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Newport Beach residents weigh in on a partial permanent closure of Tustin Avenue

Temporary barricades block access along Ocean View Avenue at Tustin Avenue.
Temporary barricades block access along Ocean View Avenue at Tustin Avenue on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The barricades that were part of a traffic experiment on Tustin Avenue at Cliff Drive are getting removed, but residents worried about street safety there will have to wait a little longer for a resolution to an issue initially brought before the City Council last year.

Barriers were first placed in November as part of what was to be a four-month-long traffic period study prompted by Newport Beach residents who live on Tustin and Ocean View avenues. The closure was extended during the spring as the city continued to study the issue.

On Tuesday night, the Newport Beach City Council unanimously moved to remove those barricades but directed staff to return with more options on how to help alleviate traffic in the area.

Both Tustin and Ocean View avenues are relatively narrow, spanning about a width of 28 feet curb to curb. Both streets lack public sidewalks and allow for parking, which forces pedestrians and bikers into the street, residents told the City Council last August.

Residents on Tustin Avenue argue that many of their houses are what they call “front-loaded,” meaning garages and driveways on that street take direct access from the street as opposed to garage access from alleys — common for houses in Newport Heights.

City staff said during the study traffic volume decreased on Tustin Avenue south of where the barricades were installed and that, over time, drivers familiar with the area avoided Tustin Avenue altogether. But staff noted an increase in traffic on adjacent streets like Ocean View Avenue, where daily traffic increased by 51%, and Avon Street, adjacent to businesses where daily traffic increased by 49%.

Residents spoke both in support and against a permanent closure, with a number of others living nearby arguing that the closure would just push traffic onto their streets.

Up for discussion by the City Council Tuesday night were some options: to make the closure permanent, to make Tustin and Ocean View avenues one-way, to establish a full or partial closure at Avon Street, to provide parking restrictions on one side of Tustin Avenue, to construct a sidewalk on one side of Tustin or to install streetlights on both Tustin and Ocean View.

Mayor Kevin Muldoon did not favor the option of making the closure permanent.

Temporary barricades block access along Ocean View Avenue.
Temporary barricades block access along Ocean View Avenue at Tustin Avenue on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“There’s a perception that it’s a zero sum game. It’s either got to be a cul-de-sac at the top or nothing at all and at the same time, I heard people say, ‘Just please do something.’ I don’t support the permanent closure at the top, but I think a lot has to be done — not just something,” said Muldoon.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon acknowledged that Tustin Avenue is one of the city’s most narrow streets and was a thoroughfare from Pacific Coast Highway. She said the easiest, most logical safety enhancement would be to install sidewalks.

Dixon said she knows sidewalks are controversial in Newport Heights, but she considers them a reasonable solution if the No. 1 concern is safety.

“I hear or saw [in the presentation] nobody wants sidewalks. No one wants limited parking. No one supports any other solution other than closing off Tustin up at Cliff. I think there still is a solution there somewhere,” said Dixon, who added that she wanted to see more options. “We have heard from the residents. I think it is unanimous of the residents on Tustin that they’re pleading with their city for help. I would like a little give and take on both sides — the city and the residents. Can we find a solution?”

Councilwoman Joy Brenner said traffic would only continue to get worse in the area. She suggested making it more difficult for people who don’t live in Newport Heights to use the streets there as a thoroughfare.

“I’m afraid ... if we take away this dead end ... that [residents are] all going to be coming back to us at some point in time and saying you’ve got twice as many people coming up Riverside and Tustin to go through Newport Heights as we need,” said Brenner.

Brenner said she felt it would be short-sighted for city officials and residents to attempt to return traffic to the way it was when “we know it’s going to get worse with all that development down there.

“There is no way in the world it’s not going to get worse. Bureaucrats are notorious for if it doesn’t affect them during their election cycle, then they don’t do anything about it, but we need to do something now before those developments get built down there that is going to significantly reduce traffic in Newport Heights.”

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