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Newport Beach neighborhood says workers hog parking. But skeptical panel delays plan for permits

Newport Beach neighborhood says workers hog parking. But skeptical panel delays plan for permits
The Finley Tract is across Newport Boulevard from Lido Marina Village in Newport Beach. (City of Newport Beach)

A plan to require resident-only parking permits in a Balboa Peninsula neighborhood in Newport Beach has been placed on hold after two members of the California Coastal Commission appealed the city’s decision, saying the plan would cut off visitor access to nearby Newport Harbor.

Residents of the Finley Tract, an enclave of 192 homes, have complained that employees of the recently renovated Lido Marina Village shopping center across Newport Boulevard have crowded the neighborhood’s public streets, where parking is free.

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In December, city staff approved a plan to offer up to three permits per household in the tract, a triangle-shaped area bordered by Newport Boulevard to the east and canals to the northwest and southwest that connect to Newport Harbor. The city took the action — which set aside a few short-term public parking spaces — more than a year after conducting a study of street parking in the surrounding neighborhood.

When staff members presented the study’s findings to the Newport Beach City Council in 2017, they predicted the Coastal Commission would disapprove of the residents-only parking plan on the basis that the permits would restrict harbor access. This meant the city would have to show that the permit program would not affect the ability of nonresidents to find adequate public parking in areas outside of Finley Tract.

Coastal Commissioners Donne Brownsey and Steve Padilla have appealed the council’s action. A commission spokeswoman said an appeal hearing had not yet been scheduled.

City observers found that at various times in May, June and August 2017, neighborhood streets were packed — but few of those vehicles belonged to employees of Lido Marina Village. They found that 92% of available parking spaces were occupied. They also counted how many pedestrians crossed Newport Boulevard and concluded that by June the people parking in Finley Tract who did not work at the shopping center outnumbered those who did.

Lido Marina Village previously directed its employees to park on site but reversed that in 2017 not long after the roughly 30 upscale shops and restaurants emerged from a years-long remodeling project.

A mail-in survey showed strong resident support for permits by about a 4-to-1 margin.

“Despite low numbers of nonresident parking in the Finley Tract, occupancy rates are high, and residents complain to the city that their quality of life is negatively impacted,” a Coastal Commission planning staff report said.

If the city were to issue the maximum three permits per home, there would be 576 permits for 102 spaces.

“The establishment of a preferential parking permit district with a ‘No parking anytime, except by permit’ restriction would do little to alleviate the current use of on-street parking by residents, who, according to the city, already compete with each other for the available on-street public parking spaces,” the report said.

“But the city-approved parking restrictions would greatly impact the availability of existing public parking supporting public access to the Newport Bay waterfront in the neighborhood and supporting public access to coastal waters and the nearby visitor-serving commercial area.”

Newport Beach has only one residential parking permit program in a waterfront “coastal zone.” It is on Newport Island and dates back to 1982.

Davis writes for Times Community News

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