A boat decorated with giant Santa Claus participates in the 103rd Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / December 14, 2011)

"What I will say is that the best way to impact an issue is to engage in a substantive discussion of it," he said. "We've got a council meeting tomorrow night, and there are many other opportunities between meetings [to engage]."

He added that he hasn't received many emails on the subject, which is one option for residents to lay out their opinions on city matters.

Another opportunity for harbor stakeholders to make their voices heard, he said, was at last week's workshop on the residential dock rent increases.

And make their voices heard, they did — to a point.

As anticipated, the proposal up for vote is different from the one offered as a jumping point at the workshop, though only slightly.

Whereas the previous proposal called for phasing in the increase over three years through 2015, the new one increases that period to five years, through 2017, according to a staff report.

Also under the new proposal, square footage will be comprised of the area of the float, gangway, internal slip and up to 10 feet around the float, minus any unusable areas on a dock's "backside." The city will determine on an individual basis if a portion of a dock is unusable. The initial proposal did not account for unusable dock areas.

Another tweak included in the new proposal eliminates a $1-million requirement for general liability insurance. Dock permits would require insurance, but not for a specified amount.

One provision of the proposal that did not change — despite complaints that property values are unequal and thus shouldn't be charged the same rent — sets the rent at 52.5 cents per square foot, regardless of a dock's location on the harbor.

City officials have stressed that the increases, which will affect about 970 harborside homeowners with piers on public tidelands, will not impact residential piers on private or county waterways.

Areas such as Dover Shores, Linda Isle, Promontory Bay and Harbor Island will not be affected by the increases, the report said.

Residential pier rent increases are the latest in a line of fee hikes for public tidelands users. City officials have said the increases are updates to rates that are way out of line with the current market.

At a meeting earlier this month, the council approved a round of significant rent increases for commercial harbor users such as marina operators, yacht clubs and fuel docks, and in 2010, the city tripled mooring fees.

While harbor stakeholders, including Stop the Dock Tax members and supporters, have vehemently argued against the rent increases, calling them unfair taxes, city officials say the actions are a kind of necessary evil to ensure that the city is complying with state mandates to charge fair market rates.

Furthermore, officials have said, the funds generated from the increases will be put toward much-needed, expensive harbor improvements, like various dredging projects, which have drawn from the city's general fund.


Twitter: @jillcowan