Editor's note: This adds Mike Halphide's full name and title.
NEWPORT BEACH — Just as daylight saving time ends, the City Council is considering an ordinance that would allow residents to walk their dogs along the beach an extra hour in the morning and half-hour in the evening.
With the days getting shorter, dog lovers, many of them senior citizens, have expressed concerns about being alone on the beach after dark.
Under the present ordinance, dogs are banned from the beaches from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the council is weighing whether to reduce the ban's window by 90 minutes, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
On Oct. 6, the city's Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission unanimously signed off on the concept and sent its recommendations to the council, which is to vote on changing the ordinance Tuesday.
"This is a happy medium between beachgoers and those trying to walk their dogs," said Laura Detweiler, director of the city's Recreation and Senior Services Department. "This will loosen up the ordinance and allow dog walkers an additional opportunity before the crowds hit the beach."
This would be the third time since 1989 that the ordinance has been changed, Detweiler said.
Under the first change, in 1989, all dogs were prohibited on beaches during the summer months, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The second change came in 1996, when dogs were banned year-round between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The issue has been a contentious one. Next week's staff report on the issue spans 87 pages.
"The problem occurs when dog owners aren't responsible and they don't pick up after their pet," Detweiler said. "But if dog owners are responsible, then there's usually not a problem."
Fines for violating the ordinance are $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for the third.
However, Detweiler noted, the city is large and animal control officers cannot devote all of their time to watching the beach.
Generally, lifeguards advise those who are found to be in violation, Mike Halphide, a lifeguard captain for Newport Beach said, adding that animal control is called only for more serious problems.
Rachel McMasters, a Balboa Peninsula resident, said she looks forward to any extra time to walk Dakota, her pitbull puppy.
"It's always nice to feel safer out there," she said. "And my dog loves the beach."
Henry Rosenthal, who was walking his pair of Labradors Thursday on the peninsula, said Huntington Beach is the best place to go if you want your dogs to roam free, without leashes.
"There's a dog park there," he said. "It's like Disneyland for dogs."