News Details

County Supervisor Says That in General, Cities Should Control Parks Within Their Boundaries

By ALICIA ROBINSON
February 27, 2007

Newport Beach could take over the Upper Newport Bay and Costa Mesa would manage Talbert Nature Preserve under a proposal from Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach.

Since taking office in December, Moorlach has made several ambitious proposals to move long-stalled issues, including annexation of unincorporated areas around Newport-Mesa, projects in Santa Ana Heights and control of county parks.

In fact, all three issues are tied together, Moorlach said Wednesday. He's not ready to reveal his plan to divvy up four unincorporated areas to Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, but he does want to throw in the parks, which he believes could be better run by the cities they're in.

He doesn't want to divest the county of all its parks, he said. But he added, "Every time they're in a city boundary, I ask, 'Why are we doing this?' "

A past argument has been that the parks attract visitors from all over Southern California and should be managed as regional assets, but Moorlach's not buying that.

"I just think Newport Beach could do a better job managing the Back Bay," he said.

Banning Ranch might be in the discussion also. Newport officials are working on an agreement that would offer the property for sale to environmental groups and park boosters. And if they can raise the money, the 400-plus acres might become part of a network of parks along the Santa Ana River. And Costa Mesa, Newport or both could manage it, Moorlach said.

"The taxpayers don't know who runs it; they just want to make sure it's clean," he said.

Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau said the city has long been interested in taking over the Back Bay, so he's eager to discuss it.

For Costa Mesa's part, the city is better positioned to manage Talbert Nature Preserve, which is adjacent to city-owned Fairview Park, Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder said.

"Frankly, that's a concept that we raised with John, knowing his approach to kind of thinking larger-scale about what should be the county's core business responsibilities," he said.

Whether the suggestion moves forward may depend on the outcome of other annexation talks, and officials from Newport Beach and Costa Mesa have shown little progress so far.

On Wednesday, city leaders told board members at the county's Local Agency Formation Commission, which decides on annexations, that there may be some common ground, but they'll have to find it by May, when the agency will take up the annexation issues again.