Agreement could ease parking problems

An agreement between Mother's Market & Kitchen in Costa Mesa and the owners of a Newport Boulevard parking structure is intended to ease tensions over parking congestion between employees and nearby residents on the Eastside.

Mother's, located on Newport Boulevard and Flower Street, entered into an agreement last week to provide for 100 employee parking spaces on the top level of a parking structure located about a block away at 1901 Newport Blvd., said Debra Robino, a market spokeswoman.

Plans for a second employee parking location are also being considered.

Mother's relocated to Newport and Flower from 17th Street about two weeks ago.

Since its opening, the store has seen a flood of customers attracted to its supply of hard-to-find organic foods and natural consumer goods.

Longtime neighborhood resident Amy Elliott said she can't find parking on her street to save her life.

And she's not the only neighbor without a parking spot.

The formerly quiet Flower Street is jam-packed with vehicles, which park on the street from morning to night. The vast majority of them don't belong to neighborhood residents, Elliott said.

"I was all for [Mother's Market] and having a grocery store this close to where I live," Elliott said. "I had no idea what we were all in for. It's been nothing but a snowball effect with the employees parking on the street causing all kinds of problems around here."

Under city zoning code, businesses are required to provide four parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, said Costa Mesa Senior Planner Mel Lee.

While Mother's has a spacious parking lot for customers, market management has asked its workforce of some 120 employees not to park there.

Before the market's grand opening June 2, the store asked the employees not to park in the customer lot, Robino said.

"We did not anticipate being as busy as we were," Robino said of the unexpected surge of customers. "We want to be good neighbors in every respect, and we are reacting as quickly as possible."

However, as of Monday afternoon, Elliott counted more than 30 cars that she did not recognize along Flower to Fullerton Avenue. About nine cars were in the designated employee parking lot.

Robino said that Mother's is working on incentive plans for employees who ride bikes or car pool.

"We plan to attack this at every angle," Robino said. "We have many great employees who have been with us for many years. I am sure that they will comply once we have permanent employee parking."

However, as of Monday, market employees were still parking along Flower. An employee wearing a Mother's Market apron walking along the street at noon declined to comment.

"Before [Mother's Market], this whole street was empty. There was no need to look for parking," said Noah Perez, 26, who has lived on Flower for four years.

Perez, who works late, often has trouble finding parking at night. His apartment is directly across from the market's customer parking lot.

Neighbors have left notes on employee's cars, talked to market management and provided video and photographic documentation of the parking situation to city officials without any measurable results, Elliott said.

As a last resort, Elliott is considering starting a petition for residential parking permits.

"We never needed [permits] before, but look at this," she said as she walked down the line of cars parked on both sides of the narrow Flower. "This is crazy. Not only can we not find parking, but the UPS truck, gardeners, pool cleaners — no one can find parking and do their jobs."

Besides creating a parking dilemma, Elliott said that the addition of so many vehicles on the narrow street creates a traffic hazard.

No accident reports for Flower Street or Fullerton Avenue have been filed in the last two weeks with the Costa Mesa Police Department, Lt. Marty Carver said.

However, the busy stretch of Newport Boulevard between 17th and 19th streets has always been among the most collision-prone in the city, Carver said.

Accident reports for the area are no higher since the arrival of the market, Carver said.

This is largely due to the fact that Mother's occupies the space vacated by Borders, which drew similar traffic patterns, Carver said.

Although the police department has no record of any accidents, there are skid marks around the corner of Flower Street and Fullerton Avenue. Elliott fears someone will get hurt.

"We never needed a stop sign. It was so quiet before," Elliott said.

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