Meeting Follows Arrest of Felon Who Scared Dog Park Visitors
The Newport Beach Homeless Task Force on Tuesday will hear from a senior administrator with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District about laws protecting homeless students and the services that California schools are required to provide to them.
Phil D’Agostino, director of student and community services, was scheduled to talk at the last standing-room-only Task Force meeting on July 22, but his testimony was delayed because of a packed agenda.
“I both appreciate and am grateful that they’ve asked for information about what the District is doing [for homeless students,]” D’Agostino said. “Compulsory education is a cornerstone of American education.”
Many public comments at the last Task Force meeting focused on the small homeless encampment at the Newport Transportation Center. Residents complained about homeless individuals who ride the Orange County Transportation Authority’s buses to the terminal on Avocado Avenue and then sleep within sight of the dog park at Civic Center Park.
A Newport Beach police officer was dispatched at 3:11 p.m. on Monday to the area of Avocado Avenue and San Miguel Drive for a complaint of a man yelling and scaring people. Dale Ira Haviland, 54, was arrested for possession of narcotics paraphernalia.
For the past two decades, Haviland has been arrested almost every other month when he’s not in jail or prison, where he usually spends a handful of days to a few weeks at a time for misdemeanors and infractions.
In 2001, Haviland was sentenced to three years in state prison after a jury convicted him of grand theft.
In 2016, he was sentenced to two years in state prison after pleading guilty to assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, according to court records. In that same case, he pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, a charge that was ultimately dismissed.
Haviland is currently in custody at the men’s central jail, according to records.
Monday’s incident at the dog park and similar encounters have fueled residents’ demands for immediate action from city leaders. However, a mix of jurisdictions involved at the bus station hasn’t delivered a solution yet.
The Irvine Co. owns the land that hosts the Newport Transportation Center and OCTA leases the property for its transit operations. While Orange County deputy sheriffs are contracted by OCTA to ride buses to protect the public, they aren’t charged with patrolling bus stations, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jaimee Blashaw said.
That responsibility falls on Newport Beach Police Department, which maintains the primary jurisdiction over the Transportation Center.
In July, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter approved a settlement agreement in a high-profile lawsuit between the County and homeless advocates. The agreement established a procedure for deputy sheriffs to remove homeless individuals from public property owned by the OC Flood Control District, John Wayne Airport, OC Parks, and OC Public Libraries. Individuals experiencing homelessness must be allowed to consult with a social worker before deputies take enforcement action.
These rules apparently don’t apply to the Transportation Center because the Irvine Co. owns the land underneath it. Newport Beach also doesn’t have an emergency shelter that would allow officers to enforce its anti-camping law, which is required under a federal appellate court decision that’s been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I know the city, OCTA, and the Irvine Co. have been in discussions,” Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs said. “The only way this is this going to get solved is if we working together.”
Jacobs hopes these talks will produce a solid plan for issues plaguing the Transportation Center within 90 days.
“We can’t just round folks up and say, ‘go here,’” Jacobs said. “I think the community is really frustrated and I see a number of emails, almost daily. They’re all legitimate concerns. The reality is we can’t just make [the homeless] go away.”
There are three to five tents erected at the Transportation Center every day and only 62 individuals in Newport Beach are identified as homeless. City staffers are sharing these facts and researching more information about Newport Beach’s homeless population to dispel myths that are spread online.
“We’ve had homeless people for as long as people can remember,” Jacobs said. “What’s new are the tents and the legal protections.”
The Homeless Task Force will meet at 4 p.m. on Aug. 20 in the City Council Chambers.