Coastal Commission to review Newport lighthouse proposal

Coastal Commission will decide between a 55-foot and 71-foot tower. They will also discuss fire rings this week in San Diego.

March 02, 2013|By Jill Cowan

When Newport Beach city staffers head to San Diego on Wednesday for the March California Coastal Commission meeting, they plan to go big or go home when it comes to the 71-foot faux lighthouse the city hopes to build at Marina Park.

Right now, said Public Works Director Dave Webb, the city has permission to build a tower of up to 35 feet — the current height limit for the area — as part of the commission's approval of the whole park. The city has applied separately for an exception to that height limit to build up to 73 feet.

To settle instead for a 55-foot tower, as a commission staff report recommends, Webb said, "doesn't give us the destination and wayfinding we need."


"It doesn't make sense for the additional cost," he said. "I'm pretty sure the commission will understand that and approve the 71 feet."

But if commissioners side with the report issued in advance of the three-day meeting — which will also decide the fate of Newport's beach fire rings — the city's plans for an "iconic" structure at the long-planned Balboa Peninsula community center may get short shrift.

According to the report, the lighthouse as proposed would impact "public views and community character."

A 55-foot lighthouse, on the other hand, would be tall enough to house a tsunami warning device the city proposed for the structure, without more than doubling the current height limit.

The report recommended that the commission deny the city's application, pending the city's agreement to modify the application to make the lighthouse 55 feet tall.

The report cited the city's application, which said the extra height would provide "a navigational element for watercraft; an [enclosure] for telecommunication and tsunami warning device equipment; a focal point; and an established iconic landmark."

In July, the city voted to change its own land-use plan to allow for the structure. It submitted its application to the commission in October, which was first rejected as incomplete.

In November, it submitted a new request, which was accepted.

In its application, the city included analyses of nearby structures that also exceed that height limit, including the 81-foot high Balboa Pavilion cupola and a 43-foot tall tower at the Balboa Inn.

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