Harbor redevelopment and boating interests: A precarious co-existence

MARINA DEL REY — A planned overhaul of Pier 44 in Marina del Rey is being touted in some corners for bringing some popular visitor-serving amenities to the county enclave, such as a Trader Joe’s and West Marine. Yet at least one business expressed concern of how the new Pier 44 could be harmful to boating interests in the area.

According to county plans boaters would be able to dock at the new Pier 44 and come ashore to do some shopping or eat at any of the local restaurants. Plans also call for upgrades to the bicycle path connecting Pacific Palisades to Redondo Beach.

However Steve Curran of Marina del Rey Yacht Sales said there might not be space for his brokerage once the new Pier 44 project is online.

Marina del Rey Yacht Sales currently operates out of a two-story building at Pier 44. The back end of the building abuts the bicycle path and overlooks the pier’s slips. Curran and his team use those slips to show boats to his clients. The front of the building faces Admiralty Way, a busy thoroughfare connecting Marina del Rey to the rest of Los Angeles.

Curran spoke at the July 13 meeting of the Small Craft Harbor Commission about a 90-day notice to vacate. The building that houses Marina del Rey Yacht Sales would be torn down to make way for the future Trader Joe’s, West Marine, restaurants, and other visitor-serving amenities.

He added the management team has been working with the businesses to stay until the very end of the notice period.

“They have agreed … to allow us to stay until the last minute,” Curran told commissioners, adding county staff also helped the handful of businesses at Pier 44 with communications. “They have a facility for us at Fisherman’s Village that is a very adequate office [but] obviously doesn’t have the street exposure, and there’s no display. It’s very lacking in terms of trying to sell boats.”

Curran says the situation at Pier 44 and throughout the surrounding area is systemic of a larger problem with the boating community in Marina del Rey. He’s also worried one of the few accommodations made available to him at Marina del Rey, an area already fully developed, would not be beneficial to his business.

“It really shows a problem in our community, in terms of boating. I’ve been here since 1969 and there’s not a suitable place for me to really sell boats with inventory,” Curran said. “I’m being forced to move part of my business … in order to survive. If I were to blame anyone on this, I would blame the industry itself. We haven’t been as vocal as we should have been. The community is losing its boating emphasis.”

He added one of the biggest problem brokerages face is a lack of slips to place boats they are trying to sell.

Department of Beaches and Harbors Director Gary Jones said every effort is being made to keep boat brokerages in Marina del Rey but the harbor was not really designed to allow for a high volume of commercial traffic.

Another challenge is accessing the brokerage’s slips from land, Jones said.

“We’re not saying no to any options [but] there are challenges,” Jones told commissioners. “If there are options we will explore.”

One of those challenges is Marina del Rey’s small size. A source familiar with the project who wished to remain anonymous said the county enclave, which is a little more than one square mile in size, is not big enough to fulfill everyone’s wishes. She said waterfronts such as Newport Beach or Long Beach could be much more accommodating to multiple interests – boaters, brokerages, commercial vendors, restaurants, visitors and tourists, and yacht clubs – than Marina del Rey because those cities and harbors are significantly larger.

Michael Tripp of the Department of Beaches and Harbors said the California Coastal Commission required Los Angeles County to have certain measures in place to protect boaters during construction of various projects in Marina del Rey.

He added there is a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) specifically outlining protections for small boaters before construction can begin on any given project.

One protection is a slip transition plan. The CDP also mandates a minimum number of slips be provided for each boat size.

“We have to prove to the Coastal Commission we’re not going to go below those thresholds,” said Tripp. “We are keeping a close eye on this.”

Interestingly enough a search for Marina del Rey’s CDP and Local Coastal Program (LCP) documents on the Coastal Commission’s website was partially unsuccessful. Some links were dead ends, with one message reading, “404. Epic Wipeout. Sorry, Page Not Found.” Other documents relating to Marina del Rey’s visioning for future development is available through a Los Angeles County website.

Curran indicated the brokerage would likely end up in a new location that works for them but questions still linger of how boating interests and harbor redevelopments will co-exist. Currently there are harbor redevelopments or revitalizations in San Diego, Dana Point, Newport Beach, Redondo Beach and Marina del Rey.

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