NEWPORT BEACH — More than 100 surfers swelled the City Council Chambers on Tuesday as the council voted to allow their beloved shop, the Frog House, to remain in business.
By unanimously approving a zoning change for the store's West Newport property, the council caused cheers from the crowd.
"I'm stoked," shop owner T.K. Brimer said after the vote. "The city has treated us very well at every step."
The 50-year-old shop, the Cat Protection Society and another commercial building were caught up in a zoning law intended to reduce the number of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities in residential neighborhoods. Their properties happened to be in residential zones, according to old city maps.
Councilman Steve Rosansky, who represents the area and who previously spoke in favor of the shop, abstained from voting because he owns property nearby.
Some of the supporters passed out bright orange and black hats before the meeting that read "Save the Frog House" or "I Love the Frog House."
Barry Scott, 53, came to the meeting to speak, but then decided not to when it was clear that the council was going to approve the change. He said he's had been visiting the Frog House for 40 years.
"I think it's the best thing the city could do, because it's a historical, cultural and definitely colorful part of Newport Beach."
Brimer said that at times during the months-long process, he suspected a zoning action against the Frog House was part of a larger plan to homogenize Newport Beach, and to get rid of some of the older properties in West Newport.
"I hope this will cause the city to realize that we don't all want Newport Beach to look like Newport Coast," he said.
The council also passed the "Loud and Unruly Gathering" ordinance, which will impose fines on partygoers, renters and landlords who contribute to or allow excessively rowdy parties.
But instead of posting a bright red placard on the door of a violating house for six months, the council changed the law so it would be a black-and-white notice that would stay up for three months only.
It also reduced the maximum fine from $8,000 to $3,000.
If officers observe a party with eight or more, where people are urinating in public, drunk in public, excessively noisy, serve alcohol to minors or display other behaviors, they will be able to post a notice on the door and issue violations.
"We're changing the culture here. We're not going to allow this to be a party town," said Police Chief Jay Johnson.
A number of landlords spoke at the meeting and said they were concerned that the law would affect their property values.
"It leaves way too much discretion in the individual officers' hands … if [a home] gets a scarlet letter or not," said Corona del Mar real estate agent Mark Simon.
Some others spoke in favor of the law, saying they need it as a deterrent for parties that get out of hand each summer.
Penalties will be up to $500 for the first violation and up to $3,000 for the fourth violation, if it takes place within six months of the first. If a violation happens on the Fourth of July, within a designated part of West Newport, it will be $1,500 for the first violation and $3,000 for subsequent violations.
Before the meeting, officials revised the ordinance to make it harder on partygoers and easier on landlords. In one change, they said that if someone attends a party at a house that has been cited in the past six months, then that person would be subject to the same fines as the main tenant.
So theoretically, if someone walks into a raging party on the Fourth of July, and the house had been tagged before then, he or she could be subject to the house's steep fines.
Also, the city attorney's office inserted sections that would protect landlords. Those who took certain steps to control problem tenants won't be held liable, and if a tenant moves out the landlord could have the tag removed.
Councilman Ed Selich voted no, said that the law gave too much power to the police without having "quantitative standards." Councilwoman Leslie Daigle voted no as well.