NEWPORT BEACH — During a five-month planning process, the Newport Beach City Council held public hearings and refined its plans to find a new use for the City Hall site.
The 4-acre parcel at 32nd Street and Newport Boulevard is part of the greater Lido Village area, which has been economically stagnant for years. The City Council approved a tentative master plan for the entire Village at last week's council meeting.
While it's still early in the process, here are some of the major components the council approved for the City Hall land:
Conversation about residential development ranged from "assisted living" for seniors to "workforce housing" for the janitors, restaurant workers and others who might work in Newport but cannot afford to live here.
Many residents who spoke at City Council meetings criticized senior housing on the site, saying its inhabitants wouldn't be lively enough to rejuvenate the Lido Village area.
The City Council voted to include about 85 units of "market-rate" housing. This means In other words, the city will most likely sign a long-term ground lease with an apartment developer to build luxury apartments.
This was the most controversial aspect of the plan. On one end of the spectrum is Councilman Steve Rosansky, who said the city should build a spectacular civic center for future generations to use.
On the other end is Councilman Ed Selich, who doubts any such public center is necessary and that the city might be better suited — and more frugal — with expanded housing or retail development.
"Every square foot that you build as a community center you're in essence taking away from the profitability of the site," said Councilman Rush Hill.
The city's architects drew up a two-story building with multipurpose meeting rooms and an art gallery. A rendering shows an eclectic mix of styles, including art deco accents and a portion of the building inspired by Newport's wooden lifeguard towers.
City Manager Dave Kiff said that West Newport could use a gymnasium there. He proposed a building similar to the 15,000-square-foot Newport Coast Community Center, which has an indoor basketball court.
The council decided to study the "community center needs" in West Newport and compare them with community centers that are either open or planned. The proposed Marina Park Development, for example, includes multipurpose rooms and classrooms. It would be about one mile down the Balboa Peninsula from Lido Village.
The fire station will be renovated but will remain in generally the same location on 32nd Street.
One of the most creative ideas floated in the months-long planning process was to install a canal to flush pollution from the waters west of Newport Boulevard. The canal would stretch across the city's parcel, through adjacent land and under the boulevard. Descriptions ranged from "a glorified fountain" to an almost-navigable waterway.
Some West Newport residents pointed out that drunks would surely play in the canal at night, and others pointed out its astronomical costs.
While the City Council left the canal as an option, members said they didn't think it was feasible.
Early plans showed a massive parking garage on the City Hall site that could be used by nearby property owners. It would be a revenue-source for the city, planners said.
But council members complained, and the parking garage was relocated to a parcel near the intersection of 32nd Street and Lafayette Road.
The latest proposal would require Lido Village charter boat operators to park their passengers' cars somewhere outside of Lido Village. Apparently, they generate too many cars to feasibly park in the area.
Some have said they would like retail development on the site to make money for the city and to make the area more lively. While the plan approved last week didn't explicitly call for shops or restaurants on the City Hall site, some of the council members made it clear that they wanted to explore it as an option.
Said one current retail tenant: "It'd be really nice to have some neighbors."