Council Considers Civic Center Complaints

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By Amy Senk | Corona del Mar Today

The view some residents have of the civic center parking structure.
The view some residents have of the civic center parking structure.

The new Civic Center has drawn praise from some and complaints from others, mostly about the $131 million price tag. But some neighbors have gone to the City Council with concerns about bright lights and the ugly, exposed parking garage.

“(I) was very surprised when I came to your Open House to see that your side of the parking structure has a beautiful lush line of several-story high trees standing shoulder to shoulder,” Suzanne Babbush told the City Council at last week’s meeting. “Our side has two rather wimpy eucalyptus trees that don’t shield much of anything.”

Resident Jim Warren complained that lights burn throughout the night.

“Memorial Day weekend, all of the lights at City Hall and library were on at night from Friday night through Monday morning,” he told the Council members. “There was not a person visible on site during that entire period of time. A large portion of the lights are shining on the ceilings and beams. These lights are of no value except for architectural enhancement.”

Lights in the Council Chambers area illuminate the building’s sail feature, he said, and a lighted message board shines “like a beacon” into his home on Surfline Way.

“We are taxpayers, and we do not like wasting our money and valuable resources on these needless amenities,” he said. “It is time to cut back on the money that is spent on unnecessary items such as extra lighting within this complex and restructure our priorities.”

City officials said both sets of concerns had been noted, and that in time they would be alleviated.

“The contractor is still working on punch list items,” said city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan in an email after the meeting. “We checked and there were crews in here over the holiday weekend and some crews were working at night. Steve said that night work (approximately 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) will continue for a couple of more weeks, on and off.”

All architectural lights should turn off at 10 p.m. every day, she said, but some safety and security lights remain on. Assistant City Manager Steve Badum could consider changes, she said.

“But we have to keep in mind that the Central Library stays open until 9 p.m. some nights, so we would want to keep the lights on until then,” she wrote.

The landscaping issues will be resolved when the Toyon shrubs along MacArthur Boulevard mature, Badum said.

“The difference in height from the Civic Green to the top of the parking structure is about 35 feet so the ficus tree hedge fits,” he said in an email. “The structure on the MacArthur side is only approximately 6 foot higher than the street. If we planted the same ficus trees, we’d be substantially blocking views. The existing shrubs on MacArthur should grow to be as high as the structure in a few years.”

The shrubs currently are about 3 feet tall and should double in size in the next three years, Finnigan said. The shrubs could grow as tall as 20 feet tall but will be maintained so they are shorter, she said.

At the City Council meeting, Babbush, who lives on White Sails Way, left photographs showing the shrubs and trees for city staff to review. She added that the glass from windshields of cars parked in the structure created glare.

“I hope we can be good neighbors,” she said.

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