Newport Beach won't ban jetpacks

Jetpack businesses will be allowed, though regulated, in Newport Beach

Newport Beach will not ban jetpack businesses, but instead will regulate the companies that offer paying customers water-propelled rides in the city's congested harbor.

The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday directed staff to write an ordinance that would allow a limited number of commercial jetpack businesses to operate in the harbor.

The action goes against the recommendation of the city's Harbor Commission, which had proposed banning jetpack businesses in Newport Harbor.

"I'd like this to find a way to get to a 'yes' from the council," Councilman Keith Curry said. "I don't think we need an absolute prohibition."

However, council members agreed that regulating jetpack businesses is unavoidable. The new law also would ban residents and tourists from using their own jetpacks on the various waterways in Newport Beach.

Jetpacks are backpack-style devices that use seawater to blast riders into the air while they are tethered by a long hose to an instructor's watercraft.

In June, the City Council agreed to a six-month moratorium on permits for businesses operating "water-propelled vessels" like jetpacks. Council members directed the Harbor Commission to study the activity, including residents' concerns about safety and noise.

One company, Jetpack America, had its permits before the moratorium and was allowed to operate in the harbor throughout the ban.

After months of studies and public hearings, the Harbor Commission voted in December to recommend that the council allow water-propulsion businesses to operate only on the open ocean.

Hannah Fry is a Times Community News reporter.

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