By Grace Leung, Newport Beach City Manager
Last week’s key COVID-19 case numbers for Orange County mostly held steady, with slight increases in two categories, keeping us in the red tier of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy for a while longer.
The state system tracks three COVID-19 metrics: average daily case rates per 100,000 population, the percentage of positive tests, known as the positivity rate, and the health equity metric. As of this week, Orange County recorded 5.1 average daily cases, up from last week’s 4.6, and a 3.2 percent positivity rate, holding steady from 3.2 percent last week. The health equity metric this week is 6.0 percent, creeping a bit higher than last week’s 5.6 percent.
For more on the status of Orange County and others, visit http://www.COVID19.ca.gov.
COVID-19 Cases in Newport Beach
As of October 30, the number of COVID-19 cases in Newport Beach was 1,237 and the total cases in Orange County was 59,442. The number of recovered COVID-19 patients countywide as of October 30 was 53,054. These figures are provided to Orange County by the California Department of Public Health.
The Blueprint for a Safer Economy is the state’s four-tiered, color-coded system for re-opening California’s businesses. Counties move through each of the four tiers based on two key metrics: case rates and the percentage of positive tests.
Moving from tier to tier requires a 21-day wait time and counties will be required to meet the metrics for the next tier for two weeks in a row.
The County of Orange COVID-19 data and information can be found at https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc.
The County of Orange Healthcare Agency’s COVID-19 Hotline can be reached at (714) 834-2000, or by email at [email protected] County staff monitors the hotline and email box and answers questions about industry reopening and activity resumption, current guidance and more.
The County maintains a list of FDA-approved testing sites for County residents at https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-testing-and-screening for testing information. The SOS Health Center in Newport Beach is an approved community testing site. Call (949) 270-2100 for an appointment.
Short Term Lodging Update
The City Council has adopted a series of reforms aimed at reducing community impacts from short-term rental lodging in Newport Beach, and may consider further changes in the coming months.
Some of the new short-term lodging regulations approved by City Council between July and October include the following:
- A three-night minimum stay for all short-term lodging rentals.
- A cap on the number of short-term rental permits to 1,550 and create a waiting list for new permits once the cap is reached.
- No short-term rentals to anyone under 25 years of age.
- Short-term lodging permits can be transferred to immediate family members upon the death of a permit holder, and to new owners upon the sale of the property.
- Occupancy must align with existing building and fire codes.
- Permit numbers must be placed in all advertising to help prevent illegal rentals.
- Renters of short-term lodging and their guests must comply with all local and state parking laws or permit holders may be fined
A majority of the regulations are already in effect. The 25-year age limit and parking rules will take effect in late November. The cap on the number of permits and the minimum night stay will not go into effect until they are reviewed and approved by the California Coastal Commission, which is not expected until late 2021.
In addition, the City Council may consider additional restrictions specific to Newport Island. On October 13, the Council directed staff to return with a draft ordinance that would restrict new short-term rental permits and require that property owners live in the short-term rental units. This would also require Planning Commission and Costal Commission approval and would not take effect before late 2021.
At the October 27 City Council meeting, Council members Joy Brenner and Diane Dixon directed staff to return with two items for further discussion. The first is to review the transferability provisions that were recently adopted for short-term lodging permits. The second is to discuss and possibly strengthen the municipal code provisions that related to enforcement of short-term lodging regulations. For more information, visit the City’s short-term rental information page at https://www.newportbeachca.gov/government/departments/finance/revenue-division/short-term-rentals.
Appeal of Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) Allocation Filed
On October 26, 2020, the City filed an appeal with the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) of the Draft Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) Allocation of 4,834 units for Newport Beach. This allocation represents the number of housing units that the City will have to plan for in the upcoming 6th Cycle Housing Element Update (2021-2029 Planning Period).
