It was standing room only at the Civic Center last night as Speak-Up Newport hosted a debate on Measure Y.
The turnout surprised everyone; the No on Y folks ran out of handouts.
My wife and I wanted to hear the details. Besides bicycle advocacy, the beach fire rings have made us more politically aware, so this election year we’ve participated more than any other time. We’re late bloomers.
We were also the only ones to arrive by bike, but that’s not surprising here in Newport Beach where people love their cars.
That’s part of the concern over Measure Y – many are afraid that increased development at Newport Center will bring more traffic and the bygone, halcyon days of carefree driving around Corona del Mar will become a distant memory.
That’s one possible outcome, of course, but even more likely, Measure Y will be a baby step towards less congestion. How can that be?
Now I’m no spokesperson for or against Measure Y, but I have lived and worked in New York City where people would be amazed at our provincial concerns over a higher density future. No one drives a car in NYC because there’s no place to park and besides, you can walk, take the subway, or hop on a Citibike to get where you’re going. That works because of density. Elevators, it turns out, are a great way to move people, so living vertically makes sense.
If you haven’t been to NYC and have lived here your whole life then I can understand your doubts. We live in one of the great sprawl capitals of the world and none of it can work right without lots of cars. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Density offers new lifestyles, ones that appeal to today’s Millennials – they’d prefer to walk their neighborhoods and bike to work. Prior generations loved the idea of suburban life, but the increasing commute time on traffic choked streets has been buzz-kill for that lifestyle. Increasingly we’re all waking up to the fact that time spent in the car leads to obesity and heart disease. Walking and biking are the antidote and density makes it all work.
A post-Measure Y Fashion Island with high-rise residential will add opportunities for shopping and entertainment to those who want to walk or bike to work. In my case, I’m intrigued with a more urban lifestyle in retirement. The single family home is a little isolating, not to mention, too much to keep up with. I’d gladly trade my lovely view with 3,000 square feet for a similarly dramatic high-rise view and 1,300 sq ft. – in a heart beat. So long as there’s lots of bicycle parking, that is.
I’m voting Yes on Y.