A boat that Newport Beach staff and harbor commissioners targeted for eviction got no reprieve after a city hearing officer rejected the owner’s appeal of his mooring permit revocation.
Wild Wave, a 1973 cabin cruiser recognizable for its attached floating osprey roost, must leave its mooring near the Newport Harbor Yacht Club because some of the chain attached to weights keeping the boat in place is undersize and the homemade raptor perch lacks a permit.
City staff and some residents consider Wild Wave a nuisance, with harbor neighbors complaining about the boat’s “blighted” appearance and accusing owner John Panek of noisily and messily working on the boat into the night. Records show exchanges between Panek and the city going back to at least August 2017.
The Harbor Commission voted in September to revoke the boat’s mooring permit because it determined that Panek had violated city codes on five grounds. Hearing officer Edward Johnson rejected three of those but agreed with two. He needed to affirm only one to uphold the revocation.
The city manages about 1,200 Newport Harbor moorings, which function as marine parking stalls. A lengthy section of the municipal code is dedicated to harbor uses.
“There is a dearth of evidence” that the chain and the roost had caused harm, Johnson wrote in his decision, dated Nov. 8. But he said there is “substantial evidence showing the city’s vigilance in assuring harbor safety through regular chain standard updates and required periodic mooring inspections.”
“Given the purpose of the harbor code is to protect public safety and the city’s ongoing efforts to update chain standards, the preponderance of evidence supports the revocation of permittee’s permit for failure to adhere to safety standards,” Johnson wrote.
Johnson said there was no evidence supporting the city’s contention that the boat was too cluttered to operate, that it lacked adequate insurance and that Panek had intentionally misinterpreted the boat’s length on his permit application.
Panek listed Wild Wave as 59 feet long on his permit application but 64 feet in Coast Guard documentation. He said those were its at-waterline and overall length dimensions, respectively. The city requires that 1-inch chains be attached to the underside of tackle for boats 60 feet and longer. The city’s mooring maintenance contractor said Panek used a 7/8-inch bottom chain on his mooring’s west side.
Johnson was unconvinced by Panek’s claims that Wild Wave is a commercial fishing and construction vessel and thus exempt from the regulations the city accused Panek of breaking. Johnson said Panek referenced an irrelevant chapter of the city code in his defense.
Panek, who lives in Long Beach, hinted he would seek a review of Johnson’s decision in Orange County Superior Court.
“Even though all the accusations are false, we at least prevailed with three of the five,” Panek said in an email. “It is believed that the courts won’t be as misguided as both the Harbor Commission and the Harbor [Department’s] hearing officer was.”