Byline: Shane Scott
LONG BEACH — Rainbow Harbor may have lost one guest dock, but it will soon be granted another.
On Sept. 10, the city of Long Beach removed a 320-foot wooden guest dock adjacent to Pine Avenue Pier that had been privately funded, declaring it “unsafe” and “inaccessible to the public.” A few days earlier, the manager of Long Beach Marine Bureau, Mark Sandoval, who had reportedly approved placement of the dock, announced his retirement.
However, funding of approximately $2 million for a new guest dock has just been approved in Long Beach’s city budget for fiscal year 2014, announced Tom Modica, director of Government Affairs and Strategic Initiatives. The new guest dock project will now enter its initial stages, allowing engineering and preliminary planning to begin.
Defending the Dock
The dock that was removed had reportedly been paid for by Gladstone’s Long Beach restaurant CEO John Sangmeister. While he has been unavailable for an interview, Sangmeister did issue a statement claiming that the dock had been legally permitted and was neither unsafe nor inaccessible.
On Oct. 1, Sangmeister forwarded a letter to The Log that he had sent to Long Beach City Manager Pat West, summarizing his claim.
“The 320-foot Rainbow Harbor dock was relocated from Alamitos Bay Marina by Gladstone’s Long Beach in 2012, with full knowledge, cooperation and participation by city of Long Beach officials — including Marine Bureau, Rainbow Harbor, Fire Department and Special Events, and California Coastal Commission representatives,” Sangmeister stated in the letter.
“At the time, the city of Long Beach did not have the funds, so expenses totaling more than $16,000 were paid by Gladstone’s Long Beach to provide the city with a working public dock in Rainbow Harbor, until a permanent public dock could be completed in 2014,” Sangmeister stated. “The city of Long Beach was not obligated nor did it reimburse the fees.
“Gladstone’s Long Beach and Long Beach Marine Department officials consulted with Blue Water Marine, who developed a full set of engineered drawings to fully activate the dock for public use in compliance with all applicable codes,” his letter added. “These plans were to be presented to city of Long Beach management and are available for review.”
“Nearly a full year prior to the Red Bull Flugtag 2013 planning meetings, city of Long Beach Special Events and Filming, along with city of Long Beach Fire officials, approved principal filming and photography on the dock for “Arrested Development,” a Ron Howard production. Principals were on location on the dock on Sept. 8, 2012 and Nov. 11, 2012. In addition, the dock has been approved for a variety of activities … such as the hosting of the Transpac 2013 Los Angeles-to Honolulu sailing race and the annual Long Beach Yacht and Boat Show, among others,” Sangmeister’s letter stated.
“Gladstone’s Long Beach has acted in full public view and with public support from the city of Long Beach.
“Unlike our competitors Yard House, Schooner or Later, McKenna’s on the Bay, Marley’s and Parker’s Lighthouse, who enjoy guest docks paid for by the city, we didn’t have one available — so, we offered to pay for the dock ourselves,” Sangmeister explained in the letter. “Our goal was to make a contribution to the waterfront. I believe the success in this year’s Transpac, and the crowds and worldwide positive recognition it brought the city of Long Beach, speaks for itself.”
Sangmeister had one further comment at the end of the letter: “Finally, Mark Sandoval is a good and honorable man.”
The letter also commented on a quote from Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick that appeared in a Sept. 27-Oct. 10 Log newspaper article, in which Frick claimed she and city officials knew nothing about the existence of the temporary guest dock before it was deemed unsafe and removed.
Sangmeister attached two photos to his letter. The first showed Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster at the dock — along with Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau head Steve Goodling and Long Beach Aquarium CEO Dr. Jerry Schubel — while aboard the vessel Triumphant during the celebration of its commission on July 18. The photo ran that month in the Grunion Gazette.
The second photo Sangmeister sent, taken Sept. 7, 2012 during preparations for Ron Howard’s “Arrested Development” television series, shows a large float tied to the wooden guest dock, where it would remain as a background for the city-permitted filming.
While the show was officially permitted and filmed at Rainbow Harbor, city officials challenged Sangmeister’s claim they knew about this use of the dock, stating that there is no documentation expressly specifying the use of the dock. Scenes from multiple episodes of the show, however, were shot on the dock.
Officials also challenged Sangmeister’s claim that the dock was permitted for use during this year’s Transpac Race. After searching through Special Events and Filming records, city officials found no such documentation, Modica said.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?
Sangmeister claimed that because of the city’s inability to provide funding for a guest dock, he took it upon himself to fund the installation, investing more than $16,000 of his own money in its placement, restoration and engineering studies.
While there was a permit for a dock in Rainbow Harbor, a permissible structure would have been required to be L- or U-shaped, according to city staff. The dock Sangmeister is said to have paid to place in Rainbow Harbor was shaped like a Z.
“We would have taken that one wing off, once we retrofitted (the dock), to be usable,” Sandoval explained.
Sandoval also said that they had planned to split the dock, removing the worn side that was seen dipping into the water. “But we weren’t going to do anything until we knew how we were going to do it, and we had the permits.
“We thought it would be easier than it was,” Sandoval said, adding that he knew the dock wasn’t permissible in its earliest salvaged state. “I thought my maintenance staff would be able to secure it.”
When Marine Bureau maintenance personnel came to the Pine Avenue Pier and saw the wooden dock within a month after its placement, they reportedly told Sandoval he would need to have it engineered.
It was around this time that Sandoval said he drafted his first memo to Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick. Although she claims to only have received one message, Sandoval maintains that he drafted two.
“The first memo was informing her of what was going on, because we were going to have a dock floating in Rainbow Harbor,” he said. The second message, which Sandoval said he sent in 2013, was regarding the Blue Water engineering proposal.
“She said she got the note in 2012, but I have a handwritten note that I received from her on May 21, 2013,” Sandoval said. “It doesn’t have a year on it, but it alludes to the Blue Water design,” Sandoval said. “Why would it take a year to send?”
While waiting out two separate engineering studies to make the dock safe for public use, the dock floated idle, reportedly mounted with signs that read “No Trespassing” and “No Parking.”
“The dock had not been retrofitted and activated. We wanted the public to know that they couldn’t dock there,” Sandoval said.
When asked why Sangmeister had then tied up his own vessel at the dock, Sandoval initially responded, “Well, it was his dock. He paid for it.”
He then went to explain that Sangmeister docked there was because he had nowhere else to go. “It was just a place to put his boat,” Sandoval said. “I had no place for it in our city marina.”