A controversial plan to build a Taco Bell restaurant across Coast Highway from the Balboa Bay Club goes before the Newport Beach City Council tonight. Residents of the bluff above the proposed site, primarily on Kings Road, have opposed the project for months. It won approval from the Planning Commission a month ago, but opponents appealed the decision to the council.
Most opponents initially said the proposed 24-hour operations were the problem. The feared this would create an all-night hangout and invite crime.
The commission limited the hours of operation to 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. and required that the dining areas and parking lot be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., so the restaurant could offer only drive-through service from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The changes did not satisfy opponents who also complained of potential noise, light and smells from the site. Bluff-top residents complained that on some nights they can hear customers making orders at a McDonald's half a mile away on Coast Highway.
In advance of tonight's public hearing, some opponents have asked the council for a moratorium on fast-food restaurants on the Mariner's Mile stretch of the highway and a study of whether such businesses are compatible with the image of the area.
They asked that, at a minimum, the council limit all operations to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. weeknights, with a midnight closing time on weekends.
Councilwoman Norma Glover, who was chairwoman of the Planning Commission when the restaurant was approved, abstained from that discussion and vote because of a potential conflict of interest.
Her council campaign received contributions from the former owners of the property on which the franchise is to be built, the site of the vacant Malee's restaurant, at 1400 W. Coast Highway.
Glover is likely to abstain again from tonight's discussions, possibly leaving an even number of council members to decide the issue.