REDONDO BEACH — A community-wide discussion about how Redondo Beach’s updated waterfront should take shape in light of plans to revitalize the area surrounding the pier and King Harbor has highlighted civic discourse for months in the South Bay municipality. One focused – yet not unimportant – topic raging on for decades before the Redondo Beach Waterfront project was even on anyone’s radar was where the city would place its boat launch ramp.
The future location of the launch ramp was the core discussion of a Redondo Beach Harbor Commission meeting last month, where boaters, community groups and civic leaders continued a conversation actively off and on since the 1950s.
A California Coastal Commission staff report in 2010 discussing Redondo Beach’s Local Coastal Program amendments included language suggesting a public boat launch ramp should be required with any future development of King Harbor.
“A public boat launch ramp shall be constructed in association with future development projects within the Harbor area,” the Nov. 23, 2010 staff report stated.
Where could a public boat launch ramp exist and how would the proposed structure affect parking and the environment? Could a public boat launch ramp exist in King Harbor?
“There is no good place for a boat ramp in King Harbor,” said Harry Munns, a Redondo Beach boater.
Rescue Our Waterfront co-founder Nils Nehrenheim said the city of Redondo Beach has been trying to get a boat launch ramp installed at King Harbor’s Mole A but the best location for the boating infrastructure is probably Mole D.
The organization has been a driving force behind a ballot initiative aiming to scale down the proposed waterfront revitalization.
“It’s a major thorn in the side of this project,” Nehrenheim, who is also a boater, said of the boat launch ramp.
Nehrenheim said a launch ramp at Mole A makes the least amount of sense since it probably could not handle medium or large boats and might be closed during inclement weather.
He added the boat launch ramp is exclusively the city’s responsibility but where the ramp should be placed is a major impediment.
Coastal Commission staff discussed the limited possibilities of a public boat launch ramp in a 2006 report.
“The city has acknowledged the need for a public boat launch and is investigating potential locations in King Harbor and trying to secure the necessary funding for it. It is not feasible or safe to build a launch ramp at the Portofino Marina because of the strong ocean current and wave energy at Mole C,” a Coastal Commission staff report stated. “Therefore, at this time, the existing small slips in the area must be protected in order to ensure that recreational boating opportunities are protected.”
Munns did not rule out the possibility of a public boat launch ramp being built in King Harbor, however. Any such ramp built there, he said, would be smaller than what is sought by boaters.
“There is a strong possibility that through deliberations and further study (it has been 60 years since the topic was first discussed) there may be a way to build a boat ramp in King Harbor. If that happens, it will be like everything else in King Harbor, small, smaller than what the proponents of a ramp would like to see,” Munns said.
The size of the boat launch ramp could ultimately be determined by how much space would be allocated to the adjacent parking lot, Munns predicted.
“I believe parking will ultimately dictate the size and capacity of the ramp. Because parking is so limited in all the proposed ramp locations, any ramp that gets built will be one or maybe two lanes,” Munns said. “It will also be limited to small boats; my guess would be 16- to 18-foot maximum.
“The irony of that limitation lies in the fact King Harbor has very limited protected water,” Munns continued. “The very boaters who would be most compatible with the harbor, namely larger boats that can comfortably and safely go out into the open ocean, will be restricted from using the ramp.”
Representatives from Redondo Beach’s Waterfront Department and CenterCal Properties were not available for comment on this story. Both parties are apparently in negotiations about the waterfront revitalization; official updates could be announced in May or June.
Boaters rely on one of two boat hoists to launch their respective vessels into King Harbor. The hoists were inoperable for almost all of 2015, making it difficult for boaters to launch any vessels into the harbor.