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Newport Beach

Volume 7, Issue 5  |  January 18, 2022

On the Harbor: Mooring rental rates topic of Harbor Commission meeting


On Wednesday, Jan. 12, the Harbor Commission met in the City Council chambers with 50 people in attendance. Most, if not all, were there for discussion on New Business Item 2 – “Review of Appraisal and Discussion of Rental Rates for On-Shore Mooring Permits.”

Harbor Commission Chairman Skip Kenny introduced the topic saying, “This is why we are all here tonight, with the understanding that there will only be a discussion on the recently presented shore moorings appraisal. No action will be taken on this matter until the Harbor Commission meeting in February to either make a recommendation or not to make a recommendation to City Council. As you all know, the City Council makes all the final decisions.” 

According to the previously instituted Beacon Bay Act, whereby the city is required to keep a fair market rate on the tidelands, Scott Karlin, a board member of the Newport Mooring Association, attempted to make the point that the act only pertains to Beacon Bay and not the whole harbor.

On the Harbor shore moorings

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Len Bose

Shore moorings in Newport Harbor

Most of the questions the public asked pertained to where the additional revenues would go and if there are any benefits to the people paying the fees?

Also brought up was the difficulty in using the shore moorings. A shore mooring is positioned in shallow water at the end of a street and capable of tethering a maximum boat length of 18 feet. 

If you think about how many passengers potentially fit on an 18 ft. boat and ask the question, how do they enter the boat when confronted with the shallow water before them? 

There is also no power, water or accessible bathroom available and boaters must find elsewhere to clean or work on their boat. These limitations do not allow for an electric-type boat. 

Another problem mooring holders are faced with is the lack of street parking. 

Commissioner Beer questioned City Deputy Attorney Jeremy Jung on whether Karlin was correct with his understanding of the above-mentioned Beacon Bay Act. The city deputy attorney disagreed, stating that there are other examples that the city is responsible for to keep the mooring at fair market value.

Commissioner Scott Cunningham encouraged the group to continue to work towards a consensus on what is a fair market price. How would the shore mooring permit holders and the Harbor Commission come to a consensus on what is fair? It is likely that the next step will be another appraisal. 

In my opinion, the Netzer & Associates appraisal of $20 per foot is not out of the ballpark; today’s rate is $1.60 per foot. There has to be some middle ground that is fair for everyone with the goal being a roadmap to arrive at where the harbor wants to be in 25 years.

There are 478 onshore moorings which were originally placed in the harbor for access to offshore moorings. Today, it is estimated that 71 people have both offshore mooring and onshore mooring permits. For the 407 people using the shore moorings as storage, still, at one dollar a day that’s a pretty good deal. 

Another issue is how shore moorings transfer ownership, as many of the permits have been in one family for more than 60 years. With boat storage becoming more in demand I have always been a believer in “use it or lose it.”

One of my all-time favorite people in town is Jim Dastur, who came up with the concept of the city buying back the shore moorings. I was not able to take notes fast enough to report the whole concept. But, after grasping the idea, it makes sense that the city makes the permit holders whole, then rents back to them the same space and when the renter no longer requires the mooring, it’s passed on to the next person in line on the waiting list. In the long game, this is the best play for the harbor. 

I interviewed Dastur back in 2016. You can find my interview here

Not sure who has the ball at this point. Is it the shore mooring permit holders or the Harbor Commission? If I was a permit holder, I would counter the $20 per foot with an $8 per foot increase over the next five years, working towards a 25-year transition moving the shore mooring to a fair market rate.

If you have a shore mooring, I would strongly suggest you attend the next Harbor Commission meeting on February 9 at 5 p.m. in council chambers.

Sea ya.


Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for Stu News Newport.

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