Marina Ordinance Progress Report

Developments from the January 12 2000 Waterfront Commission meeting, and from other communications.

January 23 2000

Summary: A large portion of the meeting was in closed session involving an unrelated issue. Of the remainder of the meeting, most of the time was spent discussing certain aspects of 6.20.330, specifically whether the Marina Ordinance should give monopolistic control of fish boat bookings to one leaseholder (the "Bait Shop"). Small wording changes were approved from sections .016 and .018, but the vast majority of these sections, and the Ordinance itself, remains in the staff proposal stage and has not been endorsed by the Waterfront Commission.

On 6.20.016: Overhangs were discussed at some length, and one berther, owner of a Santana 22 on J-dock (and a member of the Albany City Council, although he did not identify himself as such) complained about boats in the 24 ft range with only a few feet of overhang that made navigation in and out of his slip difficult for him.

New language was proposed and passed for the maximum amount of overhang allowed. Now it's 20% where there are no opposite berths (inside corners and berths on open fairways) and 10% elsewhere. It was emphasized that these numbers are maximums and are always subject to the marina manager's approval.

There was no discussion of lift docks at the meeting, but Staff has now indicated that floating lift docks are generally acceptable provided a special agreement is signed to insure that the owner is responsible for removing failed or damaged lift dock equipment.

On 6.20.018: The exception to the prohibition against swimming, diving, and windsurfing was extended to the North Sailing Basin. This was moved seconded and passed. The jetski issue was not discussed and not voted on.

On 6.20.020: Marina staff agrees that "licensed surveyor" is meaningless, and would like to use daymark "3" north of the Berkeley Pier (rather than a buoy) as the turning mark for the seaworthiness demonstration course.

On 6.20.330, the Bait Shop monopoly: No consensus could be reached. The one fish boat operator present did not use Bait Shop booking services and did not want to be charged for services he did not use. There was no representation from the bait shop or from anyone else claiming that the monopoly was necessary or desirable, except from Marina Staff.

Staff made the argument that monopolistic control is necessary in order to make the bait shop viable, and that a bait shop is necessary to have a viable fishing fleet. However, no supporting data could be provided, and mention was made of the fact that several large new boats are due to enter the fleet controlled by the Bait Shop this year. On this basis, neither the fishing fleet nor the revenue stream passing through the Bait Shop appear to be threatened. Furthermore, some operators (represented by the one present) seem to have no problem operating without the Bait Shop's support.

Staff repeatedly advanced the argument that lack of competition for customers leads to better customer service. (This is evidently an advanced form of microeconomics with which this commentator is unfamiliar).

Staff also suggested that control of all bookings by one entity makes it easy to collect various charges and fees, and makes it difficult for vessel operators to cheat on these fees. This is probably true, but it's hard to imagine that there is no other effective means of auditing compliance with passenger fees. A couple of spot checks scattered throughout the season should be all it takes - and will keep the Bait Shop honest as well.

One possible compromise outcome is a two-tiered payment system of some sort, whereby boats using the Bait Shop's booking services pay one percentage to the Bait Shop, those doing their own booking pay a lower percentage. But it still makes no sense. If the Bait Shop really needs to extort this kind of payment to remain viable, then a cleaner way to keep them in business is to give them better terms on their lease, and then support that subsidy by increasing the fish boat fees paid to the City. This way the bait shop stays afloat, and the boat operators are free to compete on service and price.

And that was all we had time for. The Marina Ordinance agenda remains essentially as it did before the meeting, with most of the major issues still unresolved.

Marina Ordinance Agenda Items still pending:

6:20:010: Should all definitions to be moved to the "Definitions" 
          section of the ordinance?

6.20.020: Status of surveyor, and exact specification of sea 
          trial course for establishing seaworthiness.
          [Marina agrees that surveyors are not licensed, 
          suggests daymark "3" north of pier as turning mark]

6.20.040: Changes suggested by Dick Wolgast allowing charging for 
          boat length instead of berth length when re-located by 

6.20.160: Policy review for floating lift docks.
          [Brad says they are allowed, with special agreement
          to cover removal. This policy needs to be incorporated 
          into the ordinance]

6.20.160: Definition of vessel length - "overall" v. "extreme."

6.20.160: Overhang policy, wording and viability of 20% limit.
          [resolved on 1-12-00]

6.20.180: Review jetski prohibition details, definition of 
          jetski, possible increased speed limit in access 

6:20:230: Appeals procedure, filing time limts, means of obtaining
          objective arbitration and objective survey. 

6:20:330: Should one commercial operation have a monopolistic 
          control of fishing charter reservations?
          [discussed at length, not resolved. Might end up as a 
          two-tier payment system depending on level of bait shop 
          services used.]

6:20:330: Definitions of private and public docks