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Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter pawsitive after approval by Planning Commission

This proposed site location at 20282 Riverside Drive in Newport Beach.
This proposed location of a new, public animal shelter for Newport Beach at 20282 Riverside Drive. The Newport Beach Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the property on March 4.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Newport Beach is finally getting its first permanent animal shelter.

Earlier this month, the Newport Beach Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the establishment of a new shelter on Riverside Drive. It will replace the existing residential kennel with a 1,565-square-foot, single-story shelter and a 755-square-foot kennel that can house up to 29 dogs.

It will also include four surface parking spaces in the front yard, new gates and fencing within the front and in the rear yard, adequate drainage and disposal of natural precipitation and control of animal waste and all other improvements necessary.

It will be a “no-kill” shelter.

It was noted in a staff report that up until now the city of Newport Beach has never had a permanent public animal shelter and shelter services were largely contracted out by the city to providers, including the Orange County Humane Society. City officials had authorized the use of an existing residential kennel at 20302 Riverside Drive, which Animal Control oversees.

With approvals, the operation will move nearby, to 20282 Riverside Drive.

“We’ve been running the shelter for five years and we lease the space. So what we would do is do the same operation at the new place. Any animal that we pick up in Animal Control or the city finds comes to the animal shelter,” Animal Control supervisor Valerie Schomburg said. “We have dogs, cats, puppies, kittens. We bring in snakes, birds — all that stuff. Any animal that needs care.”

Schomburg said the department holds an animal for at least five to seven days to try to find its owner before placing it with a rescue organization.

She estimated about 60% of the animals brought into the shelter are dogs and most are returned to their owners. Numbers decreased this past year because of more residents staying home with their pets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter raised about $2.5 million in donations for a permanent shelter to cover the costs of land acquisition and construction. Jonathan Langford, president of the Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter, said development of the shelter has been a huge community effort and the organization was excited to have reached this point.

City staff said that once construction on the shelter is completed it will be donated to the city by the Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter to be operated by the city’s Animal Control services.

Residents following the project were largely in support of it, but several raised concerns during the hearing about its proposed location and pointed to issues of parking congestion, dog walkers and noise.

Jeffrey and Julie Schneidewind, who live directly behind the proposed shelter, said they understand the need for a shelter in Newport Beach as rescue owners themselves but that the potential for noise was a huge concern for them.

Julie Schneidewind said that she was “boggled” by the location of the shelter, adding that she wasn’t communicated with sufficiently about the project by city staff even though her house is right behind it.

“I urge you to find a different location for your shelter. This is essentially a residential neighborhood. I worry about the traffic, the noise, my property value,” she said. “I’m just incredibly upset about this whole thing. I urge you to reconsider the placement of a shelter in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”

Others also raised concerns about transparency, arguing that they received little notice of any public outreach or of the Planning Commission meeting earlier this month.

The shelter will be required to operate from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and limit on-site employees to only three at one time. City staff said that animal control officers will also be encouraging those visiting to make an appointment.

“It’s a feel good thing for all of us and I know that once this thing is built, every time we see dogs on the street [that] we’ll feel like we did something for those owners and those dogs,” Langford said. “That if something happens, they’ll be treated and taken care of at the new animal shelter.”

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