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Newport Beach

Volume 7, Issue 96  |  December 2, 2022


Town Hall covers circulation element update, crime trends, public works projects

By SARA HALL

A community town hall last week covered a variety of topics, including an update to an important element of the city’s General Plan.

Councilmember Joy Brenner moderated the September 22 forum, which focused on District 6 (Corona del Mar, Cameo Shores, Pelican Hill and Harbor View Hills,), but also addressed citywide issues, including the update to the city’s circulation element, crime and traffic trends and public works projects.

Kicking off the meeting, City Traffic Engineer Tony Brine detailed the process and work done so far on updating the circulation element. The document was last updated in 2006.

“It’s a real big change and update from 2006 to the new world that we live in in 2022,” Brine said. “It’s 16 years old and we haven’t updated it in that time, so we need to catch up.”

The circulation element covers a lot of different topics, including safety, traffic and parking. It’s not about individual projects, those will be in the Capital Improvement Program, Brine explained, but deals with things on a broader scale.

They’ve been working on the document for more than two years, Brine said. The public Planning Commission meetings (held via Zoom) were very well attended with a lot of good comments from the community and commissioners, he noted.

“We definitely used the public input when we drafted the document, (and) put together different goals and polies for the document,” Brine said.

On September 8, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the latest version of the circulation element update. The revised circulation element is scheduled to go before the City Council for review on October 11.

The updated document includes new and revised goals and policies to provide for a balanced transportation network that will support and encourage walking, bicycling and transit ridership. Goals and policies have been written to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, plan for future technology and improve safety in the circulation system.

It is also being updated to reflect the community’s vision on trending transportation matters, including electric vehicles and charging stations, rideshare services (e.g., Uber and Lyft), public transportation, telecommuting, as well as parking and parking lot management.

Staff also incorporated legal mandates from the state, he added, like Complete Streets Act and Vehicle Miles Traveled. 

Answering a question from Brenner about converting the city’s vehicle fleet to electric, which is related to the VMT goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Deputy Community Development Director Jim Campbell said they need to conduct a cost-benefit analysis first. If the city has the infrastructure to support it and if it makes sense, the city could move in that direction.

“I think the city would like to convert our vehicles to electric where it makes sense to do so,” Campbell said. “We have to examine it more closely before we pull the trigger on that.”

Staff also included policies to accommodate and realize the advantages offered by connected and autonomous vehicles. They need to monitor the development of new vehicle technology and associated community-based infrastructure, Brine explained. 

Town Hall covers circulation element cars in CdM

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Sara Hall

The circulation element addresses traffic, parking and overall transit (vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian) policies in the city

They ended up with more than 100 different policies that were developed during the process, he said. 

Other highlights from the updated goals and policies: Bicycle improvements and amenities, parking requirements, Complete Streets citywide master plan, safe system approach, school transit routes and emergency evacuation maps.

The topic of electric bikes was brought up a lot during the process, Brine said. People wanted to know how the city could address the growing number of e- bikes, and how to deal with conflicts between different users on the roads and paths. So there’s a policy in the document that touches on that, he confirmed. 

They’re going to incorporate the bicycle master plan into this document as well, he added. It’s already prepared and has been a standalone document since 2014, but it’s never been part of the city’s General Plan, Brine explained. 

“That will set us up for doing bicycle improvement projects in the CIP and establish a regular process,” he said. 

Later during the town hall, Newport Beach Police Department Lt. Eric Little, the NBPD traffic commander, said traffic, parking and now e-bikes are all common concerns from the community.

E-bikes are his “most unfavorite thing right now,” Little said. They’re new and people aren’t sure how the regulations are being enforced. They’ve partnered with local schools to help educate young kids, which is a key component of addressing the growing trend. They’ve made several presentations so far, he added. 

“E-bikes have exploded here,” Little said, but it’s not just in Newport Beach, but everywhere, he added. 

Education only goes so far though and then they have to move on to enforcement, he said. Little noted several recent operations: Balboa Peninsula boardwalk on July 9 resulted in 60 citations; around local schools on September 15 ended with 32 citations; and during another effort at the boardwalk on September 18 officers handed out 20 citations. 

Although they’ve yet to officially finish tallying the numbers, they also issued between 20-30 citations at another school-focused operation on September 21. Although most of the kids were on manual bikes, not e-bikes, he noted. The tickets were for things like not stopping at stop signs and not wearing helmets.

He also noted the August 13 operation focusing on loud and modified vehicles. Police issued 177 citations and made three arrests. There was also a lot of social media feedback, he added, some of it praising the effort to others questioning and criticizing the operation. 

“It’s this fine line that we walk,” he said. 

Town Hall covers circulation element police

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of NBPD

Crime trends and statistics were also discussed during the town hall

NBPD Lt. Brad Miller spoke about other trends tracked by the police department, including residential burglaries, which are up 14.9% compared to 2021. 

While they are a key concern this year, Miller said, residential burglaries are down 8.4% compared to the five-year average. Since 2017, the average is 44 residential burglaries by this time of the year, compared to the 37 burglaries so far in 2022.

The perception is that the residential burglaries are “out of control,” but, relative to the last few years, 2022 is averaging less than normal, Miller noted.

Other year-to-date statistics: Bicycle thefts are up 32.7%, auto theft is down 24.1%, and mail theft is down 36.9%.

Violent crime YTD is up 5.8% from last year, Miller said. By this time in 2021, there were 86 violent crimes reported compared to the 91 reported so far in 2022. Property crime YTD is also up (8.5%) compared to last year, but the five-year average is down by 8%.

But things were still significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Miller pointed out. They saw historic low crime numbers in 2020 and 2021, he noted, so as things get back to normal the 2022 increase appears dramatic, but is actually overall lower compared to the last several years.

Animal Control Supervisor Valerie Schomburg also shared coyote information and safety tips and how to report sightings

Public Works Director Dave Webb answered some questions during the town hall as well, including about poor cell reception, using pesticides in city parks and street improvement projects. 

Webb noted that several street projects incorporated a new noise reduction rubberized asphalt and dropped the decibels by three to five levels. That’s a noticeable difference, he said.

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Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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