Small Craft Harbor Commission weighs future of Marina del Rey

The county-operated harbor would continue to accommodate small vessels, officials say.

LOS ANGELES — Increasing access to the water for Marina del Rey boaters and minimizing traffic impacts of current or upcoming waterfront redevelopment projects were the major discussion points at the April 13 Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting.

As several corners of Marina del Rey are either under construction or about to be redeveloped there has been a constant worry of whether the county-run harbor would have a new mix of slips favoring larger vessels.

Commissioners and county staff indirectly addressed some of those concerns last month as they discussed the demand of small vessel slips and the state’s requirement to maintain a quota of boats smaller than 35 feet.

A discrepancy in slip vacancy rates of small slips in relation to the harbor as a whole was a chief concern for at least one commissioner, who pointed out Marina del Rey has a 6 percent vacancy overall but about 20 percent of slips for vessels 25 feet or smaller are not occupied.

“I think it’s more than one factor,” said Gary Jones, director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Beaches and Harbors, of why small slips have a higher vacancy rate. “Primarily it is due to a lack of demand.”

Jones said the county could consider how to make more efficient use of the slips. He suggested making Marina del Rey more accessible to nonprofit uses.

“We’re looking at the feasibility of a public purpose policy we hope can be extended to lessees to enable them to more easily … offer their facilities to nonprofits and the like at reduced rates,” Jones said, adding such organizations could promote increased recreational boating uses in Marina del Rey. “At the moment it is difficult under the standard lease agreement terms that our lessee has with the county to support these types of programs.”

A major issue, according to Jones, is an obligation to assess market rates for almost all users of Marina del Rey’s boating venues.

“We are obliged to charge full market rates,” Jones told commissioners. “There are some grandfathered agreements [such as] the Sea Scouts, but there is not a policy that really formalizes and standardizes access to the county’s amenities … to similar groups who might want to use the facilities.”

Jones said he and his staff are regularly approached by groups seeking to use Marina del Rey slips at low or no cost but their respective requests cannot be accommodated because of a lack of policy in place.

He added Marina del Rey would continue to be a small craft harbor.

“This harbor will always have a majority of small slips, the way it was originally constructed and now with the thresholds that are put in place by the Coastal Commission.

It will always have a predominance of small slips,” Jones said.

Marina del Rey’s Local Coastal Permit was modified in 2009 “to ensure no loss in total boat slips and slips 35 feet and [smaller],” according to a Coastal Commission report.
The Coastal Commission also recommended Marina del Rey expand efforts to provide affordable boating opportunities, create youth boating programs, build new storage infrastructure, and allow for increased uses of kayaks and other personal watercraft.
A recently completed project at Burton Chace Park has 44 boat slips (up from 33 slips), a 300-foot side-tie dock and 140-foot long dock for transient berthing. The slips could accommodate boats of 26 feet and larger.

The updated docks at Anchorage 47 are expected to feature 253 new slips when completed, or 77 fewer slips than the previous configuration. County officials, according to news reports, said about 180 of the slips would be dedicated to 20- to 30-foot vessels.
Several private redevelopment projects are either underway or in the works, including Neptune Marina, Mariners Bay and Pier 44.

Commissioners also reviewed comments received from the public during the March 3 night meeting, where local stakeholders provided input of what they thought the county should do to enhance recreational uses at Marina del Rey.

Community members were primarily concerned about public safety, mobility around the harbor, water quality and the availability of guest docks.

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