Officials announce Marina Park project progress

NEWPORT BEACH — After years of planning and delays, Newport Beach officials last week revealed they had made progress with a state agency that had been holding up the Marina Park development, a 10-acre project on the Balboa Peninsula with a proposed community center, park and marina.

The State Lands Commission must approve projects on the state tidelands there, and has indicated it would sign off on the latest plan, according to city officials.

Marina Park would replace 57 mobile homes and a ragtag collection of buildings and facilities between 15th and 19th Street with a gleaming sailing center, new tennis courts and other amenities.

"The kid is beginning to walk here," said John Corrough, a resident who said that he and others had pushed for the project for the last 35 or 40 years.

"I would like to live to see it realized," he added.

Corrough attended a March 23 meeting where city officials revealed revised project plans. They announced a proposed electronic library for the community center and said the city may back away from one idea to build a children's water park.

"This could be a unique opportunity to welcome people into the library in flip-flops," said Recreation and Senior Services Director Laura Detweiler.

The community center was the sticking point for the State Lands Commission, said Assistant City Atty. Leonie Mulvihill, and had prevented the city from getting approval there or at the Coastal Commission.

Facilities in the state tidelands must qualify as water dependent or related. The roughly 20-slip marina and dinghy storage racks proposed there would qualify, but the classrooms and multipurpose rooms to be used for yoga and other recreation programs would not.

So the city negotiated a tidelands boundary that would exempt the community center and some other facilities that don't qualify, officials said.

They expect to have a hearing before the State Lands Commission on the boundary in June, and assuming that is approved, would have a hearing before the California Coastal Commission in August.

If everything goes as planned, the city would begin demolishing the mobile home park in February 2012 and finish construction in 2014.

"This is obviously a disappointing schedule for many," said City Manager Dave Kiff.

Officials had originally anticipated the Coastal Commission issuing a permit by March 2011, but were stymied.

The current plans began to take shape in 2005, after residents voted in 2004 to prevent a resort from being built there.

"Our community is very hungry for quality programs," Detweiler said.

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