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Newport may declare ‘crisis’ as it firms up plan for potential homeless shelter at city public works yard

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A homeless man sleeps with his belongings packed in bags next to him at the Newport Pier.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

The Newport Beach City Council may declare a “shelter crisis,” allowing the city to fast-track the development of a homeless shelter, with a portion of the public works yard on the west side being a serious option.

City staff has sketched out several details for a temporary emergency shelter at the city yard at 592 Superior Ave. for the council’s consideration Tuesday night, alongside requests to waive zoning and development standards that would normally apply to a shelter project.

If the council approves, the city will budget $300,000 for design, which could lead to opening a shelter in five to six months.

The potential shelter on Superior — whose total cost for design, construction and operation has not been determined — could accommodate about 40 beds in prefab trailers in and possibly outside a high-ceiling, 10,500-square-foot garage that is open on one side and is currently used for offices and vehicle and equipment storage.

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City officials want the shelter to operate on a reservation-only basis, with no walk-ups. It would have around-the-clock security, and admission would be prioritized for people who can prove some kind of connection to Newport Beach, such as prior residency. Occupants would be given a change of clothes and a storage locker. No alcohol, smoking or drugs would be allowed.

According to city zoning code, shelters are limited to 40 beds and a maximum stay of 14 days, among other restrictions, and are allowed only in certain areas without a special use permit or rezoning. But local regulations like those can be relaxed under a crisis declaration, allowing homeless people to occupy designated public facilities. A crisis declaration also allows the city to seek outside funding.

The city is considering multiple options for a shelter, including leasing private property in town, such as a rental car lot by John Wayne Airport, or partnering with neighboring cities.

Panhandling

In another homelessness-related topic, the council is set to vote Tuesday on going ahead with an informational signage campaign aimed at discouraging people from donating directly to panhandlers and encouraging them to instead direct their money to charities.

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A woman asks for donations at Newport Boulevard and West Coast Highway in Newport Beach. The city is considering an informational campaign encouraging people to donate to charities rather than directly to panhandlers.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Judges around the country have repeatedly found outright bans on panhandling unconstitutional. As an alternative, cities and counties in California and other states have messaging campaigns highlighting organized charitable giving over individual handouts.

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Newport residents have approached the city with wide-ranging concerns about panhandling, including the safety of people walking in medians close to traffic, landscaping being trampled and what the money being given is used for.

Marine Avenue committee

The council also will consider forming a committee to review city projects on Balboa Island’s Marine Avenue.

The proposed Marine Avenue Preservation Committee would review and potentially block projects in the public right of way that could change the look, feel or character of the historical boulevard, which is home to several locally owned boutiques and cafes.

If the committee determines that a project would negatively affect the street’s aesthetics, the project would not go forward unless the City Council overrides the recommendation. This would apply to changes to physical features such as benches and other street furniture, trash receptacles, light fixtures, crosswalks and trees.

Balboa Island trees
Eucalyptus trees line Marine Avenue on Balboa Island in Newport Beach.
(File Photo)

The proposed committee comes after a heated debate among island residents, the council, the city parks commission and city staff and consultants over the condition and future of several of the iconic eucalyptus trees on Marine.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 4 p.m. with a study session, followed by the regular session at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive.

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