Harbor Commission Considers Live-Aboard Definition Change

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Moorings in Newport Harbor near Lido Isle at sunset.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Following several community meetings where the issue was a hot topic, the Newport Beach Harbor Commission considered how to define “live-aboard” during a meeting last week.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on June 12 to keep the definition the same, but to get clarification from the city attorney on the specific language and then ratify it at the next meeting. Commissioner Paul Blank recused himself and Commission Chair David Girling was absent.

There are a lot of ways people can spend time on their boat, including anchorages and slips, commented Commissioner John Drayton.

“I’m not hearing a lot from mooring permitees clamoring for a lot more time,” Drayton said. “I’m really struggling to see why we would expand the numbers of days here.”

Other commissioners agreed.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, Commissioner Don Yahn noted. It could create other, unintended consequences.

There was a bit of discussion about possibly striking the word “domicile” from the current definition.

Domicile means primary residence, Commissioner Bill Kenney commented. Someone on their boat for a week to 12 days or less each month is not a primary residence, he added.

Commissioners ultimately agreed that it needs to be reviewed by the city attorney before any change.

In February 2018, City Council requested that the Harbor Commission review and possibly revise Title 17- Harbor Code, of the Newport Beach Municipal Code. The purpose of this revision was to review the code in light of the city’s new Harbor Department and increased service levels, according to the staff report.

The Commission appointed an ad hoc subcommittee comprised of Commissioners Kenney, Yahn, and Paul Blank to take on the task. The ad hoc subcommittee requested the Commission review the definition of live-aboard.

The current definition explains that “the term “live-aboard” shall mean the use or occupancy of a vessel as a domicile for a period exceeding 72 hours in any 30-day period.”

The subcommittee has held several public meetings to review Title 17 and gather community input.

At the first forum on April 8, the representation of those in attendance was heavily weighted toward mooring permittees. A lively discussion during the meeting revolved around live-aboards.

Many of those in attendance thought that the three-night stay was too restrictive and some harbor users requested more days to enjoy their boats on their moorings. The crowd seemed to agree on 11 or 12 nights per month, which would basically allow permittees to spend every weekend on their boats.

During the second outreach meeting on May 6, a number of homeowners raised concerns that permittees staying on their boats at night can cause issues and diminishes the quiet enjoyment of their homes, according to the staff report.

“When the subcommittee reviewed the comments from both perspectives, it was uncomfortable in making a recommendation to the Harbor Commission due to the very strong feelings of both the homeowners and permittees and believe this issue should be heard by the full Harbor Commission so that each side may express their concerns and issues on the subject,” the staff report reads.

During public comment, Chuck South commented that some people might be expecting a huge influx of partying and people, disturbing other boaters, but that’s not the case, South noted.

There probably won’t be much of a change, South said.

If a person doesn’t cause any trouble, they could stay every weekend and nobody would take notice, he commented. The “good citizens” on the water aren’t the problem, a few others agreed.

Several public speakers noted that the current rules and regulations need to be enforced better before making any changes.

Illegal live-aboards, dumping blackwater (raw sewage) into the harbor, and noise were all mentioned as needing better enforcement.

They want too, Kenney commented. Title 17 is pretty good as is, all the regulations are there, he added, but enforcement does need to be better.

“We just need the budget and the bodies to enforce it,” Kenney said. “We agree with you, certainly, on those issues.”

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  1. There are not enough posting of future meetings! I diligently look for them at the 19Th. St. Dock and there haven’t been for, at least, the last two! Further, Chuck South, for once, wasn’t blowing smoke about boaters wanting to enjoy their boats more, and not being the problem! Those moored are paying much more than the homeowners do for their docks and deserve it be able to use their boats there without hassle! Especially since the city does not provide the amenities promised them for the money paid! Previously there was a vote taken and accepted by the Harbor Commission for 12-14 days a month, and it was To GO into effect! Now the commission seems to be back peddling, if you have got it right! WHAT IS THE STORY?? Since I was excluded because of the lack of notifications, I’d like to know!

  2. There are, since the homeowners seems to carry So much weight, two major concerns that the homeowners have over the Mooring vessels that needs to be addressed in the MC’s;
    They are both allowed, or It is at least not enforced probably because of their clout with several of the Harbor Commissioners, to sublet their docks/boats To live- aboard’s, whom are not connected to septic systems, and rarely, if ever, leave the docks they are tied up to. Being acquainted with the Harbor and being extremely vigilant I have observed more of these questionable practices going on than there are moored liveaboards, especially permitted liveaboards. Both of these practices are highly unfair to the Mooring permittees and far outweigh the timeframe restrictions of being able to enjoy their moored vessels, and/or not not being able to sublet the space as the homeowners do, so that the City can abuse this right for unshared profit!