Questions remain after discussion on Tustin Avenue lacks resident guidance

Temporary barricades block access along Ocean View Avenue.
Temporary barricades blocked access along Ocean View Avenue at Tustin Avenue in June. Council members discussed other measures to calm traffic on Tustin Avenue Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Discussions on what to do with a stretch of Tustin Avenue returned to the Newport Beach City Council Tuesday evening, though no clear consensus emerged as members called on residents to help the city figure out how to address resultant traffic from eventual development in Mariners Mile.

Barricades were put in place for a traffic study on Tustin at Cliff Drive in November last year and removed in June at the direction of council members, who asked city staff to return at a later date with options on how to alleviate traffic in the area without requiring a permanent closure that could push traffic into adjacent streets.

Tustin and Ocean View avenues are relatively narrow, each measuring roughly 28 feet curb to curb. Neither has sidewalks, but both allow for parking, which forces pedestrians and bicyclists into the roadway.

One of the options offered was installation of a sidewalk along the east side of Tustin Avenue to curb pedestrian crossings and that would tie in with existing sections of sidewalk in the area. Principal traffic engineer Brad Sommers noted there was a general lack of community support in the neighborhoods affected for new sidewalks in addition to challenges like steep grading and relocation of private improvements.

Other potential options included forcing drivers to only make right turns onto Tustin Avenue from Cliff Drive, making Tustin and Ocean View one-way streets, closing the south end of Tustin at Avon and making Tustin either available for inbound or outbound traffic only.

Residents who attended the meeting Tuesday suggested installing stop signs at the turn from Tustin to Cliff. At least three said that they weren’t seeking special treatment for Tustin, and one commenter requested that no solutions be considered that would push traffic onto other streets.

Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield said he was saddened that what the city attempted in November through June didn’t work but that the issue will require greater study. He joked that he will be leaving the dais within the month and that new council members will have the burden of finding solutions.

“We’ve just got to keep the communications open, and I do believe that this new development on Coast Highway will have a serious impact, and it’s many years off, but it would be good to keep an eye on it and keep working with ideas ... as [Councilwoman Joy Brenner] said, diverting people from using that shortcut,” Duffield said. “Now, I don’t know how you do that; it’s a good idea, but anyway as I said, others coming behind me might be able to figure it out as well as our staff that’s very intelligent.”

Duffield said it didn’t seem apparent that the community supported any of the solutions proposed by staff.

“As long as the accidents are down and the speeds are down, I don’t know how to fight for anything different. I tried, but apparently the street is OK the way it is,” said Duffield.

Councilman Brad Avery said as a resident of the area himself, he believed a lot of the issues came down to poor driving, and development on Mariners Mile would inevitably have an impact on Newport Heights.

“We need to understand the data as it is now and look at it and measure it ... before it gets to be bad, so we can take more measures, and if that means street closures, whatever it takes to defend the Heights to the degree that we can that will still allow us to get emergency vehicles in, still allow for the traffic we all want. We all want it to flow,” Avery said.

“There isn’t, in my view, a solution. The only thing we can do is take suggestions — and the best suggestions come from the residents and public — and try to implement them to some degree in all of this,” he added.

Councilwoman Joy Brenner said the Heights and Corona del Mar face similar issues and noted changes in traffic might come down to making it inconvenient for people to travel through the neighborhoods. Mayor Kevin Muldoon suggested residents circulate petitions with solutions worth considering to try to find a consensus he feels doesn’t yet exist.

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