Look! Out in the harbor! It’s a tax. It’s rent. It’s a user’s fee. claims that the proposed “fees” on their residential docks is a tax. The city claims it is rent. What does the city use as its authoritative source to substantiate its claim? The Daily Pilot! According to the staff report, the editor of the Daily Pilot recognized it as rent and not a tax. I can assure you that the city would never use this column as an authoritative source. That would mean they would have to agree with me. Are you holding your breath? Me neither.

Let’s use a landlubber’s example to bring this home.

If you park your car in front of your house, do you pay for the privilege? Maybe, if there is a meter or you have to buy a permit. But then is it rent? Or is it a tax?

So the city is proposing to charge the average dock owner around $1000 per year for the privilege of that residential landowner building, maintaining, and insuring their dock, and then parking their boat there. Imagine if the city charged you $1000 per year to park your car in front of your house. And that is after you paid for and built the side of the street to park it on.

You would be ticked (not ticketed) too! In fact, the group is asking all of the dock owners to turn off their Christmas lights during the boat parade, and not to participate in the parade. That would “tax” my Christmas, how about you? I think the restaurant owners would have problems with their “rent” though. After all there wouldn’t be many visitors if the boat and property owners didn’t spend thousands of dollars to decorate for Christmas (their own money freely spent, not taxed–yet).

The city is the one in charge of the state owned tidelands (the land under the water). The city says the state is making them charge rent. Prior to January 1 of this year, residential docks were exempt from rent.

I know–who feels that sorry for those poor homeowners with those million dollar boats, having to pay rent on their docks?

Forget the fact that they paid a million (average) more than the same home without a dock, because of which, the city currently collects an average of $1500 a year additional property tax. Or forget that the boat owners have to register their boats and pay commercial property tax to the county based on its assessed value, of which the city gets an additional .15 percent. Forget that the boat owners buy fuel and pay tax on every gallon that they buy.

That is a lot of forgetting. Maybe that’s a little much to ask the city to consider that the “fair market rent” required by the state to already be covered by the taxes that they currently pay. Wait. Did I just call it a tax? Not exactly. I think I called it fair market rent. I quoted the city in calling it that. I did, however, compare it to a tax.

These dock owners are concerned that their taxes are going into the black hole of government paying for $200,000 lifeguards, etc. The city lumps all of their tidelands costs together and does not break down the costs to run the harbor inside the peninsula versus the ocean side of the peninsula.

The guys say that they would be willing to pay for their fair share use of the harbor and its maintenance, but they don’t want to subsidize those gold-plated lifeguards. The city needs to break down the costs for the harbor versus the beaches. They need to use the rents/taxes to pay for the costs of the harbor, no more. But that would make it a “user fee.” You can quote me.

Or if worse comes to worse, they can always do like I had indicated in a previous column and privatize the harbor. I bet I know a group of guys that would buy it….

Scott can be reached at [email protected]com.

Read about the city council’s recent special meeting on this issue here.

Tuesday, December 11th
4:00 p.m.
New Newport Beach City Hall
Next to the Central Library
100 Civic Center Dr.
City Council Chambers



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