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Newport Beach votes to increase boat dock fees at some piers

December 12, 2012 | 10:15 am

Newport Beach boat parade

Even as residents threatened to boycott the annual Christmas Boat Parade, the Newport Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to increase docking fees for residential piers.

Councilwoman Leslie Daigle voted against the fee hikes, which raised fees for pier owners on state-owned, city-administered tidelands from a flat $100 annually, to 52.5 cents per square foot of usable dock space.

Councilman Ed Selich abstained from voting because he owns a residential dock. The vote was 5 to 1, the Daily Pilot reported.

For probably the last time, harbor stakeholders packed into the old Newport Boulevard council chambers to protest the proposed rate increases, citing a litany of concerns including alleged transparency law violations on the part of the council and questions about the method of determining a dock's square footage.

Council members have said that the increases are necessary to comply with state rules requiring that the city charge fair market rents for the use of state-owned lands and that the money will be used only on harbor infrastructure improvements.

The residential pier rate increases are the most recent step in an ongoing process, which has also included raising rents for commercial harbor uses on public tidelands, the City Council has said.

Opponents, many from the Stop the Dock Tax group, have repeatedly said the increases are hastily imposed money grabs by the city.

On Tuesday, some speakers said they were merely trying to slow down the process.

"Most residents believe a reasonable adjustment to the dock fee is acceptable," said Balboa Peninsula resident Pete Pallette, who has spoken on behalf of Stop the Dock Tax. "Your arrogant and dismissive approach has created an atmosphere of distrust."

He added that if the council agreed to postpone the vote, "we will agree to cancel the boycott. Otherwise, game on."

After about two and a half hours of heated public comment and discussion among council members at a 4 p.m. special meeting — which was itself a continuation of a Nov. 28 meeting — the council opted not to delay the vote.

Rush Hill, who was chosen as mayor pro tem later in the evening, said there would have been no point.

The council also decided some of the finer points of the fee-calculating process, including that the rates will not be subject to Consumer Price Index adjustments during the phase-in period, through 2017. After that point, the CPI adjustments will be capped at 2% increases.

Pier owners will be able to rent out dock space, but they will have to declare their intent to do so to the city and pay a small commercial marina rate, which is higher than the residential rate.


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Photo: Residents have threatened to boycott the Newport Beach boat parade if fees at residential docks are raised. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times