Orange County Parks Seeks After-the-Fact Approval for Newport Visitor Dock Changes

The California Coastal Commission was scheduled to consider a coastal permit application for after-the-fact changes to the public dock at 1901 Bayside Drive at its March 10 meeting but the item was postponed.

NEWPORT BEACH— The Orange County Parks Department has sought California Coastal Commission approval for after-the-fact changes made to the visitor dock shared by the Orange County Sherriff Harbor Patrol and the boating public in Newport Beach Harbor.

OC Parks is seeking after-the-fact approval 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 OCSHP 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., among several other changes.

In 2019, despite being a public dock, signage reading “Keep Out” and “Authorized Personnel Only” was placed at the entrance area to the public guest docks. In May 2019, the OCSD changed the public dingy dock time limit at the dock from 72 hours to 20 minutes. The Log reported on the changes in a series of Standing Watch columns published in 2019, which sought to determine whether a Sheriff’s Department lieutenant had the authority himself to change the time limit on the dock. The changes were made without Coastal Commission approval.

The Coastal Commission’s enforcement staff sent a Notice of Violation letter to the OCSD harbormaster on May 20, 2019, notifying them the signage, change in public dinghy tie-up access and placement of accompanying signage, among other actions, were noncompliant with Coastal Development Permits.

According to Coastal Commission staff, upon receipt of the Notice of the Violation letter, the county removed the unpermitted signage and reopened the dinghy dock between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. OC Parks subsequently submitted an amendment application to resolve the violations and make changes to the dock. OC Parks is also seeking authorization to install new security gates and new fencing that would help delineate between public access amenities at the site and restricted access areas.

The Coastal Commission was set to consider the coastal permit application at its March 10 meeting but the item was postponed. Marisa O’Neil, the public information officer for OC Parks, said the item was postponed by 90 days.

“The item has been postponed so that the County can meet further with staff and advocates to determine if [it is] feasible to address any of the concerns that have been raised by the public since the staff report was released,” said O’Neil in an email.

Members of the boating public have historically utilized the dock for unloading and loading passengers, accessing public restrooms, or conducting harbor patrol business.

“According to the applicant, this change of use is based on past emergency action that resulted in the need to keep this dock clear for emergency situations, and the recommendation from a Vulnerability Assessment and Mitigation Report performed by Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center (OCIAC) conducted in May of 2017,” said a California Coastal Commission staff report. “One of the security issues identified was non-Sheriff personnel having access to the dock and the potential exposure of adjacent public safety and law enforcement equipment.”

OC Parks is also seeking 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.

“Opponents of the County’s proposed restrictions contend that changing the Dinghy Dock hours… will deprive “live-a-board” users who need overnight access to dinghy docks at all hours of the day and night,” stated the Coastal Commission staff report. “However, restricting the public dinghy tie-up to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to coincide with the beach hours will improve some public boaters’ ability to access the public beach and surrounding visitor-serving amenities by encouraging daily turnover of the dinghy dock tie-ups and discouraging only a few members of the public from monopolizing this amenity.”

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One thought on “Orange County Parks Seeks After-the-Fact Approval for Newport Visitor Dock Changes

  • Observant Boater

    Something doesn’t add up: The visitor dock and dinghy dock were closed in June of 2018 at the direction of a new OC Sheriff’s Harbor Master that was appointed to the position in April of 2018. Yet, the County is trying to justify the closure on an emergency action related to a purported May 2017 Sheriff’s Security Assessment? If that assessment truly existed and there was such a big threat, why didn’t Sheriff’s Department shut it down in May of 2017?
    By the way, how does the Harbor Patrol offer assistance to boaters if they don’t have a courtesy dock to tie-up to? The only other public dock there is the pump-out dock which is restricted to pump-out only and is much further from their office?
    Clearly there was no thought put into the dock closures. What a mess…….



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