Jetpacks in Newport Beach limited to one company, face new restrictions

Jetpacks in Newport Beach won't be banned but face new restrictions

Water jetpacks won't be completely banned from Newport Harbor, but they will face new restrictions, the City Council has decided.

The Newport Beach City Council voted 4 to 2 Tuesday to allow one jetpack business to operate, but residents would be prohibited from using their own jetpacks, the Daily Pilot reported.

The move represents another twist in the council's thinking on the matter. On April 28, council members voted to direct staff to draft an ordinance banning all water-propelled devices in the harbor.

The city Harbor Commission had studied the activity, including residents' concerns about safety and noise, and ultimately recommended a ban.

Under the ordinance approved Tuesday, the commercial operator is allowed in the harbor with a year-to-year revocable permit limited to the Turning Basin between Lido Marina Village and Coast Highway.

Water jetpacks are backpack-style devices that use seawater to propel riders into the air while they are tethered to an instructor's watercraft via a long hose.

Jetpack America, the sole operator in Newport Beach, has been in the harbor for four years.

The ordinance allows city staff to work with Jetpack America on setting hours and days of operation and requires the business carry a level of insurance acceptable to city officials.

"I'd like to give it a try for a year," said Mayor Ed Selich. "Let's take it to the Turning Basin and see how it works there."

The council's decision ends nearly a year of debate between Jetpack America and nearby homeowners, who say the operation is too noisy.

George Farrah has lived in front of Jetpack America's operation for the past four years. The noise was such an annoyance that he had to install thicker windows on his home office so he could work, he said.

"It's a cross between a vacuum cleaner and sometimes a jackhammer," Farrah said of the operation. "It's like having a jet engine overhead eight hours a day, seven days a week."

In June, the City Council agreed to a six-month moratorium on permits for businesses operating water-propelled vessels like jetpacks while the Harbor Commission studied the issue.

Fry is a reporter for Times Community News.

Twitter: hannahfrytcn

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times