CdM street a parking lot

When Scott Ehlers moved with his family to Newport Beach, he hoped to find the best home possible to suit their needs. They chose a house on Aralia Street.

Ehlers now finds himself among the residents frustrated with parking on the street. One block behind Eastbluff Drive, which borders Corona del Mar High School, Aralia is occupied during the school day by the cars of students, residents say.

It's a problem that parents add to when they pick their children up from school. On a typical afternoon about 3:15 p.m., parents wait in their parked cars on Aralia in an attempt to avoid the parking lot traffic.

In mounting frustration, neighbors have attended recent Newport Beach City Council meetings, attempting to lobby council members for change.

At stake is the safety of students, the protection of the residents' lawns and the neighbors' hope to be able to park their cars in front of their homes without headache, they say.

"We've seen all kinds of things," Tara Reilly Tung, who is spearheading the effort to establish new parking rules on the street, said at the Sept. 10 council meeting. "There's no space to park on our street, but in addition we have constant littering, loitering, noise and other minor crimes, I'd say."

Sophomores and juniors cannot use school lots. Seniors can park in a "seniors only" lot, but many find Aralia more convenient.

When Ehlers first saw his house, which he bought in summer 2012, he wondered if the proximity to the school would be an issue.

His real estate agent assured him that students did not park on the street, he said. After all, signs on the block read "No student parking."

"Much to my chagrin, after we closed on the house, I learned that those signs are not enforceable," Ehlers told the council last week.

Ehlers was shocked that a city could erect signs but not enforce their pronouncement.

Student parking can't be banned because the street is public, Councilman Tony Petros noted.

The signs, put up about a year ago, are a reminder of an ongoing issue city and school officials have yet to solve.

CdM added a second student parking lot to its campus last year. At the same time, however, the school was forced to close the original student parking lot due to construction on the theater and enclave, said Laura Boss, director of district communications.

In addition to posting the signs, the city also previously made improvements to the circulation of cars around the school by removing a crosswalk and adding a drop-off lane, Councilwoman Leslie Daigle said.

Nothing worked.

In a community survey conducted by the Eastblufff Homeowners Assn., 14 of 19 respondents classified weekday parking on Aralia as having a "significant negative" effect. Three classified it as a "moderate problem," and two as a "minor annoyance."

"We just felt like we were being put off and put off," Tung said.

The city may now explore the possibility of an ordinance to limit the time that vehicles could be parked on the street, Petros said.

For this to happen, residents would need to voice whether this would adequately address their concerns at a study session or public hearing, he said.

"If they will accept time limits on themselves to remedy the parking, then we would be willing to remedy that," Petros said.

Some residents may prefer to seek permit parking.

Petros and Mayor Pro Tem Rush Hill discussed this and other possibilities with city staff and representatives from Newport-Mesa Unified School District last week.

Overcrowding isn't the only culprit, said schools Trustee Karen Yelsey.

Some students will still park on the street even if the parking lots are not at capacity. The student parking lot, located at the back of the school next to the pool, gets backed up when students try to leave for lunch. As an alternative, they park on the street to avoid the chaos, she said.

"When kids have a half hour for lunch they want to get out quickly," she said. "They figure if they park on the street they'll have more time."

Newport-Mesa is looking into changing the lunch schedule at CdM, which may ease some of the parking issues, Boss said.

"Changing the lunch schedule to later might allow some students, mainly seniors, some flexibility in their schedule and they would then just leave campus and not come back to school after lunch," she said.

A similar problem exists at Newport Harbor because the student parking lot is on 16th Street, which is farther away than the more convenient residential parking in front of campus.

The city might also consider annually assessing parking issues around all high schools, Petros said, as they seem to be a fairly persistent issue.

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