The Corona del Mar Business Improvement District board decided at its October board meeting to urge City Council members to support a beautification project at East Coast Highway near MacArthur Boulevard, despite a staff report that said its prerequisite traffic study increased congestion in the area.
If City Council members agree with staff and decide the traffic study was too big a failure to go forward with the project, then the B.I.D. board decided they would ask for another option included in the staff report – a permanent removal of parking spaces. The former parking spaces could be used for landscaping improvements.
The parking spots within the MacArthur intersection are dangerous, city staff said, and should not be replaced even after delineators and other aspects of the traffic study are removed this week. The spaces could be replaced, possibly by making Carnation Avenue a one-way street for one block.
The traffic study was installed in June and moved the pinch lane — where three traffic lanes merge to two — from MacArthur to closer to Avocado Avenue. If the study proved a success in making traffic flow more smoothly, it could have paved the way for a beautification project that would have converted the former traffic lane into an expanded sidewalk with room for art shows and other civic events as well as improved landscaping; read more here.
Traffic, however, was more congested when the pinch lane was moved, according to a staff report; read our story here. Also, more residents who responded to a city survey about the project expressed negative opinions than positive.
At the Corona del Mar Business Improvement board meeting on Thursday, members said they were disappointed but resigned to the project’s failure.
“It’s a dead deal, it’s a loss of an opportunity,” said Ron Yeo.
Jim Walker, owner of the Bungalow Restaurant (and a Corona del Mar Today advertiser), said the traffic study seemed to make the area more safe.
“It may have backed up traffic, but it’s been a lot safer,” he said. “You haven’t had people merging in there, slamming on their brakes. I’ve certainly noticed a lot less screeching of brakes, tempers flaring, with people cutting in front of somebody else.”
The City Council delayed a discussion of the topic and continued it to a Nov. 13 meeting at the request of the B.I.D. board.
Mayor Nancy Gardner and Councilman Ed Selich attended the B.I.D. meeting and encouraged members to fight for their project.
“I don’t know that you should go in there assuming it’s a lost cause,” Gardner said. “I’d go in there saying ‘I believe in this project,’” although she added that she thinks going forward with the original project is ” a long shot.”
The traffic study cost about $10,000, paid for by the B.I.D. The group’s hope was that the traffic study would show improved traffic flow, paving the way for a permanent change in the squeeze lane location.
A Citizens Advisory Panel in December approved the beautification plans, which the City Council approved in concept in February. Corona del Mar business leaders have been discussing plans to improve the entryway since the 1990s.
The study is scheduled to be removed Wednesday night, city officials have said.