The City Council is going to force all residents between the streets of Island and Adams Street to register their cars with the city if they wish to park overnight. The enforcement will be monitored by a roving car with a computerized, automatic license-plate reader which will log your license plate into a database. If you want someone to spend the night, you need to seek permission from the government for them to do so, in advance. That means when your sister comes by for a surprise visit on Saturday when the city is closed, she needs to leave before 4pm, or she’s going to get a ticket– no more overnight wine and movies with visitors, either– not unless the city approves of them.
Why is the city doing this? Well, this is a very long story, and I’m going to phrase it in a very particular way to relay it, so please bear with me here as I unravel this mystery.
About 30 years ago, there was a proposal to turn the Fun Zone into a hotel. The residents rightfully freaked out: “Nobody should be able to turn the historic Fun Zone into a hotel” was the popular sentiment at the time. The fight went all the way to the Coastal Commission, who noted that the Fun Zone didn’t have any adequate parking, and that if they wanted to build a hotel, first they would need a 3-story parking garage before the Coastal Commission would ever consider approval.
Keep that in your memory for just a moment– but now let’s talk about a seemingly-unrelated story:
For many years, Newport Beach had our beloved Nautical Museum. This boat floated with memories preserved for generations, donated by locals to explain the history of our great city. Now as everyone knows, aside from the Louvre or Smithsonian, museums are almost always money-losers which rely on donations to even attempt to break even. They are not a profit center, so “purchasing a museum” just doesn’t happen– except in this bizarre case. The museum was purchased and the historic rides at the Fun Zone were demolished to put in a museum which was supposed to preserve Newport’s history. Yes: they demolished classic Newport in order to put a museum about Classic Newport on it. I’m not even making this up in the slightest. The “new” museum promised to keep all the history intact. Except they didn’t. They threw out much of the old historic pieces and refused to give them back to their original donors (because they were in the dump, no doubt). They then changed it from the Nautical Museum into ExplorOcean, and changed the entire concept to be all about marine life, instead, completely obliterating their draw.
And finally, the third piece of this puzzle, occurring in modern times: Fast-forward from 2005 to the year 2014. As the last act of the outgoing council, they approved donating the entire parking lot bordered by Palm, Washington, Balboa, and East Bay Ave– to the Fun Zone (An $11m property at the time), all for less than a dollar a day. The reason? The “Fun Zone” had the novel idea about turning that parking garage into a three-story parking garage. The problem here, though, is that there is no way they could fill that during the “wintertime” (aka, 9 months out of the year in Balboa) in order to gain the loan that was needed to build the lot. Without the loan, they have no lot.
So how would they create an artificial demand for parking in order to take out the loan? They could get City Council to force all non-residents in the area to park in metered spots by creating a bogus idea that local residents would want paid parking. They would conduct these fear-generating operations at the start of summer– when parking begins to get bad– so that people would think “it’s getting worse by the day”, and vote for something they don’t need to solve a problem that is actually getting less problematic by the year.
So what’s the big deal? Why all this work to trick residents into signing into parking passes? Because forcing people to need a place to pay to park will allow the Fun Zone operators to be able to get the loan to build the parking garage. Once the parking garage is built, I predict that the “Fun Zone Museum” will hit some hard times, will be declared insoluble, and will be sold. But it can never be restored to what it was due to massive property tax bills which need to be recouped in the form of rent (so low-dollar stores could never be there again). So who will buy it? A hotel will surely come to their rescue. And this time, they will have their parking garage.
Because you can’t put a hotel on the Fun Zone,
but you can put a museum on the Fun Zone,
and you can rescue a failed museum with a hotel.