By Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki
3:19 PM PST, January 22, 2013
A monument is an edifice, an architecturally significant structure that serves to remind us of great deeds by an individual or group. Arguably, the new City Hall will serve as a monument to the city's leadership and its visionary planning and maintenance of the city's assets, symbolizing their, and our, civic achievements while also serving the functionality of administrating the city's operational needs.
A legacy is what one leaves behind, a lasting memory of past activity. The old City Hall and the immediate neighborhood it administered are not the legacy that the city leadership would like to leave behind on the "West Bank" of Newport Beach. Once the jewel of Newport, indeed the birthplace of the city, the Peninsula zone and Lido Village are gateways to some of our most precious assets: the miles of golden beach and boardwalk, and the bay containing the largest non-commercial harbor in California.
Like the West Bank in the Middle East, the authorities have sadly neglected this area for the priorities of the more commercially popular and newer developed areas around Fashion Island, Corona del Mar and now Newport Coast, areas also helped by the careful and purposeful planners of the Irvine Co.
The old City Hall site anchors a deteriorated, dilapidated morass of commercial and residential land use. The empty storefronts of Lido village, once a charming cluster of boutique shops and pleasant restaurants, are just one example of neglect. The deteriorating business and commercial uses at the Peninsula entrance are another. The legacy that city leaders are leaving behind in their move to the new City Hall, or "Taj Mahal" as some have called it, is bleak. Though sporadic projects like the new marina and possible Balboa village rejuvenation may help, the gateway area remains an eyesore.
Monuments can be built quickly and are difficult to change once erected. Legacies take a longer time to evolve, but unlike physical structures, can be changed and rehabilitated when needed. City leaders have that chance in deciding on the new use for the old City Hall site. The type of development they choose there could not only be symbolic of the type of revitalization needed, but a catalyst for that revitalization.
Think Coronado Island, not old Coney Island. Look at what San Francisco did with its previously sleazy, decaying, dangerous piers and the recent emergence of the once-blighted South of Market area into a hot destination.
Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, an inspirational use of the old City Hall site could dramatically rescue a tarnished jewel in dire need of a transformation and reclaim the glory that once was the heart of Newport Beach.
It's not only important to the long-suffering residents and merchants who have stayed the course in this cherished area of our city, but could also help enhance the ambience of the gateway for all citizens, attract new residents, visitors and merchants and also promote increased revenue flow over and above that from the increased taxes recently levied in large part on the existing denizens of the decaying bayfront at the Peninsula entry. Isn't that the legacy that the city leaders should want to leave behind as they move into the new East Bank monument?
MICHAEL BRANT-ZWADZKI is a medical doctor who lives in Newport Beach and practices at Hoag Hospital.