city," Pourmussa said. "We
agreed to pay the original amount."
* Paul Clinton covers the environment and John Wayne Airport. He may
be reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail ato7
* WHAT: California Coastal Commission meeting
* WHEN: 9 a.m. Tuesday
* WHERE: Westin Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport, 5400 W.
Century Blvd., Los Angeles