Neighbors' complaints about Woody's Wharf aired

A conflict between the operators of Woody's Wharf on the Balboa Peninsula and its neighbors resurfaced at the Newport Beach City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The council held a public hearing on the issue before ultimately referring discussion about the terms of a conditional use permit that could allow the restaurant to operate more like a nightclub back to the planning commission.

Despite the fact that, as Mayor Keith Curry pointed out, the council had no plans to make a final decision, a few residents who live nearby urged the council to crack down on what they said are already club-like conditions.

Those, they said, make for a more dangerous neighborhood.

"Sending this back to the planning commission only delays the issue," said Ken Stoddard, who spoke on behalf of the 28th street Marina Homeowners' Assn. "The real issue is that at 10:30 p.m. Woody's turns into a nightclub." He added that Woody's operates in "complete disregard of local residents" and current city restrictions.

Another resident told the council that he had been assaulted when he tried to help an apparently intoxicated woman.

But owner Mark Serventi told the council that the homeowners' association had refused to meet with Woody's representatives to "come up with an equitable proposal."

That, he said, has entailed working with the city's Community Development Department to come up with patio covering designs that would keep noise from disturbing neighbors. Serventi said he hoped to present the findings of a noise study that Woody's conducted in December.

Councilman Mike Henn encouraged neighbors to hear what Woody's operators had to say. However, he said that was largely to ensure that both sides had followed "due process."

He seconded a motion to refer the issue to the planning commission "with a heavy heart," he said.

Residents, he said, have dealt with a number of problems stemming from Woody's for the past couple of years, and with further neighboring residential developments on the way, "It's going to be very important in the future."

In other news, the council voted unanimously to create a new Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee to pick up where the Citizen's Bicycle Safety Committee left off when its term expired in January.

Councilman Tony Petros will head the committee, which will be made up of seven council-appointed citizens.

The goal of the committee is to develop a more comprehensive approach to bike safety throughout the community.

The council's action, Petros said, was a statement of "our commitment" to making city streets safe and accessible for cyclists.

Local cycling advocate and former bike safety committee member Frank Peters lauded the creation of the new group, especially in light of accidents that killed two cyclists about six months ago.

In Tuesday's public comment period, two Sage Hill School 10th-graders asked the council to follow other communities throughout the state by banning plastic bags.

"Ultimately, what we're proposing is a ban on plastic bags and a tax on paper bags," Molly Chase said, in the vein of an ordinance passed in San Jose and Santa Clara County.

Plastic bags, said Jodie Horowitz, have a major negative environmental impact, and clean-up costs the state millions each year.

They invited council members to a documentary screening at the OASIS Senior Center on April 18 to learn more about the environmental effect of plastic bags.

While no council members responded directly to the two students Tuesday night, Mayor Keith Curry has said he doesn't see a ban in Newport's immediate future.

The council also shot down a proposed plastic-bag ban in 2011.

Twitter: @JillCowan

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