These are the new berth rates proposed by the Marina Staff:
Berth rates per foot per month, docks A, B, C, J, K, L, M, N, and O, single finger size current proposed % increase 20-26 5.05 5.05 0% 28-32 5.05 5.10 1% 35-52 5.05 5.15 2% 60 5.05 5.25 4% 65-70 5.10 5.50 8% Berth rates per foot per month, docks A, B, C, J, K, L, M, N, and O, double finger size current proposed % increase 20-26 5.10 5.10 0% 28-32 5.10 5.15 1% 35-52 5.10 5.20 2% 60 5.10 5.30 4% 65-70 5.70 5.70 0% Berth rates per foot per month, docks F and G (new docks) Single Finder size proposed 20-26 5.05 28-31 5.10 35-52 5.05 (metered power) 60 5.10 (metered power) 65 and up 5.60 (metered power) Berth rates per foot per month, docks F and G (new docks) Double Finder size proposed 20-26 5.10 28-31 5.15 35-52 5.10 (metered power) 65-70 5.25 (metered power) 90-100 6.00 (metered power) Berth rates per foot per month, docks D, E, H, and I, single finger Size current proposed % increase 32 4.60 4.70 2% (metered power) 36-60 4.80 4.90 2% (metered power)
Action could not be taken at the May 12 Waterfront Commission meeting due to lack of a quorum. Three of the commissioners are berthers and have been instructed by the City Attorney that conflict of interest precludes their participation in voting or discussion of berth rates. Five votes are required to approve a fee increase, so of the six non-berther members of the Commission, at least five must be present and vote to approve.
The proposal will be on the agenda again for the June 9 meeting (7:00 PM, His Lordships Restaurant).
I support this proposal because it smoothes and rationalizes the progressive rate structure. It does not make the rate progression as steep as in my proposal, and does not address a number of other issues, but it seems to be a step in the right direction.
Objections seem to center on two issues: 1) We have already had a rate increase in the last year and shouldn't have another one so soon; and 2) the progressive rate structure is unfair to the owners of large boats.
There is a simple answer to #1: the rate increase was not large enough. Vacancy rates and rates in comparable marinas indicate that in the medium and larger size categories, the market will support significantly higher rates.
Although this conclusion is certainly based on debatable assumptions and less than perfect data collection, the consensus among those without a direct interest in keep their own berth rates low seems to be in agreement.
The rationale behind the progressive rate structure is a more interesting issue.
Consider the typical 22 ft sailboat, with a market value of about $4,000. At current rates it pays $1,333 per year ($5.05 x 22 x 12) or about a third of its value in berth fees. This is the single largest expense for keeping a boat of this type in operation, and the market is sensitive to berth rate. We are already experiencing high vacancy rates for our 20 ft berths.
Now look at a typical 45 ft boat of comparable age and condition, worth probably $90,000. This boat pays $2,727 per year ($5.05 x 45 x 12) or only 3% of its value. We can debate the exact numbers, but the fact remains that for boats maintained in operating condition, the big boat is far less likely to be shopping price when selecting a marina.
But is it fair? From a cost point of view, the argument goes both ways. The marina encloses a fixed surface area, and many small berths take up much less area, per linear foot of berth, than large berths. So it's rational to charge by the square foot instead of the linear foot, which would imply a berth rate increasing by a factor of nine from the 20 ft size to the 60 ft size.
However, the cost of building the dock itself is much more closely proportional to the dock length than to the area the slip requires. Also, many maintenance and service costs are fixed costs per berth.
These two factors work against each other, and my best guess is that the cost to the marina, after initial capitalization, is probably close to proportional to berth length.
The question of "fairness" arises more with respect to boats that are seldom if ever used. Some boats are semi-abandoned, some are for sale and are essentially in storage awaiting a buyer, and some are semi-derelict live-aboards that are incapable of navigating safely. For larger boats that fit these categories, the berth fee is a very significant part of the boat's "operating" expense.
The real question is, should the marina make efforts to keep its rates for big boats below market in order to accommodate boats that never sail?
My feeling is that it should not.
Non-navigable live-aboards are essentially houseboats, and absent a policy decision to increase the number of such vessels, there is no reason to make special allowances for them.
Boats that are in storage should move to less desirable locations rather than occupy premium berth space here in the best part of the Bay.
It is only the boats that are operating on a regular basis (including many live-aboards) that are taking advantage of our location, and for these boats the rate increase will be "lost in the noise" of other expenses.
No-one likes to pay higher fees for anything - least of all sailors (why do we like sailing in the first place? Because "the wind is free" and the act of sailing feels like getting something for nothing!) So complaints are to be expected. But the market reality is that an increase representing a fraction of a per cent of a boat's budget will not force it into a marina with a less desirable location.
That said, other non-economic factors are vital to the marina's marketability. Maintenance, security, amenities, etc. are critical to keeping the Berkeley Marina desirable. Moving the rate structure closer to market values will help make improvements in these areas possible.