Byline: Taylor Hill
NEWPORT BEACH — While Newport Beach Harbor Commission members and city officials decide what to do with Newport Harbor’s current vessel overhang rules and regulations, Waterfront Newport Beach LLC is moving forward with plans for new charter boat docks at 2901 W. Coast Highway.
Following the California Coastal Commission’s approval at its Oct. 5 meeting, the charter boat company is now one step closer to replacing its existing six-slip perpendicular dock configuration with a five-slip slanted dock system capable of handling three large charter boats ranging from 94 to 148 feet in length.
The site’s current dock system is set up to accommodate vessels 60 feet in length. However, charter boats Royal Princess (94 feet) and Ambassador (126 feet) are currently docked at the site, andAmbassador is in violation of the harbor’s guidelines prohibiting vessel overhang into navigation channels.
According to Newport Beach’s current municipal code, boats cannot extend past the pier head line — or the end of the slip — out into the bay any farther than the width of the boat’s beam. Ambassador has a beam of 25 feet, meaning it exceeds the permitted limit by 1 foot. But future plans for the site include permanently docking an even larger charter boat here: the 148-foot Majestic.
The 400-passenger vessel is currently berthed in Long Beach but often is called to Newport Harbor for special events and weddings. When docked at Waterfront Newport Beach, the boat significantly exceeds the overhang limits, sticking out past the project line into Newport Harbor’s navigable waters.
The new dock system will slant the slips built for Majestic and Ambassador, allowing both vessels to remain permanently docked in the area and minimizing the current vessel overhangs by 36 and 21 feet, respectively.
Before construction can begin on the docks, the Newport Harbor Resources Division must sign off on the plan, approving the new Marine Activities Permit, which takes into account the new plan introduced by Waterfront Newport Beach to accommodate the new vessel configuration.
The plan to reconfigure the marina at 2901 W. Coast Highway was originally brought up at a December 2010 Harbor Commission meeting. Commissioners discussed what size boat is appropriate for Newport Harbor, what priority commercial vessels have in relationship to recreational boating activities and what to do about the harbor’s outdated bulkhead, pier head and project line regulations.
The topic was then introduced at a Jan. 25 Newport Beach City Council study session, where council members gave Harbor Resources manager Chris Miller the nod to approve the dock project in concept — allowing Waterfront Newport Beach to gain Coastal Commission and Army Corps of Engineers approval.
While the project meets the harbor’s current overhang guidelines, some harbor commissioners and city council members did not approve of adding the slanted docks as a way for large boats to avoid jutting out into navigable waterways.
“To start canting docks, and contorting them so that they go around the intent of the law, I don’t think adds to the overall vision of a world-class harbor,” said harbor commissioner Ralph Rodheim. “If it’s approved, you’ve just put a 148-foot boat catawampus into our harbor. Legally, can you do it? Yes. But I don’t think it’s setting a good precedent.”
Construction is planned to start with the demolition of the existing 2,950-square-foot dock system consisting of six slips and 23 pilings. It would be replaced with a new 4,325-square-foot commercial vessel dock system in a different configuration, with 23 concrete pilings and four gangway platform support piles. The proposed new dock system has approximately 1,375 square feet more water coverage than the existing commercial dock, but it is smaller than the originally designed 1980s-built dock, which included 4,850 square feet of water coverage.
The four vessels planned to be berthed at the site include the 148-foot Majestic,
the 126-foot Ambassador, the 94-foot Royal Princess and the 96-foot Spirit of Newport.
In addition to the four vessels berthed at the site, the Coastal Commission stipulated that on-site short-term public dock access must be incorporated into the project, with space for two 20-foot vessels to stay for 20 minutes to two hours. A 30-foot-long side-tie berth must also be included, for use by the city’s proposed water taxi service.
A parking plan was also included in the project’s Coastal Commission application, to take into account the increase in charter boat passenger capacity for the newly configured docks.