Letter to the Editor: Let’s Outlaw NIMBYism

Byline: Bernice Long

The city of Newport Beach, acting on the complaints of a neighbor about a backyard boat construction project, passed an ordinance in 2009 that prohibits “long-term” construction projects of more than six months’ duration in the backyards of private homes throughout the community. Evidently, enforcement is quite selective, because many home improvement projects that add a new kitchen, a home theater room or an extra bedroom take far longer than six months to complete.

However, for the past three years, the city’s ordinance enforcement efforts have been sharply focused on Dennis Holland, a well-known master shipwright who is perhaps best known for constructing the tall ship Pilgrim of Newport, now known as Spirit of Dana Point. Back in 1983, Holland completed this beautiful wooden vessel in the backyard of his former Costa Mesa home. The 13-year-long project was hailed as a triumph, Holland appeared on national television and he was applauded for his craftsmanship and can-do determination.

Today, Holland lives in Newport Beach, and he has been working on his current project — a complete restoration of the 1916 sailboat Shawnee, once owned by former Newport Beach resident and “Silversmith to the Stars” Alan Adler. This magnificent vessel once turned heads from Northern California to Southern California, and countless celebrities and dignitaries cruised aboard over the years. The vessel is both historically important and locally significant.

However, it seems that times have changed. Newport Beach, a town founded by people who built boats in their backyards and garages, and appreciated the beauty and romance of brilliantly designed sailing vessels, seems to have changed, too.

Today, the “not in my backyard” NIMBYs seem to have taken over. Back 20 years ago, they were pretty much limited to the occasional oddball little old lady who complained about the newborn baby next door crying all the time, or the fact that the neighbor’s new red car was too “wild” to be parked in a respectable neighborhood.

The new breed of NIMBY isn’t shy about complaining over so-called “view issues” of any sort — and those, it seems, include trailerable boats in driveways or boats being built in backyards. However, nowadays, instead of ignoring silly complaints from the “colorful characters” of the NIMBY crowd, the city seems more than willing to focus the full force of law enforcement down on stamping out anything that might be fun, creative or “outside the cookie-cutter box.”

If enough of us get together and call our council members, do you thing the city council could pass an ordinance outlawing NIMBY complaints in our community? That, more than anything else, might make this city — a community built for and by boaters — a better place, indeed.

Bernice Long

Newport Beach

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