Bay Island residents likely to appeal decision

The California Coastal Commission prevailed in its lawsuit to open Newport Harbor's Bay Island bridge to the public, but the island's residents will likely fight the judge's decision.

Last week, the attorney representing the residents filed court documents that could provide the basis for an appeal.

At stake is access to the 130-foot span, which commission officials say should be available for all to use. If the residents lose the appeal, they may be able to retrofit the existing bridge and keep it private, or they could build a new bridge, in which case they would have to comply with the commission's order.

"They really want to do something right for the next generation," said John Briscoe of Briscoe Ivester & Bazel, the firm representing the Bay Island Club, an association of the secluded island's 24 homeowners.

The club applied to replace the bridge with one that would meet seismic standards and accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Instead of renovating the old one, Briscoe said his clients are "very likely" to appeal at this point.

Orange County Superior Court Judge B. Tam Nomoto Schumann ruled in June that the commission was not taking the club's private property.

That was the last of her decisions on the case; the previous ones, which were entered late last year, found that the commission could require a new bridge to be made public because, among other reasons, it spans a city-owned canal.

Bay Island residents could still have a gate on their end of the bridge keeping the island private, but the commission's order said they couldn't have a gate on the Balboa Peninsula side.

"When a new bridge is being built above a public waterway the commission has a legal authority to protect the rights of the public to access," said Christopher Pederson, deputy chief counsel for the commission.

The residents sued in 2009, contending that the commission overstepped its jurisdiction and that its easement over the canal allows restrictions on who can use the bridge. City officials filed a brief supporting the residents.

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