'Unobtrusive additions' guideline may affect statue placement

NEWPORT BEACH — A 25-year-old regulation may preclude the proposed Ronald Reagan centennial statue and other statues from being displayed prominently in Castaways Park, according to the city attorney.

The park is intended to be "a natural setting with unobtrusive additions," according to the planning guidelines for Upper Castaways, the area including the park.

City Atty. David Hunt said at Tuesday's council meeting that the city manager will have to determine if the proposed statue violates that regulation.

"The question is whether or not the placement of the statute … is what one would call 'unobtrusive,'" he said. "It really depends on what's going to be recommended — where it's going to go, what size it's going to be, what's the ultimate position."

The revelation also calls into question the memorial statue erected in 2008 to honor a U.S. Marine Corps battalion adopted by the city, Hunt said.

At 9 feet, it depicts a young Marine in battle dress, assault rifle by his side.

Some residents opposed to statues in Castaways have protested at recent council meetings. One of them, Dudley Johnson, e-mailed city officials about the 1996 regulation.

"I'm not happy with anything that takes away from the natural beauty that exists there," Johnson said.

He proposed placing the Reagan statue in Back Bay View Park, and moving the Marines memorial there as well.

At Jamboree Road and East Coast Highway, Back Bay View Park is highly visible to motorists, while Castaways is atop a bluff and hard to see from the road.

Johnson, who says he is a veteran who voted for Reagan, argued that the increased exposure is one of the reasons they should be there.

He also said that Back Bay View Park has ties to both Reagan and the Marines — they were both involved with the Boy Scouts, whose 1953 national Jamboree is the road's namesake.

But Councilman Keith Curry, who has led the effort to commission the privately funded Reagan memorial, says Castaways would be better spot.

"The idea is to not look at the statue at 50 mph," Curry said, pointing out that Castaways has parking, while Back Bay View Park does not.

"I frankly don't believe a statue is obtrusive," Curry added.

Ultimately, the decision may not rest with the council. In February, it voted 5-2 to give the City Manager Dave Kiff say on where the statue should be placed, and who should sculpt it.

A committee of private donors and the city's Arts Commission will make recommendations to Kiff.

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