City attorney reviewing Balboa Marina

The Irvine Co. and Harbor Commission don't see eye to eye on how to provide public access at the slips.

August 04, 2010|By Sarah Peters,

NEWPORT BEACH — Since its remodeling, the Irvine Co.-owned Balboa Marina has become a not-so-fun zone in a conflict pitting public access against private property rights.

An ambiguous condition that required increased public access to the marina placed on the Irvine Co.’s 2007 plans by Newport Harbor Resources is under evaluation by City Atty. David Hunt to determine whether the terms have been satisfied, said Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller.

According to documents presented to the Harbor Commission, the marina was downsized from 132 boat slips to 102, but with several slips that now meet the legal criteria for people with disabilities.


A map of the project also marked off a small section of the marina as “valet-temp dock,” which had the potential to satisfy the Harbor Commission’s condition that the project would increase public access between the water and land.

“The Irvine Co. has provided these docks, however, the question remains how publicly accessible they are,” Miller said.

Harbor Commissioner Ralph Rodheim called the slips a “farce.”

Located inside the private marina, which houses multimillion-dollar yachts, boaters must register with the Irvine Co. to get a key to the gates that close off the docks from the businesses along East Coast Highway and Bayside Drive.

A boater passing through without a key can dock his boat in one of the public slips — that is, if he can find the small sign just above water level identifying it — but once he exits through the gates, without a key he won’t be able to get back in, Rodheim said.

“I understand the issues of public use in a private marina,” Rodheim said about the concerns of yacht owners and heavy foot traffic between the docks and restaurants during peak tourist season. “But this is just another excuse not to offer public access. It is very disturbing that the Irvine Co. has the opportunity to be a good corporate neighbor and they’re not doing it.”

At the time of remodel, the California Coastal Commission approved the project as already having sufficient public access in the forms of East Coast Highway and access from Linda Isle, according to the 2008 staff report.

Citing these findings, the Irvine Co. has maintained that the five guest docks were a voluntary addition, said Robin Leftwich, Irvine Co. vice president of community affairs.

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