UPDATED to add comments from the Newport Beach Public Works director.
The Corona del Mar Business Improvement District board members discussed the traffic study at MacArthur Boulevard and East Coast Highway as well as parking problems in the village at its monthly board meeting on Thursday.
Mayor Nancy Gardner said the traffic study, which moved the squeeze lane where three lanes merge into two from MacArthur to Avocado, had prompted about 20 people to contact her.
“I would say it’s running about 80 percent negative with residents,” she said.
The B.I.D. paid for the study, which was implemented earlier this summer and will run for at least another month. The goal was to see if traffic was negatively affected by moving the squeeze lane. If the study results are positive, it could pave the way for a beautification project that would convert the former traffic lane into wider sidewalks with additional landscaping.
“Of the ones I’ve gotten, about 15 to 20 percent are angry,” Gardner said. “The others are reasonable. They’ll say, ‘This doesn’t work and these are the reasons why…’”
Some people are upset because they think the project makes them suffer for the benefit of a few restaurants, which might be able to expand outdoor dining, Gardner said. Others have complained that the test’s stripes and white plastic delineators are ugly, although a permanent change would not incorporate those devices.
B.I.D. Chairman Bernie Svalstad said he has complained to city officials because they didn’t adjust the timing of traffic signal lights on East Coast Highway to accommodate the study.
“You’re going to kill this project if you’re not going to adjust the lights,” Svalstad said he told one city official.
That official, Public Works Director Steve Badum, said the lights in fact already are synchronized and more changes were unlikely.
“What Bernie is asking for is a new study that would make some minor adjustments based upon the new configuaration,” he said in an email. “A resynchronization study of the signals through Corona del Mar would be an expensive undertaking and would only result in some minor improvements that most would not notice. If the Council decides to proceed this the change, the reprogramming of the signals from Jamboree to Marguerite would be included.”
City traffic engineers will evaluate the trial lane drop striping in September and present a report to City Council in October for a public hearing, he added.
Group members discussed reaching out to members of the community, perhaps by creating large copies of the entryway beautification plans for the sidewalks near the site, or by having members talk to residents at the Farmers Market on Saturdays.
The group also discussed parking and could hire a parking consultant to help board members examine parking issues within the village.
A parking subcommittee has met and examined Laguna Beach parking structures, along with ways to find additional spots within Corona del Mar — perhaps by working with Sherman Library & Gardens to open its lot up in evenings, or by adding a level to the municipal lot near Bandera.
“It seems that in certain areas of the city, we’re not maximizing the use of parking,” said Jim Walker, owner of the Bungalow Restaurant and a board member. Creating one-way streets on some of the Flower Streets near Coast Highway also might increase parking options as well as increase traffic safety, members said.
Board member Scott Laidlaw said that city code requirements should be adjusted to reflect the uses for individual businesses.
“We want some study of that,” he said. Currently, he said, interesting and appealing businesses sometimes decide not to open in Corona del Mar because they can’t fulfill parking requirements.
To read more about the traffic study, click here. To read more about the beautification project, click here or here.