Goals and Policies for the Berkeley Marina Dock Renewal and Reconfiguration Project

by Paul Kamen
September 23 2003

1) Maintain diversity among boat berthers.

"Diversity" is an explicitly stated goal of a wide range of City policies, and in the Marina it is expressed through policies that maximize accessibility to all income levels. Because the market value of boats varies approximately by length to the fourth power,(1,2) there is a very sharp rise in the financial resources required to maintain a boat as size increases. That is, a small boat can be owned and operated by someone of relatively low income, while a slightly larger boat requires considerably more money. Larger boats, if operated and maintained in navigable condition, are necessarily restricted to upper incomes.

In order to continue to allow non-wealthy people to be boat owners in Berkeley, it is necessary to provide the smallest berths for which there is reasonable market demand. Recent vacancy history suggests that this size is somewhat greater than 20 feet. On the other hand, the vacant 20 footers are all on very old docks - note that new 22 ft berths on docks F and G have all been filled, although these were among the last to go. Examples exist of new marinas in the area choosing 30 ft as the minimum size, and staff has indicated a preference for this minimum size.

But a 30 ft minimum size would be a mistake for Berkeley. Simple geometry demonstrates that for the fixed area of water available for berthing, revenue is maximized by keeping the berth size small.(3,4) This is because berths occupy area roughly in proportion to their length squared, but generate revenue only in proportion to berth length. Even with the Berkeley Marina's mildly progressive rate structure, and even considering fixed area for docks and walkways and fixed per- account overhead, revenue is optimized at a smaller berth size.

This, combined with the desirable social value of providing smaller berths for less expensive boat, leads to a recommendation to include a significant number of berths at sizes no larger than 24 ft. Note that Marina policy is to allow 10% overhang, so 24 ft berths could accommodate boats as long as 26.4 ft, with a corresponding increase in revenue. (Berthers pay for berth length or "extreme" boat length (5), whichever is longer.) Naturally, a mix of sizes including larger berths is still required to avoid over-supply in any one size. But the critical policy decision is to continue to support the low end berther by including a reasonable number of small berths in the new Marina design.

2) Maximize berthing revenue

Both social and economic values suggest emphasis on smaller berths, as described above. Furthermore, major expenses incurred by ongoing dredging requirements will continue to make the Berkeley Marina less desirable for very large yachts. Berkeley is already considered non-viable for modern racing sailboats longer than about 36 feet.

Note that the controlling depth of the harbor, based on a April 2000 survey (6), is only 6.7 feet. Also note that the critical area is not within the boundary of previous Marina dredging projects, but well outside the breakwater in the approach channel. Dredging to increase this controlling depth would probably require several thousand feet of channel improvement, and would significantly increase the dredging budget (currently about $1,000,000 every ten years). (7)

The other element of revenue maximization is better utilization of all of the available water area within the Marina.

When the docks were first planned in the early '60s, the harbor was bigger than the anticipated berthing market required. So the original layout is very spacious, and does not fill the Marina basin. There are wide stretches of open water between docks A-E and the riprap, and very large clearances around the DoubleTree hotel docks and the old ferry pier (which appears to pre-date the Marina), (8)

Policy with respect to the ferry pier, to be discussed below, determines whether more of the space in that area can be used for revenue-generating berthing. Space near the hotel dock might require negotiation with both the hotel and with Hornblower (excursion boat operator), currently the exclusive user of the hotel dock. It appears that Hornblower never uses the full length of the hotel dock for their large excursion boats, instead using some of the dock space for a variety of small craft or food preparation houseboats. These obviously do not require large maneuvering clearances, and it seems reasonable to add berthing much closer to the north end of the hotel dock than in the existing configuration.

3) Maintain the public-serving character of the Marina, especially to non-berthers.

Accessibility to non-berthers takes several forms, one of which is continued support of the various non-profits that make specialized water-related recreation available to the public at very low cost. Cal Sailing Club, Cal Adventures, Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors, the Berkeley Dragon Boat teams, the Nautilus Institute's Pegasus Project, and others all require in-kind support in the form of free or below- market berthing.

The current project does not directly affect any of these organizations, except to the extent that Marina solvency is required in order to continue to the current level of support.

However, depending on long term policy towards dredging of the South Sailing Basin (and depending on the resolution of access issues at the North Sailing Basin), there may be pressure to move a larger portion of Cal Sailing Club's or Cal Adventure's operations into the Marina basin. Dock space may be necessary to accommodate this, including wide floats, low to the water, suitable for storing small sailboats pulled up out of the water.

It is also extremely desirable to maintain the relatively spacious width of the main Marina channel so that it can safely serve a number of recreational uses other than transit for berthed boats. A high value is placed on the fact that the Berkeley Marina is open to kayaks, rowboats and small sailboats. A high value is also placed on the fact that even large sailboats are permitted to sail in and out of their berths, something that more crowded marinas commonly prohibit.

Another class of non-berther that should be served is the visiting sailor. Currently, the process of arranging for temporary berthing for a short visit is inconvenient, especially if the destination is the DoubleTree hotel or Skates, making a trip to the Marina Office something of a detour. Sam's Anchor Café in Tiburon is the best local model, where restaurant customers can tie up for dinner without any administrative overhead, and see their boat from the dining area. This has made Tiburon one of the most desirable day trip destinations on the Central Bay. Berkeley has all the elements for similar status, provided some minimal accommodation is made.

Ideally, transient berthing that does not require a gate key should be positioned near N-dock for skates, J-dock for the new restaurant in the old "Dock of the Bay" building, and as part of the DoubleTree dock for the hotel restaurant. A quick economic analysis would be necessary to determine if the Marina's share of increased restaurant revenue from visiting yachts would be comparable to the berthing revenue that these guest docks might displace. Although, there is plenty of room between M and N docks for a new guest dock without displacing any revenue berthing, and similarly, incorporating a guest dock into the DoubleTree hotel dock would have no negative revenue implication for the Marina.)

4) The possibility of ferry service

The location of the existing ferry pier in the south-east corner of the Marian has always been problematic for a number of reasons. (9) It lengthens the time required for a ferry to get in and out, and it also requires an excessive amount of Marina space dedicated to access and maneuvering room for the ferry. The seismic safety of the existing pier has been questioned. Furthermore, Water Transit Authority policy is to standardize future ferries for floating docks with standardized freeboard, rendering Berkeley's fixed ferry pier obsolete.

If Berkeley is to retain a ferry terminal in the Marina, several options are available: 1) keep the existing ferry pier, with possible addition of a boarding float; 2) Abandon the existing ferry pier for ferry service and rely on the DoubleTree hotel dock for all ferry and excursion boat activity; or 3) Abandon the existing ferry pier and include a new ferry float on the end of a rebuilt A-dock. This would be optimal for quick ferry turn-around time, but might have the disadvantage of increasing parking load on the north side, where parking lots already have to share the load with Cesar Chavez Park users.

The policy decision with respect to the ferry pier is probably one of the first required steps before a new dock configuration can be proposed.

Note 1: www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront/BerthRateGraphs.html

Note 2: www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront/A-E-Replacement/A- Ereconfig.html

Note 3: www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront/A-E-Replacement/Revenue-Optimization.xls

Note 4: Ebb, M., "Latitude 38," August 1999.

Note 5: www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/bmc/berkeley_municipal_code/title _6/20/010.html

Note 6: www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront/hydrography/SouthChanne l.html

Note 7: Berkeley Marina Master Plan, June 1 2003, Appendix A.

Note 8: www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront/A-E-Replacement/Pier-1939.jpg

Note 9: www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront/Ferry/index.html