During its Sept. 7 regular meeting, Newport City Council held a quasi-judicial hearing and partially reversed a prior staff ruling regarding a six-year-old request for signage and a dog bag receptacle on Northeast San-Bay-O Circle.
Retired attorney Nyla Jebousek first asked the city in 2015 to install 15-mph speed limit and pedestrian signs near her house on the east end of the circle, where the road narrows to 12 feet after it rounds a blind corner, as well as add a dog bag dispenser and trash can to create a pedestrian safe zone. The request was accompanied by a supporting petition signed by more than 30 of Jebousek’s neighbors.
City staff reviewed the request and decided not to proceed with the improvements, and Jebousek appealed that decision to city council in November 2016 (prior to council’s establishment of a quasi-judicial hearing, a more formal process by which citizens can appeal staff decisions). At the time, council reached a consensus that the police chief should work with the public safety director to install a reader board and conduct a traffic study.
According to City Manager Spencer Nebel’s Sept. 7 report to council, they determined that site distances were too short to get actual speedometer readings, and staff instead reviewed a 2014 traffic study that found most vehicles traveled slower than 15 mph and almost all stayed under 20 mph.
Nebel reported that he agreed with staff at the time that traffic counts and speeds did not merit placing speed limit signs, and noted that the city typically doesn’t install speed signs on neighborhood streets, nor does it place dog-waste receptacles anywhere but the busiest areas. The city had already installed a “No Outlet” sign and 90-degree turn arrow to help address concerns, Nebel wrote, and he recommended that council uphold staff’s determination.
“A two-way, single lane road has a statutory 15 mph speed limit,” Nebel wrote. “We have numerous single lane roads throughout the city, and we do not post speed limits on residential streets. The effectiveness of this signage on a short section of roadway is minimal. This is something we would not do on the miles of residential streets in the city.”
In her testimony Sept. 7, Jebousek told councilors, “The decision-making process in this matter is fundamentally flawed because of the exclusion of information that was not considered.” She cited the Oregon Evidence Code as a fairness standard that should be applied in governance, acknowledging that those rules do not technically apply to council. She said one section reads that the code’s purpose “shall be construed to secure fairness … to the end that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined.”
She told council the former public works director denied her request on the grounds that people do not read signs, “and he said he wasn’t going to put up any more signs because there were already too many signs in Newport. This is a clear demonstration of bias.”
Jebousek said the 2014 traffic study was done during March and thus failed to capture the worst vehicular traffic. She said the “No Outlet” sign was installed decades ago a full block from her house, and the arrow sign is poorly located out of the line of sight of approaching traffic.
The retired attorney said city staff failed to take into account the unique configuration of San-Bay-O and associated hazards. “This includes two blind corners with a 12-foot-wide section of street between them proximate to Forest Park, populated by school children, seniors and dog walker-pedestrian traffic,” she said.
Jebousek said the dog station would serve an obvious purpose, “but more importantly, it would be a visual cue to pedestrians for the only safe place to exit the street onto the narrow section away from approaching traffic, as recommended by the (city’s transportation system plan) study.”
She said the city manager committed during the November 2016 council hearing to conduct a traffic study and reconvene, “and nothing has been done to meet these commitments.” She said she made three requests for reconsideration in 2019, 2020, and this year, ending in asking for the quasi-judicial hearing.
Another San-Bay-O resident, Rebecca Bruner, testified that she fully supported Jebousek’s proposal and thought the dog station was especially needed, while resident Mark Saelens’ emailed comment said he supported 15-mph speed limit signs, but he was more understanding of the city’s position on the pet receptacle.
Council President CM Hall asked Nebel what the cost would be to install signs. The city manager said it would be negligible, as Jebousek noted in her testimony.
“The biggest challenge is having some consistency as far as how we sign things in various locations in the community,” Nebel said. “And from a response standpoint, this is an issue that as Nyla has indicated has been going on for a number of years.” He recounted a history of his interactions regarding the issue, including a discussion with State Rep. David Gomberg.
“I would admit at the end of the (November 2016) hearing that there wasn’t a clear conclusion to the issue,” Nebel said. He added that they had no evidence signage would actually address residents’ concerns.
Councilor Ryan Parker said he thought the speed limit sign and dog station questions were separate issues, with safety concerns expressed by a large number of residents via the petition adding heft to the former.
“On the signage issue, I think there’s room for improvement on the existing footprint,” Parker said, noting that San-Bay-O was a unique circumstance as a closed loop directly off of Highway 101.
Councilor Aaron Collett said it was indeed a common practice not to overuse signage in order to maintain their visual impact. “That doesn’t mean I disagree that this case may warrant something,” Collett said. “I’m not sure signs are going to make people slow down. They don’t work on my street … but there’s more than one benefit if we opt to sign it.”
Councilor Dietmar Goebel made a motion that city staff work with neighborhood members to place a 15-mph speed limit and pedestrian warning sign, and to have the city attorney draft an order accordingly. Council voted unanimously in favor.
City to request millions for under-bay water main
Council also approved an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 75 percent of the funding to build a new water line under Yaquina Bay.
The city currently serves water customers in South Beach via a 12-inch iron pipe installed in 1973, which crosses the bay near the Embarcadero. A new line crossing at McLean Point, where the city is currently already working on an extension of an existing 12-inch main next to the liquid natural gas tank, would cost an estimated $5 million, $3.75 million of which would be sought through a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant.
According to Acting City Engineer Chris Janigo’s report to council, “Not only would the new waterline reduce the risks of damage from seismic events, but having a redundant waterline crossing will allow us to take the existing crossing out of service for cleaning, inspection and repairs.”
City Manager Spencer Nebel told councilors urban renewal was a potential source of the city’s estimated $1.25 million match. Cost estimates are “very preliminary,” according Nebel’s written report.
City consolidates printing services with Xerox
The city council also approved a lease agreement for copier machines and printing costs.
Historically, the city has contracted individually for copiers and printing services from Xerox, as well other companies. The lease agreement consolidates those products under a single contract at a base cost of $88,144 for three years, plus $0.0061 for black-and-white prints and $0.045 for color.
Finance Director Mike Murzynsky notes in his report that other copier leases are still active, and the plan is to consolidate those services under the Xerox contract when the leases expire.