After two years of discussion and about a year after securing a major funding source, the upcoming summer shuttle on Balboa Peninsula has an operator — but not without one more debate on whether the service is a good idea.
The Newport Beach City Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday night to hire Professional Parking Corp. to run the shuttle, which is set to begin transporting visitors and residents around the popular recreation district in June.
The Signal Hill-based company will be paid $116,910 for the first year and have the option to renew the agreement through 2023.
About 88%, or $102,881, of the shuttle’s funding will come from Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation projects. The balance, or $14,029, will come from the city’s Balboa Village parking revenue.
The free-to-ride Balboa Peninsula Trolley is planned to run between Hoag Hospital and Balboa Village on weekends from June 17 to Sept. 3, plus July 4.
The dissenting votes Tuesday came from Councilman Scott Peotter and Mayor Kevin Muldoon.
Peotter said he’s skeptical the shuttle would be a wise investment for taxpayers. Muldoon found the matter in conflict with his small-government position.
Four shuttles will offer pickups every 15 minutes between 10 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. along Newport and Balboa boulevards between Hoag and the Balboa Pier. The first year will serve as a pilot period.
The city is renting 40 spaces in the Hoag parking lot at a rate of $5 per space per day as a place for shuttle riders to leave their cars. That could add up to $200 per day and $5,000 for the 25-day season.
The city expects about 437 riders per day, or close to 11,000 for the season, said Deputy Community Development Director Brenda Wisneski.
Mayor Pro Tem Marshall “Duffy” Duffield said people who ride the boat from Newport Harbor to Catalina Island park in the closest surface lot in Balboa Village, and because they’re on Catalina all day or overnight, they keep those prime spaces from being used by locals and day visitors who could support area businesses.
“At the end of the day, we’re all looking to figure out how in the heck we can solve the parking problems on the peninsula,” Duffield said. “And really, honestly, those that oppose this — I would just ask them to come up here and tell us what do they have? What are you doing to try to get this to work better?”
At the end of the day, we’re all looking to figure out how in the heck we can solve the parking problems on the peninsula.
Local resident Ashley Jacobs commended Councilwoman Diane Dixon, whose district includes the Balboa Peninsula, for trying to find a solution to the constant parking problem.
“That being said, I don’t think that replacing a failing mousetrap in the form of OCTA buses with a very similar mousetrap of trolleys — or shuttles or whatever it’s going to be this year — is the best way to help alleviate these problems,” Jacobs said.
Only 40 spots at Hoag won’t make much of a dent, she added, especially if Catalina riders claim them.
Marcel Ford of the Balboa Village Merchants Assn. said he would like to see the city learn from the pilot study and expand a shuttle service to other parking-starved areas around town.
“Laguna, Dana Point, Mammoth, even Compton has a trolley,” Ford said. “I went into City Hall. I said, ‘Hey, why the trolley?’ They go, ‘Because we gotta get people moving around to the different businesses so we can support them, because we have a parking problem.’ ”
Kelly Carlson, who with her husband owns Balboa Peninsula businesses that rent bicycles, paddleboards and personal watercraft, said tourists staying at oceanfront rental houses don’t want to move their cars and risk losing their parking spots.
“They tell me they will take this shuttle,” Carlson said. “I talk to them all the time.”
Councilman Brad Avery said it’s hard to run a business on the peninsula and that he wants to help.
The trolley is expensive, he said, “but I think ultimately it’s the kind of thing the city should be supporting, especially [with] all the support we get from the county on this.”
The council approved updated mooring regulations on a 6-1 vote on a second reading.
Two key updates to the regulations: mooring transfers allowed up to once a year over the life of a permit; and an increase in the transfer fee from half the annual rent to 75% of the rent.
Muldoon voted no, as he did during the initial vote March 28, because of the transfer fee increase.