Newport council delays decision on new rules for newsracks in Corona del Mar

Newspapers and other publications that use sidewalk distribution racks in Corona del Mar will get more time to meet with city and neighborhood representatives to work out a compromise before the Newport Beach City Council makes a decision on regulating the racks' design and placement.

The council voted Tuesday night to delay a decision on consolidating and standardizing newsracks into a handful of gangbox-style units in the neighborhood's commercial corridor.

Though the council did not vote on the proposed rules — which would group newsracks into newly created "fixed pedestal zones" — Mayor Kevin Muldoon said he would not support the regulations as written. He said he would support a voluntary transfer, or perhaps a moratorium on new publications distributing from their own stands, but that he didn't want to force existing publications out of their current spots.

Managers from the vending and distribution departments of the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register spoke against the proposed regulations, saying the consolidated boxes would hurt sales and, based on similar racks in other cities, could become magnets for trash.

Resident Mike Glenn sided with the publications, saying they have invested money into branding and making their racks easily recognizable and that consolidating the boxes would "essentially sterilize them."

Glenn said the city should just enforce the current code, which allows the city to reach out to publications if their racks are deemed to be in poor condition. Currently, newsracks are owned and maintained by the publications.

The Corona del Mar Business Improvement District suggested and would fund the proposed change, saying its members are dissatisfied with the assortment of smaller, freestanding newsracks in varying styles and, they say, states of repair.

The city suggests dark green, two-level, three-tower modular newsracks with enclosed spaces for paid and free publications. The units would be installed at six designated high-activity areas along East Coast Highway between Avocado and Poppy avenues.

Currently, 47 racks dot that stretch, and a city review concluded that many of them don't meet code guidelines for maintenance.

The fixed pedestal zones, so called because the units are affixed to the sidewalk, would preserve the area's safety and aesthetics, the city says.

Each publication seeking a box in a new fixed unit would need a city permit, as required with existing racks. The new racks would have enough slots for publications already being distributed along Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, including the Daily Pilot and Los Angeles Times.

Bernie Svalstad, the business improvement district's chairman, said the proposed regulations are similar to the controls on Balboa Island. There, freestanding racks are clustered in a few tourist-heavy areas along the 200 and 300 blocks of Marine Avenue.

City resident Jim Mosher disagreed that the regulations would be much like those on Balboa Island, pointing out that the racks on the island are the property of the publications. The proposed stands in Corona del Mar would be city-owned.

"Of all the things in the world, I'm not sure that the appearance of newsracks is at the top of the list of things one has to worry about," Mosher said.

The council agreed to take up the issue again in April.

hillary.davis@latimes.com

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