NEWPORT BEACH – City Councilmembers directed staff to prepare an application for a Coastal Land Use Plan Amendment for The Back Bay Landing Project during a Feb. 11 council meeting.
In a unanimous vote, the council approved the project’s legislative approvals which includes the certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), approval of changes to the General Plan and Coastal Land Use Plan amendments, explained Jaime Murillo, senior planner for the city.
“I think it’s a terrific first step toward improvement of this property ,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ed Selich. “Its long been an eyesore to the community, in my opinion, just a big asphalt lot with a lot of RVs on it so I think it’s a tremendous improvement to the community.
“It is a first step,” he continued. “There is still a lot of detail that has to be worked out.”
Amendments to the General Plan and Coastal Land Use Plan are required to change the land use designations to a mixed-used designation. A Planned Community Development Plan is proposed to establish appropriate zoning regulations development standards for the site, according to a staff report.
The requested approvals will allow for a mix of uses on the site such as recreational and marine commercial retail, marine offices, marine services, an enclosed dry-stack facility and mixed-use structures with residential uses above the ground floor.
The Back Bay Landing Project will revitalize 32,000 square feet of land on the parcel located near the Coast Highway Bridge and Bayside Drive.
Bayside Marina, the project applicant, plans to replace a 170-space long-term-storage lot on the 7-acre parcel with restaurants, marine services, 49 residential units, a parking structure, and an enclosed dry stack boat storage nicknames the “boathouse,”
As proposed, the 35 foot boathouse storage unit will hold 140 to 150 boats ranging from 20 to 40 feet in length and will feature a Higgins lift system that will retrieve vessels from their racks and drop them right on the water.
Once a boat is returned, boathouse operators will clean the vessel, then empty the bilge and prepare it to be put back into its rack spot.
A fuel dock will not be provided on the land parcel.
A 65-foot accessible view tower is also being proposed along with 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. The tower will be built to Americans with Disabilities Act standards, with public access to a top-level scenic viewing deck.
Varying building heights of the boat storage will provide continued view corridors from Coast Highway, explained Gordon Craig, Back Bay Landing project manager.
A parking structure with some surface parking would act as parking for the marina, boathouse and landing.
Speakers at the Feb. 11 meeting expressed their support for the project, stating the project is a great use of the site.
“We’ve been working with the owner and they’ve listen to our concerns and by and large put most of our comments in the EIR,” said Dick Hogan, a representative for the Bayside Village Homeowners Association. “We are basically in approval of it as long as our concerns are taken into consideration.
“We think it will be a definite improvement to our community,” he added.
Although in support of the project as a whole, there was one element that did not sit well with several councilmembers. Specifically, the applicants intent to bring restaurants, a bar or lounge to the site.
“It’s not about what happens in the buildings it’s what happens out in the parking lots,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Selich stated concerns about approving the permitted uses for restaurants, lounges and bars given the complaints residents have brought before the council concerning local restaurants and bars.
In response, project representatives asked for the opportunity to demonstrate how it will be a “unique self contained experience” during the site development presentation phase of the project.
Councilman Michael Henn agreed that granting the permit would only “invite trouble.”
Councilman Keith Curry thought otherwise, “I think it’s a great project that will enhance the community but I would be willing to trust the use and operator use permit,” he said. “I think this is better passed the way it is written and work with the applicant down the line.”
The nightclub, bar, lounge and restaurant uses permit will be discussed when the item returns to the city council.
Project applicants anticipate breaking ground on the $60 million project in 2016.
The project must gain approval from City Council and the California Coastal.
An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project was prepared and circulated; public comments have already been heard.
Specific project design and site improvement approvals will be sought by the applicant at a later time. Bayside Marina will return to the council with designs for the project in approximately 16 months, Craig said.