NEWPORT BEACH — The Back Bay Landing Project has been unanimously approved by the Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) of Orange County as of Thursday, Jan. 16. And with a Newport City Council hearing either Feb. 11 or 25, the project is inching along.
ALUC’s approval of the estimated $60 million project clears the way for the plan to receive approval from City Council and eventually the California Coastal Commission before finalizing development plans and breaking ground in the estimated year of 2016.
“I think it’s going to be a fantastic addition to harbor users, specifically because there is dedicated commercial space to boater specific businesses,” said Newport Beach Harbor Commissioner Paul Blank.
Bayside Marina, the project applicant, plans to replace a 170-space long-term-storage lot on the 7-acre parcel located near the Coast Highway Bridge and Bayside Drive. The project will develop 32,000 square feet of land with a mixed-use residential and retail center, which includes restaurants, marine services, 49 residential units, a parking structure, large enclosed dry stack boat storage – known as the “boathouse” — building and view tower.
“The designs are still tentative,” said Gordon Craig, Back Bay Landing project manager. “Once we get our legislative approvals we come back to the city with the actual design. We’re basically going through the process a couple times.”
According to project plans, the boat storage unit will stand 35-feet tall, hold 140 to 150 boats ranging from 20 to 40 feet in length and will feature a Higgins lift system that will pull vessels from their racks and drop them right on the water.
“We imagine a system whereby the boater would call ahead for your boat,” Craig said. “When you arrive there’s parking in the parking garage you take the boat and when you return you dock it- operators would then take your boat out of the water clean it, then empty the bilge and prepare it to be put back into its rack spot. We’re not proposing any kind of fuel dock, so boaters will still have to fuel elsewhere.”
An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project was prepared and circulated; public comments have already been heard. Comments provided by the public seemed positive, and it’s clear that city staff and the city’s planning commission felt very comfortable with the project, Craig said.
While the project must receive approval from the California Coastal Commission before narrowing design plans, the major components of the current draft will remain. Those components include continued launching for kayaks, the retention of Pearson’s Port, and a 12 foot-pedestrian waterfront walkway that will run south of the Coast Highway Bridge.
Another component of the Back Bay Landing Project is a 55-foot tower, built to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, with public access to a top-level scenic viewing deck.
“My estimate would be that the Coastal Commission meeting goes into at least the back half of 2014,” Craig said.
A parking structure with some surface parking would act as parking for the marina, boathouse and landing.
“It’s very good for the boating community that the developer has carved out part of the property for boater related businesses;” Blank said. “The dedicated boating business community is going to be well served. Even beyond that the amenities that are going to come with the development will be great for everyone.”
Craig is preparing to present the project to the public and City Council at the Feb. 11 or Feb. 25 meeting.
“I think it’s got some possibilities,” said Newport Beach City Councilmember Nancy Gardner “What I like about it from what I’ve seen is there’s public access and new public access and a bike trail which I think will be very popular. They’re planning a launch ramp for paddlers – I’m a paddler so that’s exciting to me.
I think there’s quite a bit to like about it,” she said. “Of course we haven’t gotten past the EIR yet but it has promise.”