YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


A seaside sanctuary with no room for privacy

May 04, 2003|June Casagrande | Special to The Times

Drawing card

Balboa Island is a distinctive community in the middle of Orange County's Newport Harbor offering coastal living with a neighborly vibe. A narrow waterway called the Grand Canal divides the community into the main island and Little Balboa Island. Together they have 1,450 expensive and in-demand homes.

There's no better place to call home, according to residents, who use words like "heaven," "sanctuary" and "paradise" to describe the island's seaside serenity. The island's main drag, Marine Avenue, is lined with gift shops, ice cream parlors and art galleries and serves as the town square.

Balboa Island is small. The larger island is 1 3/4 miles in circumference. Little Balboa Island is just 3/4 mile around. Everything is within walking distance.

But Balboa Island is not for everyone. People who prize spacious lots and privacy should probably look elsewhere.

Wow factor

Life on the island is so casual and laid-back that it's easy to forget the million-dollar-plus prices. Waterfront homes start at about $3 million and offer views of Newport Harbor that might include the Balboa Pavilion Ferris wheel, docked sailboats or sunsets on the water. Most lots are about 30-by-85 feet and are valued at an average of $1.1 million.

Good news, bad news

Balboa Island's charm is at times its biggest drawback. Summer tourists can make parking difficult.

Insider information

Holiday decorating is competitive on Balboa Island. Some homeowners spend thousands of dollars sprucing up their exteriors for Christmas and even Halloween, attracting plenty of spectators.

Report card

Students attend Lincoln Elementary until seventh grade, after which they go to Corona del Mar High School, both part of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. Lincoln's Academic Performance Index score for 2002 was 888 out of 1,000. Corona del Mar's score of 823 ranks it fifth in Orange County.

Hot spots

Which neighborhood is most desirable is subject to debate. Little Balboa Island residents say their part of town is best because it's neighborly and unsightly utility lines are buried underground. Those on the big island who live nearest to Marine Avenue claim they have the most convenient location. Residents on the waterfront street called South Bayfront boast that they have the best views of the harbor. Residents on the opposite side of the island on North Bayfront say they enjoy more peace and quiet.

Stock report

In the last week of April, only 27 single-family houses were listed for sale. They ranged from a small three-bedroom home on a half-lot for $800,000 to a four-bedroom waterfront home for $10.6 million. There were no condos on the market.

Historical values

Single-family detached resales:

Year...Median Price






*year to date

Sources: DataQuick Information Services, Abrams Coastal Properties,, School Wise Press.

Los Angeles Times Articles