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Fee hike targets marina tenants

One of Newport lowest-priced yacht basins may be more expensive if council approves increases. Tenants plan to contest proposal.

December 03, 2010|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

NEWPORT BEACH — As the city continues to raise fees from users of Newport Harbor, the latest targets are tenants of the city-owned and -managed Balboa Yacht Basin marina.

With affordable boat slips, garages and apartments, the yacht basin has historically been one of the lowest-priced marinas in the bay.

And its tenants want to keep it that way. They plan to contest the proposed rent hike at a special City Council meeting Monday night.

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This comes less than two weeks after the council voted to raise rates for moorings, the floating cans that are some of the least expensive points in the bay to store a boat. Rate increases across the harbor are needed to pay for expensive projects like dredging and the upcoming Marina Park development, city officials say. And a good place to start, they reasoned, are with people who have been paying well below the market rate.

"This is public property and I think the city should be getting fair value for it," said Councilman Ed Selich, who served on the Committee on Harbor Charges that recommended the new rents.

The proposal would raise the rates at each of the 176 slips, depending on its size. For instance, for a 40-foot slip the rate would increase from $19 per foot (of the boat) per month, to about $30 per foot per month. The increase would be phased in over three years.

As with the moorings, the committee based the rents on rates that private marinas charge in Newport.

Balboa Yacht Basin slip holders say that the yacht basin doesn't have the amenities like some of the private marinas, so they shouldn't have to pay as much. Newport Dunes, for example, has secured parking and a pool.

"You've got to charge a reasonable rate for a comparable product," said Brian Mason, who keeps his 40-foot Carver powerboat in the basin.

Tucked away between Balboa Island and Bayside Drive, the Balboa Yacht Basin is relatively close to the harbor entrance, an advantage that the city says makes up for any amenities.

Another argument made by the yacht basin tenants during two recent city outreach meetings was that private marinas will discount significantly from their listed rates. So if the city sets rents based on the "rack rate" it would be creating an artificially high price.

In response, the city committee actually sent a "secret shopper" to the marinas and negotiated some lower rents, Selich said.

They ended up lowering the proposed yacht basin rent, although not by much.

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