Mariner's Mile project on City Council agenda

The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday will hear arguments about a retail center proposed for a long-vacant Mariner's Mile property.

Former Mayor Tod Ridgeway is appealing a Planning Commission decision from June to block his client's proposed luxury shopping center.

Planning commissioners and neighbors have complained that the Mariner's Pointe project is too big for the property at West Coast Highway and Dover Drive. At the same time, city officials have long sought to replace or repair the deteriorating buildings there.

As they plan for next year's Mariner's Mile revitalization, council members could set the tone for future development.

"We'd like to see some development there, but nothing of that magnitude," said neighbor Jack Geerlings, who lives on the bluff above the proposed center.

To accommodate restaurants, shops, medical offices and a 40-foot-high parking structure, the developer, VBAS Corp., has applied for various exceptions to city regulations. The current height limit for the area is 31 feet.

A city staff report says residents on the bluff above will be able to keep most of their views toward the ocean, but a cupola would block some of their views looking toward the Coast Highway bridge.

Councilman Ed Selich brought the project to the council for appeal because it is in a "key area the city is fostering revitalization," according to the staff report. It's an unusual move to have a council member appeal a developer's project, instead of the developer itself, according to city officials. The fee is more than $4,000 for such an appeal, but that fee is waived if a council member takes up the cause.

Ridgeway, who served on the council with Selich, is a hired government representative for the Costa Mesa-based developer. Ridgeway did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

Planning commissioners voted 5 to 0 to deny the application in June. They were concerned about the size of the development and had various problems with the parking management plan, including noise emanating from the garage and a reliance on valet parking. The developer has submitted revised plans for the council to consider.

Those new plans would reduce the building's size from 23,015 square feet to 19,905 square feet, but that is still more dense than what is allowed for the area.

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