A Newport Beach commission on Tuesday will discuss whether the city should enforce leash and dog-waste regulations along a county-owned beach adjacent to the mouth of the Santa Ana River.
The stretch of sand between Newport Beach and Huntington Beach has long been a popular place for dog owners to take their pets for exercise. But in the last several months, some nearby residents have complained about the animals being off leash and owners failing to pick up waste.
Newport officials asked city staff and the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission to study the issue and come up with a recommendation for the City Council.
Dogs are not permitted to be off leash on city- or county-controlled beaches. But because the area around the Santa Ana River site isn't regularly patrolled by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, it's difficult to enforce laws requiring dogs to be on leashes or to cite people who don't pick up after their pets, according to a city staff report.
The Newport Beach Police Department does not have jurisdiction in the area.
The nearest designated dog beach, where pets are free to roam the sand sans leash, is in Huntington Beach off Goldenwest Street.
The parks commission will consider recommending that the city enter an agreement with the county that would allow Newport Beach police to enforce leash and dog-waste laws on the county's stretch of sand.
"The public understands where the city of Newport Beach and the county of Orange boundaries lie, and if they see an animal-control officer, they oftentimes move to the county's jurisdiction, where the city currently does not have enforcement authority," the staff report states.
City Manager Dave Kiff has said the county has shown interest in allowing the city to enforce laws in the area.
But people who frequent what has become a de facto dog beach expressed disapproval of the city's proposal.
On a typical day, several dogs — some off leash — can be seen running and playing on the sand and swimming in the water near the river mouth. Visitors say the area provides a place unlike any other in Newport Beach where their dogs can run free.
The city conducted an online survey and posted a question about the issue on social media to get a sense of how the community thought officials should handle the situation. Of the 266 people who responded to the survey, 226 felt the city should not patrol the county beach, according to city data.
"As it is, there are very few places to take your dog," resident Warren Junowich wrote on the city's Facebook page. "This beach is an ideal place for a dog beach because it is not in a desirable area for most beachgoers. Sorry if it's in your frontyard, but you can very easily walk one street to the south if the dogs bother you."
Balboa Peninsula resident Mike Glenn has been vocal about preserving the area as a dog-friendly zone. He's selling through his website hats that read "Save Dog Beach."
A petition that he posted on his website has garnered more than 5,000 signatures.
"This is not only Newport's last remaining dog beach, but [it] also provides opportunities that Huntington Beach's dog beach simply can't — like the ability for smaller dogs to swim in the river without being pounded by waves," Glenn wrote on the website. "To my knowledge, this is the only dog beach in the country which is on both a river and the ocean — a unique right for dogs which must be protected."
Fry writes for Times Community News.