Note to Sheriff: It’s Docking Time in Newport Beach

The city’s Harbor Commission recommends new timing patterns for docking at 19th Street Dock. A similar procedure should have been followed on the other side of the harbor.

NEWPORT BEACH—It’s been a while since we’ve run a Standing Watch column. The last two columns in this section focused on the return of Sea Magazine and getting through the COVID-19 quarantine period with a positive mindset. A take action column has become relevant at this time – not so much to “beat a dead horse” but to ensure our local, regional and state agencies are aware we’re watching their actions, ensuring public officials are following the right protocols.

Recent action by the Newport Beach Harbor Commission have metaphorically re-opened old wounds – and the advisory board certainly didn’t have intentions of its recommendation resulting in this take action column being written (especially in a time when we’re all just trying to get through the worst global pandemic of our lifetimes).

Members of the Newport Beach Harbor Commission recently recommended a series of time changes for a public dock at 19th Street, which is located on Balboa Peninsula. The Log’s Lindsey Glasgow reported on the recommended time changes in our April 3-16 issue. The recommendations were made with no fanfare and are the type of item we’d report on when timely, then move forward to the next story.

So why are the time change recommendations at Newport Beach’s 19th Street Public Dock the main topic of discussion in our recurring Standing Watch column?

Answer: Lt. Christopher Corn.

Okay, before moving on with the point of this take action column, let’s make clear what this editorial isn’t: a personal attack on public officials or a random rehashing of a dated story. Public officials should always be held accountable for his or her actions, even if the sands of time attached to said actions are rapidly disappearing into oblivion.

The point being raised here is this: The Harbor Commission’s recommendation demonstrated a tale of two actions taken by two public agencies on a singular issue.

Corn, for those who need a refresher, reduced the time available for use at a public dock in Corona Del Mar from 72 hours to 20 minutes. The Sheriff Lieutenant did not act with the backing of a Harbor Commission recommendation or vote by either the Newport Beach City Council or Orange County Board of Supervisors.

This was the point The Log doggedly tried to make during a series of articles and editorials on this issue in 2019: was Corn authorized to single-handedly change the time restrictions on public dock uses in Newport Beach Harbor?

Orange County officials tried to be of assistance here, pointing to a broad provision in the county code granting the Sheriff’s Department and OC Parks authority to enforce laws in a manner to avoid congestion at the public docks. Clarity, however, was not provided as to whether Corn, himself, could unilaterally change the public’s use of Newport Beach Harbor’s docks from 72 hours to 20 minutes (or any other time limit).

Fast forward to March 2020 – an advisory board advances a set of recommendations on time restrictions on public dock uses in Newport Beach Harbor.

The public docks are different, to be sure. One could even argue the docks in Corona Del Mar are under county jurisdiction, while Newport Beach manages the boating venue at Balboa Peninsula. Poe-Tay-Toe, Poe-Tah-Toe. The question of administrative function remains the same: was the Harbor Commission’s action last month proof Corn was unauthorized to alter the time restrictions at the public docks adjacent to the Sheriff’s Department station in Corona Del Mar?

The takeaway here is this: we should both be informed of the public process and hold our public officials to the highest standards possible, when governing or executing said public process.

Orange County has been relatively mum on this issue and Corn will continue to maintain the matter was resolved. But what we have here is a situation where the time available for using a public dock in Newport Beach was managed one way in Corona Del Mar and in an entirely different way in Balboa Peninsula. Both ways cannot co-exist.

What the Newport Beach Harbor Commission did last month is consistent with what should be: any changes to the use of public docks should be ultimately be made by a city council or board of supervisors (with input from the relevant advisory boards, such as a harbor commission).

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7 thoughts on “Note to Sheriff: It’s Docking Time in Newport Beach

  • April 24, 2020 at 1:19 pm
    Permalink

    RE; It’s docking time in Newport Beach:
    This issue, like many other issues regarding Newport Harbor, seem to generate interest until the people charged with the ability to influence change let it fade away. The last report on the OC Harbor Patrol (https://danapointboaters.org/documents/county/Harbor%20Patrol%20Review%20Final%20Report.pdf) attempts to explain the powers of the local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ). It is made clear in this report that when speaking about Newport Harbor the AHJ is the City of Newport Beach. Further, it is noted that the OC Sheriff’s Department has some control over enforcement issues due to an established presence under Cal Harbors & Nav. Code Section 666.5. This does not pertain to emergency situations controlled under the Cal. Emergency Services Act Sec. 8618. Further requirements mandating aide and assistance of vessels in the open waters along the Orange County Coast are stipulated in Cal. Harbors & Nav. Code Section 510.
    Interestingly, this document authored by OC County government specially reports that marine firefighting is not a mandated task for the local sheriff in Orange County. This is important because marine firefighting is serious business and the OC deputies charged with this duty lack the proper training and would be venturing into a dangerous situation without adequate preparation.
    As is demonstrated in the above noted article significant issues remain to be addressed regarding the proper AHJ and public benefit and use of Newport Harbor. Why do these issues never seem to be resolved?
    One only has to ask if the political leaders in Newport Beach were to address all issues of Newport Harbor with the same intensity as they have with rehab housing, homelessness, and locking down the Boardwalk due to COVID-19 would these issues continuously be revisited?
    Answer: Not enough residents and business owners complain to a level that the issue becomes a priority for the Newport Beach City Council.

