Traffic plan gets mixed reviews

A years-long debate about a Corona del Mar streetscape plan that had lain dormant since October was at least partially revived Tuesday night at the Newport Beach City Council's first meeting of the new year.

The plan would have moved a lane merge on East Coast Highway at MacArthur Boulevard and eliminated parking spaces to make way for enhanced pedestrian areas and possible outdoor restaurant seating.

Over the summer, the city installed temporary barriers to test the proposed plan's impacts on traffic through the area.

At the council's Oct. 23 meeting, it seemed as though most feedback on the change had been negative, and city staff reported that the changes did increase gridlock.

Tuesday night, staff officially presented the findings of the trial period. They suggested that the council consider keeping the traffic flow as-is, and consider removing the parking spaces for safety reasons.

Residents spoke out both for and against the overall Corona del Mar entryway concept.

On the one hand, some said, creating a more pedestrian-friendly, aesthetically pleasing streetscape in the area would benefit business owners and residents.

On the other, residents contended, any increase in traffic back-up is cause enough to scrap the project.

Jim Walker, who owns The Bungalow restaurant just off that intersection, said his feelings were mixed.

"It's either the best or nothing," he said. "It's a great plan." But if that plan's not going to go forward, he said, removing the parking spots would be a bad idea.

Ultimately, the council voted to pursue a kind of hybrid option, directing staff to pursue a holistic parking solution for the area while also looking at ways of making the area more appealing to pedestrians.

The Council also voted Tuesday night to start the process of overruling a county Airport Land Use Commission finding that could affect a proposed mixed-use residential development near Jamboree Road and Campus Drive.

In October, the commission found that the Uptown Newport project — which would redevelop a 25-acre area to include residential, retail and office space — would be inconsistent with the John Wayne Airport Environs Land Use Plan, which restricts building in areas surrounding the airport.

Through a somewhat obscure process, the city can overrule the commission's finding. The council voted to inform the commission of its intent to start that process Tuesday.

Twitter: @JillCowan

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