Much was said at Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon’s Town Hall Meeting on Monday, including a merger between two local organizations, summer holiday activity, short term lodging and more.
The highlight of the evening was the overview of the merger between ExplorOcean and Discovery Cube of Orange County by ExplorOcean Executive Director Linda Mayer.
Both organizations have similar designs and missions and the two truly complement each other, Mayer said.
ExplorOcean was started by Newport Harbor Nautical Museum to reserve the nautical history of the Newport Harbor 33 years ago. According to Mayer, though there have been many changes, it has kept its educational focus. Many programs already offered by ExplorOecan include H2O SOS (Student Operated Solutions), ocean literacy programs, summer camps, and home and school visits. They also partner with other educational organizations.
For more than 35 years, Discovery Science Foundation, which operates the Cube facility, is a nonprofit organization that aims to impact the lives of children through hands-on science education.
Now with the merger between the two entities, Mayer feels it will enhance the educational programs and create more interactive and engaging exhibits. She also stated part of the change will re-engage, in more significant ways, the nautical heritage of the area.
Due to the merger, the Fun Zone will get a boost with new attractions, Mayer said. Their goal is to have the area improved by mid-June, no later than July.
Asked by one of the residents if the merry-go-round will come back, Mayer indicated that they have evaluated the courtyard where the ride was previously located and decided it offers more opportunity for other various community activities, but it is not entirely off the agenda.
Community involvement is also important, she added. Participation by providing input as the merger evolves is welcomed and encouraged.
Summertime in the city was also discussed at the meeting, specifically the Fourth of July crowds that pour in that weekend.
Newly appointed Newport Beach Police Department Chief Jon Lewis assured the crowd that there will be no road closures, Balboa Peninsula will stay open, and that there will be heavy deployment of officers throughout the holiday weekend. The department’s goal is to have the mounted officers patrolling on Saturday and Sunday as well as well as teams of four officers and a car to address any of the town’s need.
For the community that feels the festivities are lost to the crowds, Deputy Recreation Director Sean Levin stated the 6th Annual Channel Place Park party on 38th Street will again host families from the area and aim to change the feel and culture of the holiday atmosphere. It’s a fun event for neighbors, families, kids, and pets, he said. Mariners School Foundation will also host their 44th annual parade, ending with a carnival at the school.
An update on short term lodging was also discussed at the meeting. The city is looking into the regulations as they pertain to vacation rentals, explained Community Development Director Kim Brandt.
Newport allows these short-term rentals (29 days or less) only in specific zoning areas. There are 1,100 city-wide, with 812 located on the peninsula. Due to online sites that allow residents to privately rent out their homes, much revenue is lost to the city with these covert vacationers. Dixon commented they brought in approximately over $200,000 in fees from vacation rentals that go toward city improvements.
Besides the amount of revenue lost to the city, many of these rentals have disrupted neighbors with loud noise and constant turnover of guests. They are currently working to find a solution to this problem, Brandt said.