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Newport Beach Proposes Increasing Mooring Rent by 300%

Newport Beach’s Harbor Commission has proposed raising rents on public moorings by as much as 300%, stoking outrage among the liveaboard community. There have been allegations of conflicts of interest between the city and the consultant who appraised the anchorages, there are threats of a lawsuit if mooring-rent hikes go through, and there are echoes of headlines about other long-delayed, sudden and extreme fee hikes affecting working-class boaters.

In April, the Newport Beach Harbor Commission voted unanimously to recommend a 300% increase in rents for public moorings to the City Council for Newport’s more than 1,200 onshore and offshore anchorages. (Commissioners said that mooring rates have seen only one “adjustment” — presumably an increase — over the past 20 years.) “Commissioners propose an increase in monthly rents to $7.71 per linear foot for the city’s 478 onshore moorings, up from the current rate of $1.67 per linear foot,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “The monthly rent for the city’s 731 offshore moorings would be raised to a range of $7.77 to $17.78 per linear foot, depending on the mooring length, up from the current rental fee of $3.35 per linear foot.”

Beautiful Newport Beach, and its more than 1,000 moorings, are now at the center of a controversy over a steep rent increase.
© 2024 Don Ramey Logan/wikipedia commons

In 2023, the Newport Beach Harbor Commission hired Netzer and Associates, a real estate consultant, to appraise the value of moorings in the harbor, according to Samantha McDonald, who wrote Latitude in late May. “The company recommended the city increase the tax rate of the moorings by 800% (yes, you read that correctly, 800%). The Harbor Commission staff agreed that the rate should be increased, but slightly less than the appraisal,” Samantha said. (Samantha and her partner are liveaboards on a CF 37 racer/cruiser; they’ve owned a mooring in Newport Beach for three years.)

Revenue from Newport Beach’s mooring rentals goes into the city’s tidelands fund, which finances the harbor department, maintenance/enhancement of the tidelands, environmental protection and public access/recreation. A harbor commissioner said there’s a $4.6 million deficit in the tidelands fund for the 2023 fiscal year.

At an April meeting of the Harbor Commission, public commenters said there was a potential conflict of interest between Netzer and Associates, “because Netzer is involved with the Newport Aquatics Center — but the city has denied such a conflict,” the L.A. Times reported. Chris Benzen, who lives on a mooring and created the website Stewards of the Harbor (SOTH), which details the current mooring dispute, said that “multiple Harbor Commissioners have dock permits within 500-1000 feet of a mooring field.”

McDonald wrote: “Many members of the Newport Beach mooring community, including myself, see the actions of the Harbor Commission as unjust and corrupt.”

The question of appraisal and value keeps surfacing in Newport Beach, such as the discrepancy between mooring rents and dock rents. “On average dock permit holders pay $12 to $30 per month, while the average mooring (40 feet) pays $133.60 per month,” Benson wrote on the SOTH website, adding, “A dock permit is a superior form of boat storage. [But] the dock permit occupies the same tidelands.”

The Times said that other speakers at the April Harbor Commission meeting pointed out the “apples and oranges” comparison used by the consultant/appraiser, “which referenced public moorings in other cities like San Diego, Monterey, Morro Bay and Santa Barbara, which offer services that Newport Beach moorings do not. Newport Harbor users have access to public facilities but do not have private utilities included with the moorings.”

Commentary: Newport Beach’s drastic price hike might remind boaters of the State of California’s proposed 300% increase in boat registration fees last year, which was also characterized by compensating for a deficit — this one $52 million in a state harbor fund. Is it really this hard for governments to build in reasonable (meaning gradual) rent increases that aren’t jarring to a liveaboard community?
© 2024 Don Ramey Logan/wikipedia commons

“Maybe one day I’ll have a dock with a nice boat on it and not have to pay certain amounts, but at this time and at this rate, I will eventually be forced out of it, and you’ll force a lot of us out of [the harbor],” Jake Pollgreen said at the April Harbor Commission meeting, as quoted by the Times.

Benson was quoted by the Times as saying, “‘We’ll issue a legal letter, then if they approve [the rent increases], file for injunctive relief and let the courts decide on these perceived conflicts of interest. It’s unfortunate that we have to sue our city.”

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20 Comments

  1. Gary Davis 2 months ago

    check out the rates in mexico. you are getting off cheap. in tahoe i pay $5000 fo a mooring a less than half a year

    • Sam 2 months ago

      Yes but in Newport you need to buy the mooring first which is about $1,000 per foot

  2. michael kehir 2 months ago

    Merilon’s mooring ball in Puerto Escondido, B.C.S. is $361/ mo..and that’s a hurricane zone..

  3. kb94028 2 months ago

    On a very different note,,, not at all to diffuse interest in this very appropriate article on mooring increases,,, I enjoyed living on Harbor Island, Newport Beach, and had the wonderful experience of securing my 51′ ketch at my home dock on Harbor Island in the 90s while the movie Balboa was filmed at/in my home, as seen here: https://youtu.be/Fkr5v0xmDeo?si=FBKv1R48qfFQCPxB What an exciting Harbor and I hope the moorings costs are not increased to the level indicated!!!

  4. Ken Britten 2 months ago

    Newport Beach has never been fond of liveaboards. My family and I lived there on a 60-foot schooner, between 1972 and 1976. During that time, most of the marinas in the harbor began to forbid living aboard, and we were forced to rent different private slips. We always thought it was because we were not sufficiently “yachty” for the neighbors. We’d dry towels on the lifelines… gasp! It gives me a strong sense of deja vu to hear what is happening to the moored boats now.

