Council meeting to address scavengers

Police officials are looking to crack down on scavengers who rifle through Newport Beach residents' garbage, according a report prepared for Tuesday's City Council meeting.

That and other issues, ranging from fishing regulations to consolidating city departments, will all be voted on by the council.

Residents complain that scavengers strew trash around homes, trespass, rummage for personal information and steal property from places like garages near garbage cans, according to Police Chief Jay Johnson.

They commit "crimes of opportunity that may be too tempting for the scavengers to resist," he wrote in an e-mail to West Newport residents and journalists last week.

One of the crimes mentioned in the city report is also "stealing from the city" because Newport would otherwise make money by recycling the cans, bottles and other materials.

As a deterrent, Johnson said he wants to upgrade the crime of rummaging from an infraction to a misdemeanor. This would allow police officers to arrest suspects. As the city ordinance is written now, police can only issue citations and fines.

Also, police describe an industry of recycling opportunists who organize groups of people to rummage though Newport trash cans, drive them to the city and then collect a percentage of proceeds. Johnson would like the council to declare it a crime to "aid and abet" scavengers.

Also on the Jan. 25 agenda:

The Harbor Commission has apparently backed off its plans to prohibit fishing at most of the city's public docks. It has formed a committee to reexamine the proposed ban, according to a staff report on docking time limits.

At a minimum, the harbor commission recommends banning fishing on the 19th Street dock on the Balboa Peninsula and the city's new Rhine Wharf in Cannery Village.

According to the report, the city negotiated a fishing ban to secure neighboring residents' support when reconfiguring the 19th Street dock last year. Rhine Wharf is off-limits to fishing, the city staff report says, because of a California Coastal Commission stipulation.

Harbor commissioners in October said that the proposed fishing ban on six of the 11 public docks was intended to protect them from fishermen who stomp on mussels, cast their lines in the way of boat traffic and take up space where boaters could be docking.

Fishermen contested the assertions of the commissioners, many of whom are boaters.

In organizational news, the council might approve the consolidation of the building department and the planning department into the community development department.

City Manager Dave Kiff and council members expressed concern last year that planners and building inspectors were unnecessarily holding up new developments and home remodels. This consolidation is designed to streamline services and make it easier for builders and developers to conduct business in the city.

In October, the city retained former Anaheim Deputy City Manager Joel Fick to be interim director of the community development department. A permanent director has not yet been named.

Department directors and the city manager will be able to approve more expensive contracts if a separate item is passed by the council Tuesday.

Under current regulations, the city manager is unable to approve outside contracts of more than $50,000, and department heads are limited to $30,000 without council approval. This provision would raise the limits to $120,000 and $75,000, respectively.

One contract the city could consider soon is for its transition from paper to electronic documents.

The city will study possible iPad applications so it can view council agendas and other documents, according to a staff report. During a three-month pilot project the city will weigh the costs and benefits of getting rid of massive three-ring binders council members receive each week.

For this week's meeting, they'll be reading an item in the binder that may hit council members in the pocketbook. They and other part-time city employees pay 1% of their pension costs to the city. The council may increase that percentage to 8% — the amount that other non-public safety employees have agreed to pay.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers, City Hall, 3300 Newport Blvd.

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