Byline: Taylor Hill
OCEANSIDE — The issue of slip transfers — being able to sell a boat in Oceanside Harbor and transfer the right to lease its slip to a new buyer — is about to get a closer look.
Oceanside Harbor and Beaches director Frank Quan presented the Oceanside Harbor Advisory Committee with a report on slip transfers at its May 24 meeting, looking into a situation that the city believes some people are taking advantage of. The problem lies in the municipally run harbor’s practice of allowing boat owners to transfer their slip spaces to a buyer when selling their vessel, Quan said.
“It’s perceived that a boat with a slip is worth more,” Quan explained. “There is some abuse of the system, and I’m not sure if we would ever be able to get rid of all of the abuse.”
The current transfer system allows boat owners who are leasing slip space in Oceanside Harbor to sell their boat — as long as it is registered and passes the Coast Guard’s “seaworthy” inspection — and then transfer the boat’s slip to the new boat owner. A transfer fee of $20 per foot of boat or slip, whichever is greater, must be paid to the city.
The slip transferability process gives boat buyers a way to avoid the waiting list for slips in Oceanside Harbor. There are currently 69 boaters on the waiting list for slips at the 950-slip harbor.
Quan said that the wait for smaller slips in the 26-foot range can be as long as two to three years. Boaters seeking larger slips or end-ties for boats longer than 50 feet may wait eight to 10 years for a spot to open.
Some boaters have complained that the current slip transferability practice has led to a longer waiting list, and abuse of the system. Smaller boats or rundown boats can sell for more than they are actually worth, when buyers are also getting an Oceanside Harbor slip with the deal.
A buyer who purchases an old boat in an existing slip can simply transfer the old boat’s slip lease into his or her name, and then move a new boat into that space, once the old boat is removed.
Quan said he has even received calls reporting that boat owners in Oceanside are placing ads online stating they had a “slip for sale.” “We get calls on advertisements for slips for sale, and our attorney even revoked one person’s slip permit for that,” Quan said.
In Newport Harbor, a similar situation to Oceanside’s emerged when the city changed its policy on transfers of the harbor’s public moorings from one boat owner to another. Derelict boats were regularly fetching thousands of dollars more than their book value, in exchange for the transfer of each boat’s mooring with the vessel sale.
But after an Orange County Grand Jury in 2007 found the mooring transfer practice to essentially involve the “buying and selling of a public asset,” city officials began limiting transfers in 2010, phasing out the practice over the next several years.
Doing away with the transfer system is a touchy subject, as Oceanside’s location has led to unique set of circumstances. Boat owners in Newport Harbor have both public and private moorings and marinas to choose from, but Oceanside boaters only have one option: the municipal harbor.
“If we didn’t allow transfers, it would really restrict the sale of boats in the harbor, because buyers wouldn’t have any place within 30 miles of Oceanside to put their boat,” Quan said. “I’m not sure if it’s reasonable to just do away with transfers entirely.” The topic will be discussed at the Harbor Advisory Committee’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 27.
If the committee decides to look into changing the slip transfer rules, an ad hoc committee would need to be formed and public workshops would be held, giving harbor boaters the opportunity to discuss the issue at length. It would then be up to the Oceanside City Council to decide whether any changes are made.