The city has refused to renew Pacific Avalon Yacht Charter’s permit to operate in Newport Harbor, effectively shuttering the operation.
The move is the latest in a long-running dispute between city and Pacific Avalon over its charter yacht MV Majestic, which is too long for the dock where it has been berthed.
Pacific Avalon owner John Gueola was notified Tuesday that his permit to operate would not be renewed, and on Thursday morning the Majestic left Newport Harbor on its way to a new berth in Long Beach, Gueola said.
He said he hopes that will satisfy the city and he can then get his permit.
Gueola also operates the 128-foot charter yacht the Ambassador and the 100-foot Royal Express. Neither has posed a problem with the city.
In a letter sent by city Harbor Resource Manager Chris Miller to the company this week, obtained exclusively by the Independent, the city directly warns Gueola that he must “remove MV Majestic from the 2901 W. Coast Hwy.” and that “Failure to remove the vessel and/or operation of charter … may result in the filing of administration actions, the filing of a criminal complaint, civil action, and/or actions by the Orange County Sheriff Harbor Patrol.”
In the letter, Miller says Pacific Avalon has “failed to comply with Newport Beach Municipal Code by exceeding the overhang limit and refusal to legally berth MV Majestic.” It goes on to say, “Staff has repeatedly informed you that MV Majestic is not allowed to berth at 2901 W. Coast Hwy.”
Gueola maintained that he has tried to work with the city for more than a year to find a mutually agreeable solution to the issue, and has obtained approval from the city and Coastal Commission to build a new dock that would put the Majestic in compliance with the city ordinance regarding the boat’s overhang.
He said the city nevertheless has used a heavy-handed approach in repeatedly citing and fining him and the dock’s owner for the ship’s overhang while berthed.
The new dock, he said, “is going forward and will cost nearly $1 million to construct.”
This cost will be paid primarily by the property owner who leases the slips to Gueola, he said. The slips are just off Pacific Coast Highway in the Mariners Mile area.
Figures provided to the Independent by the city show Pacific Avalon Yacht Charters and Gueola have been fined a total of $8,700 since July 2011. The owner of the dock property where the Majestic is berthed has been fined $7,800 in the same period.
Gueola said he hopes to bring the Majestic back when the new dock is completed.
The City Harbor Commission has been hotly debating the matter of the Majestic and large charter boats in the harbor over the past year.
Harbor Commissioner Ralph Rodheim, who has led the charge to have the Majestic removed, told the Independent that he believes this issue is simply one of safety regarding the Majestic’s’ overhang, contending it is a danger to other boaters in the harbor.
City Attorney Aaron Harp told the Independent Wednesday that the matter “had been referred to his office” but that he was unaware of any immediate pending legal action by the city against the boat’s operator.
Gueola says that ongoing dispute has put “too much stress” on him, his company and his employees and that at this point he will accede to the city’s demands. However, he insists that “I was treated unfairly” and “only want to be treated like everybody else” who operates large yachts in the harbor. Gueola say’s that hasn’t been the case.
Gueola told the Independent that he feels the City has “selectively enforced” the rules with him and not with other boat operators who are also violating the city’s rules on boat overhang.
He says that he’s operated a charter yacht company in Newport Beach for nearly 30 years without any previous problems and hopes to continue to do so, if the current problems can be worked out.