The appeal will be available for a 45-day review and comment period and then scheduled for a public hearing between December 10, 2020, and January 10, 2021. Any housing units resulting from successful appeals will then be reallocated back to other jurisdictions in the SCAG region based on a formula. To review the City’s basis for the appeal, access the document at https://www.newportbeachca.gov/home/showdocument?id=68966.
Wildlife Protection Signs Installed Near Santa Ana River Outlet
The City has installed new signs in the beach area near the outlet of the Santa Ana River to alert the public to wildlife protection laws in the area, which includes a prohibition on dogs. The signs include moveable plastic sidewalk boards and permanently anchored metal signs.
Dogs are not allowed in the area because they disturb protected habitat for two bird species, the snowy plover and California least tern. Disruption of the bird habitats by humans and dogs is prohibited under Newport Beach municipal code. Under Orange County law, it is unlawful for people or dogs to enter the river channel.
Open Budget Data Updated Through September 30, 2020
The City of Newport Beach makes financial information available to review the status of revenues and expenditures. The online Open Budget Portal at http://budget.newportbeachca.gov/#!/year/default provides citizens an in-depth and friendly view of the City’s financial data including the City’s revenue sources, expenditures and the Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
The site provides users the ability to view the financial data in a table, chart or graph format. Interactive features of the site allow for searching by departmental or other types of budget categories. The CIP portion of the site organizes information by funding category, funding source or by project. Users will also find project photos, the current phase of the project and a map showing the project’s location.
Note: Open budget data is refreshed on a monthly basis and does not remain static. The narrative above represents the status of General Fund revenues and expenditures through September 30, 2020, and may not match data accessed subsequent to this time.
October’s Shredding and E-Waste Disposal Event
On Saturday, October 17 the Public Works Department held a successful shredding and E-waste collection event at the Harbor Day School parking lot located at 3443 Pacific View Drive. The event took place from 8 a.m. until noon. City staff and ERI crews unloaded boxes and bags of documents for shredding and electronic waste from 554 vehicles. A total of 28,000 lbs. of paper was collected for on-site shredding services and 10,804 lbs. of electronic waste was collected for proper disposal/recycling. Staff welcomed residents, checked identification and inquired where residents learned of the event. This information is helpful for effectively communicating with residents regarding these types of events in the future.
The program is usually held bi-annually at the Harbor Day School parking lot location, but due to Covid-19, only one event is scheduled for this year. To make up for the missed opportunity there will be another shred only event on Saturday, January 23.
Newport Beach Pier Inspections
On October 27, 2020, the City Council approved a Professional Services Agreement for COWI North America, Inc. (COWI) to inspect the Newport Pier and Balboa Pier (Piers) as a part of the City’s on-going biennial Ocean Piers Maintenance Program. COWI is tasked to conduct non-destructive inspection of every accessible timber member and connection hardware on the Piers from mudline to the concrete decks.
The inspection findings will form the basis of a FY 2021-22 maintenance capital improvement project.
COWI started the underwater pile inspections this week with specialty certified divers. COWI is scheduled to continue its work Monday through Saturday during daylight hours to take advantage of the calm weather ahead of the approaching (stormy) winter months. After the underwater inspections have been completed, COWI will deploy a mobile “crane” on the Piers for its personnel to continue inspecting the Piers’ underside. This piece of equipment was successfully deployed on the Piers for past pier inspections and will not impede pedestrian nor vehicle movements on the Piers.
Weather permitting, the inspection work should be completed and the equipment moved off the Piers no later than April 30, 2021.
Newport Coast Community Center Opens as Care and Receiving Shelter During Silverado Fire
The Recreation & Senior Services Department activated the Newport Coast Community Center as a care and receiving center on Monday, October 26 to assist our colleagues and residents in the City of Irvine during the Silverado Fire. Irvine care centers filled quickly given the large numbers of evacuees, which prompted the request for our assistance with aid.
At approximately 1:15 p.m. the shelter was open and received occupants immediately. The community center served as a place for evacuated families to get up to date information on the emergency, rest, food/water, and even refuge for some pets. OASIS staff provided boxed dinners for all, while our aquatics staff chipped in and set up children’s areas with activities and a movie.
