Letter to the Editor: The Future of Mariners’ Mile

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Let’s build a coastal city for people to enjoy now and in the future: Newport Beach should remain a charming coastal town along the tranquil bay.

To most Newport Beach residents, Mariners’ Mile is our Main Street” and the heart of our town. This access to the beaches services our schools, neighborhoods, business districts and post office.

West Pacific Coast Highway should not be a raceway or a motor corridor for commuter and commercial traffic. Newport Beach’s stretch of PCH should instead be a meeting place that’s welcoming to and safe for walkers and bicyclists.

Research shows there is a growing movement in beach towns to transform Pacific Coast Highway to a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly thoroughfare. From Seal Beach to San Diego, cities are prioritizing protecting children, residents and visitors and to do so they have found ways to slow traffic, enhance safety, widen sidewalks and bike lanes, and make other changes that facilitate the flow of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Several Orange County study groups over the years have been struggling with varying perspectives and conflicts. They have attempted to build a consensus, however, they have had only marginal success. Without a clear vision guiding the transformation of Mariners’ Mile, ongoing efforts will continue to be suboptimal and disappointing.

Newport Beach cannot have it both ways. A village attracting people and a crosstown freeway are incompatible. The City’s Planning Department says “The widening/expansion of West Coast Highway is not a part of the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan” when in reality they co-exist, are interdependent, and cannot be separated.

Adding a third lane to West Coast Highway has been an ongoing aim since 1975 and is currently required by the City’s General Plan. However, community norms have changed dramatically over the last 47 years. Today’s property owners, residents and community strongly desire that Mariners’ Mile be transformed into a village akin to Corona del Mar.

The continuing evolution is most evident in the Mariner’s Mile Strategic Vision and Design Framework dated October 4, 2000. This document recognized the inherent conflict in designing a welcoming village and high volume highway, and it set forth a strategy “to discourage the policy of widening Pacific Coast Highway through Mariner’s Mile”.

Property owners, local merchants, residents, and communities throughout Newport Beach are now contesting the Mariner’s Mile Revitalization Plan under consideration by the Planning Commission. (See the website protectmarinersmile.org).

In 2018 the City’s General Plan will be updated. This is when the City Council must consider the future of Mariner’s Mile from a citywide perspective. We now have a golden opportunity to build a genuine and lasting community consensus. We can make a strong commitment to work together and to encourage city planners to prioritize safety and community.

 Patrick Gormley

Newport Beach

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