After hearing input from stakeholders Orange County Parks modified their Coastal Development Permit Amendment Application to remove the public access restrictions at 1901 Bayside Drive previously included.
NEWPORT BEACH— After significant public input, Orange County Parks has modified its Coastal Development Permit Amendment Application for the public beach and docks located at 1901 Bayside Drive near Newport Harbor Patrol and Coast Guard. Orange County Coastkeeper reported the county has agreed to restore public access and add additional amenities for the public. The new application is expected to go before the California Coastal Commission in June.
OC Parks had previously submitted an after-the-fact application to the Coastal Commission to amend a coastal development permit to change the use of the visitor dock at 1901 Bayside Drive from a public temporary tie-up to an emergency dock for Orange County Sheriff Harbor Patrol use only and after-the-fact approval to change the hours of the dinghy dock tie-up from 72 hours maximum to day-use only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. They also sought to install safety gates and fencing around the Orange County Sheriff Department building and lifeguard headquarters building.
OC Parks and the OCSD have cited a May 2017 Vulnerability Assessment and Mitigation Report that found safety and security concerns at the harbor patrol facility as the reason for the changes.
The Coastal Commission was scheduled to hold a public hearing to determine the fate of the CDP application on March 10, but due to widespread public opposition, including from Coastkeeper and dozens of submitted public comments, the county postponed the hearing. Coastkeeper said the proposed CDP application would have greatly impacted access to the Newport Harbor Patrol Guest Dock and adjacent beach.
“It was just a total overall take from what had been public access,” said Garry Brown, founder and president of Orange County Coastkeeper.
Coastkeeper, with the help of University of California Irvine Environmental Law Clinic, met multiple times with county and Coastal Commission staff and advocated for the restoration of public access. Coastkeeper said the new permit will include the immediate restoration of the public’s use of the visitor dock, which will be shared with emergency use; the addition of beach wheelchairs to increase ADA access to the sandy beach; restoration of a public 20-minute loading parking space at the top of the visitor dock gangway; 24-hour use of the dinghy dock, with the ability to request additional time from harbor patrol; and installation of an ADA lift on the visitor dock, pending feasibility for ADA compliant access to lift.
“The last kind of proposal we’ve seen, which we’re delighted with and applaud them, gives even more public access than what we had,” said Brown. “And so, you know it’s a win. It’s a win for us, it’s a win for boaters.”
Marisa O’Neil, the public information officer for OC Parks, confirmed they have made changes to their original permit application.
“OC Parks made the modifications after having the opportunity to reach out to various stakeholders to work through their concerns regarding public access, and collaborated on solutions that would also maintain public safety while closely coordinating with Coastal Commission to work within the framework of their guidelines,” said O’Neil in an email.
She also said there will be a public outreach plan to increase awareness about the amenities at the site, which include the availability for the public to rent seven moorings located to the southeast of the five overnight slips.
“County Parks couldn’t have been more genuine in their effort to restore what we had,” said Brown.
The public access issue first came about in 2019 when signage reading “Keep Out” and “Authorized Personnel Only” was placed at the entrance area to the public guest docks and the public dinghy dock time limit was changed from 72 hours to 20 minutes. The harbormaster was issued a Notice of Violation from the Coastal Commission and the county removed the unpermitted signage and reopened the dinghy dock between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. OC Parks had subsequently submitted the amendment application to resolve the violations and make changes to the dock.
“When the sheriff’s department started this, I don’t think they even knew the Coastal Commission had any involvement,” said Brown.
Brown said he encourages the public and boaters to continue to use the public amenities at the site.