    • David Barten 2 months ago

      Ken Britten! We sailed togeether with Steve Hast a long time ago – Catalina -he and I sailed Shambala over and you met us with your family’s N41… I’m now in San Diego and have a HF50 on a mooring there! Love to connect – davidlbarten@gmail

  5. Chris Berry 2 months ago

    Sounds like those fortunate enough to have a rented mooring ball for the past 20 years have been subsidized by the public at large. No increase for the past 20 years! By the way, how do the live-aboards deal with sewage? If there’s a pump out boat how is that paid for? If not, yikes!

    • Stephen Poehls 2 months ago

      Poor rebuttal for those with composting heads. Again, government making laws to satisfy their mismanagement and greedy shortcomings. In CA you only see new laws added and never removed. Imagine how living there will be 30+ years. Welcome to the People’s Republic of CA!

    • Sam 2 months ago

      You cannot rent mooring balls. You must own it. If you are a liveaboard you are required to hire a pump out company.

    • Bud Coomans 2 months ago

      The Harbor Commission is trying to sell the increase by saying there has been no adjustments in the last twenty years. That’s incorrect. In 2012 the same appraiser did an appraisal and the rate was actually reduced! In 2017, article 17 (the harbor’s rules) was completely gone over and it was deemed rates would go up with CPI which the rates have done so annually. How does the same appraiser, in about 10 years, now say rates need to be as much as 450% higher (for a 50 ft. mooring, only the smallest are going up 300%) when CPI has gone up just 31%. But this isn’t just about not wanting an outrageous increase, the real outrage is that the residential docks are paying only $0.56 p/sqft just for their pier and NOTHING for the boats tied to it. $12 to $30 p/m is exactly comparable to a mooring paying $133 and more a month. Plus, many rent out their docks for as much as $12000 p/m (yes, that’s 3 zeros). That’s a 50 ft. yacht on each side at $4,000 each and five Duffy’s backed in. If this rate increase happens, my wife and I, living aboard on social security, on our 50 ft. mooring will be paying ten times what a homeowner with a hundred foot mega yacht (or two and possibly a smaller couple boats on the same dock) will pay! Some say we have a good deal and they’d be right. The moorings were for the regular, working class. We mooring holders do not necessarily want the homeowners to pay more we just want a “fair and equitable” rate.

  6. M. Gardner 2 months ago

    We pay $650.00 a month for a slip at Pier 40 in San Francisco. At the time I sold my onshore and offshore mooring in Newport in 2019, I was paying $181.04 a month for both. I guess you could say we were very fortunate to pay so little.

  7. c hall 2 months ago

    well,they better include a jar of vasoline with the (proposed) rate increase notices ,heck yea!
    san diego has reasonable moorage.

  8. Doug Clark 2 months ago

    Something wrong in your article where it quotes “average dock permit holders pay $12 to $30 per month”. Per foot? And compares it to mooring at $130
    Anyway I will say that as a visitor about 10 years ago they wanted $100 for one night on a mooring. No services. We got out of there and anchored overnight for free at Dana Point.

    • W Scott Wildman 2 months ago

      I caught that mistake as well. There are no units to the $12-$30. Good editing !!

    • Peter Kaz 2 months ago

      You read it correctly, no mistake, the dock owner pays 12$ per month while mooring people are paying 140$ per month for the same size boat… That’s a huge difference. Government/city is subsidizing the rich dock owner.
      The mooring rate in San Diego is about the same as current rate in Newport Beach.
      Also there has been mooring rate increases annual 5%… Now the 300% to 400% is in addition.

  9. J Mills 2 months ago

    It is somewhat sad to see the marina and moorage market escalating so much in beautiful Newport Beach but the market is the market and it seems to be happening nearly everywhere . . . Not so much in SF Bay because of the quantity of low quality empty slips.
    Mexican slips in the SOC have increased significantly also, again depending on location.
    I am currently paying about $1,300/month at the Papagayo Marina, Costa Rica for my Jeanneau 44DS, Salty Dancer, and the marina is barely 60% occupied . . . Their docks are far better than most though and their service is topnotch.

  10. Johnny Fotsch 2 months ago

    As a shore mooring permittee I’ve witnessed the cheap shots that dock owners are taking to remove the everyday citizen from their right to tidelands access.
    It’s time to involve the California Coastal Commission in this assault by the Haves against the Have Nots.
    (Stop the Steal).

  11. Chris A 2 months ago

    I always having a slip in thought that Newport Beach would be an expensive. Even at $7.71/ft it’s only $308.mo for a 40 ft yacht. THAT IS CHEAP! I was paying $1000/mo for a 40 footer in Redondo King Harbor 5 years ago. But someone named Sam mentioned that there’s also a $1000/ft one time fee to buy the slip ($40k!). That’s not cheap.

  12. John Kalucki 1 month ago

    The wait list is currently 10 to 15 years. How is that allocating a public resource fairly?

    Adjust prices until the wait list settles to about a year. There are so many derelict boats that never ever move. Force them out with the goal of having a more active harbor that the largest number of people can enjoy.

    https://www.cityofnewport.com/living-in-newport/newport-harbor/mooring-waiting-list-(1)

    • Bud Coomans 1 month ago

      That wait list is for Newport, Rhode Island!

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