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Wu: The Taj, the dock fee and home values

December 08, 2012|By Jack Wu

Are you excited? I'm excited.

Not Christmas excited. Excited because the Newport Beach City Council and the government employees who overflow the old City Hall will be moving into the largest, most egregious example of shiny government decadence and ego Newport Beach residents will ever see in their lifetimes: the new, $130-million Taj Mahal/White Elephant/Civic Center Plaza.

A $130-million folly that was almost completely paid for with government loans through the use of COPS (Certificates of Participation), which means that we don't pay as much interest.

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So the next council meeting will be held not at the old, dastardly, largely ignored and broken down part of the city on Newport Boulevard on the Balboa Peninsula.

Instead, the new council just recently elected, without any competition, will celebrate themselves on the newly renamed Civic Center Drive, in the most Fashionable part of the Irvine Co. — er — Newport Beach.

Aren't you excited?

But one cannot help but find the timing ironic. Let's back up and review. Some full-time lifeguards earn more than $200,000 a year in total compensation and can retire at 50 years old, getting their, as a former mayor once said, "well-deserved" pensions of more than $100,000 a year.

These bloated salaries and pensions make up more than 70% of Tidelands Management Budget, which pays for all harbor- and beach-related expenses.

Although millions of folks get to enjoy the harbor and beaches, three groups of people have been asked to pay their "fair share." They would be the mooring owners (already hit with a tidy increase) and the commercial dock owners (who have also seen their fees increase exponentially), and now the residential dock owners.

Some people are fortunate enough to live on the Newport Harbor and have a dock. The docks, which are built, maintained and paid for by the private homeowners, happen to jut out over the water, which the state of California owns and the city of Newport Beach manages.

Up until now, these free-loaders have been paying the city for a $100-a-year permit. But now the city, in the spirit of the fair market, wants to raise that rent to 52 cents a square foot, which in some cases would relate to a 3,000% increase.

Some are calling it a "tax," while others are calling it a "fee" and "rent." To me, it doesn't matter; it's a bit excessive either way and, considering the aforementioned circumstances, a bit opportunistic.

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