Council unanimously agreed this week to move forward with the Lower Sunset View Park and Superior Avenue Bridge project, minus the previously discussed proposed dog park.
Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday to approve the conceptual design for the Superior Avenue pedestrian/bicycle bridge and parking lot project including the proposed concrete bridge, parking lot and an option for passive recreation area (open space) adjacent to existing Sunset View Park.
Councilman Kevin Muldoon recused himself because of business conflict.
The item included a Professional Services Agreement with Dokken Engineering of San Diego not-to-exceed $919,890.
The project, located on northeast side of the W. Coast Highway and Superior Avenue intersection, has raised concern by nearby residents, primarily from the Villa Balboa complex.
Most of the citizens’ concerns focused on the proposed dog park portion of the park, noting that the location is not appropriate, possible safety issues, and negative impact of the potential smell and noise.
There will be “spillover” into the residential area, some noted.
The nearest HOA does not allow dogs, several pointed out, so a dog park is not fitting for the neighborhood.
Opponents also had concerns that it would increase traffic in an area that often is “gridlock” already, it would cause property values to decline, and crime could potentially increase. Several residents were also worried about the impact on the view.
The approved portion of the project includes a total of 128 parking spaces and a footbridge over Superior Avenue.
The bridge would allow pedestrians and bicyclists to better access Sunset Ridge Park from the parking lot without the need to use the at-grade crosswalk.
“This will significantly improve pedestrian safety and access,” according to the staff report.
Jim Kaiser Villa Balboa resident and retired police office liked the idea of the bridge.
“The most dangerous thing you’ll ever do in your life is cross the street,” Kaiser said. “It’s a really good idea.”
However, the dog park is a really bad idea, he continued.
The city doesn’t need more locations for dogs, said another local.
Newport Beach Civic Center Park at Avocado Avenue and San Miguel Drive includes an off-leash, fenced-in play area. Another dog park is planned for the Newport Crossing project in the airport area.
Recreation & Senior Services Director Laura Detweiler previously said when staff considered various locations for a dog park in 2015, this site was at the top of the list. It was a city-owned property and undeveloped, she pointed out.
Also, residents were asking for a dog park in the West Newport area, she noted, opposite side of the city of the current dog park at the Civic Center.
Supporters agreed that the dog park is needed and the location is fitting.
City Manager Grace Leung said that before 4 p.m. Tuesday the city received 139 letters in support and 116 opposed to the project.
“A dog park on the west side of Newport Beach is much-needed and this is a perfect location for it,” Annabelle D ‘Eliscu wrote. “I am confident that the new dog park will be used extensively and appropriately.”
A dog park is an important amenity to those residents who do not have a place to take their dogs off-leash, allowing them to play and exercise freely, she added.
They are trying to deliver something good, said Councilman Brad Avery, and a lot of work was done on the project.
“Ultimately… residents who are going to be impacted by our decisions, on balance, need to be given more weight on these things,” Avery said, “because it’s their home.”
It’s a difficult decision, he added.
This is city land it belongs to the public, Avery said, commenting on the perceived resistance to broader public access to the park the project will create.
“A full parking lot is a good thing,” Avery said. “We want to maximize that usage.”
The construction of Sunset Ridge Park was completed in December 2014, the staff report explains. Due to insufficient parking and difficult access, the park is not being utilized to its fullest capacity. During the April 4, 2017, PB&R Commission meeting, Public Works staff presented several ideas to improve pedestrian safety and access to Sunset Ridge Park from Sunset View Park. Staff subsequently held multiple meetings with the PB&R Sunset View Park Ad Hoc Committee and the City Council Working Group to develop a conceptual design that addresses these issues.
The staff findings and recommendations are compelling, but each Council member has to consider what it might be like for the residents who live next door.
It probably wouldn’t have the impacts stated by several locals, Avery opined, but that doesn’t invalidate the citizens’ concerns.