End of Watch: Newport Beach Harbor Commissioner Paul Blank Completes Term

Blank served eight years on the Commission, during which time he said they made big strides including improving water quality and safety; promoting dredging efforts; and collecting data on the economic impact of the harbor.

NEWPORT BEACH—He’s a lifer; a Newport Beach Harbor lifer that is. He was born and raised in the city of Newport Beach, which he credits for teaching him how to sail at 8 years old.

“I’m grateful the city gave me that,” Blank said.

He went on to sail competitively for years, participating in national and international races and winning three national sailing championships. The harbor is now a place where Blank recreates daily, whether paddle boarding to sort out thoughts or taking friends out on his boat, Promotion, whose name, Blank said represents his promotion from sailing competitively to power boating.

Blank has been a staple of the Newport Beach Harbor Commission for the past eight years, where he brought this sense of humor to the council chambers. It was unlikely a meeting would go by without a witty comment from Blank and a chuckle from someone else. He said he found making things fun and light was an effective technique to get people to work together and enjoy working together.

Blank officially hung up the harbor commissioner title in June.

When asked if he plans to stay local, he replied, “I’m a lifer.”

In a similar way, Blank was also a Newport Beach Harbor Commission lifer, serving the max allotted time, eight years.

“I’m going to miss knowing my fingerprints are on future harbor improvements,” Blank said.

Blank was appointed the Commission by the City Council in June 2012 and reappointed in 2016. He served as chair twice, most recently 2019-20.

Over the past eight years, Blank said the commission has tackled a number of issues including improving water quality and safety; dredging and making the harbor more navigable; creating more public piers; and collecting economic data about the harbor’s impact.

“The work has not always been easy and certainly not always been fun, there’s a lot of reading, there’s a lot of minutiae in the code” Blank said.

However, he said it has been satisfying. He said as a whole– with former Commissioner Doug West and later Commissioner Scott Cunningham leading the charge – the Commission has brought awareness and focus to the importance of dredging.

“I can’t really point to grains of sand that got moved because of my effort but the ongoing effort of dredging as the number one objective, I would also point to and say there is an awareness of the importance of dredging throughout the harbor community and even within this building at city leadership,” Blank said.

Blank said the Title 17 – Harbor Code revisions and the first harbor economic impact study were also notable efforts of the Commission over the past eight years.

“That economic impact study is the first of its kind in Newport Beach but has captured the attention of the city leaders,” Blank said.

Improving paddleboard safety in the harbor was an effort Blank personally left his fingerprints on. He wrote and gave many presentations on paddleboard safety and how to improve it.

“I was particularly passionate about paddleboard safety in the harbor and did pick up that charge,” Blank said.

Those efforts from Blank and fellow commissioners resulted in a public awareness campaign for paddleboard safety, a quelled desire for paddleboard lanes in the harbor and a published tri-fold brochure about safety for rental operators, resorts and yacht clubs.

Another improvement Blank’s fingerprints are on is the creation of more public piers.

“I can point at the Central Avenue Pier and say I did that and I didn’t do it alone,” Blank said.

Blank also headed up a policy change which eventually allowed collegiate and high school rowing programs and boats competing in certain sailboat race series to exceed the stated speed limits during sanctioned races.

“One of the things that got accomplished that I did push very hard for and at times was told this would never happen, stop pushing for it, is the speed limit exemption for scheduled sanctioned sailboat racing and manual-powered craft activities,” Blank said. “Those are culturally important activities in this community and they can now proceed legally and without fear of reprisal.”

For Blank, one of the most memorable moments from his time on the commission was the handful of times they ditched City Council Chambers for the Balboa Ferry, inviting the public to join them onboard for the Commission meeting.

Blank, who has been involved in volunteer organizations since junior high school, is now shifting his focus to his role as Rear Commodore at Balboa Yacht Club. He said his passion is really focused on the harbor and right now does not have his sights set on anything broader, such as City Council.

“I have a tremendous appreciation for each and every commissioner I have served with, they’re all unique and amazing individuals,” Blank said.


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