Several years ago, the New Yorker magazine ran a cartoon by B. Smaller that shows a young boy standing before his bemused teacher, explaining his arithmetical solution on the blackboard: “2+2=5.” “Maybe it’s not a wrong answer — maybe it’s just a different answer,” read the caption.
The cartoon is posted on my bulletin board as a steady reminder of the human desire, when faced with reality, to so want the numbers to be something other than what they are.
That might be our age as we grower older, a stock or business investment that refuses to perform as hoped, or a budget that doesn’t quite pencil out.
As I’ve followed the City’s rhetoric in support of the unfortunate, though aptly named, Ballot Measure Y (as in Y oh Y oh Y has this land use amendment been inflicted upon the residents of Newport Beach?), I’ve been struck by its magical thinking: 2+2=3.
Essentially the City is encouraging residents to believe that the addition of 500 new residential units and 565,000 square feet of office/commercial space in Newport Center will reduce traffic by 2,922 average daily vehicle trips (ADTs).
This asks residents to disbelieve their daily experiences. We already know that ADTs in various parts of town have increased to an objectionable degree.
Besides, Jim Mosher, who lives on Upper Newport Bay, points out, “That figure of 2,922 ADTs is deceptive. According to the City’s own EIR (Environmental Impact Report), such development in Newport Center would add more than 9,120 ADTs. But you won’t find that figure mentioned in Measure Y.”
The Orange County Register reported on Aug. 15 that some residents find Measure Y so egregious that they filed a lawsuit, arguing that the language used to explain the ballot measure “violates election law and is misleading and inaccurate in describing the impact of future development allowed in the measure.”
During the July 8 City Council meeting, Ed Selich proposed a Corona del Mar traffic bypass plan via Newport Coast Drive to help alleviate the problem through electronic signage that would alert drivers to a quicker route to the 73 Tollway and the 55 and 405 Freeways.
This seemed a sensible idea, if long overdue, so I contacted Caltrans to see what they thought.
David Richardson, Caltrans District 12 Office of Public Information, explained the process: “Our CMS (Changeable Message Signage) is not an easy thing to do. There are a lot of logistics involved, including approval by the Coastal Commission. When we place signage on a state highway system, we are constrained by many regulations. Our `bible’ is the “California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.”
Richardson added, “Directing people from a state route (PCH) [via] a non-state route (Newport Coast Drive) to another state route (the freeways) is a formalized process that would begin with a request from the City. Ed Selich hasn’t contacted us; we haven’t heard from anyone in the city.”
What’s amazing to me is that the City, despite the fact that it took ownership of PCH years ago, has never initiated that process.
Surely it makes better sense for the Council to more thoroughly address our traffic issues rather than rush to open the way to more development. Because once we build it they will come, and traffic will only worsen. The City’s magical thinking cannot change what we know to be true. Traffic issues are endemic to our geography: Balboa Island and the Peninsula will always have more traffic than we like, and people will always want to cruise PCH.
What is changeable is the City’s attitude toward development and the traffic it generates versus the quality of residential life in Newport Beach.
Given the City’s advocacy of Measure Y, the tide is not turning in the residents’ favor.
The writer is the President of the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club