For decades, residents of über-exclusive Bay Island have had the benefit of a narrow salt-water moat that prevented beach-goers from getting too close to their million-dollar homes. Now, thanks to a ruling by Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto, island residents may soon see their safety buffer significantly whittled down.
On Thursday, the Daily Pilot reported the island sued the California Coastal Comission in 2009 after applying for permits to make upgrades to an aging concrete sea wall and a bridge connecting the island to the Balboa Peninsula. The commision found the shallow waterway under the bridge to be city-owned and, as a result, deemed the bridge should be accessible by the public. Last month, Nomoto agreed the bridge is public and further ruled the case must go to trial to determine whether the state should compensate residents for taking the property without compensation.
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For now, an electric gate adjacent to a public walkway on the peninsula side prohibits public access to the span. A trial has been set for May.
Though Bay Island residents contacted by the Weekly declined to go on record, one individual explained it boiled down to issues of liability, arguing the city of Newport Beach doesn't want to assume liability for people who suffer injuries after jumping from the bridge into the shallow canal below.
Though the actions of the commission may seem overzealous in the eyes of many California residents, Deputy Chief Counsel Christopher Pederson explained such actions are a part of the its duties.
"We have an understanding that the California Coastal Commission is required to protect the public's right of access to public waters," Pederson said.