Peninsula residents protest parking plan

NEWPORT BEACH — Balboa Peninsula residents are beginning to learn the hard way that there's always a price to pay for living so close to the water.

And sometimes the price tag isn't just biannual property taxes, or hefty monthly mortgages.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as the real possibility of having to feed parking meters — in front of their own houses along East Bay Avenue and East Balboa Boulevard under a tentative city plan.

"We're already burdened with the influx of out-of-towners. We have vandalism, crime, drunkenness, disturbances, and already there's no parking because of people coming down here to visit," said Mark Carlozzi, a resident of East Bay Drive. "What, now our reward for living here all these years is that we have to pay for our own parking in front of our houses, too?"

Such anger was evident last week when a group of property owners turned out at the Newport Beach City Council meeting and cried foul at a proposal by the city to install dozens of parking meters in the vicinity of Balboa Village.

It's part of the city's attempt to create a Balboa Village Parking Management District, which would create nearly 200 new parking meters within the district that borders Bay Street on the north, the Pacific Ocean on the south, Coronado Street on the west and B Street on the east.

The purpose of the district is to generate revenue to help pay off a $3.5-million property that the city bought last year in the 600 block of East Balboa Boulevard, where the 71-year-old Balboa Village Market sits. It will soon be demolished to make way for a 32-space parking lot finished by mid-December.

But when it comes to parking, or lack thereof — in a geographically confined area like the Balboa Peninsula, no less — the issue is a hot one.

Which is why a group of residents have been posting fake meters in the proposed district, poking fun at the city's attempt to "make money off the backs of residents," according to Carlozzi.

In many ways, the issue isn't much different from the Newport Beach residents who live beneath the flight paths out of John Wayne Airport, Carlozzi said. He realizes that there's a certain amount of noise and traffic that comes with the location of living on the peninsula — that's to be expected.

"But at least in the airport's case," he added, "reasonable accommodations are always trying to be made. The city makes every effort to help the people who are near the airport. They buy extra things. They try to minimize the burden and the noise. Here, instead of minimizing the burden, the city's proposing greater burdens on us. Why?"

City Manager Dave Kiff said the concept of creating a district is only a proposal at this point, and the city plans to conduct more community outreach on the matter, which was why the issue was tabled at last week's City Council meeting

As for accommodating the residents, the council is exploring residents' options and the possibility of being able to buy annual passes for $960 so that they can park in front of their houses.

But the problem, which was outlined in a recent staff report, is that the city already offers what's called Master Parking Permits for $670. Residents who buy them can park virtually anywhere in the city without having to feed the meter or pay the automated stations around town.

It was an inconsistency that Leigh De Santis, the city's economic development administrator, pointed out. When she wrote in her report that the city administration was "concerned" that residents would opt for the cheaper master passes, Carlozzi said he "just about lost it."

"That was the real kicker," he said.

While De Santis declined to comment, Kiff said, "Reports are written by humans, and humans make mistakes."

The bottom line, Kiff said, is that the city needs to take "a comprehensive look" at what the best parking model for Balboa Village is. That will include taking all things into account, including available parking lots, on-street meter parking, parking for employees of local businesses and for people who stay on the peninsula for the entire day.

The fact is, while total revenues for parking — from tickets to paid parking — yield $2.6 million to $2.9 million a year, as such they only account for a small fraction of the overall $220 million city's operating budget, he said.

The city needs to tap into all possible revenues, which is why the city raised the price of metered parking from $1 to $1.50 for an hour in April this year.

That move alone is expected to generate $1.1 million, Kiff said.

But Carlozzi is at a loss as to why a struggling city bought a piece of property worth $3.5 million and is now trying to install parking meters and collect from local residents. He said many residents who live in the area do not believe that their district is being adequately represented.

Councilman Michael Henn, who represents District 1, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but said in a previous interview he thinks the idea of providing more parking in Balboa Village is a good idea.

He said he hopes the city is able to build a parking structure at the site of the Balboa Market Village, which is scheduled for demolition in the next couple months.

But Carlozzi said he still can't understand the city's contemplation of trying to make money off local residents through parking meters.

"Cities are struggling these days," he said. "Now they're nickeling and dimeing us to death."

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