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Legislators seek to put off harbor fund

State Sen. Mimi Walters and Assemblyman Allan Mansoor ask lands commission to delay decision.

April 11, 2013|By Jill Cowan

Two legislators have asked the California State Lands Commission to put off deciding whether to allow the city of Newport Beach to establish a special harbor fund.

The officials want the state to hold off until they can further investigate how that money may be used and a lawsuit filed in February against the city seeking to block the new dock fees is resolved.

In a letter addressed to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the commission, state Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) and Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) requested that the item on the commission's April 26 meeting agenda be postponed.

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"We want to give it 30 days — give everybody the opportunity to kind of flesh out these details," said Mansoor's spokesman, Chad Morgan.

Commission spokeswoman Sheri Pemberton said Wednesday that the item was on the consent calendar, meaning that staff expected the three-member commission to approve it without debate, but that could change.

"As staff, we will inform commissioners of the letter — in particular given that the letter expresses concerns," she said. "We've reached out to the legislative offices to let them know that we'd like to be helpful."

Bob McCaffrey, chairman of the Stop the Dock Tax Group and Newport Beach Dock Owners Assn., supported Walters and Mansoor's request.

"We have complained since day one that a lot of money that is collected from the tidelands is used for things that should come out of the general fund," he said.

But city officials have said that the harbor fund would be aimed at reassuring concerned residents that money raised by dock fee increases would be used exclusively for harbor infrastructure improvements — not for lifeguards at ocean beaches, which had been a concern.

"We thought it was important to the community to set it up as a separate fund in order to make good on that promise we made to use the money for improvements in capital — not salaries or benefits," City Manager Dave Kiff said Wednesday.

He added that he expected to approve the creation of the fund "fairly easily."

The City Council voted to move forward with the fund in February, pending the commission's approval, after a long and contentious debate over the city's increase of fees for the use of state-owned, city-administered tidelands.

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