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Traffic, traffic…everywhere

By AMY SNIDER SENK

My neighborhood is under construction, one house at a time. At one point late last summer, there were seven active construction sites in various stages within a block of my home. Workers arrive well before their official 7 a.m. start time, and among the various unwelcome habits they have exhibited, they usually take all the legal parking spaces, then take over the illegal ones, too. They block street sweepers, they fill cul-de-sacs, they look at red curbs like they were reserved specially. It’s really annoying – how many times in a day does one feel like calling parking control to rat out their neighbors’ workers?

I’m not alone. At a Corona del Mar Residents Association meeting recently, others said construction in their neighborhood was booming, and parking problems were a direct result. From Shore Cliffs to Hazel Drive to the Flower Streets – it’s everywhere.

Traffic

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Amy Snider Senk

So, my ears perked up when City Councilman Scott Peotter last week made the suggestion that the Council consider a plan to require a parking management plan from builders if there are multiple projects grouped together.

Staff will prepare a report, he said, looking at different options to help control construction parking. The topic will likely come up at a future study session meeting.

“We want to be reasonable in how we approach it, but I don’t think the citizens and the residents should have to bear the burden of construction on the site which is what they’re doing now,” Poetter said. “And it’s compounded on street-sweeping days.”

He envisions a plan that would allow building inspectors a lot of latitude in deciding whether a parking management plan is needed. If only one project is underway on a street, then there likely wouldn’t have to be a parking plan. But if a fifth project breaks ground on the same street, the inspector could be able to go to all builders and ask that they use the front of their parcel for unloading only, and have workers park remotely. Or perhaps, residents park on one side of the street while workers park opposite. Or “anything in between” that staff comes up with, Peotter said. “You don’t want neighbors to be penalized.”

In other car-truck-traffic-congestion Corona del Mar news, the CdM Business Improvement District board met Thursday and had a first look at a report on the CdM Coast Highway Bypass Study. The study showed that depending on the time of year, like in summer, taking East Coast Highway can be slower than other routes, like taking Newport Coast to San Joaquin Hills Road to MacArthur Boulevard. Ultimately, city staff envisions a plan that would use Bluetooth detectors on streetlights that would capture traffic data from cell phones in passing cars, then provide live time estimates to motorists for the fastest routes to Fashion Island, say, or to the 73 Toll Road.

The project would be funded through different grants – but the city would need the approval of Caltrans before placing the signs on sections of Coast Highway. So, there’s no real estimate on when motorists actually would see the signs.

During the meeting, a few BID members said that diverting traffic away from Corona del Mar might not be the best thing for their businesses’ bottom line. Why pay CdM rent prices if you don’t enjoy the drive-by traffic?

Peotter, who attended the BID meeting, said many CdM residents have believed for a long time that traffic grew worse when the Transportation Corridor Agency began charging tolls for motorists who exited the 73 at Newport Coast. But a TCA study that tracked cars and their final destinations showed that even if the toll was removed completely, at most 200 cars in the morning and 200 cars in the evening would be removed from the East Coast Highway stretch through Corona del Mar. That stretch sees as many as 50,000 cars a day, so the reduction would be negligible.

“A lot of people have this idea that it was wonderful before and now it’s bad,” Poetter said. “But there’s been development. It’s not all the toll roads.”

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Amy Snider Senk has lived in Corona del Mar for 17 years and until last year was publisher of Corona del Mar Today, an online newspaper that ran daily for seven years. Senk, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is involved in the Corona del Mar Residents Association and the Corona del Mar High School PTA. She and her husband have two children.