Members of the Newport Beach City Council expressed frustration — as did several members of the community — about a plan to increase speed limits on some stretches of roadway, including along East Coast Highway by the Cameo neighborhoods. But in the end, the council members voted unanimously to adopt the increases with a plan to review the Cameo area and three others to see if speeds could be adjusted in the future.
"This is one of those issues that infuriates the public," said Councilman Keith Curry. "We don't necessarily think this is the right thing to do either. It's what we're compelled to do by California law."
California's Vehicle Code and guidelines created by Caltrans require cities to take regular traffic surveys at least every seven to 10 years, and to adjust speed limits to the 85th percentile, or the speed at or below which 85% of traffic moves. The latest survey of 99 streets resulted in no changes for 63 segments, 5 mph increases for 34 segments, a 5 mph drop on Bayside Drive near Balboa Island, and increases for the rest.
The highest increase of 10 mph will occur within Poppy Avenue and Cameo Shores Road, where the current speed limit of 35 mph will increase to 45 mph.
If the city's surveys aren't up to date, or if posted speed limits don't comply with survey results, then courts could consider roadways to be "speed traps" and police can't enforce speed limits.
Several Cameo Highlands residents testified that children regularly cross Coast Highway to get to the community playground and Third Beach, and that increasing traffic speed could jeopardize their safety.
City Manager Dave Kiff reminded the council and audience that traffic calming measures — or ways to slow down traffic by using signs, medians and other methods — was the topic for a Study Session scheduled for Jan. 25.
The City Council's unanimous vote means that the speed survey will go into effect, but that staff will research whether some areas' special circumstances can lead to the limits being lowered again. Those areas include the Coast Highway stretch near Cameo neighborhoods, Westcliff Drive, Vista Del Oro and Bayside Drive. No time frame was offered for this extra research, or for when modifications might be considered.
Council members Leslie Daigle, Ed Selich, Nancy Gardner and others said they received many emails from residents concerned about the increases.
Several Corona del Mar residents who testified said after the vote that they knew the Council had no choice, but they were unhappy with the decision.
"You come into the village way too fast," said B.J. Johnson. "The speed limit is high enough already."
Coastal Commission denies CdM home application
In a 7-3 vote, the Coastal Commission denied a Corona del Mar couple's application for a four-story home with an elevator to be built into the hillside above Big Corona State Beach.
"This project," said Chairwoman Sara Wan, "is going to certainly not minimize landform alteration."
The plans would have replaced a home at 3225 Ocean Blvd. with a new, 4,700-square-foot home that would require an approximate 46-foot-wide by 37-foot-deep by 19-foot-high excavation into the bluff face. A garage below would have been accessed by a tunnel.
The applicant faced a dilemma of excavating into the hillside in order to avoid Newport Beach regulations that discouraged cutting into the curb along Ocean Boulevard.
"The city doesn't want driveways on the street above," said Sherman L. Stacey, who represented the family at the hearing.
Architect Brion Jeannette told the commissioners that the plans were consistent with other homes that had been approved and built in the neighborhood with Coastal Commission permission.
"This home has less impact than most homes already approved on this bluff," he said. "It's consistent, and it's fair."
A few commissioners said they thought the plans were reasonable, but others did not.