A long discussed proposed park and pedestrian bridge met some pushback this week, after a group of residents raised concerns over potential view obstruction and the dog park aspect of the project.
Ultimately, the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission unanimously agreed to move forward with the conceptual design of the Lower Sunset View Park project, which includes a small dog park and a concrete pedestrian bridge.
Commissioners voted 6-0 Tuesday to recommend the design proposal for the park, as city staff proposed, to City Council. Commissioner Diane Daruty was absent.
About a dozen Newport Crest residents attended the meeting, with only a handful speaking during public comment about the park, located on northeast side of the W. Coast Highway and Superior Avenue intersection (with the pedestrian bridge crossing Superior Ave.).
Most of the citizens’ concerns focused on the proposed dog park portion of the park, noting that the location is not appropriate, possible safety issues, and negative impact of the potential smell and noise.
Longtime resident Mark Wilser spoke about several of these points, adding that they are “downwind” from the park and that dogs may be off leash outside of the fenced dog park.
It’s a highly valuable and unique piece of land, Wilser continued, with the ocean views and proximity to the beach.
“It’s an unfair situation to the community,” Wilser said. “This is essentially wasted on dogs, who, realistically, are more interested in sniffing each other than having some kind of understanding of where they are. Residents and taxpayers deserve the resource and it shouldn’t be prioritized for dogs at the expense of residents and taxpayers.”
The nearest HOA does not allow dogs, Wilser and several others pointed out, so a dog park is not fitting for the neighborhood.
Visiting dogs may be off-leash outside of the fenced park and could potentially run into the busy and dangerous intersection, another resident opined.
Also, several added, the community was not adequately notified. And, the dog park, at just .2 acre, or about 9,000-square-feet, is too small for dogs and people to enjoy, another Newport Crest resident noted.
A few other residents commented that the bridge may impede the view while driving down Superior Avenue.
“That’s a very special view,” local Michael Solomon said, “let’s not ruin it.”
It will be an eyesore, another added.
“Throw us a bone by dropping this dog park,” another resident concluded.
Solomon also commented that the price tag is too high.
It would cost about $2 to $3 million, without any contingency built in, for just the bridge, Senior Civil Engineer Andy Tram explained. The entire project, including all documents and reports, would likely be around $8 to $9 million.
Recreation & Senior Services Director Laura Detweiler said when staff considered various locations for a dog park in 2015, this site was at the top of the list. It was a city-owned property and undeveloped, she pointed out.
Also, residents were asking for a dog park in the West Newport area, she noted, opposite side of the city of the current dog park at the Civic Center.
The construction of Sunset Ridge Park was completed in December 2014, the staff report explains. Due to insufficient parking and difficult access, the park is not being utilized to its fullest capacity. During the April 4, 2017, PB&R Commission meeting, Public Works staff presented several ideas to improve pedestrian safety and access to Sunset Ridge Park from Sunset View Park. Staff subsequently held multiple meetings with the PB&R Sunset View Park Ad Hoc Committee and the City Council Working Group to develop a conceptual design that addresses these issues.
Tony Petros, engineer at LSA Associates, Inc., and former City Councilman, said they notified and spoke with all the HOA groups in the area.
They had several community meetings, organized and noticed by the HOAs, where there were some concerns, but mostly positive feedback. Each meeting had between 10 and 40 people in attendance and they received “generally favorable opinion” of the bridge and park project, Petros said.
Petros also pointed out that they are utilizing approximately $2.35 million in outside grant funding, that will partially pay for the project. They plan to continue to look for more grant funding, he added.
If the schedule moves ahead as staff predicted, the project could be complete as early as spring 2020, Tram noted.
Commissioners seemed on board with the overall idea of the project, particularly enthusiastic about the bridge. Several noted that it was needed to improve safety for pedestrians ad bicyclists.
“I think this bridge idea is fabulous,” commented Commissioner Walt Howald.
Although they were more on the fence about the dog park, it was included in the conceptual project design being recommended to City Council at this point. Although, the details of the design could change, a few commissioners pointed out.
It’s “critical” to move forward with this project, commented Commission Vice Chair Heather Ignatin, who ultimately made the motion to approve.