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Balboa Village plan goes to Planning Commission

Report includes wide range of issues, from parking to changing area's name.

July 18, 2012|By Mike Reicher

Once the bustling center of historic Newport Beach, Balboa Village and its Main Street lost their luster in recent decades.

Former locals restaurants are empty shells. An art gallery opened and closed within months.

On its face, the problem seems simple: Seasonal visitors don't spend enough time in the village to support a variety of businesses.

But a panel of five citizens and a team of city workers and consultants say the issues are much more complex. They have produced a 22-point plan to address economic development, parking, planning, landscaping and governance issues.

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The group turned over its findings to the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee.

On Thursday the committee present its conclusions to the Planning Commission.

"It's the beginning of a long process," said panelist Ralph Rodheim, who owns Balboa Boat Rentals.

The recommendations range from financial incentives to get businesses to improve their façades to parking recreational vehicles in the oceanfront city-owned parking lot during the winter to generate revenue, and reinvesting the parking fees in the area.

What to call that area is another point. The committee likes Balboa Village Fun Zone, and recommends it for signs and marketing materials. This commercial zone would stretch between the two waterfronts from Adams to A streets.

A marketing firm surveyed 600 visitors or potential visitors, and 400 residents, and found that most thought of the area as Balboa, the Fun Zone and some mistakenly as Balboa Island.

Keeping the Fun Zone in the name would help with brand recognition, they found.

"If I mention to anybody, go to the Fun Zone, they know where it is," Rodheim said.

The city spent about $130,000 on the village neighborhood revitalization process, including extensive market and parking studies.

Parking has nagged the village for years. Visitors park on residential streets or can't find parking that they perceive as convenient. A study found that the city's lots were underutilized, so the committee recommended higher parking meter prices and residential parking permits to push people into the lots. The meters would be demand-based, with the most busy times charging up to $2.50 per hour.

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