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(Re: “City Set to Triple Mooring Fees,” NBI, 11/19:)

Dear elected representatives,

Let me begin with a reminder you serve at the pleasure of your constituents, the good citizens/taxpayers of Newport Beach, many of whom are boaters.

That said, let me say that Newport Beach is lucky to have us, the Boating Community!  We are the lifeblood of this city. Our being here encourages tourism and tourist dollars as well as retail and real estate profits.

You are at a crossroads and have the opportunity to be leaders and stand out among other Southern California harbor cities, with an altruistic vision of your “revenue source,” the boating community. They are the soul of Newport Beach.

  • Being seen as a boater- and marine industry-friendly city could work very much in your favor internationally. Be visionaries and see us as the asset we are. You have the opportunity to foster the existing community, encourage future growth and subsidize Newport’s heritage of boating.
  • Stop the creative zoning proposals that put this community at risk. Do tourists come here to spend the day on the bay or at a cliff-side park viewing condos? No, they do not! We need chandleries, marine hardware and software facilities, mechanical specialists, shipyards and all the other boating related businesses on Newport Harbor’s shores, not in Costa Mesa or beyond.
  • With the distinction of the city with the highest priced real estate in the nation, Newport Beach can afford to be equitable and act with caution before establishing fee increases that are based on marina slip fees established by land-based marinas with outrageous land values.
  • Balancing the budget is essential. However, your “ad hoc committee” diminished it’s own recommendations because they didn’t want to include anyone that may have a “conflict of interest” among its members. How absurd is that to expect a well-rounded view of all the possibilities from only three council members, without input from any of the stakeholders?
  • Stepping back, taking some time and researching all the sources of additional revenue with valuable input from long and short time residents, business people (including those involved in the marine industry), Newport Mooring Association (NMA) and homeowner representatives before loading higher fees on mooring lease holders seems prudent. You may actually be able to lower fees.

If, however you do decide to go ahead with the proposed fee increases there is an issue you must consider that has not been addressed by the council, a city buy-in.

  • You can’t just take and not be expected to give something for what we would additionally contribute. Consider, there is nowhere we can go to wash down and clean up our boats or ourselves. There are no dry storage areas for dinghies; limited short-term and no long-term in-water storage; no launch ramps except the Dunes and no mooring leaseholder parking. These are things we need. The harbor has not been dredged for 70 years so dredge it with the help of Federal funds and save for future dredging needs.
  • You can save valuable dollars going to Orange County Sheriff’s Department by limiting the areas Harbor Patrol Officers cruise. If you truly want to continue exempting the private dock owners from paying their fair share of boat storage, while raising fees for the moorings, then logic demands you minimize Harbor Patrol duties in the areas of the Rhine Channel, North Lido/PCH Channel, Dunes/Back Bay, Linda Island, Harbor Island, west end Balboa Island/Bayside Drive and the harbor entrance, everywhere on-shore or off-shore moorings are not present.

Transferability is a thorn in your side so I suggest only two options:

o   Family passing a lease to family. Not dead family! It makes little sense to require a lessee to die before transferring a lease to a family member. With a prolonged illness or limited mobility, a boater may be unable to access a moored boat for years before passing away. All that would do is fill our bay with derelict boats.

o   Individuals sell their boat as a package deal that includes the mooring lease. Requiring the seller to submit a current survey showing the boat’s true value to the Harbor Commissioners for approval would take the profit taking out of the process.

o   I believe if you stop the profit taking now and monitor the transfers more closely, profit taking will not be an issue in the near future. The wait-list will again become viable.

My recommendation to you as “leaders” would be to take a step back and:

  • Develop a vision of this fine city that opens your eyes to an opportunity to act as stewards of a unique resource by fostering the existing, encouraging growth in and subsidizing the boating community and marine businesses on this unique harbor we love.
  •  Take your time researching equitable solutions from all stakeholders before raising fees.
  •  Consider my transferability simplification.
  •  Avoid the temptation to balance the budget on the back of those in the boating community that can afford it least.

Ross McElfresh

 

Mooring charges in Newport Harbor should be revenue neutral and not be subsidized by the non-boat-owners of the city. In addition, the availability of the leases, which are public property, should not be used for profit at the expense of those legitimately waiting their turn for a mooring lease.

As a non-boat-owner, I object to subsidizing the cost of mooring boats. This is not essential. No one died or had their health impaired by not being able to moor their boat in the harbor. Owning a boat, with the exception of working fishing boats, is a luxury and almost all of the boats in the harbor are pleasure boats. It is inappropriate for my tax dollars to subsidize this cost so boat owners get a good deal. If the cost of the operation goes up, the fees should also rise.

Regarding the lease transfer issue, the reselling of leases under the guise of transferring boat ownership is blatantly private profiting by reselling public property, the lease. To use an analogy, the parking area for motor homes at state parks is like a harbor for “land yachts.” State park spots in the south are in high demand in the summer. If I rent a space for my motor home and then transfer that space to someone for a fee in addition to the rental, I’m using a public resource for profit. In addition, it is patently unfair to the other people waiting in line to get a spot to park.

Private boat owners should pay their own way and not be subsidized by the rest of the taxpayers. The process for leasing should be fair and not allow for a private profit from public property.

The committee and city staff recommendations are correct and should be adopted.

Dennis Baker

 

(Re: “When What’s Not in Your Backyard Suddenly Is,” NBI, 11/19:)

In Mr. Wu’s recent column concerning rehab business “homes,” it was suggested that Lido residents did little to support the community in its efforts to address the over-concentration of rehab businesses in the Peninsula/West Newport neighborhood. Having previously served as CEO of the community organization Concerned Citizens of Newport Beach, I would like to set the record straight.

Over 700 Lido residents contributed significant time, effort and financial support in our four-year fight to get the city to enact ordinances to regulate these business uses. These residents had the vision and concern to see that the over-concentration of these businesses in the dense, coastal community that the city now refers to as “the Penninsula zone’ was detrimental – both to residential neighborhood integrity, and the well-being of individuals seeking legitimate recovery.

We wonder – where were YOU, Mr. Wu as impacted residents collected petitions, spoke at Council, hired legal experts and spent exhausting hours to convince our complicit city officials to regulate these uses? ONLY through the efforts of citizens did the city enact any ordinance at all. The city has done its best to subvert the ordinance through special long-term “Development/Zoning” deals with the city’s largest rehab operators – deals placing public safety at risk, and of questionable legality.

You are correct, Mr. Wu, that many members of the coastal community learned some bitter lessons during the Rehab fight. It cannot be taken for granted that the interests of city leaders are aligned with those of the residents; and none of us can afford to stand by and expect others to “do it” if we are to achieve  much-needed changes .

Newport Beach can no longer afford to be a parochial “collection of villages.” Lido is planning a 1-2 punch for the benefit of us all.

Stay tuned, and help us keep a bright light on this important issue.

Denys H. Oberman

 

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