Coastal Commission approves Marina Park

HUNTINGTON BEACH — The California Coastal Commission this week approved plans to build a 23-slip marina, park and community center in Newport Beach but deadlocked on whether to allow the project's proposed ornamental lighthouse.

Commissioners OK'd the Marina Park proposal for 10.45 acres between 15th and 19th streets along the Balboa Peninsula. A 57-unit mobile home park is currently at the site.

The project will also include a 5,500-square-foot Girl Scout building, 157-space public parking area and new restrooms.

Newport Beach Councilman Mike Henn, who attended the meeting in Huntington Beach, said Newport is ready to spend $25 million to build the park.

"This project is the result of nine years of concerted efforts in favor of a park, as opposed to a hotel," Henn said. "It's a cumulative of 40 years of work for some of us."

Members of the powerful coastal authority split 6 to 6 on whether to allow a proposed 71-foot lighthouse after a long debate about its feasibility and necessity. Their staff had recommended they not approve the project as a whole unless 20 conditions were met, including reducing the tower's height to protect views and the community's character.

The city's land-use plan limits towers to 35 feet.

"I'm worried about the cumulative effect," resident Dan Purcell told the commission, suggesting they not make an exception to the height cap. "I don't want to see a competition of rising towers. I think the tower is tacky. I like the natural beauty. I don't want to see one person's idea of beauty."

Newport Beach Deputy Public Works Director Dave Webb said Thursday that the city is moving ahead with the project plans as approved by the commission, but may ask the state to amend its decision on the lighthouse.

"The city feels the tower is an important element. It helps sets the iconic nature of the building," he said.

Don Schmitz, Newport Beach city development consultant, reminded the commission that it had allowed tall lighthouses in Long Beach and on Catalina Island, arguing the one proposed for Marina Park would become a landmark that adds character.

The commission also voted to allow the city to keep existing palm trees, although they are not a native species. They will not be replaced, should they die.

The city and the residents of the 57 mobile homes on site have reached an agreement to move out once the project is approved. The commission's vote was the last clause of the agreement, and now the city is getting ready to issue the residents with 90-day notices to vacate.

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