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City sues shopping center owners for mess

Mariners Mile is filled with rubble, lumber, tile, bricks, crates and boxes, documents state.

February 12, 2010|By Brianna Bailey

The city of Newport Beach is suing to force the owners of a crumbling, vacant Mariners Mile shopping center to clean up the property.

In legal papers filed this week in Orange County Superior Court, the city contends that the shopping center near West Coast Highway and Dover Drive is full of fire and health hazards.

The city is suing property owners Mariners Mile Gateway to force them to fix up the shopping center.

Doug Beiswenger, a partner in Mariners Mile Gateway, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

“There is an accumulation or storage of automobile parts, rubbish, trash, debris, rubble, broken-up asphalt, lumber, concrete, plaster, tile, rocks, bricks, building materials, crates, cartons, containers, boxes, scrap metal, trimmings from plants and trees, cans, bottles and/or barrels on the subject property,” the city claims in court fillings.

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Mariners Mile Gateway has been trying to sell the property, which is now in escrow, Tara Finnigan, a Newport Beach spokeswoman, said in an e-mail Friday.

“The city is working with new owners and hoping for a prompt resolution,” Finnigan said.

The city also contends the shopping center is overrun with weeds and graffiti and has become a haven for vagrants.

Firefighters were dispatched to the center in August to put out a fire caused by two transients who were living there.

The city is asking the court to force the owners to clean up the center, and for unspecified penalties and restitution.

The City Council has made cleaning up the vacant stretch of storefronts on Mariners Mile one of its top priorities this year.

Mariners Mile Gateway has not been able to clean up the property because of a heated legal battle over what was to be an upscale shopping center on the site, Doug Beiswenger, a partner in the firm, said.

The developer acquired the property in 2004 with the intention of building Bel Mare, a 56,000-square-foot shopping center with a Mediterranean theme.

Rite Aid was to be the anchor tenant, but Mariners Mile Gateway was unable to secure the necessary California Department of Transportation approvals to develop the center as originally planned.

Rite Aid sued Mariners Mile Gateway for $30 million, alleging the developer did not have the right to terminate its lease after Caltrans would not grant the proper approvals.

Rite Aid obtained a court order that halted any development on the property.

The injunction barred Mariners Mile Gateway from doing anything with the property other than what was spelled out in Rite Aid’s lease, which was a city-entitled development.

Since then, the empty storefronts have attracted graffiti artists and transients.

Rite Aid’s lawsuit was dismissed in September 2008 after the judge ruled that Mariners Mile Gateway had the right to terminate Rite Aid’s lease, and the an injunction was lifted.


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