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Coastal Commission skepticism puts hold on parking permit plan for Newport Beach neighborhood

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The Finley Tract is across Newport Boulevard from Lido Marina Village in Newport Beach.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

A plan to require resident-only parking permits in a Balboa Peninsula neighborhood is at a standstill after a Newport Beach resident and members of the California Coastal Commission said the plan would cut off the vast majority of visitor access to Newport Harbor in the immediate area.

And, commission staff suggests, the permit program would address a problem that doesn’t exist while ignoring, if not exacerbating, one that does.

Residents of the Finley Tract — named for Finley Avenue, one of the neighborhood’s main roads — said employees of the recently renovated Lido Marina Village shopping center across Newport Boulevard crowded the neighborhood’s public streets, where parking is free.

City staff approved a plan in December to offer up to three permits per household in the Finley Tract, a triangle-shaped area bordered by Newport Boulevard to its east and canals to its northwest and southwest that connect to Newport Harbor. The city imposed several conditions — including setting aside a few short-term public parking spaces — more than a year after the City Council gave staff the go-ahead to study the street parking supply and demand outside the 192 homes in the neighborhood.

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Eight streets in the tract terminate at the water’s edge, and the city leases dinghy moorings onshore closest to three of those street ends. The neighborhood has no direct access to the open ocean.

When staff members pitched the research to the council in 2017, they predicted the Coastal Commission would disapprove of the plan on the basis that permits restrict access, meaning the city would have to clearly show that the permit program wouldn’t affect non-residents’ ability to find adequate public parking elsewhere in the area.

Appeals by Commissioners Donne Brownsey and Steve Padilla and local watchdog Jim Mosher show the prediction came true. A commission spokeswoman said the appeal hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Field observations during various times in May, June and August 2017 found that the streets were indeed packed but suggested that few were employees of Lido Marina Village. City observers counted how many spaces were occupied, reporting vehicles in no less than 92% of spaces. But they also counted how many pedestrians crossed Newport Boulevard and concluded that by June, people who didn’t work at the shopping center outnumbered people who did.

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

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

“Despite low numbers of non-resident 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 commission staff report said the city provided no evidence of a public safety problem, with no feasible solution, despite the six public spaces it would retain — limited to one to three hours during the day and early evening.

“Therefore, 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” — on Newport Island, dating to 1982.


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