NEWPORT BEACH –— The Newport Beach City Council bowed to a wave of public opinion Tuesday when it asked its parks commissioners to reevaluate expanding the hours that people can walk their dogs on the beach.
About 50 people packed the Council Chambers to advocate for expanded hours or protest against dog-related nuisances.
Some believe dog regulations limit quality time with a beloved member of the family, while others want strict rules so they don't step in dog waste or have to deal with snarling canines.
The council voted to abolish time restrictions during the less-crowded winter months at its July 27 meeting, bucking the recommendations of the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission to expand the time by one and a half hours. Currently, people cannot walk their dogs on the beach from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all year. The commission's recommendation would change those hours to 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
"When we start making policy that way, we don't get the fine-tuning right," said Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, who had suggested dropping the winter hours.
Before Tuesday's meeting, the council received letters and calls, Gardner said, suggesting ocean and bay beaches should have different rules and that unlimited winter hours may not be the best idea.
The parks commission will reconsider the matter at its Sept. 7 meeting. Commissioner Bill Garrett, who voted against the expanded hours, said that the real problem is unleashed dogs.
"No one speaks for the people who are frightened of dogs," he said. "People go down there with all kinds of scary dogs and let them run loose."
In other matters:
The council voted unanimously to form a citizens bicycle safety committee, which will be charged with implementing some of the changes recommended by a task force in May. Councilwoman Leslie Daigle prodded the city staff to take quick action to make the streets safer, in light of a recent fatal cyclist crash, while Mayor Keith Curry responded by saying many tourists who drive in the city and spend money are equally important.
City Manager Dave Kiff reported the city's performance on a series of measures it began tracking during the 2009-10 fiscal year. They included police response time, street sweeping regularity and other indications of government efficiency. Generally, they painted a rosy picture of city services. Kiff said he was concerned that the Development Services Department was taking too long to process plans.