NEWPORT BEACH — After listening to impassioned pleas from fishermen and residents, a unanimous City Council voted Monday to close the Newport Pier for a few hours each week for cleaning, but not to impose a nightly curfew.
The unanimous decision was a compromise between homeowners and anglers, who did not want a curfew, and merchants, who wanted something done about vagrants and about the trash and fish parts left on the pier.
The ordinance gives City Manager Kevin J. Murphy authority to close both Newport and Balboa piers periodically for cleaning. Initially, the closure would be between 4 and 6 a.m. on selected days, Murphy said. The hours are flexible, however.
The ordinance also prohibits sleeping bags or cots on the pier between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. It also prohibits anglers from cleaning fish or putting entrails on the pier or over the railings. And it prohibits placing bait on the pier.
The council will take a final vote on the curfew Jan. 10. It would become effective 30 days later.
City officials, who decided last spring to close the beaches at night, have been wrestling with the idea of closing the pier. But they resisted the idea of a curfew because the pier for many years has attracted people on late-night strolls. It is also a renown spot for anglers.
But the issue took on an urgency over the summer when gunfire erupted on or near the pier.
On July 31, gang members traded gunfire at the foot of the pier and one man was killed. On Sept. 19, an alleged gang member opened fire, wounding three people.
Resident Robert Roubian, 87, told the council Monday, "Ever since the pier has been in the custody of Newport Beach, and that's been about 110 years, they've only had one to two shootings that I can recall. . . . Please, I urge you to be patient. Don't take way our moonlight walks and our freedoms."
Joe Imbriano, 25, of Newport Beach, who implored the council not to set a curfew, said people "look forward to fishing the pier at sunrise. There's plenty of mackerel and bonito runs at that early hour. . . . It would take away something very dear to me and other people who can't be here today who probably did not even know that the council was taking this up as an issue."
He added, "In my 15 years of fishing on that pier, I've never had a problem with crime, and I've never been assaulted."
Although Mayor Clarence J. Turner voted in favor of the ordinance, he said he remained unconvinced that it would "stop the growing social problems that we are finding more and more on our pier.
"I heard lots of you this evening say how it was in the old days," Turner said. "In the old days, Orange County only had 500,000 people here. Now, we have about 2.6 million. And with our growing social problems, we need to be making some tough choices."