Council puts brakes on proposed parking lot

Newport Beach City Council members have tossed out the idea of turning the existing City Hall site into a 300-space parking lot after employees vacate for their new Civic Center later this year.

But the council on Tuesday balked at the interim plan to demolish the City Hall structures and install parking meters at the 4.26-acre site along the parking-impacted Balboa Peninsula. Councilman Mike Henn, who has a business client in nearby Lido Village, recused himself from the discussion.

"That seems like a fairly treacherous thing to do, to build an interim lot and then take it away," Councilman Steve Rosansky said. "For my money, I'd rather we focus on the redevelopment of this site and focus on whatever other revenue options are out there."

A second option is to fence off the buildings, but place meters at the 150 existing parking spaces, according to a city staff presentation shown to the council.

Those meters could bring in an additional $180,000 a year at the calculated rate of $50 per stall, per month, which is what existing meters in the area generate.

However, staff reported that no parking studies have been completed to demonstrate the need for the extra spaces.

City staff is slated to make the move to the new $130-million Civic Center on Avocado Avenue by the end of this year. The project had been under construction since November.

Once vacated, the City Hall site could be transformed for the long haul into a mix of residential and retail space. Other ideas include a parking structure, a pedestrian promenade and reconfiguring Via Lido into a one-lane street.

All plans are purely conceptual at the moment. Council members directed staff to bring back a citizen advisory panel at a future date to toss around more ideas.

"A big concern for me is that I want to be sure that there is good public aspect to it," Mayor Nancy Gardner said of the plans for the site.

One possibility that's been put on the table is creating a small outdoor amphitheater where the community could host events, she said.

"This was a public-use [facility], so let's maintain a good public use, as well as create something that generates income," Gardner said.

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