Time Limit Changes for 19th Street Public Dock

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A Google maps screenshot image of the 19th Street dock in Newport Harbor.
— Google Map data 2020 ©

Time limits for various sections of the 19th Street public dock will soon change, following a unanimous Harbor Commission decision this week, with the objective of improving overall utilization of the available dock space.

Commissioners voted 7-0 on Wednesday to make the adjustments as recommended by city staff.

“We’re recommending a set of modest changes,” Harbormaster Kurt Borsting said at the meeting. “We hope (the changes) will result in greater utilization of the dock.”

Approved changes include reassignment of approximately 31 linear feet on the west side of dock from three hour to 24-hour maximum use; reassigning approximately 83 linear feet on the north (bay) side of the dock from 20-minute to three hour maximum use; and reassigning approximately 21 linear feet on the east side of the dock from three hour to 20 minute maximum use.

Currently the maximum time designations for use of the dock are marked as: 83 linear feet for tie-ups not to exceed 20 minutes; 45 linear feet for tie-ups not to exceed three hours; and 88 linear feet for tie-ups not to exceed 72 hours.

Commissioners and a local resident who spoke seemed on board with the idea.

The new plan is consistent with the study conducted a few years ago, Commission Chair Paul Blank pointed out. That study determined where the public piers could best be utilized and where the amenities are that boaters want to use when they go ashore, he added.

The 19th Street Public Dock is one of the most heavily trafficked short-term docking locations in the Harbor, Borsting explained on Wednesday. It is located near the J and H mooring fields (with 212 moorings collectively).

The dock is also located adjacent a public beach and public restroom, a large residential neighborhood, and various nearby commercial services and retail stores, all of which contribute to the high use demand at this location.

They haven’t seen a “great need” for the three hours on the east side of the dock, Borsting noted.

All bay-side zones on public docks in Newport Harbor are 20 minutes, Borsting pointed out.

“I’m assuming that was (done) to encourage the maintaining of the flow of traffic,” he said.

But in this particular setting, there is a large private dock immediately west of the public dock, so flow of traffic isn’t typically an issue at this location, Borsting explained.

Newport Harbor
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

“By offering that three-hour zone on the front, our goal would be to continue to accommodate short-term pick-ups but also give folks who want to stop (quickly),” for a short walk, coffee, or bite to eat, Borsting said. “We think we’ll get greater public use.”

Changing the bay-side to three hours would give boaters the opportunity to make use of the nearby amenities, Blank agreed.

This dock serves the J and H fields, there are a lot of mooring permittees that own harbor service businesses.

“Having a place where they can keep a boat overnight during the work week, so that early in the morning they can take that boat out and conduct the services that support the harbor, and we have a large group of liveaboard boaters

Staff hopes that 24-hour zone will help meet that (currently) un-met need

They hope to work with the individual operators to encourage them away from those areas when they can be, like the weekend, so recreational boaters can take advantage of the dock.

There is an “experimental” aspect to the project, Borsting said. So, if the changes work,

“If they don’t, we will come back and encourage another gallon of paint to try another solution to the problem. But what we have now is not working well.

It’s worth investing some time and money to test out re-zoning it to hopefully accomplish their goal, which is to share the resource better, Borsting said.

Public docks have been provided by the city at various locations throughout Newport Harbor for the purpose of loading and unloading passengers, supplies, boating gear, short-term mooring and similar purposes, according to the staff report.

“It is the policy of the city to maintain such facilities in a manner that will permit the greatest public use and avoid continuous occupancy, congestion or blocking thereof,” the report reads.

In order to do this, the Harbormaster is authorized to post dock markings or signs limiting the time during which a vessel may be tied up or secured.

Three of the primary stakeholder groups that utilize this dock are live-aboard permittees, mooring permittees (both commercial and recreational) and short-term sub-permittees, who are staying overnight aboard their vessels.

“From informal discussions with members of these groups, as well as feedback received at recent Harbor Visioning meetings, Harbor Department staff have learned that the current dock time designations do not adequately address their needs at this location,” Borsting explained in the staff report.

Examples include: Docking a dinghy in order to go ashore for work-shifts, extended appointments, day-trips or recreational activities. Harbor users have reported that when they make use of the dock for these types of activities, they often find the 72-hour area fully occupied.

This results in the hypothetical boater who has an eight to 12-hour docking need to make use of the three-hour time zone, intentionally overstaying in that designated area. This behavior results in a cascading effect, limiting space available for those intending to use the dock for three hours or less.

Staff will actively monitor the modified zones assessing over time if the change results in improved utilization.

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