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Daily Pilot

Commentary: SB 152 only part of dock fee decision

By Dave Kiff

12:23 PM PST, December 18, 2012

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Mr. Seymour Beek correctly points out that nothing in Senate Bill 152 requires the city of Newport Beach to charge fair market value for residential piers over public recreational waters.

That's consistent with what we have said and written. However, other things do require it — and that's also consistent with what we have said and written.

In two separate (and printed) presentations at public meetings (Nov. 19 and 28), I said and wrote that three (3) things direct us to charge fair market value for residential piers:

•The California Constitution's prohibition on gifting public assets (Article XVI, Section 6).

•The city's Beacon Bay Bill (Chapter 74 of the Statutes of 1978, as amended. Some writers have confused this bill with SB 152 — but it's not the same law).

•The Public Trust Doctrine as the State Lands Commission interprets it.

None of those three things is SB 152. All three things are important. Take for example the Public Trust Doctrine: …. "the Legislature has the power to delegate the management responsibility of tidelands and submerged lands to local governments. When it does so, these lands are known as granted lands, and the grantees that manage them must ensure that they are used in ways that are consistent with the public trust and with any other conditions the Legislature imposes.…"

I don't know how much more clear we could have been, given how clear the Constitution, the Beacon Bay Bill and the Public Trust Doctrine are. As to SB 152, we have mentioned it often because the State Lands Commission is the city's own landlord. We watch what the commission does, and what they are forced to do, closely. The commission itself was recently chastised by the State Bureau of Audits (see Report No. 2010-125) for undervaluing certain types of leases, failing to appraise its properties regularly, and for not always promptly conducting rent reviews.

In years past, the commission (and the Legislature) has told Newport Beach to fix mistakes our predecessors made in regards to our state tidelands management. Reasonable folks may disagree, but to me it is unwise to not follow the law and hope that such a result won't happen again.

DAVE KIFF is city manager of Newport Beach.