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Newport Beach

Volume 6, Issue 38  | May 11, 2021


Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

It seems that concern about some “abandoned parkland” may be misplaced

Fair Game Tom JohnsonRecently I was tipped off to an attempt by a “politically influential homeowner” to have the Orange County Board of Supervisors sell him a 1/3-acre parcel of “abandoned parkland” adjacent to his property for only $13,000.

Sounds fishy, right? Well, that’s what I initially thought too. So, I decided to take a closer look. 

First off, the adjacent property is that of Buck and Colleen Johns located at 2600 Mesa Drive. They’ve owned the land for some 44 years after purchasing it way-back-when from the Holstein Family

The 1/3 acre that is in question was originally part of that Holstein property. It ran along the back side of the property between it and the Back Bay but was taken through eminent domain because of a proposed effort to run University Drive along that entire area of the bayfront. 

Talk about something that would have irked conservationists?

In spite of that, the property in question was never “unfenced” and never turned over to be used as a roadway or a parkland. 

Fast forward to Buck and Colleen’s ownership. With the property fenced in, the Johns have maintained it over the years. The fact is they’ve actually improved on it by modifying the drainage runoff on the southeast side, which now allows for the capture of runoff silt from the higher Bayview Heights land and lets only clean water drain to the Bay.

That change included the installation of a collection basin on the front southeast side of the property, the installation of an underground concrete culvert running the length of the property down to a new catch basin, preventing “dirty” runoff. All of those steps were good for the overall water quality of the Bay.

So I asked Buck what he was up to. He said that the land in question was initially acquired for government purposes, yet that use never ended up taking place. His belief is that the abandoned land, originally taken by eminent domain, should then be returned back to the originating piece of property. And that is what Buck says he’s simply trying to do.

What about the so-called “low-ball” $13,000 appraisal? That entire appraisal process actually has built-in protections by the county. You see, the county offers an approved list of appraisers for someone like the Johns to choose from. Once they’ve selected one and that appraisal comes in, a second appraiser, also with the county, then has to also sign off on the submitted amount.

It’s a check system designed to prevent someone from taking advantage of the county and its citizenry. 

The Johns aren’t alone in their efforts to regain the land, as supporters include the Irvine Co. and the Newport Bay Conservancy, showing a fairly diverse range of acceptance. 

Still, some want to make that area opened up to “parkland” which would then most likely encourage horse trails, common to that neighborhood. The waste from the horses running down into the Bay obviously would not be good for the preservation of water quality.

So, after sitting down with Buck, I actually came away agreeing with his efforts. 

Still, I understand that there are always two sides to an issue. For those against approval, a petition is being circulated and inquiries should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The item comes before the Board of Supervisors on May 11. Approval for the Johns rests on all five Supervisors, yes, ALL FIVE, voting in favor. Newly elected Second District Supervisor Katrina Foley is scheduled to visit the site this week along with county staff to better understand the overall issue.

I encourage you to let your voices, good and bad, be heard.

• • •

Speaking of Supervisor Foley, she has recently appointed several more people to boards and commissions. Included in these is Newport Beach resident Vincent Howard who was selected to serve on the Assessment Appeals Board.

Supervisor Foley is still looking to fill openings on other boards and commissions that include Homelessness, Housing, Workforce Development Advisory Committee, Climate Action Advisory Committee, JWA Advisory Committee and Veterans’ Affairs Advisory Committee.

If you’re interested, email Supervisor Foley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

• • •

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, from California’s 74th District, announced this week that she has pushed for legislation that has now been signed providing forgiveness for PPP loans that businesses previously received. The loans will now not be counted as taxable income and that any expenses accrued in obtaining these loans will also be deductible. 

• • •

The Coastal Commission will meet virtually over three days from May 12-May 14. Two what appear to be fairly innocuous items related to Newport Beach are on the agenda. 

The first is the certification of a previously submitted Balboa Village Parking Management Overlay District and the item removes and replaces portions of a structurally unsound waterside walkway. 

The replacement is with property on Lafayette Ave. that calls for removal, then replacement of a 50 ft. of walkway, handrails and a 35 sq. ft. public pier, and then a 40 ft. long x 9 ft. wide floating dock supported by two piles proposed for the end of 29th St.

The agenda and staff reports can be found at 

www.coastal.ca.gov/mtgcurr.html.

• • •

When politicians run for office, I always wonder whether they’ll roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Mayor Brad Avery eliminated any of those concerns this week. It seems that City of Newport Beach Utilities Director Mark Vukojevic informed the Mayor about an emergency water transmission mainline repair that was causing a commotion on a partially closed Coast Highway.

Fair Game Brad Avery in hole

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of City of Newport Beach

Mayor Brad Avery, 16 ft. below Coast Highway, getting an up-close look at a city project

The mayor decided to not only take a look at the project, but actually jumped in the 16-foot-deep hole to better understand the work up close and personal. Okay, maybe not “jumped,” but you get the point.

Vukojevic assured me, “Mayor Brad is not afraid to get down and dirty” in the job.

Way to go mayor!

• • •

On Saturday, the OC Fair & Event Center brings in the Flying Miz Daisy Outdoor Vintage Market that will feature more than 150 vendors. On display will be vintage, antique, repurposed, European, farmhouse, industrial and hand-crafted artisan goods.

Admission is free, with parking at $10 (credit card only. The gates for Lot I, enter Gate 8 off Arlington, are open 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

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