Long Beach marina struggles to balance boater interests with visitor-serving uses.
LONG BEACH ― Coastal cities up and down the coast from San Diego to Ventura are redeveloping waterfront properties to be more appealing and to ultimately increase the economic value of these harbors. These marinas provide many amenities not just to the surrounding community but to visitors from near and far including local and out-of-town boaters.
Alamitos Bay Landing, located at the south end of Alamitos Bay Marina in Long Beach, while evolving has been dealing with growing pains. The area was originally called Seaport Village. Bancap, a real estate investment firm, took over the property in 1996 – 26 years after the center first opened and changed the name to Alamitos Bay Landing.
A recent redevelopment of Alamitos Bay Landing brought new restaurants to the area, all in hopes of drawing more visitors to Long Beach’s waterfront. The city’s goal to increase visitor-serving foot traffic at this locale is consistent with similar visions of redevelopment projects at harbors in San Diego, Dana Point, Redondo Beach, Marina del Rey and Ventura County.
However some of the Alamitos Bay Marina’s boaters have expressed their frustrations with the recent changes at this establishment. Many nuisances root from parking issues and alleged theft.
Parking and Noise
Michael Lesner, a liveaboard adjacent to the Alamitos Bay Landing, told The Log the story about the valet’s erratic driving which almost caused a car to end up in the water.
Lesner also relayed the delivery trucks are another big issue. He said a delivery truck drove straight into his car while Lesner was unable to move his car due to gridlock in the area.
Dean Zanone, also a boat owner with a slip next to the revitalized center, had similar complaints about the delivery trucks.
“Restaurant delivery trucks are either in the Marina lot or double parked on the roadway, forcing boaters to drive into opposing lanes,” Zanone stated.
Lesner contends he had to wait 12 years to get his liveaboard status. Now he says he has to deal with gridlock, parking issues and noise.
“Amplified music with no roof keeps us awake all night,” Lesner asserts. “We went to noise abatement. It was ignored.”
Zanone relayed a similar sentiment.
“It is now the norm to have traffic, noise, trash, graffiti, and crime in the marina lot,” Zanone said.
The establishments are only allowed a certain threshold of decibels, according to Elvira Hallinan, Marine Bureau Manager for Long Beach’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Marina. Anyone who exceeds the established decibel threshold would be cited, she added. Violators who are cited on multiple occasions risk losing their entertainment permit.
Hallinan said she couldn’t speak to whether or not any of the restaurants have been issued a citation, however.
As the reporter of this article was speaking to the Marine Patrol Officer on March 26, the officer turned towards a patron asking him to move his car. The patron was not a boat owner and yet was parked in a designated boater parking space.
“I am a city employee though. I always park here when I meet the mayor. That’s why I don’t move it,” the patron responded when asked by the officer if he had a boater parking permit.
The patron insisted on keeping his car there and told the officer to go ahead and issue a citation.
“I move $3000 in parking tickets to the city anyways,” the patron stated and walked away.
The Marine Patrol officer turned to the reporter of this article saying these are the types of situations they deal with all the time here.
Law Enforcement and Boater Complaints
A Marine Patrol officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Log they were told by the marina the valets were allowed to do whatever they wanted. They parked cars along curbs painted red and stopped cars in the middle of roadways causing gridlock. Valet took over some of the parking designated for Marine Patrol. The officer said they just recently got those parking spaces back.
Lesner said a marine patrol officer told him they were told to back off on enforcement.
“Marine patrol will always enforce the laws. It’s their duty to enforce,” Hallinan stated when asked if Marine Patrol was asked to hold back on issuing citations. “I am not in the position to tell marine patrol (that’s police officers) to enforce or not enforce. There are a lot of rumors out there.”
Hallinan said she receives numerous complaints from boat owners about these issues as well as requests from restaurant owners wanting to take over the boat owner parking lot.
“I understand businesses have been affected but what about the boaters that rent slips there? They are having a hard time accessing their vessels. I constantly get requests from the restaurants to turn boat owner parking into public parking. My answer is and will always be a firm ‘No.’ I have a hard time renting the slips directly adjacent to this restaurant because of the noise, traffic and the fact that the restaurant still uses a PA system to call out table availability. Boat owners are also affected by the restaurant delivery trucks, who block road access,” Hallinan confirmed.
“Customers are parking in restricted boat owner parking spaces. Marine Patrol gave them a grace period last summer and then started to issue citations. In addition to customers parking in boat owner parking, they leave trash in the lots, they congregate in parking spaces, they park motorcycles in areas that are not designated for motorcycles (example, in front of the trash enclosures), the volume creates back up traffic on Marina Dr. I can go on and on,” Hallinan continued.
Ballast Point and Boathouse on the Bay
Ballast Point is the newest development in the area. The brewery opened last summer in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Boathouse on the Bay opened its doors three years ago replacing McKenna’s on the Bay.
“If you ask Bancap, the management firm, they will tell you [the redevelopment] has been good for the entire shopping mall there that was kind of quiet. The other restaurants and businesses in that same mall are actually getting the overflow business,” Hallinan stated.
In fact Malarkey’s, an Irish bar that replaced Buster’s in 2013, has been doing much better since Ballast Point opened, according to Hallinan.
The challenge has been to accommodate all the traffic and the overflow of parked cars as more patrons visit the area.
