Council Votes No on CdM Entryway Project

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By Amy Senk │ Re-printed with permission from

A rendering of the proposed entryway project.
A rendering of the proposed entryway project.

The Newport Beach City Council took about one hour Tuesday night to unanimously reject a Corona del Mar beautification project that had been in the works for more than a decade.

The Council members also decided to “call for a comprehensive parking solution” before going forward with permanently removing eight parking spaces on East Coast Highway and possibly using the space for a small-scale version of the project.

The original project would have cost about $1.2 million, and the smaller project would cost about $450,000, said City Manager Dave Kiff. City funds have not been allocated to either project.

At Tuesday’s meeting, City Traffic Engineer Tony Brine explained a study conducted over the summer, which could have led to funding for the beautification project at East Coast Highway and MacArthur Boulevard. City staff moved the squeeze lane, where three traffic lanes merge to two, from Carnation Avenue to Acacia Avenue, then observed traffic backups that drew complaints, especially from residents of the Irvine Terrace neighborhood.

Councilman Ed Selich said he attended the Irvine Terrace homeowners association’s annual meeting in November, where residents inundated him with complaints about traffic backing up, making it impossible to turn from Avocado and into a turn lane on East Coast Highway.

“This was my idea,” he said, referring to his work on the Corona del Mar Vision Plan of the 1990s. “It seemed like a terrific idea at the time. The idea was to move the bottleneck further to the west. It seemed to make sense, but the perception of the people in Irvine Terrace was it’s a terrible solution.”

A Corona del Mar Citizens Advisory Panel met in 2011 and created a plan that would have converted the former traffic lane into expanded sidewalks with curved walls, landscaping and other features that would make the entryway more appealing for pedestrians.

At Tuesday’s Council meeting, cycling advocate and Corona del Mar resident Frank Peters spoke in favor of the project.

“Where else in the city are we enhancing the pedestrian experience?” he said.

Jim Walker, owner of the Bungalow Restaurant that is located in the area of the proposed project, also spoke at the meeting and expressed concern about a staff proposal to remove eight Coast Highway parking spots despite rejecting the entryway project overall.

Walker said the beautification project would have encouraged pedestrians to visit the area’s merchants, which would have compensated for moving the parking spots. Losing the project and the parking was lose-lose, he said.

The city studied the possible traffic flow issues late last year.
The city studied the possible traffic flow issues late last year.

“We’ve had a traffic-flow problem there for the past 30 to 40 years,” he said. “If we take the parking away, the merchants are going to have a cash-flow problem.”

City staff removed the parking at the T-intersection of East Coast Highway and MacArthur for the parking study with promises to replace them if the project went forward. On Tuesday, city staff said the parking spaces were unsafe in that intersection and should be removed. The spots would be relocated, possibly in part by making a section of Carnation Avenue one-way.

“Carnation should be in addition,” Walker said. “The north part of Corona del Mar has a major parking shortage. Any parking that we lose is hard to replace.”

In all, about 10 people spoke at the Tuesday meeting, mostly in support of the project.

Others, like George Schroeder, said the traffic study showed the project’s fatal flaws.

“I don’t believe it’s a good concept,” he said. “We all saw the study, we all saw it backed up and said, ‘Well, there you are.’”

In the end, City Council member Nancy Gardner of Corona del Mar made a motion, which the Council unanimously supported in a 7-0 vote. Part of the motion called for “a comprehensive parking solution” for Corona del Mar before proceeding with the project, as well as having staff redesign landscape plans for the smaller-scaled project.

After the meeting, Corona del Mar Business Improvement District Chairman Bernie Svalstad said he wasn’t surprised at the Council’s decision.

“We go back to the drawing board,” he said.

Walker, who also is on the B.I.D. board, said parking was his main concern.

“I knew we were facing a losing battle,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to provide more parking for the north side of Corona del Mar.”

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