L.A. Now

Newport Beach to take man to court over backyard boat

The city of Newport Beach is planning to take to court a 65-year-old resident who is refusing to remove a 72-foot antique sailing boat from his backyard.

For years, neighbors of Dennis Holland have complained that the rescued 1916-built ketch, called the Shawnee, is an eyesore. Holland had the old ship moved to his backyard so he could restore it.

"It is an inappropriate use in a residential neighborhood," City Atty. David Hunt said. "The city has tried to work with him to get the matter resolved, but he hasn't resolved it, so we will take the next step to protect the residents of the neighborhood."

City officials have attempted to obtain a time line from Holland to determine when he will complete his project. They said Holland has never given them a firm date, even though the city gave him a set of deadlines by granting him two consecutive six-month permits to finish the restoration.

Because of the boat's age, the intensive restoration work can't be rushed, Holland said, adding that it can't be moved without causing additional damage.

"She's an old lady and needs to be treated like one," he said.

The City Council passed an ordinance in 2009 to accommodate the special case, but after the second of Holland's permits expired in January, and he still had not finished his project, Newport Beach City Hall began to slap him with fines that now total almost $20,000.

Holland has also violated the 2009 zoning ordinance, which was created because of him and required him to maintain a six-month permit for the project, according to the city.

Holland said this week that he still didn't know when he could finish the work.

He said he first set eyes on the boat when he was 8 years old in San Francisco, where the boat was originally docked.

"Her design is unbelievably beautiful," he said. "Just gorgeous. She is like a piece of artwork to me."

Fixing up the old ship has been a project for Holland and his son. It is also a form of therapy for Holland, who said he was diagnosed with prostate cancer about seven years ago.

In addition, Holland said the stress from the thousands in fines has been bad for his health. While he did not say if or how he intended to pay the fines, he said he would pursue the matter in court.

"I can't just walk away from the boat," Holland said. "She has to be saved. I couldn't live with myself if I walked away from her."

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