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For Newport Beach dock owners, it's 'Live Brie or die' this Christmas

December 19, 2012|By Joseph Serna
  • A decorated boat takes part in last year's Newport Christmas Boat Parade.
A decorated boat takes part in last year's Newport Christmas Boat… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Categorize this one under First World problems.

Some homeowners in Newport Beach with residential docks are boycotting the annual Christmas Boat Parade, a 100-year-old tradition in the city that draws tourists from as far away as Europe, because the city is asking them to pay an average of $700 more a year to maintain their docks.

And when you present that increase in percentage terms, it’s even scarier. Some dock owners could see a 3,000% increase in their costs!

So what were these Newport Beach fat cats in City Hall charging residential dock owners before this latest money grab for their hard-earned dollars? Well, $100.

Earlier this month, residents argued against the city’s new fee structure to maintain homeowner’s harbor-side docks. State law mandates that the city has to charge them fair market value because the docks rest on public waters, City Manager Dave Kiff said, so residents will now be charged 52.5 cents per square foot of dock. (Coldwell Banker listed Newport Beach as the second priciest real estate market in the country last month.)

The new average fee among the city’s 1,200 dock owners will be between $700 and $900, Kiff said. One home, however, with a massive dock off the northern edge of Lido Isle, will pay $4,100. That dock can tie up more than a dozen boats.

This fight must be based on principle, because going from $100 to an average of $800 a year to anchor your boat in a public waterway after a hard day of sailing (unless you have one of those newfangled vessels with an engine) doesn’t seem like much to complain about. Well, there are always the sea lions barking at night, and the silt that’s built up and prevents the most massive of yachts from pulling into the harbor.

In response to the price hike, a small -- and seemingly dwindling -- number of homeowners are pledging to stay dark during the Christmas Boat Parade’s sister event, the Festival of Lights. While yachts and powerboats are ablaze with lights as they putt around the harbor, homes lining the water are traditionally decked out in holiday decorations. But that tradition is worth dimming this year, fee critics say, because it’s just not fair.

A website created to fight this latest money grab, Stop the Dock Tax, spells out the issue succinctly for these folks.

“We oppose the double taxation on our docks,” the site reads. “You already pay property tax; now they are proposing another tax to perpetuate the cycle of spending at city hall.”

Actually, officials said, the increased revenue is slated to go toward maintaining the harbor, not the city’s new $139-million Civic Center.

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