On Tuesday evening, nearly 100 students in black Corona del Mar (CdM) sweatshirts filled the front rows of the Newport Beach City Council meeting to counter new parking restrictions on the campus perimeter. Representatives from Youth and Government, and Speech and Debate took to the podium to express the negative effects of the parking restrictions on the student body.
These restrictions were proposed by members of the Eastbluff community at an August city council meeting and passed unanimously, without input from CdM parents or students.
The limitations placed a significant amount of stress on sophomores and juniors who were waking up an hour to two hours earlier than usual to fight for just 55 non-senior parking spots. Hundreds of students resorted to parking off campus and were left with over a mile walk to their first period class.
With increased emphasis on the school tardy policy and fewer places to park, CdM students were already stressed out by the time they entered the classroom.
This motivated them to make a change.
At the second reading of the resolution at the Sept. 13 city council meeting, the presentation from the CdM students persuaded all six council members to lift the parking restriction on Mar Vista Dr. and between Eastbluff Dr. and Vista Del Oro.
The “No Student Parking” signs are scheduled for removal, and street sweeping is currently suspended for the council to discuss moving it from Thursday and Friday to before school on Monday, as proposed by the students.
“Parking has always been a problem at CdM, and now that I’m driving this year, it has really impacted my life,” junior Claire Nakamura said. “I’ve had to get up a lot earlier, and it has caused for lots of extra anxiety, so I’m very happy that I got to contribute to this positive change.”
Nakamura, a Youth and Government delegate, was one of the students chosen to represent CdM at the city council meeting.
Several other student speakers shared their personal parking experiences, including junior Sydney Custer who drives her seventh grade sister to school every morning.
“This issue was important to me because as a junior, it has been difficult to wake up at 6 a.m. every day and get to school over an hour early,” Custer said. “It has been especially difficult for my seventh-grade sister. I could see her struggling with exhaustion every morning, and that pushed me to speak for her in front of the council.”
Eastbluff community members argued that the restrictions create a safer environment for CdM students, but with increased anxiety and sleep deprivation, the students explained that parking was of much greater concern.
George Adamson, senior captain of the Speech and Debate team, explained the need for a permanent solution that would accommodate the growing student population and increase opportunities for on-campus parking.
“Our parking lots do not support our student body, and that does not support the residents,” Adamson said in his speech to the council. “It needs to be fixed for the long-term.”
Compromise was a central theme throughout the speeches. At the Youth and Government meeting the evening before, lead advisor Brandon Fischer told his students, “Compromise is the essence of government.”
He explained the importance of respecting the surrounding community and urged students to look at the parking issue from the perspective of an Eastbluff homeowner. The Youth and Government delegates reflected on how the students could be better neighbors, from picking up trash to consistently using the crosswalks. They went into the city council meeting with compromise in mind.
“The model government in which we participate is constantly teaching us about the art of compromise, and it is that same art I believe is needed to resolve this very issue,” Custer said in her speech.
Although local homeowners noted negative examples of CdM students, sophomore Wesley Davies spoke about the true nature of the student body.
“Some students can be careless or unconscientious, but that is far from the majority,” Davies said. “We do not let the worst of us define who we are.”
Their enthusiasm and professionalism were commended by Mayor Diane B. Dixon and the council members, all of whom cast their votes in favor of the students.
“The parking situation was the perfect opportunity for our students to put into practice all they learn and experience in the Youth and Government program, as it was an issue that affected them directly, as well as the community they live in,” Fischer said. “The students presented their case with passion, thoughtfulness, and humility, and I couldn’t be more proud of the way they represented themselves and our school.”
The solution, though a temporary one, was a victory for the CdM students who learned that they could make a difference in government.
“I’m glad programs such as Youth and Government and Speech and Debate exist because they are able to facilitate an understanding of the democratic process and a genuine excitement for government,” said junior Youth and Government delegate Zachary Glabman. “It is important that we understand now while we are young that we can be the change we want to see made.”