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Newport Beach considers pilot program for ‘smart’ water meters

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An example of the type of “smart” water meter Newport Beach is considering testing.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

Newport Beach might modernize its water meters with automated “smart” units.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider a pilot program to replace 250 of the roughly 26,500 residential, commercial and irrigation meters citywide with advanced radio-controlled devices, giving customers direct access to their water usage data and eliminating the current need for manual meter reading.

The pilot phase would cost $191,000 and last up to six months. It doesn’t obligate Newport to replace all of its meters, but if the city wants to commit to full implementation, it would cost an estimated $9.5 million.

North Carolina-based Mueller Systems would install the meters this spring, mostly around the West Newport, Westcliff, Lido Isle and Spyglass Hill areas.

Phase 2 of habitat restoration planned for Big Canyon

City staff is ready to move ahead on the second phase of riparian habitat restoration in Big Canyon Nature Park.

With the council’s go-ahead, the city’s partner on the project, the Newport Bay Conservancy, would pursue grant funding to restore about 11 acres in the Back Bay-area park by replacing non-native vegetation with native species, stabilizing the creek and floodplain with flood control measures and improving trails.

The city completed its first phase of Big Canyon restoration in 2017.

Short-term lodging is back on the agenda

In a study session before the council meeting, city administrators will provide an update on Newport’s short-term lodging program and suggest potential improvements.

The city has about 1,400 active short-term lodging permits. Residential properties offering such rentals — defined as less than 30 days — have long been part of the local culture, with zoning, lodging permits, business licenses and taxes to regulate them.

But the popularity of online short-term rental platforms has made it difficult for the city to keep tabs on unpermitted homes.

Newport contracted with a short-term rental monitor in 2017 to comb through 22 online platforms, such as Airbnb and HomeAway, to compare addresses in the city’s database of permitted hosts. After the company’s first month, Newport shut down 78 unpermitted vacation rentals.

The study session will start at 4:30 p.m., followed by the regular council session at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive.