Legal action taken in pier dispute

A Newport Beach resident has filed a civil action against the city over the alleged mishandling of the permit for the dock that stretches in front of his family's Balboa Island home.

The petition, filed Monday on behalf of former professional basketball player John Vallely, came just one day ahead of the third time the dock issue went before the City Council.

Council members voted Tuesday to dismiss proposed changes to the city's harbor code that would have affected the way permits are transferred for piers that encroach on another's dock area, as Vallely's does.

In a 5-1 vote, the council — with members Michael Henn dissenting and Leslie Daigle absent — agreed to leave the process as is: If a resident has a pier that encroaches on someone else's waterfront and wants to transfer the permit for that pier to a buyer of the property, then approval must be sought from the Newport Beach Harbor Commission.

Vallely contends that he does not need the commission's approval to acquire the permit that had been held by his mother, who died last year.

The council had the option of voting to approve staff recommendations that would have allowed permits to pass between family members without commission approval. Council members could have voted two weeks ago on the issue, but extensive discussion about trash removal ate up the session.

In the meantime, Vallely filed the legal action.

Vallely said he proceeded with the action because he was under a 90-day filing limit with Orange County Superior Court related to the city turning down his initial request that it sign off on the permit reassignment.

The council on Tuesday agreed to one change, approving indemnity clauses that give added protection to the city against potential damages.

"We thought this was a way to avoid some litigation," Mayor Keith Curry said as the discussion opened. "It appears that's not the case."

Regardless of the council's decision, Vallely maintains that the dock in front of his home is exempt from the requirement to apply for a new permit because it is commercial.

"They really have left me no options except to try to enforce the law through these courts," he said Sunday.

An amendment to the city's harbor code would otherwise have had limited effects.

Fewer than 10 piers in Newport Beach jut into the waters in front of adjacent upland property, according to the most recent staff report, and c

urrent law restricts construction of such encroachment.

In Vallely's case, according to a letter to the council from his attorney, Harry Carmack, a pier existed in front of the home when his father bought the house in 1935.

Vallely's father received permits within a few years to expand it twice, according to the letter. These additions allowed the pier to extend into the waters facing the property next door, and were used by his parents to run a small boat rental business.

The dock has not been changed since.

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