Parking Problems Surround CdM School

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Parking can be an issue in a number of areas throughout the city, but it’s particularly troublesome for an Eastbluff neighborhood.

Residents on Aralia Street, off Eastbluff Drive, next to Corona del Mar High School, say they have been raising concerns over students parking on their street for nearly three years and now the city and the school district are starting to work together to find a solution.

“We had a very candid discussion about the goings on around the high schools, in particular the condition and proliferation of parking in the residential neighborhoods,” said councilman Tony Petros at the Oct. 8 city council meeting.

Petros, councilman Rush Hill, city manager Dave Kiff and other city staff met with the Newport Mesa Unified School District board of education on Sept. 25

The meeting was productive, Petros noted

“There was consensus that we could and will work together on a range of solutions,” he said.

“Everybody acknowledged that parking into the neighborhoods is not beneficial for our mutual interest, be it the school or the city,” Petros commented.

The school district officials offered some positive changes they would be willing to implement at both high schools in the city, Petros explained. They also asked for some changes on the city’s part, he continued, changes that many residents surrounding the schools have also asked for as well.

Petros asked staff to come back with a range of alternatives that address neighborhood parking, starting with just CdMHS

Possible ideas pitched from Petros include time restrictions and resident-only parking.

Following the meeting with the city, district officials said they don’t have a firm solution but are working on it.

There is also an issue at Newport Harbor High School. Campus parking for students is off of 16th Street, but students often park in the nearby residential streets.

“We are working with school admin to encourage students to use the designated parking on 16th street as opposed to neighborhood parking in front of campus,” district spokeswoman Laura Boss explained in an email.

Administrators at both high schools will be working with students about “being good neighbors and encouraging them to park in student designated areas during the school day,” Boss said.

Changing the lunch schedule at CdM may be one of the options considered as school officials look at the options, Boss said. Many students park on the street to avoid the parking lot congestion at lunch, so changing the lunch schedule may ease some of the traffic.

“Additionally, CdMHS is under construction and a major previous parking area is now unavailable. We hope that will be alleviated by next school year,” Boss explained.

Aralia Street resident, Tara Reilly-Tung has lived on the street for four years, she noted, and parking has always been bad.

“Every year, it got worse and worse,” she said at the Sept. 10 city council meeting.

She spoke on behalf of about 50 families living on Aralia Street near CdM High School.

Aralia and some surrounding streets are completely filled by 6:30 a.m., she noted. At the same time, she continued, the parking lots at CdM are partially empty.

Residents often can’t find street parking until after about 3 p.m., she said.

“There’s no space to park on our street,” she said.

It’s actually more convenient for some students to park on Aralia than in the back lot, she said.

“We have found by talking to the high school students, that the reason they park there is because it’s easy, it’s close, it’s convenient,” she said. “So they prefer to park on Aralia.”

Students also seem to like the street because it’s private, Reilly-Tung said, they can do whatever they want in their care in between classes.

“And I’m not joking,” she explained. “We’ve seen all kinds of things.”

Behavior that includes littering, loitering noise, and other “minor crimes,” she said.

Another Aralia street resident, Mara Krista, noted that driveways are sometimes partially blocked, creating a safety hazard. Kids will also cross Eastbluff Drive, outside of the crosswalk, to get to their cars, she added.

“We’re concerned not just about access to our homes and community property values, but also safety for our children, our families and the students themselves,” she said.

Student parking in the school’s lots is designated for seniors only, any sophomore or junior student drivers have to park off campus, with the exception of a few permits issued to juniors lottery-style.

Switching that policy to a first come, first serve basis, would largely, but not entirely, eliminate the problem, Reilly-Tung said.

Krista also suggested restricted permit parking.

“It’s not a perfect solution,” she said, but it would help temporarily as they work with the city and the school district to come up with a more comprehensive plan. “It would give us some measure of relief.”

The residents recognize that the students are the “bad guys” in this situation and that it‘s a complex issue, Krista said

About two and a half years ago, Reilly-Tung and her neighbors started talking with council and city staff.

About 40 spaces were added about two years ago, she remarked, but it did not help.

A parking survey was conducted that concluded the area was “severely impacted” by the traffic.

Following that was a resident survey that found 75 percent of them would approve limited parking signage, which is what they’ve been “clamoring” for over the years, Reilly-Tung said.

The neighbors have “jumped through hoops,” she said.

Over the years the city has made a number of changes, councilwoman Leslie Daigle noted at the Sept. 10 meeting.

“The solution to this doesn’t entirely fall in the city’s lap,” Daigle said. “We have a school district there, we have kids that drive to school and they’re parking all over the place. It’s not an easy problem to address without the cooperation of the school district.”

Daigle noted that there are new principals and a new superintendent in place and that she and the city are looking forward to working with them.

But there is a “great deal of reluctance” from the city to put up signs that are permit parking, she explained.

“We do intend to meet with the school district to try and lift more burden off that particular street,” Daigle added.

It’s a long time coming for many residents.

“We still have no solution,” Reilly-Tung said, “and we’re very frustrated. And we need some help now.”

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