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A sign in the right direction

Tourist-friendly "wayfinding" program gets vote from City Council to help fund signs pointing to Newport Beach destinations.

March 09, 2011|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

Editor's note:  The deck originally said the City Council gave the sign program $100,000. In actuality, the council voted to help fund the project, with the city giving roughly $40,000.

NEWPORT BEACH — Most residents here can easily find their way to Fashion Island or the Balboa Pier, and those with a little more local knowledge might be able to find the Orange County Museum of Art.

Tourists, though, can easily get lost — that is, until the city installs all 65 signs that will point them to landmarks, destinations and public institutions.

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The City Council voted Tuesday to help fund a $100,000 "wayfinding" sign program. Now, visitors may be able to get their frozen bananas with less hassle or make their way to Big Corona without getting lost in the neighboring streets.

"Any way that we can help our visitors navigate more parts of this community," said Gary Sherwin, president of Visit Newport Beach, "and to see more parts, and thus hopefully spend more money by spending more time here, I think is very important."

Visit Newport Beach, the city's destination marketing organization, along with various business improvement districts, contributed $60,000 toward the cost of the signs. The city's general fund made up the difference.

Included in the project is removal of a hodgepodge of signs throughout the city. Many are as small as a no-parking sign and their colors vary — from green with white type to blue with white type.

The new signs will be oval boards with a blue background, white type and gold trim.

People can already see them around town — the city installed 22 signs during a 2005 pilot project, mostly on the Balboa Peninsula. They hang about 17 feet from the ground.

Displeased with the look, two council members voted against the proposal.

"I think they're ugly, I think you can't read them," said Councilman Steve Rosansky. "I think they add nothing to our community."

Councilwoman Nancy Gardner agreed: "They just don't say Newport Beach to me."

Some of the pilot signs, after years of delayed funding, now hang cockeyed or are covered by overgrown trees.

It has been an extraordinarily long planning process for these signs. They were first introduced 10 years ago. For the past two fiscal years, the City Council has either withdrawn funding or voted to keep the project offline.

In August, council members asked for new bids on the job, as estimates then ranged from $250,000 to $300,000.

In other action, the council:

Voted to dissolve the Economic Development Committee and suggested its citizen volunteers apply to the newly-formed Neighborhood Revitalization or Tidelands Management committees.

"I see this as opportunities for people to move into more specific roles," said Councilman Keith Curry.

Leading the revitalization committee will be Councilmen Rush Hill, Ed Selich and Mayor Mike Henn, who will chair the group. The tidelands committee will also be chaired by Henn, with Gardner and Selich also serving.

The council also selected Council Members Leslie Daigle, Hill and Curry to lead negotiations for the John Wayne Airport Settlement Agreement.

A number of city fees were changed by the council, after a consultant analyzed how much it costs the city to provide them. Many are related to the police and fire departments. Some examples: The city's ambulance fees increased, jail booking fees increased, and vehicle impound fees decreased.

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