Newport Beach approves revisions in harbor code for marine activities permits

Newport Harbor.
The Newport Beach City Council approved changes to a section of the city’s Harbor Code that deals with marine activities permits, which are required of businesses that operate or partially operate on the water.
(File Photo)

All new commercial activities in Newport Harbor will now be required to obtain a marine activities permit. No exemptions.

Newport Beach City Council members approved in a 5-1 vote the recommended changes and additional revisions that cropped up during discussion of the permits, which are required of businesses that operate or partially operate on the water.

Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon cast the lone dissenting vote. Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield recused himself.

Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs said during a study session prior to the meeting that marine activities permits are a way to manage the harbor and its growth to minimize its impact on the harbor businesses and the residential community surrounding it.

In a staff report, city staff said there are currently 42 active marine activities permits in Newport Beach with eight applications currently in progress. About 20 to 30 businesses have been identified as requiring a permit under current city code.

Activities currently requiring permits are passenger-carrying charter operators, boat rental businesses and human-powered craft rental businesses such as kayaks and stand-up paddle boarding. Joining them with the council’s approval Tuesday night will be new “six-pack” and “12-pack” charters and those using a vessel to conduct a business or service.

Such existing operators will be exempt from obtaining a MAP, but must register with the city and meet all requirements to obtain a permit save for the parking requirement for continued operation.

Recommendations also require all new commercial businesses to obtain a marine activities permit and eliminates all business exemptions, according to city staff.

Other changes include requiring all businesses to maintain adequate insurance and name the city as an additional insured. Businesses will also be required to load and unload passengers at a private dock and limit outdoor lighting to minimize skyglow or glare onto adjacent properties, the shoreline, coastal waters or bluffs.

Fines were also raised. First-time violators may see a fine of up to $1,000. Second-time violators of the same ordinance or permit within one year of the first violation may see fines up to $2,000 and third-time violators will see fines of up to $3,000.

City staff said the increase will provide a more effective tool for code enforcement officers to bring businesses into compliance.

The additional changes by the City Council allow risk managers to decide the level of insurance required of businesses and that “grandfathered” businesses — those that would fall out of compliance due to changes in regulations — would not be required to have a marine activities permit unless the harbormaster determines that there is a substantial change in its commercial activities.

That decision can also be appealed to the Harbor Commission.

City staff was also directed to bring the applications for the four new types of permits for commercial fishing vessels for review by council.

The section of the Harbor Code that was under review Tuesday dealt explicitly with marine activities permits as part of an overall effort to update the city’s Harbor Code. City staff said the section needed to be dealt with separately from other revisions as it relates to businesses on the harbor specifically.

The Harbor Commission’s ad hoc committee held two meetings in October 2019 to hear public testimony on the issue.

“The Harbor Commission felt this impacted a very different stakeholder group and wanted to work with the business community separately,” said city staff in a report prepared for the meeting.

The item will be passed to a second reading, scheduled for Jan. 26.

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