Newport Beach Mayor Calls for Floating Docks

illustration of floating dock

Mayor Wants Floating Docks

At the Mayor’s dinner on February 7, 2014, Rush Hill called for placement of floating docks to replace moorings in Newport Harbor. He explained these will deliver improved public access to the harbor. Do you concur? Is this what you’ve been waiting for?

What remains to be seen is how these will be better than the Duffy Docks, about which many mooring permit holders have already commented.

Provide More Service

The Mayor wants permit holders to have more services. Permit holders, do you want more services? Can you afford more services?

My goal is to provide more service than is currently available to mooring holders at the same price as they currently pay. The first benefit may be a reduction of the area required to moor boats thus providing more recreational space in our harbor. The second benefit will be generating a need for shore boat activity to and from the floating dock communities that will help achieve a higher year round demand for a successful Newport Harbor water taxi service.Mayor Rush Hill

The Mayor offers that Newport Beach mooring permit holders would be offered water and electrical power on the floating docks once his plan is adopted, but can we trust the mayor’s promise that the City will provide more service to permit holders but keep prices, "…the same … as [we] currently pay…? No, because the mayor cannot act as fiduciary of the public tidelands and City funds while also supplying to mooring users free water and free power, or even the infrastructure to deliver it. If the prices we are currently paying for our mooring permits enable this kind of public spending largesse, must not therefore mooring permit fees be already too high?

Improve Recreational Access

Consider recreational access to the harbor with current fore-and-aft moorings. Often a permit holder rigs no spreader lines between buoys. When the mooring is unoccupied, canoers, rowers, kayakers, fisherman, stand up paddlers, sea lions, birds, and boaters, too, can travel right through. But a floating dock still obstructs use of the water it’s anchored in, with boats secured or not. Birds will have something new to decorate and sea lions will love improved access to additional acres of haul-out space!

Will floating docks generate shoreboat trips? The closest harbor we can think of with public shoreboat service is Avalon. Avalon has no floating dock communities and we don't think adding floating docks will increase shoreboat demand, in Avalon or in Newport Harbor.

Additional Eelgrass Shading

Poor eelgrass! Even though it’s federally protected, how’s it ever going to catch a break? The floating docks will surely block needed sunlight, more than the existing boats alone.

Who Bears Costs?

In most communities in the United States, owning a waterfront house with its own dock is a dream only the most financially elite will fulfill. For those without the financial horsepower to own waterfront real estate, options for keeping a boat are slips or moorings. But in Newport Harbor, with relatively few slips per capita (3,600 slips in Newport Harbor versus 8,200 slips in San Diego), slip fees approach apartment rent or a condo mortgage payment. A slip is squarely out of reach for Average Joe. For Joe, a mooring was the only means by which he could keep a boat on the public tidelands, in Newport Harbor, or elsewhere. Joe might be your childrens' school teacher, your engine mechanic, your painter, your gardener. But that mooring gave him fair access to our public tidelands he could not otherwise afford.

With mooring permit fees in Newport Harbor indexed to slip fees, mooring fees will increase about 300% over the five years from 2010 to 2015, and remain at that tripled amount going forward. The typical mooring permit holder is going to have a lot less cash to spend on boat maintenance, new sails, or in area restaurants and stores because those dollars are going to City Hall. Taking away the average persons' means of access to Newport Harbor appears to be an elitist play to price the average people out of the bay. It’s denying access to public tidelands through financial means.

With current mooring permit system, the permit holder pays for tackle, its maintenance, and pays a permit fee to the City. Floating docks must certainly cost more than mooring tackle, costs the City can not possibly justify asking non–users to cover. That leaves the moored boat users to pick up the tab, but can they afford it? For decades, in harbors throughout the United States, a mooring has enabled those of modest means to share fun on the water with family and friends. It does not seem right that those of affluent means have the right, or take it upon themselves, to price those of modest means out of a public resource like Newport Harbor.

Balancing of Interests and Needs

There are perhaps a few sailors of the entitled–class sensibility who push for sailors to have more. These people fail to consider others’ preferences, needs, or ability to pay. Seventy years of racing and sailing results don't support the argument that Newport Harbor sailors need any more open water than they have had for the past seventy years. Sailors who have won not only national championships and world championships, but the Olympics and vaunted America’s Cup learned to sail in Newport Harbor. For about 70 years, moorings have been set in this harbor the way they are set today. Moorings have not impeded sailors bent on world–class success. Summer evening casual races and seasonal races have been held successfully for over half a century in Newport Harbor, with moorings substantially the way they are set today.

New Technology for Shoreboat Dispatch

Using an on–demand ride sharing system similar to Lyft, Sidecar, or Uber, to call a shoreboat sounds interesting, especially to service visiting boaters on moorings. But with Marina Park officially under construction as a new visitor–serving marina, maybe visitors will just use these new technologies to call for a four wheel ride?

What Do Homeowners Want?

Do homeowners want to look out at floating marinas or do they prefer the harbor as it looks today? Many questions need investigation. Please read up and chime in on this proposal for floating docks and floating dock communities. Your thoughtful comments below will be appreciated.


5 thoughts on “Newport Beach Mayor Calls for Floating Docks

  1. Michael Di SanoMichael Di Sano

    S-75This is a terrible idea and very short sighted. Currently there is already an excessive amount of open dock space that can be utilized. The issue with public dock space is not to be solved by installing floating docks. The first issue is to get rid of boats that are only placeholders and never used or registered. If we add more docks to the harbor it will trap floating debris that usually washes ashore and gets cleaned up. The water quality of this issue is nothing small to be overlooked. Additionally it will also increase the current problem we face in the harbor with seals perching themselves on docks and boats that have been a huge nuisance. Also we had a glimpse of what our harbor looks like without the massive clutter from all the boats when the dredging occurred. The view that is already beautiful was magnified and we could enjoy the natural beauty of the harbor. While I know it’s impossible to remove boats, it would be travesty to add more visual clutter to the harbor.

    If this were to move forward, which I doubt because it seems public opinion is against this in the poll, there would need to be a full EIR/EIS done. Topics that would need to be covered would include aesthetics, transportation and traffic, water quality, utilities and service systems, hazards and hazardous waste, biological resources, land use and planning, recreation and noise. Topics that are outside of CEQA and NEPA that the public would be concerned about would be real estate value, taxes, and character of the harbor.

  2. Richard FischRichard Fisch

    H-38I am aware of other harbors that installed floating docks and everyone loves it.
    I vote Yes, absolutely….it benefits everyone.

  3. David LaMontagneDavid LaMontagne

    BAD IDEA!! More to maintain, more to pollute the bay, an eyesore, more for birds and mammals and others to discharge upon, etc…

  4. HankHank

    I would like to see examples of other harbors that have successfully installed this system before I make up my mind.

    1. NMA AdminNMA Admin Post author

      You will get to see examples in this harbor because the Harbor Commission has formed an ad–hoc committee whose job it is to come up with a pilot program to test implementation here.

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