Commentary: Unsanctioned dog beach is cost-effective, enjoyable

Mayor Diane Dixon's most recent pet project to enter into a (MOU) memorandum of understanding with the County of Orange to enforce county laws with city of Newport Beach resources on the unincorporated "dog beach" will end in spectacular failure.

For those unaware, this "no man's land" at the terminus of the Santa Ana River, between the city of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, has been used by people with dogs for decades. It provides needed recreation, at no cost to the city and Huntington Beach residents as well, not to mention those in Costa Mesa.

I expected more from someone who ran as a fiscal conservative to recognize an existing free option for city residents, versus a $15-million, before bond costs, price tag just for the new Civic Center park/dog park.

In a city that is increasingly becoming a cross between "Stepford Wives" and "The Truman Show," "dog beach" is a critical amenity that provides for not just the dogs but for the humans who pay the taxes. The area affectionately known to surfers as "River Jetties" has long been a dumping ground for city politicians, and it is where surfers are banished to when the rest of Newport has been blackballed. And it is where the responsible, dog-owning (and many dog-rescuing) citizens have solved their own problem by utilizing a castoff, unused county area with natural barriers far from roads (and homes) for dogs to be confined.

The policy failures of the city of Newport Beach are directly responsible for the current situation, of which there are minimal, if any, problems. I've frequented this beach for almost 40 years of surfing, and for the last 10 years have taken my Great Danes each and every week. The users of this county area are responsible with their dogs, have leashes nearby at the ready, pick up after their pets, inform others that their pet "just went" and happily share an extra cleanup bag.

I've met many of you over the years (city employees included) utilizing dog beach, and I know it is something that many care deeply about, as evidenced by the public's response to a citizen poll, now over 1,800 signatures opposing, in nine, busy, distracted, holiday days. But I believe the overwhelming response to this issue shows this issue goes much deeper than just dogs.

The subject area where the dog beach is usable averages over 500 feet distance west from the very last home on West Oceanfront and over 800 feet away to the ocean. There are 40 miles of Newport Beach and bay and another 6 miles of Huntington Beach to your west; the use of this small, polluted area displaces no beach or bay user.

The nucleus of this "issue" will in the end be found to be nothing about dogs but parking and "others" (including residents of other areas of Newport Beach) coming to "their beach."

Maybe it is time for the mayor to move on to another proposal, namely a parking structure for West Newport. It will increase public access (something the Coastal Commission loves), and it will block the noise from PCH for those oceanfront homeowners.

JON PEDERSEN lives in Newport Beach.

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A version of this article appeared in print on January 02, 2016, in the Local section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Unsanctioned dog beach is cost-effective, enjoyable" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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