Bancap views the parking issue in a positive way but has been looking at resolutions, according to quotes its CFO provided in recent news reports
News outlets also reported the Bancap CFO had meetings with the tenants and the city to come up with solutions to the parking issue.
A boater with a slip at the north end of the marina told The Log he has no issues with parking.
“We want to encourage our tenants to have their customers use alternative transportation — taxis, Uber, Lyft. And we’re putting in a number of bicycle racks,” Latimer stated last year.
Zanone, however, has had to deal with traffic and crime.
“Interestingly for the first time, in the forty years I have been a tenant of Alamitos Bay, I have been victimized twice since this expansion,” Zanone told The Log. “The first week of the new concession, my windshield was smashed and the only thing stolen was my Alamitos Bay parking permit. Several weeks later my bike was stolen from its locked vehicle rack.”
Crime has increased with boaters’ parking passes being stolen from their cars, a Marine Patrol officer confirmed to The Log.
Zanone asserts when Ballast Point first opened in Alamitos Bay Landing issues arose within the parking lot there.
“That parking lot now fills quickly on weekends and immediately had an impact of Long Beach Sport Fishing, Sundowner Dive Concession, Malarkey’s and the Boathouse. LB Sport Fishing now directs and requires their fishermen park their vehicles in the adjacent Alamitos Bay Marina lot,” Zanone stated.
Long Beach Sportfishing has in fact closed its doors at Alamitos Bay Landing. The sportfishing business moved to Pier Point landing in downtown Long Beach.
Ballast Point requested to have paid parking in the lot to the Coastal Commission, but the request was denied. The Boathouse, however, got approval for a temporary valet parking program. The valet created more problems, according to a couple boat owners in the marina.
“Mixing the Marina parking lot with valet has been problematic. Valets are less than careful driving too fast often against the posted direction. One recently jumped the curb, crossed the parkway, sidewalk and through the new railing, leaving the vehicle’s front end over the water,” Zanone said which correlated with Lesner’s account of the valet.
The problem is with the Boathouse getting away with too much, according to Lesner.
Two of the investors for the Boathouse are Josh Lowenthal, son of U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal, and Matt Knabe, son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.
Pilot Shuttle Service
Long Beach recently approved a one-year pilot shuttle service to Alamitos Bay Landing and accepted up to $100,000 of grant funding for this program.
The free shuttle service was put in place to address some of the parking issues in this area, according to Craig Beck, Long Beach’s Director of Public Works.
City leaders believe the shuttle service has already benefitted the marina area.
“From what I’ve been told from some of the business owners in the vicinity, this shuttle program has really alleviated the parking that was very impacted when Ballast Point opened,” Long Beach City Council member Suzie Price said at a Feb. 21 meeting. “The parking lot is now very much usable. It was not for a while. I’m hoping that this is a program that we can actually expand.”
Lesner disagreed, saying he’s never benefitted from the service nor has he witnessed anyone using the shuttle bus. He believes the service is just a way to placate people.
The Log requested a report from marine management on the number of passengers utilizing the shuttle program but has yet to receive any such report.
Zanone, however, believes marina management and the city are definitely making efforts to make the best of the situation.
“The city of Long Beach and marina management are doing the best they can given the unforeseen situation. The city has been running a parking lot tram during peak periods to move restaurant patrons through the lot. They have repainted restricted parking areas and increased enforcement,” Zanone stated.
The Marine Bureau staff informed The Log about the valet program being cancelled.
“The valet program has recently been cancelled. We had given the valet program 90 days, and then we extended it. We want to give the trolley the opportunity to actually be successful. We canceled [the valet service] about two weeks ago,” Hallinan informed The Log on March 24.
The valet was still there on March 26 just in a different location directly in front of the Boathouse restaurant.
“It [valet] is not supposed to be,” Marine Bureau staff stated when asked if valet is allowed to continue there. “If anyone sees it there, then we have to let Marine Patrol know. Elvira gave us an email saying their trial period was over, and they were going to be pursuing a permit.”
Bancap has submitted a permit proposal to the Coastal Commission to allow them to reinstate the valet services within their parking lot, according to Hallinan.
The Log reached out to Bancap CFO Whitney Latimer to inquire about the permitting of valet.
“We [Bancap] originally applied for a permit but the status is up in the air. Sunday [March 26] was the last day [for valet],” Latimer told The Log.
Work In Progress
Long Beach has three marinas. Alamitos Bay Marina is the biggest marina with nearly 2,000 slips (both private and public) and has been around the longest in Long Beach.
This marina continues to generate revenue for the city and businesses bringing in over $10 million a year, according to Hallinan.
“I’d like to add for the most part, all the new businesses have been good for the marina,” Hallinan stated. “There is more traffic, but those are peak times.
“The first year, we learned a lot of things,” Hallinan continued. “I think it just takes a matter of time for the customers of the restaurants to realize where they can and cannot park. We are actually trying to mark the lot a little bit better, so that it’s more clear, visually, when you are driving around where you can and cannot park.”
Long Beach is not the only city implementing programs in an attempt to improve the parking situation in its marina. Los Angeles County’s Department of Beaches and Harbors recently announced an expansion of its free shuttle service in Marina del Rey and Venice Beach. Newport Beach is planning a free shuttle pilot program this summer for the Balboa Peninsula. Port of San Diego is installing paid parking meters.