Newport Beach Harbor Commission Revisits Policy for Dock Extensions and Reconfigurations

The Commission was asked by the City Council to reevaluate the policy again after concerns were raised about the inability of the Harbor Commission to resolve several recent applications.

NEWPORT BEACH— The Newport Beach Harbor Commission has once again revisited the city’s policy dictating the circumstances in which a dock or float can extend past the pier headline. The Commission was asked by the City Council to review Policy H-1, Harbor Permit Policy, for clarification after a recent dock extension approved by the Commission was called for review by a city council member.

Policy H-1 is intended to lay out the process for exceptions to a city rule that prohibits piers and floats from extending beyond the pierhead line.

Commissioners Gary Williams and Don Yahn, who were on a subcommittee tasked with looking at Policy H-1, brought proposed changes to the Commission at its May 12 meeting. Proposed changes included adding language explicitly stating that all of the five conditions laid out in the policy must be met in order for a permit to be approved for a pier or float to extend bayward beyond the pierhead. They also suggested replacing a condition that the existing pier or float was legally previously permitted to encroach bayward beyond the pierhead line with a condition that the city has not issued any Notice of Violation for the existing pier or float encroaching bayward beyond the pierhead line.

Commission Chair Bill Kenney suggested replacing the requirement that all conditions be met with taking the following conditions into consideration, to allow for more flexibility. The Commission ultimately asked the subcommittee to go back and review one of the previous versions of Policy H-1 and come back with new suggestions at a later meeting.

The City Council had asked the Commission to review the policy after several recent applications heard by the Harbor Commission led to confusion about making a determination of what should be allowed. In November 2020, City Councilmember Jeff Herdman called for a review of the Harbor Commission’s approval of a dock reconfiguration at the eastern tip of Lido Isle.

When the float was constructed in 1989, it was not permitted to extend past the pierhead line but was built 7-feet past it, according to a staff report. This raised questions about whether a recent application to reconfigure the dock, which would also extend 7-feet past the pierhead line, should be approved since not all the conditions laid out in H-1 were met.

“My position personally was the dock was built, there was permit, it must have been inspected, if the city didn’t catch the fact that it was 7-feet beyond the pier headline when it was inspected upon completion, then I think by right that permittee has the right to continue to extend,” said Kenney at the meeting.

One of the biggest challenges has been the number of docks and floats that have extended beyond the pierhead line since their construction and whether or not they should be grandfathered in regardless if they were permitted or not. Commissioner Scott Cunningham asked for a rough estimate about how many docks in the harbor today extend past the pierhead line and Newport Beach Public Works Department Administrative Manager Chris Miller guessed about 25 percent.

The H-1 Policy was established in 1964 and has been revised 62 times since then. Another round of proposed edits to the policy from the subcommittee is expected to come before the Commission at its June meeting.

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