By Amy Senk
5:09 PM PDT, July 19, 2014
The Newport Beach Planning Commission voted unanimously this week to pass a Corona del Mar parking management report — specifically eight, short-term recommendations for improving parking in the village business district — to the City Council for further review.
The 97-page report listed long- and short-term recommendations, but the commissioners decided to focus on the short-term solutions.
Those include increasing parking time limits on East Coast Highway from one hour to two hours and possibly eliminating fees at city-owned lots, revising the city's zoning code regarding parking requirements for businesses in Corona del Mar, better managing employee parking, restriping and painting when possible to create more spaces and exploring shared-parking arrangements with owners of private lots.
The report said that generally, Corona del Mar has plenty of parking, although it acknowledged "hot spots," where parking can be difficult at peak times.
Dennis Baker told the commissioners that he lives "in the middle of the hottest of hot spots," behind Farmers & Merchants Bank.
"This report did an excellent job," he said, although he added that the report should have included input from valet employees.
Jim Walker, owner of the Bungalow Restaurant, which also is in a hot spot, said the city's parking requirements for businesses are a serious problem.
"The parking codes, the way they are right now, drive inefficiency," he said. "There's a grab out there, there's a fight over parking property. The parking code is a joke. It's a joke because no one enforces it."
His restaurant is required to have 47 spaces, he said. Those stringent rules could be what has driven out restaurants and brought so many banks to town.
"Banks do not drive revenue," he said. "Gyms do not drive revenue. The city needs revenue."
Commissioner Kory Kramer said he was disappointed that the plan didn't study parking near Begonia and Avocado avenues, between Third and Fourth avenues.
"That's a high-intensity use," he said. "It makes no sense why that wasn't included."
Employees at the nearby Corona del Mar Plaza frequently use that area for parking, Walker said.
Commissioner Jay Myers said he thought a few of the proposed strategies were counterintuitive at first — how could increasing parking time limits help ease parking problems?
But he agreed after hearing explanations, including how the longer time limits let visitors take care of business without taking prime nontimed spaces from residential areas or moving their cars multiple times.
"When the meeting began, I would have voted against a couple of them, but not I've changed my mind," he said.
The date for a City Council discussion of the plan hasn't been set, but the commissioners said they expected the council would likely tackle some of the proposals individually, with outreach and public hearings.
At least one of the proposed solutions — shared parking arrangements between private lot owners and businesses — drew the attention from one village resident.
"It is naive for the study authors to assume that private parking lot owners will agree on any sharing concept that permanently constrains their future options for highest and best use of their property," Eric Welton, a longtime Corona del Mar resident and property owner, wrote in an email included in the agenda.
Senk is the editor of Corona del Mar Today. Read more at coronadelmartoday.com.