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Traffic gets Council attention, dead bees raise questions in Irvine Terrace

By AMY SENK

Happy summer! And by that, I mean, are you locals having fun sitting in the never-ending Corona del Mar/Newport Beach traffic jam that seems to get worse each year, especially in July?

At the July 9 City Council meeting, Councilmember Joy Brenner of CdM suggested that the City form a Traffic Affairs Committee or Commission, and the remaining council members agreed by voting to consider the idea at a future meeting. Brenner is proposing that, if it is formed, the group would comprise seven members representing each Council district and also include a liaison from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to serve as an ex officio member. The committee members would hold public forums to hear about traffic complaints and suggestions and study “all matters referred to it concerning traffic movement and safety,” Brenner said. The group would ultimately make traffic improvement suggestions to the City Council, General Plan Update Committee and Planning Commission.

Traffic gets

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Photo by Amy Senk

Gridlock along Pacific Coast Highway in CdM

“During my campaign, one of the primary concerns of almost everyone I met was traffic,” Brenner said. “I started to wonder why we didn’t have a citizens advisory commission on this critical topic. After seven months on the job, I see how severely limited staff and council time actually is. And again, I wondered if a group of citizens whose primary concern is traffic could look at conditions and possible solutions and make recommendations. I started to investigate and found many cities already have such groups.”

Stay tuned for information on how to apply if such a committee forms.

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Meanwhile, dead bees that showed up earlier this month near Irvine Terrace Park struck a chord with locals on the Nextdoor social media site.

“It was very disturbing to see a few days ago hundreds of dead bees on the path, hundreds,” a woman posted. “It was mostly clover grass in bloom by the path, so my guess is the maintenance company paid by the city...sprayed poison there. These bees are part of nature and we need them. And this was just next to the children’s play equipment. They run barefoot and play in this area. Spraying poison is wrong.”

Dozens of others replied, including Brenner and someone quoting City Councilman Jeff Herdman. The bees could have died from recent earthquakes, someone posted, while others said the City’s use of the herbicide “Roundup” was to blame.

No city crews, however, had sprayed that park around the time the dead bees showed up, said Kevin Pekar, the city’s landscape manager. Also, “Roundup” would not have been used near a city park. “We couldn’t find any hives in that park,” he added.

I emailed with a bee expert who said pesticides usually are the culprit when we see a cluster of dead bees, although mites or other causes could be to blame. The bees could have been sprayed elsewhere, perhaps by a private citizen, and then died by the city park.

“It could be so many different things,” said Micah Martin, the city’s deputy public works director.

I asked them about the use of “Roundup,” which was stirring up the Nextdoor posters, some referencing the $2 billion jury verdict against the company in May; that award likely will be reduced, according to recent news reports.

“We take an organic-first approach,” Martin said. “Chemicals are our last resort.”

“Roundup” is sprayed “very judicially” on stubborn, non-native weeds in places like medians, for example, he said. Not in parks where it could hurt animals and kids or mass-sprayed where it would kill everything it touched. The City of Newport Beach has an Integrated Pest Management program, he added, that is similar to other local agencies’ plans.

Nextdoor members seemed unconvinced, saying that other cities have banned synthetic pesticides and have asked that city council members meet with them to discuss moving to an all organic program.

“It is incomprehensible to me that they don’t even want to learn about the dangers of these products,” one woman wrote. “They need to protect our children and pets in our parks. Research has shown that even low dose exposure is having cross-generational impact. We are pursuing the press getting involved and City liability action.”

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Amy Senk has lived in Corona del Mar for 20 years and 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.