The Newport Beach City Council balked Tuesday night at spending close to $700,000, or even $148,000, to refurbish the teak and jatoba benches and related trash can covers around Balboa Island, preferring instead to phase out the stately but expensive street furniture in favor of fixtures made of faux wood.
As the owner of a wooden boat, Mayor Pro Tem Brad Avery said he knows what it takes to maintain teak. He said the city should move toward attractive wood alternatives.
We just have to move to benches that dont need to be refinished, he said. I would not spend another nickel on refinishing anything.
The council was set to consider a $692,000 contract proposal to refresh and repair each of the islands 109 benches and 26 coordinating trash can covers up to twice a year for two years.
City staff said it wanted to accept the bid, requiring the city to set aside the $692,000, but only spend a fraction of it, dropping the scope to a single refurbishment of each bench and considering a new long-term plan. That cost would come to about $148,000, without replacement of the embedded bronze dedication plaques.
The council instead chose to reject the contract entirely and phase out the wooden fixtures.
The city maintains the sidewalk benches on Marine Avenue and elsewhere around the island. The benches about half made of teak and the other half of jatoba, also known as Brazilian cherry were donated over the past 24 years and need to be refinished at least once a year to meet community requests and expectations, according to a city staff report. Contractors do that work but havent fully refurbished the benches and trash cans in two years.
Teak benches face the bay at a Balboa Island street end.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)
A jatoba, or Brazilian cherry, bench on Balboa Islands Marine Avenue.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)
Deputy Director of Public Works Micah Martin said neighbors suggested something with more flair when a donor sought to place concrete benches around the island in the mid-1990s.
After seeing the bench, the island raised some concerns, he told the council. The BIIA [Balboa Island Improvement Assn.] got involved and proposed putting teakwood benches on the island because theyre much more aesthetically pleasing, had a nautical theme to them and its more of what they wanted to see.
The BIIA helped with their maintenance. In 2006, the city took over maintenance of all donated fixtures.
At that time, when the city had an in-house wood shop and full-time staff carpenters, each bench cost about $400 a year to refinish.
The city outsourced woodworking a few years later, and market forces have increased once-yearly refurbishment costs to $960 for a jatoba bench and $1,150 for a teak bench.
Staff says the sun, rain and salty marine air have weathered the items much quicker than the BIAA anticipated. The benches also are susceptible to damage from vehicles and vandals.
The council voted 6-0 to have staff craft a less-expensive replacement plan, vetted by the public and the city Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commission. Councilman Jeff Herdman recused himself because he owns property in the area.
Theyre beautiful, Councilman Kevin Muldoon said of the real wood benches, and if we had our own woodworking team, itd make sense. But this is not sustainable on a contract basis.
Councilwoman Diane Dixon said shes sensitive to Balboa Islands affinity for the benches the only park, sidewalk and beach benches in the city not made of concrete or a hardy composite material. But cost is a factor.
Its going to be $1 million in a couple of years and were going to wish we dealt with this earlier, she said.
Sidewalk benches from the citys usual catalog cost $2,800 to $2,900 new, comparable to the $2,400 for a replacement jatoba bench or $3,150 for one of teak. They do not, however, require regular maintenance, and the faux-wood model lasts about 10 years, Martin said.
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