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Traffic top of mind for neighbors of proposed Newport Village development

Newport Village rendering
The Newport Village mixed-use project planned for Mariners Mile, depicted in this rendering, would include 122 residential units, 128,640 square feet of new and existing commercial floor space, a new waterfront promenade and 827 parking spaces, according to the city.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

Neighbors of a mixed-use development proposed for roughly a third of Mariners Mile in Newport Beach say they worry about the traffic that could ensue.

The Newport Village proposal, for both sides of the street in the 2000 to 2200 blocks of West Coast Highway, includes 122 apartments and condominiums, 128,640 square feet of new and existing commercial floor space, a new publicly accessible waterfront promenade and 827 parking spaces, according to the city.

The marina design would add headwalk sections and a new gangway and reduce the total number of slips from 68 to 63.

Plans also assume that West Coast Highway will be widened to six lanes in the area.

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That possibility, a prickly one for residents of the Newport Heights neighborhood just uphill of the road, was one of the issues brought up during a meeting Wednesday to help the city plan its study of the project’s potential environmental impacts.

Carol Dru was one of several people to reference the potential widening and established that residents take a dim view of the concept — “We’re not looking forward to that. We don’t want it. It’ll become more of a speedway.”

New residential and commercial development also will send traffic into the interior of the neighborhood, she said.

“That’s a lot of traffic and a lot of people to accommodate, plus office buildings,” she said. “The community for the most part is not happy about the traffic that’s gonna go on.”

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Neighbor Susan Leal, who lives on Tustin Avenue near the project site, said her street is currently so narrow that it’s essentially a one-way route.

“If the traffic for this project starts going up Tustin and making a right on Cliff [Drive], going by the schools and coming down Dover [Drive], we’ve got a real issue,” she said.

Makana Nova, a city planner, said that traffic, which is part of the impact report, will be studied based on a wider roadway. Jaime Murillo, another planner, also clarified that the city is separately considering widening West Coast Highway, and Newport Village developer MX3 Ventures-MSM Global didn’t propose it.

The city paused discussions on the widening in 2017, putting the idea off until the general plan update that is now underway. The general plan is the overall policy document that guides long-term local planning and zoning decisions and is in the first year of an expected three-year update process.

If the road widens, resident Sharon Ray predicted that area parents will drive their children who would otherwise ride their bikes across West Coast Highway to activities and school, which will change the patterns shown in a traffic study. Newport Heights has an elementary, middle and high school.

Murphy McCann, another resident who has become active in area traffic discussions since his young son Brock was fatally struck by a trash truck a few blocks from Newport Heights Elementary School in 2016, asked for the details of the traffic study: where the city would measure volumes, the types and at what times of the week and day.

“When you’re introducing a large residential community into a place that’s never had residential before, what is Saturday morning going to look like? What is Sunday morning going to look like?” he said. “The key is to analyze whether or not you are creating any massive juggernauts in traffic.”

A draft version of the impact study will be complete by summer 2020. The city Planning Commission could begin hearings that fall in advance of needed City Council approvals.

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