The center drew a total of 64 people who checked in throughout the eight-hour duration, with a maximum capacity of 54 people in the facility at one time. The center closed at approximately 9 p.m. once the occupants received overnight accommodations.
The Recreation & Senior Services Department trains regularly on shelter operations, with an all hands shelter drill taking place this last year. Our combined training and teamwork was truly appreciated by our Irvine neighbors.
Orange County Fire Watchers
The Orange County Fire Watch volunteers were deployed to two strategic locations in Newport Beach on Monday. These volunteers are specially trained in deterring arson activity, ensuring early fire detection, and providing public education about the risk of wildland fire.
Upon learning of the red flag warning and the potential impact on the local coastal area, Fire Marshal Kevin Bass requested fire watch assistance in the Bonita Canyon area and along Ridge Park Road. Additionally, the Fire Department’s Fire Prevention inspectors were patrolling the Buck Gully neighborhoods and other portions of Newport Coast. When the Silverado fire erupted early on Monday morning, the department was thankful to have the volunteers in the area keeping an eye on the community. While Newport Beach is geographically far enough away from the fire, the risk of wind-blown embers was high when the initial fire broke. If a fire developed, the watchers and the department’s inspectors early warning would ensure first responders arrived on scene quickly.
The volunteer program is a combined effort lead by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, Orange County Parks, Orange County Fire Authority, and in conjunction with local municipalities. Volunteers are routinely deployed to high visibility areas where ignition sources are likely. Their training includes learning about the wildland fire history in Orange County, the behavior of wilderness fires, procedures for safety, and recognizing and reporting dangerous situations. Fire watch volunteers must also complete the standard OC Parks volunteer requirements, which includes background checks and core training classes.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or learning more about the program, email Tony Pointer at [email protected].
Addressing homelessness continues to be a priority in the City’s ongoing COVID-19 response, working closely with contractor City Net and regional partners throughout the county and state.
The City Net hotline number is (714) 451-6198. Those who call the hotline may leave a detailed voicemail message for themselves or others in need and City Net staff will respond within 48 hours. For immediate assistance call the County’s Crisis Prevention Hotline at (877) 7-CRISIS or (877) 727-4747.
- A young couple who experienced homelessness in Newport Beach for the past seven months recently rented a room from a family member. They continue to work with the Homeless Liaison Officer, City Net staff, and the Homeless Coordinator for ongoing support, access to job resources, and counseling services.
- The Homeless Liaison Officer reunited a woman with her family in Northern California. The woman fled south during the fires and came to the Orange County beach communities for clean air. Her husband contacted local police departments to locate her and encourage her to return home. After spending several weeks unsheltered in Newport Beach, the woman agreed to contact her husband and reunite with her family.
- Five people in Newport Beach experiencing homelessness were enrolled into City Net services. City Net staff completed Vulnerability Index Intake Assessments for each. The assessments are used to screen clients to determine proper placement in the County’s Continuum of Care system. Some assessment factors include age, health issues, and length of time being unsheltered. Case managers will follow up with the clients to provide housing assessments and prepare documentation for housing.
- City Net completed two housing assessments for people enrolled in their services. One person is identifying relocation options in Orange County to find affordable housing.
- City Net assisted two people in the Balboa Pier area to access the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) service. The EBT system is used in California for the delivery, redemption, and reconciliation of issued public assistance benefits, such as CalFresh, CalWORKs, and other food and cash aid benefits. Established in 2004, EBT provides up to $125 a person a month to purchase food.
- City Net reconnected a man staying in a Project Roomkey motel with his case manager at a sober living home operated by Project Kinship. The man has re-enrolled into their program. Project Kinship, established in 2014, provides support and training for people impacted by incarceration, gangs, and violence.
- City Net staff continues to provide support and case management to several people sheltering in motels while they await placement into permanent, supportive housing.