    Reply
  • April 25, 2020 at 4:29 pm
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    THE ORANGE COUNTY HARBOR DEPT IS USELESS. IT HARDLY MAKES HARBOR PATROL, CAN;T FIGHT FIRES, CAN’T TOW. OVER PAID AND UNDER TRAINED

    Reply
  • April 27, 2020 at 10:18 am
    Permalink

    The public access issue at the OC Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol in Newport Harbor is still under review by the California Coastal Commission. The Sheriff submitted a retro-active CDP application to close off public access. On September 6, 2019 the application was rejected by the Coastal Commission. The Sheriff’s Department currently stands in violation of the law. A detailed investigation of the actions by the OC Harbor suggest the public access closures initiated by Sheriff’s management were designed to create a more comfortable work environment for the Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol and to impede live-aboard boater access to the dinghy dock. It seems the OC Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol is more interested in serving themselves than serving the public.
    The unlawful and selfish actions by the OC Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol further discredit the Sheriff’s Department each day they linger.

    Reply
    • April 27, 2020 at 3:31 pm
      Permalink

      It is my understanding that the Coastal Commission didn’t reject the application as you claim. They asked for more details and are working with OCSD to find a solution that will benefit residents, visitors, and boaters alike. That dock is somewhat different than all the other public docks in the harbor because it houses first responder boats also. I think there are 12 other docks in the harbor for live aboard access. The Harbor Patrol has a job to protect first responders and still give access to the public which is deemed safe and useful for all visitors and well as residents. Most public docks are plugged up with derelict boats which limit more access to visitors than anything else.

      Reply
  • April 27, 2020 at 10:20 pm
    Permalink

    Dear Common Sense, the CDP application submitted on behalf of the OC Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol to block public access was not accepted or approved by the Coastal Commission. Most people would call that rejected.

    The Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol CDP application calls for the County to spend approximately $100,000 in public funds on “improvements” to block public access from docks that have belonged to the public for decades. I wonder if those funds could be better spent elsewhere?

    Public service at it’s finest!

    Reply
    • April 28, 2020 at 10:46 am
      Permalink

      Dear Dismayed Boater,
      According to the Coastal Commission they needed additional information on the application. It’s still in the works therefor not rejected.
      As I understand it, the “improvements” you are talking about have to do with securing the Harbor Patrol facility and not blocking public access.

      Reply
  • April 28, 2020 at 11:07 pm
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    Well, it will be interesting to see how this pending issue wraps up with the Coastal Commission. It is still dumfounding to me that the OC Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol closed off their visitor dock at this facility. This was the dock where boaters would pull up for customer service. Now, the visitor dock has a sign that indicates “Sheriff Only”. It appears the OC Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol has no interest in providing a visitor dock for boaters entering the harbor to pull up and ask questions or seek help. So much for public service…..

    At least they have been called out for their unlawful actions by the Coastal Commission and the access issues are documented in perpetuity.

    I am hopeful the Coastal Commission will make a determination in favor of restoring full public access at these docks.

    Reply

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Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to editor@thelog.com

So, here’s the take action: maintain vigilance over our public officials and make sure the process is always honored. Our agencies will respond to us if we’re vocal – both consistently and in numbers.

Don’t be afraid or complacent – reach out to Newport Beach City Hall or Orange County’s hall of administration and let them know you’re paying attention. Otherwise, the county will continue to turn the cheek on Corn’s actions, in addition to setting a bad precedent. The lines of authority and decision-making in the public space must be clearly defined and never blurred.

Newport Beach

(partial list)

Council member Marshall “Duffy” Duffield
dduffield@newportbeachca.gov
949-644-3004

 

Council member Brad Avery
bavery@newportbeachca.gov
949-644-3004

 

Newport Beach Harbor Department

949-270-8159

harbormaster@newportbeachca.gov

VHF Ch. 19

 

Orange County Board of Supervisors

Chairwoman Lisa A. Bartlett, 5th District

714-834-3550

lisa.bartlett@ocgov.com

 

Michelle Steel, 2nd District

714-834-3220

michelle.steel@ocgov.com

 

Andrew Do, 1st District

714-834-3110

andrew.do@ocgov.com

 

Donald P. Wagner, 3rd District

714-834-3330

donald.wagner@ocgov.com

 

Doug Chaffee, 4th District

714-834-3440

doug.chaffee@ocgov.com

 

Orange County Sheriff’s Department

Harbor Patrol Division

949-723-1002

 

Lt. Chris Corn

cfcorn@ocsd.org

 

OC Parks

Stacy Blackwood, Director

stacy.blackwood@ocparks.com

949-923-3743

 

County Executive Office

Frank Kim, County Executive Officer

frank.kim@ocgov.com

714-834-2345

714-834-3530