Newport Beach Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield’s State of the City speech Friday night focused on how he’d like to improve the harbor.
On waterfront development, he suggested a report card-style assessment to see if projects are living up to their stated intentions.
For example, zoning tweaks on the Rhine Channel allowed mixed uses, but “what resulted was simply an inexpensive way to build a house on the bay,” Duffield told the audience at the Marriott Hotel & Spa in Newport Center.
“Had we gone back and studied those developments, we would have seen that it wasn’t working as it was intended,” he said. “The commercial element on the first floor was simply a ruse for having a residence above.”
The ground-floor businesses have little parking and street exposure, leading to unsuccessful ventures, he said.
He also cast a critical eye on the Vue condominium-retail project on Balboa Boulevard near the Newport Pier, saying it displaced a boat yard, a boat sales lot and five other marine businesses.
In off-the-water issues, he committed to protecting residents from noise and pollution from nearby John Wayne Airport and suggested a city charter amendment to allow residents’ input on major taxpayer-funded debt obligations, like the $140-million Civic Center complexthat was completed in 2013.
“Voters should have been able to vote on the Civic Center certificates of participation [a financial instrument for issuing bonds] that funded the project,” he said. “Maybe voters would have supported it, but they never had the chance. That should change.”
In 2016, the City Council tabled a proposal to put a measure on the ballot asking voters whether they want to require public approval before the city could use a certificate of participation or lease revenue bond greater than $10 million.
Ever the waterman, Duffield closed his speech by telling the origin story of his Duffy electric boats.