Newport Beach city staff are concerned about a "proliferation" of new companies eyeing Newport Harbor as a place to take clients who wish to go airborne using water-propelled jetpacks and similar recreational devices.

On Tuesday, City Council members are expected to vote on whether to adopt an ordinance that would halt the permitting of such businesses, the impending growth of which was described in a staff report as "a current and immediate threat to the public peace, health and safety."

So far, only one business, Jetpack America, has been permitted.

  • Related
  • Topics
  • Laws and Legislation
  • Waterway and Maritime Transportation
  • Conservation
  • See more topics »

But two other groups also recently expressed interest in applying for a permit, Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller said.

Though one of the possible applicants has since dropped the idea because he couldn't find a marina from which to operate, the interest suggests more requests to come.

"Since other companies have expressed interest in coming in and setting up similar operations in the harbor, I felt it was prudent to bring this to the council's attention so they can decide whether or not to further review the subject," Miller said.

The businesses provide clients with a device, such as a jetpack, board or even shoes that suck water through a lengthy hose using a modified jetski. The water is propelled from the device at a high enough speed to lift the wearer several feet out of the water.

Such activity is "out of character with the design and residential character of Newport Harbor," the proposed ordinance states, "and there is a distinct lack of available space to accommodate multiple water-propulsion vessels in the channels."

A man using the technology in Newport Harbor in March was briefly knocked unconscious when he fell after being elevated and hit a piece of the equipment. The president of Newport Beach-based Jetpack America said at the time that safety was a top concern for the company and that this was its only incident requiring emergency help.

Other recreational users such as stand-up paddleboarders, kayakers and sailors might also be at risk of injury from being near the water-propelled devices, the staff report said.

If approved, the ordinance would halt permitting for one year, giving staff time to assess how to better manage the businesses, according to the report.

"After all, one, two or maybe three of these operations in the harbor might be OK, but how many is too many?" asked City Manager Dave Kiff in his routine community email.

Jetpack America will be able to continue its operations regardless of whether the ordinance is passed.

*

Lifted parking spaces

Also during the meeting, council members will discuss how vehicle lifts might be better regulated.

According to a memo from the Planning Commission, neither a city policy nor code currently governs vehicle lifts, which allow cars to be parked on platforms that can then be raised above a traditional parking space, where a second car might be parked.

The issue came to the commission's attention in May when it considered a request to count the parking spaces provided by lifts as individual spots.

The commission approved the applicant's request, as the zoning administrator had done, but noted that it is not clear according to law whether a lift space can count as a required parking space to meet city mandates.

Planning Commissioner Kory Kramer had appealed the zoning administrator's approval.

Aesthetics and safety of the lifts have also not been recognized by city law, the memo states.

*

Water taxi review

During the council study session, a subcommittee of the Harbor Commission will present its findings regarding the possible introduction of water taxis in the harbor.

The Newport Beach Police Department will also update council members on preparations for the Fourth of July celebrations.

The regular meeting starts at 7 p.m., with the study session at 4 p.m., in the Civic Center, 100 Civic Center Drive.

[For the record, 6:01 p.m. June 23: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the zoning administrator had denied a proposal for lift parking. In fact, the zoning administrator approved the proposal, which allowed spaces created by vehicle lifts to count toward a city parking requirement.]