Mariners’ Mile, the stretch of land along Coast Highway between Newport Boulevard and Dover Drive, is the current and last official target of revitalization within the city of Newport Beach, according to city officials.
Community Development Director Kimberly Brandt and Public Works Director Dave Webb presented a brief overview of the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Master Plan to a crowd of nearly 60 people at the monthly Speak Up! Newport Community Forum event held Wednesday night in the Community Room at the Civic Center.
Brandt immediately clarified the correct spelling of Mariners’ Mile.
“Since we have multiple mariners in the city of Newport Beach,” she said with a smile, “the apostrophe is placed after the s.”
No plans were mentioned to correct the entry sign to the area, which uses the incorrect spelling: Mariner’s Mile.
Private redevelopment is the goal for the area, Brandt said.
“I’m not talking about the city coming in and redeveloping it,” she noted.
The draft plan provides guidelines for storefronts and ways to maximize views for both pedestrians, drivers, and residents. Streets and sidewalks, on the other hand, are the city’s domain.
“Pedestrian connections are extremely important within our community, not only for our residents and our businesses, but for all of our visitors,” Brandt said of proposed new crosswalks and harbor-side walkways. What makes Mariners’ Mile feel so narrow is West Coast Highway, she remarked, calling it a barrier that’s hard to negotiate for pedestrians.
That same highway is due for widening and has been for decades. Webb said the decision to expand West Coast Highway to six lanes dates back to a city council meeting in 1975.
Currently at 100 feet from sidewalk-to-sidewalk, the proposed plan will also create bike lanes on both sides and a new width of 112 feet, and the removal of at least some street parking spots. The city will work with Caltrans to finalize highway measurements.
“Everything sounded good until you mentioned bike lanes,” said one audience member.
Webb responded that the safest way to accommodate cyclists is with new bike lanes. State law requires that bike lanes be separated from car lanes by three feet, which can be seen now on the new sections of MacArthur Road.
Without bike lanes, cyclists are required to use the same driving lanes as cars.
“Bike riding has really increased,” Webb noted, “and we can’t curtail it.”
After hearing the presentation, west Newport Beach resident George Schroeder said, “I now believe widening West Coast Highway is a good idea. They have a sound argument.”
Webb assured those in attendance that the speed limit would not increase on West Coast Highway through Mariners’ Mile. In fact, he expected that it may be lowered.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a revitalization plan if parking was not mentioned. A small lot on Sterling BMW’s property has the potential to become a multi-level parking structure. The draft plan suggests sharing the structure with the dealership, thus providing about 200 public parking spots and increasing the area’s parking capacity by 30 percent.
The draft Master Plan for Mariners’ Mile is available for public comment now. Brandt invited guests to call city hall, email them directly, or write letters with their suggestions and input.
A hard copy, which is 162 pages, is available for review in the Community Development Department at 100 Civic Center Drive, Bay B, during business hours. It may also be viewed on the city’s website at NewportBeachCA.gov.
Residents may also weigh in with the Planning Commission, which will conduct a study session on the plans for Mariners’ Mile on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers. This is done to review and discuss the project before the formal Planning Commission hearing on May 18 and City Council meetings slated for June or July.