Parking, an evergreen topic in Newport Beach, once again reached the City Council dais this week, but this time it brought a private dispute between two companies along with it.
In October, the Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit submitted by DJM Capital Partners, Inc., for a Lido Marina Village parking management plan. The permit is more of an update to a previous CUP approved in 2014.
Electra Cruises, Inc., a LMV tenant, filed an appeal alleging the Commission was “misled” by not being fully informed about the parking situation the village.
Tuesday’s Council discussion was meant to consider whether or not DJM should be allowed to amend their parking management plan.
Council ultimately unanimously denied the appeal, 7 to 0.
As Lido Marina Village went through an extensive renovation recently, demand for parking increased, explained Deputy Community Development Director Jim Campbell.
“As more tenants occupied LMV, parking demand grew and employees began parking in neighborhood streets, likely due to cost and convenience,” staff explain in their report.
As this was happening, and complaints were coming in, the city and DJM discussed how to alleviate the parking problems caused in the neighboring residential streets, particularly on the nearby Finley tract.
In 2016, off-site parking and shuttle service for LMV employees was added at Hoag Health Center.
A pilot program initiated in May also reinforced the valet parking plan, additional tandem parking in the parking structure, and most notably, DJM discontinued charging employees $85 dollars to park in the parking structure or the off-site parking lot.
“We had some initial successes, we did see a reduction in employees and other patrons parking in the Finley tract,” Campbell said. “What that did though, is push cars into the parking structure. Which is a good thing, we want to utilize those spaces as best we can.”
Parking demand in the LMV structure grew to capacity at times. Allowing employees to park in the structure for free resulted in reduced parking availability for patrons, including Electra’s guests.
As a result, some patrons were turned away when the structure was full, causing some Electra guests to miss a departing boat.
“That has sort of been the unintended consequence of this: We’ve got the employees back into the structure and then Electra patrons are finding it difficult to park,” Campbell said.
There should be better communication between the two, said Councilwoman Diane Dixon, whose district covers the Balboa Peninsula and Lido Village.
There should be advanced planning and communication when there is a large special event, like a wedding, which is typically scheduled many months in advance with more than 100 people attending, she noted.
Knowing the parking structure will be at capacity, there should be communication between Electra and DJM to set up the shuttle service, which is then forwarded on to the patrons, Dixon suggested.
“Nobody wants to miss the boat to go to a wedding,” Dixon said.
It seems like a process that should be happening between the two, she said.
Campbell completely agreed.
“The difficulty is we have to basically force that process to happen,” he said. “We try to shy away from dictating how businesses communicate with one another, our job is to enforce the codes.”
Although it’s been confirmed that there is a private parking agreement between the two parties, there is dispute between DJM and Electra on whether or not the agreement was properly disclosed , as well as whether or not it has been adhered to.
Electra alleges that DJM has failed to provide adequate off-site parking for Electra’s guests, thereby creating a parking shortage in the LMV structure.
They’ve provided off-site parking, said DJM Capital Partners Inc., President Lindsay Parton. If Electra would park their employees and vendors off-site, there wouldn’t be a problem, he added.
“From DJM’s perspective we have been living up to our agreement,” Parton said.
In DJM’s written response to the appeal, they state that Electra demands are “over the top” for a “ridiculous level of service” with a minimum of four “luxury shuttle buses” each with a capacity of 45 people.
Mark Huston, the attorney representing Electra Cruises, said that the shuttles DJM provided could never work for Electra’s business. They have guests coming in 100 at a time and a shuttle could only handle half a dozen or so, he said.
“It’s not their (Electra’s) obligation to provide the off-side parking,” Huston said. It’s “someone else’s” responsibility, he added.
Huston suggested a solution of charging employees for parking in the structure on the heavy traffic days (weekends and during special events), compelling them to take the shuttle.
It’s about working together, said Councilman Scott Peotter. The management is always going to be heavy-handed in helping guide the tenants and their patrons to hopefully maximize their ability to perform and do well in business, while still not harming the overall center, he commented.
Landlords often have to make choices as to which tenant is going to help or hurt the center more than others, Peotter explained.
“But it all depends on the cooperation of all the tenants,” Peotter said.
It seems like Electra is not cooperating, he observed.
“Usually in a shared center the tenants have to work together,” Peotter said.
Several Lido Marina Village business owners spoke during public comment, many emphasizing that parking has gotten much better with the implementation of DJM’s pilot program.
“Parking today has never been better for our customers and employees,” said Tress Apothecary + Salon owner Tera Stephens.
Parking was a serious problem when they first opened in January 2016, she added. But now, it’s a “non-issue,” she said.
A number of residents also voiced their concerns during the meeting.
Although some of the efforts from DJM have helped, it’s still an issue, added Finley tract resident Jennifer Mallon.
She recounted when her sister was married on an Electra cruise, before she lived in the area. They didn’t pay for the parking because it was “ridiculous” and they weren’t offered any off-site options, Mallon said. They ultimately parked on the neighborhood streets, she added.
“We’ve actually done this ourselves,” Mallon said, “and so I know that people will continue to do it.”
It’s also a matter of safety, added fellow Finley tract resident Ingrid Yankauskas. People speed through the neighborhood, many trying to get to a cruise before the boat leaves, she pointed out.
“Electra has to be responsible to tell their parties, ‘This is the beach, it’s already crowded enough,’” arrive on time and park in the structure, Yankauskas said. “To try and fix the problem before something major happens. One of us is going to get hit one day and it’s not just going to be ‘Oh, I’m going to miss my cruise,’ it’s going to be ‘Someone’s dead,” because it’s unsafe right now in the Finley tract.”
Something needs to be done, she emphasized.
Several public speakers mentioned the two new restaurants scheduled to open this year. There is already an issue with lack of parking and congestion, that will only worsen with two more restaurants, they agreed.
DJM and Electra have a problem, but it shouldn’t create a problem for the residents on the Finley tract, a few noted.
“I do look at this as an internal squabble,” Peotter said, “and no matter what the squabble is, right now I see the Finley tract is paying the penalty.”