Byline: Shane Scott
NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Beach City Council voted Oct. 22 to investigate interim public uses of its Lower Castaways property — the last parcel of undeveloped city-owned waterfront property — while plans are being developed for its permanent future use.
“Last year, the Harbor Commission made a good start with the big task of developing recommendations for best public use of Lower Castaways,” said outgoing Harbor Commission member Doug West. “We’re now collaborating with the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission in the development of a specific recommendation for presentation to give to the council. Expect to have that early in the new year (2014), or maybe middle of the new year.”
Looking at an interim plan for the Lower Castaways site at Dover Drive and Pacific Coast Highway was one of various Harbor Commission objectives, all of which were unanimously approved Oct. 22.
A number of possibilities the 4-acre site will be considered, including opening the waterfront site up to recreational use — which could create a new access point to Newport Harbor’s Back Bay for kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders.
Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, who brought up the idea of opening the site to the public at the Harbor Commission’s meeting Oct. 9, suggested adding steps that would lead down from the seawall to the beach, allowing easy access to recreational water users.
Currently, the site is being used as a city staging area for construction projects.
In a study session held by the Harbor Commission on March 13, residents had offered several ideas of what the undeveloped land could become, ranging from a park to boat launching area.
Local Gordon Glass suggested that Newport Beach shipwright Dennis Holland be allowed to use the site in the rebuild of his historic 72-foot vessel, Shawnee, which he started constructing in the side yard of his Newport Beach home in 2006, during the interim planning period. “This will probably take a long time to get anything done, Glass said, “so let him (Holland) use as much space as he needs, and let it be a public expression of what boats and shipbuilding are all about.”
Executive director of Orange County Coastkeeper Gary Brown offered the idea of using the waterfront land to house a marine restoration and education center, with marine labs where kelp and green abalone could grow.
Yacht broker Len Bose suggested a commercial-type launch ramp or a marine recycling center. Another speaker suggested a “clean water camp,” where children could cruise aboard vessels donated by yacht clubs and other benefactors participating in bay cleanup projects.
Other ideas included making the land into a hub for cyclists, hikers and boaters, opening a coffee shop or restaurant on it, building a public launch ramp for trailerable boats, creating a community garden and using the site as a city water taxi system headquarters.
Because that the site is in the Coastal Zone, any construction or change in water access would require approval by the California Coastal Commission. And because the site is adjacent to a state marine reserve, the Department of Fish and Wildlife would also have to OK any changes.