Coastal Commission hearing sought for Back Bay Landing

NEWPORT BEACH — Almost one year has passed since Newport Beach’s Conditional Land Use Plan (CLUP) for the proposed Back Bay Landing Project on Coast Highway at Bayside Drive was on the California Coastal Commission’s agenda. Both the city and Back Bay Landing’s management firm hope to be in front of the commission again in December and proceed with design plans for the planned project.

The Back Bay Landing Project aims to replace an existing recreational vehicle (RV) parking lot with a 7-acre pedestrian-oriented waterfront village filled with 49 residences and 60,000-square-feet of commercial space. Boaters could take advantage of new restaurants, marine-oriented shops, enclosed dry stack boat storage for up to 140-boats, bayfront promenade, plazas and shopping. A boat launch ramp could also be in the works. 

A small number of boat slips could also be included in plans, though waterside designs are still being developed.

Current plans have Back Bay Landing taking up about 7 acres of land adjacent to Upper Newport Bay.

“You have a piece of property generally underutilized by the public,” said Michael Gelfand, president of Terra Vista Management. “What we’re proposing is 35,000 square feet of restaurant and retail. It will bring people to the property.”

Terra Vista Management is the real estate firm managing the mobile home park and marina at Back Bay Landing.

Gelfand said he anticipates moving forward with the project design if Newport Beach and Terra Vista Management can get in front of the Coastal Commission in December and gain the state agency’s approval. The project design process could take quite some time to complete as the city and project managers would meet with local community groups and adapt plans based on feedback. The city’s Planning Commission would also provide input. Coastal commissioners would chime in again once design plans are fleshed out. 

Newport Beach staff submitted the CLUP to the Coastal Commission on July 11, 2014; commissioners have yet to act on the plan, though City Hall anticipates a decision in early December, according to City Planner Jaime Murillo.

“There have been no changes to the project since the City Council approved it in February of 2014,” Murillo said. “We will know more in early December.”

City planners and developers hope the dry stack boat storage would allow more boats to use Newport Harbor while also protecting the waterfront from bottom paints and cleaners.

Other amenities highlighted in the plan would be waterfront dining and shopping opportunities, coastal view tower with public access, marina parking and a bike trail.

The proposed project would also enhance traffic flow and make infrastructural improvements to Bayside Drive.

How Back Bay Landing, if realized, would impact traffic remains to be seen. Newport Beach has also tossed around plans to make the adjacent Mariner’s Mile a more significant visitor-serving destination, which could impact traffic even more. The eastern end of Mariner’s Mile, a stretch of road home to several commercial destinations, is located less than 1 mile from where Back Bay Landing would be developed.

Site design plans and approvals are still in the works, according to city staff.

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