Some boat owners holding tight to their moorings

Revisionist history in the making.  Rush Hill chaired the citizens committee that determined the scope and size of the city hall project.  He bragged about it in his 2010 campaign video and assured voters that he was in charge.  You can see it here.  Now Hill says that “he expressed a goal to bring it in under $90 million during a campaign speech in 2010. When he arrived in office, he argues, it was too late to bring down the costs because the project’s scope had changed.”

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Some boat owners holding tight to their moorings

Group of ‘salty dogs’ tell City Council that they don’t like the idea of switching to docks.

By Emily Foxhall

7:23 PM PDT, June 13, 2014

Newport Beach Mayor Rush Hill has pushed to replace some of these moorings, as they are called, with floating docks. Rather than scatter boats throughout the harbor’s center, two boats could be parked on either side of a dock, significantly consolidating the harbor space taken up by idled boats.

It would be easier to tie up vessels, and one day water and power could be provided to them, Hill says. Plus, most important from his perspective, it would create more open space for the public.

But the can-and-line mooring method is tried and true, not to mention low-cost, and a group of “salty dogs,” as one referred to them, doesn’t see any reason to change it.

They are the “average joes” — another member-given nickname — of the harbor, the ones who can’t necessarily afford a harbor-front home with a dock but who can pay the annual fee for a mooring. They love to sail and they love to be on the water — some to the point of choosing to live on their boats year-round.

Not all mooring holders feel so attached to this particular way of parking their boats. In fact some have already volunteered to make the switch to docks when possible. But some who do feeling strongly about their moorings, as members of the Newport Mooring Assn., showed up at the City Council study session Tuesday to offer comments about the floating dock idea. The group had taken an informal survey, and the results were presented at the meeting: of 61 respondents, 85% said they didn’t like the idea of floating docks.

“It kind of seems to me to be a government solution to a problem that really doesn’t exist,” said association board member Bill Moses.

The Harbor Commission committee that reviewed the idea was looking for a way to bring more value to permit holders, but to this nautical bunch, the open space around the boats that moorings allow for is critical. It creates the feeling of privacy, as if the ocean water were a moat around a floating castle, they said.

“Moorings are the last frontier for boating,” Councilwoman Leslie Daigle noted Tuesday, concerned about the “independent spirit” that might be lost if they disappeared.

“I used to have a mooring and I enjoyed that, what you’re talking about, just having space around you, which in this town is hard to find,” agreed Harbor Commissioner Brad Avery, who presented a subcommittee’s recommendations for a floating dock pilot project. “But the mooring permit doesn’t give them the right to have that. It’s just the mooring. The water belongs to everybody.”

Hill has promised that not every mooring holder would have to switch to a dock, but to them the mayor is not one to be trusted. They don’t care that he says the mooring holders would have a choice of whether or not to switch. They think they would have to help pay for the project regardless, and if it goes forward they think they might be forced dockside one day too.

After all, they say, when Hill was a councilman several years ago, he promised that the cost of building the Newport Beach Civic Center wouldn’t exceed $90 million. The facility came in at $144 million. (Hill says that he expressed a goal to bring it in under $90 million during a campaign speech in 2010. When he arrived in office, he argues, it was too late to bring down the costs because the project’s scope had changed.)

On Tuesday, the Harbor Commission suggested that the council put in some docks, perhaps six, as a pilot project to let a few boat owners try them out and others in the harbor to see them. The floats would measure 40 to 50 feet long and 6 feet wide.

The total cost for the pilot program would be about $248,000, according to the commission, based on an estimate of $35,000 per float, $20,000 for engineering and $3,000 for installation of sea lion deterrents. The commission suggested that electricity and water not be hooked up yet since that would be too complex for a trial run.

Hill was adamant that the cost to mooring permit holders should not rise, but noted in an interview later that the fees they already pay could cover the docks over a certain period of time.

But rather than move forward on the pilot program just yet, council members asked that city staff first survey all mooring holders and harbor-front homeowners, plus take input from anyone else who might want to chime in.

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