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Boardwalk safety worries Balboa Peninsula community group

Balboa Peninsula oceanfront resident Fred Levine, right, hesitates before stepping onto the boardwalk in front of his house as a scooter rider passes by.

Balboa Peninsula oceanfront resident Fred Levine, right, hesitates before stepping onto the boardwalk in front of his house as a scooter rider passes by.

(Susan Hoffman)

Whenever she’s asked about selling her property on the Balboa Peninsula, Louise Fundenberg’s comeback is, “Nobody sells paradise.”

The retired teacher has been a peninsula resident for almost 50 years. She and her brother Bill, both avid sailors, bought her 1910 beach bungalow on Balboa Boulevard that offers a view of the ocean from the third-story addition and a view of the bay from the back windows.

“I commuted 50 miles inland [to Ontario] to teach so I could afford to live here because it’s paradise,” Fundenberg said. “As a member of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, I wanted to live in close proximity to where I kept the boat.”

Preserving that quality of life is important enough to Fundenberg to keep her engaged in the Central Newport Beach Community Association, for which she holds the voluntary job of treasurer.

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The group, one of the oldest community associations in Newport Beach, has served the area between the Newport and Balboa piers for more than a half-century. Its 250 members address issues big and small, from short-term housing to public safety, especially on the oceanfront boardwalk that runs nearly three miles down the Balboa Peninsula.

Association board member Fred Levine, a 20-year peninsula resident, said he had always loved living on the oceanfront until the public boardwalk became overrun with motorized vehicles in the past five or six years.

“I love the people, including the tourists, but it’s common sense that there should be a concern for safety on the boardwalk,” Levine said. “It’s the main artery once cars are parked, and we don’t need another 405 Freeway here.”

The boardwalk has always attracted pedestrians, dog walkers, bicyclists, scooter riders and skateboarders, but now motorized bikes, electric scooters and surreys have joined the mix.

“I’ve seen several accidents, and I worry about animals and little kids when the vehicles are zooming by at 15 to 20 mph,” Levine said. “It’s like the Wild West during the summer. As for the surreys, we’re not talking onesies or twosies – they’re rented in groups, up to a dozen all zooming up and down the boardwalk.”

Association President Scott Robinson, who lives on Balboa Boulevard not far from Fundenberg, shares her love of sailing. He said settling on the Balboa Peninsula seemed natural, since he had grown up visiting the area and his parents had owned a hamburger stand near the Fun Zone in the 1940s.

“What’s wonderful about Balboa is the residents have access to the ocean on one side and the bay on the other,” he said.

But Robinson agreed with Levine about the boardwalk, saying: “It’s kind of scary to be out there, and you can’t hear those motorized bikes; they sneak up on you. I wouldn’t take my 21-month-old grandson out there on a summer day, nor do I take my dogs for walks on the boardwalk. Everybody is supposed to be moving at 8 mph, but it’s more like 20 mph. God forbid if someone steps into the path of a 200-pound object.”

The association’s focus on boardwalk safety has been brought to the attention of Newport Beach officials, and more police have been allocated and more citations written, according to Robinson.

Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said a Peninsula Enforcement Team was added last summer consisting of a sergeant and three officers.

Information about citations was not immediately available.

A study group on the issue is planned, Robinson said.

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