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Mooring debate stays afloat

Newport Mooring Assn. members some bayfront homeowners, like Donald Bren, should help and pay more for docks.

November 16, 2010|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

They say the City Council wants to get the most vocal group out of the way first, and would rather avoid the more politically sensitive discussion concerning commercial marinas or bayfront home docks.

"What they're doing now is they are splitting the herd," said Sites, who believes commercial and residential dock owners "may have some undue influence."

Henn said the city isn't going to play favorites, and that "nobody is exempt."

The Newport Harbor Yacht Club and the Balboa Yacht Club hold some of the city moorings, and Henn said the city planned to examine if their arrangement was in the public's best interest. The grand jury, in 2007, thought it was not.

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But taking on homeowners may be a bigger challenge. Littoral rights (a body of property law) protect property owners whose land abuts the bay.

When the dock is over public tidelands, Mooring Assn. members say the city should get more benefit.

Right now, the city only charges $100 per year. The association's argument goes like this: bayfront homes derive value from the public asset of the bay, but the city doesn't funnel property taxes back into the fund used to maintain the harbor.

The Tidelands Fund, a $9.5 million pot of money, incorporates revenues from moorings, docks and other sources, such as the American Legion and the Balboa Bay Club, both of which lease bayfront land from the city.

Officials say the fund doesn't take in enough to cover ongoing expenditures like dredging or for capital improvements like the upcoming Marina Park marina. They project a $19-million deficit in 2017 for harbor-related projects.

So one way to raise mooring revenue, which amounted to around $700,000 last year, would be to hike the fees each year.

City Manager Dave Kiff presented a hypothetical 40-foot boat at last week's council session: Right now its owner pays about $70 per month to moor in the harbor. If the fees were pegged to the current marina average, then the fees would eventually increase to about $200 per month.

Coupled with proposed regulations that would restrict transferring mooring permits, the city has riled mooring holders. According to the Mooring Assn.'s website, its members plan to attend the Nov. 23 City Council meeting en masse.

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