This article appeared in the November 1999 issue of the newsletter published by CAN-B, the Community Association of North Berkeley.
Waterfront Report, November 1999
By Commissioner Paul Kamen, appointed by Mayor Shirley Dean
In the last CANB newsletter I reported that the Marina Plan, after a series of public workshops and planning and analysis sessions, was moving in the direction of favoring some small-scale hotel development in the Marina. This, along with other appropriately-scaled commercial development, was primarily intended to provide a needed revenue stream. But absent the economic factors, there are valid arguments for mixed-use development: It would improve safety and security by bringing legitimate after-hours activity to parts of the waterfront that need it badly; it would expose a greater diversity of users to other waterfront services and amenities; and if done right it would enhance the Marina's reputation as a world-class windsurfing venue. The economic value would allow the marina to continue to support educational and recreational programs that rely on marina funding or below-market leases.
But before any of the details were down on paper, the City Council directed the Waterfront Commission and the Planning Department to delete any significant commercial development from the Marina Plan.
This essentially cut out the most important aspects of the plan: economic viability and rational land use policy. What we have left is an extremely non-controversial "mom and apple pie" planning document with very little in it to take issue with - except that there's no money to pay for any of it, let alone money to keep the marina in the black.
Meanwhile the planning process continues, and there will still be some value in the end result. Most important are the "place holders:" amenities, infrastructure improvements, and land use proposals that have no funding, but by inclusion in the plan they will be easier to implement at some future date. And, although planners like to think in terms of physical attributes, a number of programmatic features are possible elements in the plan. Non-profit educational and recreational organizations, independent of marina funding, will most likely be the only sources of new services and amenities under the current constraints, and the Marina Plan can establish policies that promote and support them.
Meanwhile, the marina is faced with major infrastructure renewals and a deficit budget. One approach is to increase berth fees. Historically, berth rates have been very nearly a flat rate per foot of boat length per month for all types of berths. But some berths are much more desirable than others, and some sizes are in much higher demand. So we've essentially been charging the same price for a commodity of greatly varying value.
A new and somewhat more complex berth rate policy is now being developed that will address these issues. If successfully implemented it will bring the high-demand berths closer to market rate, but will have relatively little effect on the smallest berths where demand is low. The new rate structure will generate an additional $150,000 per year, about an eight percent increase in berther revenue. This doesn't quite cover the projected $200,000- $250,000 annual deficit, but it does help keep the marina afloat without cutting support for non-revenue-generating public services and programs.
There's more to all of this, but I'm out of space. Check out my Berkeley Waterfront web page at www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront.