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Boat Double-Parking Is Banned by Newport

October 29, 2003|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

A fire code that would halt the longtime practice of squeezing multiple boats into a single slip to conserve space and money was approved Tuesday by the Newport Beach City Council.

The vote was 4 to 0, with Councilmen Tod W. Ridgeway abstaining and Gary B. Adams absent. The measure is designed to minimize the risk of fire spreading from one boat to another, which authorities said is increased if vessels are lashed together in a slip.

In Newport Harbor, where slips are scarce, yacht brokers, marinas and charter companies routinely cram several boats into large slips.

The practice has gone unchecked despite a municipal code that forbids it. City officials said their Harbor Resources Division hasn't had the staff to enforce the city law.

But the city's newly formed Harbor Commission decided that fire safety in the harbor was of great concern and that code enforcement must become a priority. The fire code was developed by state fire officials and is considered more comprehensive than the city's law.

One of the commission's first tasks was determining the extent of the problem in Newport Harbor.

A survey of 63 businesses in the harbor last year found that more than half were in violation.

At the 32 sites in violation, 10 had rafting violations, boats tied to one another outside a dock, and 29 had multiple vessels in a single slip.

After hearing from owners of several yacht brokers and boat rental companies concerned that the code would be a hardship, Mayor Steve Bromberg said Tuesday that the city plans to work with all of the affected businesses to help them comply with the new regulations.

"We're going to go on a case-by-case basis," he said. "We are all in this together.... We have the same interests as you, and we will work with you."

If all were brought into compliance, the city estimates that about 150 vessels would have to be moved.

The city plans to target businesses first and then private slips that are in violation.

Business owners say the law will force them to find other slips that can cost up to $50 a foot for those large enough to hold yachts longer than 40 feet.

The Harbor Commission has asked the city to create an inspection team drawn from the Fire Department, the harbor resources staff and the sheriff's harbor patrol. The team would develop an inspection program and a system for reporting violations.

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