Omicron Surge Prompts Newport Beach To Close City Hall, Other Spots, To Public

Newport Beach’s City Hall, community centers and other spots will be mostly closed to the public beginning Monday, Jan. 3 amid the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 and the surge of infections expected following the holiday season, officials said this weekend.

Omicron’s rapid spread has affected businesses, air travel, sports, entertainment and other aspects of life around the nation. COVID-19 cases and potential exposures skyrocketing in Orange County have sent people scrambling to get tested.

In Newport Beach, non-city employees will not be allowed into certain facilities. But all city services will still be conducted either over the phone, online or through drop-off services. People who need to submit physical documents or payments can deposit those into bins placed outside of City Hall, a workaround which had been used in “previous COVID protocols,” officials said in an announcement on the city’s website.

“We anticipate these protocols will be in place for at least two weeks, through mid-January,” Newport Beach officials said in the announcement. “However, we are carefully monitoring the COVID Omicron outbreak in consultation with Hoag Hospital and County health officials, and will adjust as necessary.”

Libraries will remain open but no in-person meetings will be allowed. Recreational classes hosted at the city’s community centers will continue as scheduled, but face coverings will be mandatory indoors and no spectators will be allowed.

The return of coronavirus-related closures came as a surprise, even to some city officials, Newport Beach spokesman John Pope said. He added that early estimates regarding the duration of the precautionary measures may be “optimistic.”

The decision to implement the restrictions was based on concerning data from county officials regarding the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.  It was made by City Manager Grace Leung as a growing number of city staff reported recent exposure to coronavirus, Pope said.

City leaders intend to “amplify the message of health professionals,” he said. They are urging everyone to get vaccinated, and advise those who are to get their booster shots.

This is at least the third time the coronavirus has prompted officials to temporarily bar the public from entering City Hall, Pope said. It, as well as community centers, playgrounds, houses of worship and other facilities were shuttered in the Summer of 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19.

Those previous closures each lasted about a month, Pope said. They followed guidance outlined in the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom when lockdowns first went into place in 2020, more than a year before vaccines for the virus were approved for emergency use.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Explore OC: Newport’s Back Bay is a paradise for birds, plants and people

A wake of turkey vultures sit in a dead tree, the prickly pear cactus are blooming on the bluffs above and herons pick through the marsh grass feeding on small fish and critters.

Not too far away, cyclists, hikers and runners circle them all on the 10.5 miles of trail that is part of one of the most beautiful and diverse watersheds in Southern California: the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve.

The views it offers visitors can be stunning, making it a pleasant getaway among Orange County’s urban sprawl.

In the 1960s, there were plans to develop the upper bay with homes and boat docks, dredge the marsh and re-configure the shoreline. After a lawsuit and public campaign drew attention to the ecological importance of the area, it was designated a reserve in 1975.

Additional acreage has been added over the years and today about 1.5 square miles of habitat have been preserved.

Estuaries such as The Back Bay (that’s what the locals call it), where fresh water and salt water come together with little wave action, serve several purposes for Mother Nature, and that also means visitors can enjoy everything from bird watching to paddle sports up close to its marshes.

The area is a migratory path for the Pacific Flyway, a stopping point for more than 190 species of birds.

Click here to read full article at the Orange County Register

Newport Beach Bans Electric Scooters After 3 Days


Bird ScootersA flock of 50 Bird dockless electric scooters that arrived at the Newport Beach Peninsula last weekend without a permit caused lots of complaints and were promptly banned by the city.

The virally popular dockless scooters that rent at $1, plus $.15 per minute, are the hottest transportation trend in 2018. Although electric scooter riders are supposed to be 18 years old, have a California driver’s license, and wear their own helmets, the bike rental is by cell phone app, and there is virtually no way to prevent underage or reckless riders.

Newport Beach would have been Bird’s 18th location, but cities are cracking down over nuisance and safety concerns, with San Francisco temporarily banning 1,800 scooters until their sponsoring companies agree to make sure riders stay in bike lanes, wear helmets, and don’t just leave the bikes sprawled across sidewalks.

But without applying for a permit or even notifying the city, Bird started advertising though Twitter on Saturday to offer residents and visitors the opportunity to “skip traffic and #enjoytheride this weekend” in Newport. The Bird mobile app showed at least 38 scooters available for rent on Monday morning, according to the Daily Pilot.

The Pilot reported that the city received numerous complaints, especially from businesses for the scooters blocking pedestrian flows after being “Bird-dropped” on the sidewalk when users reached their destinations.

Bird does deploy gig-working “Bird Hunters” that keep track of scooter locations for recharging. But the work is usually done at night by gig-working teens, and during the daytime there are few Bird staff exercising local control of the scooter use.

Assistant City Attorney Michael told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday: “We sent Bird a demand to remove all of their scooters from the city by midnight yesterday; otherwise they faced the possibility of criminal prosecution and/or administrative citation.”

Founder Travis VanderZanden entered the sharing business after his on-demand car wash company Cherry was acquired by Lyft in 2013, and he became the company’s COO. He later jumped to Uber as its vice president of growth through September 2016. He first launched Bird in May 2017.

The Financial Times reported on June 28 that the venture capitalist-dominated Bird board had raised another $300 million in its fourth round of financing at the stunning valuation after of $1.7 billion after just 13 months in business.

Given Bird demand and the financial capability of the company, the Birds will migrate back to Newport and other cities after negotiating the proper permits and user compliance rules.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

The Wonderful Life Of Being A Lifeguard In Newport Beach


As featured on Forbes.com:

It’s a great town when the lifeguards make up to $211,912 in compensation with multi-million dollar lifetime pension payouts. Secretaries to the city bosses make nearly $100,000, refuse workers make three times the national median wage, and 31 city employees out-earn every governor of the fifty states.

We all missed the memo in high school – that job posting for the City of Newport Beach, California. If we had only known, many of us would have packed our bags and headed west for wealth and fortune on the California beach – as a lifeguard.

The lifeguards of Newport Beach have garnered Hollywood fame, pay exceeding six figures, and multi-million dollar (90 percent of salary) lifetime pensions kicking in as early as 50. It seems akin to winning the lottery against the pristine backdrop of bikinis, beautiful sunsets, and the Pacific Ocean sands. Their union negotiated perks include $400 per year in sunscreen allowance.

In 2007, the FOX prime-time hit program The O.C. frequently showcased the Newport Beach lifeguards.

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