Regular Meeting of the Waterfront Commission
September 8, 1999
Chair Wolgast called the meeting to order at 7:03 p.m.
1. ROLL CALL
COMMISSIONERS PRESENT: Kamen, Smith, Kawczynska, Minasian,
Wolgast, Cobb, Felix
2. PUBLIC COMMENT
There were no requests from the public to address the Commission. Cliff Marchetti explained that notice of the meeting’s scheduled discussion of rate structure methodology had been mailed to berthers in their most recent bill.
3. APPROVAL OF AGENDA AND MINUTES
The agenda was approved unanimously. Several minor corrections to the August meeting minutes were made. With these corrections the minutes were approved unanimously. Chair Wolgast told the Commission that the legality of the Salt Water Fire Fighting System under measure G would be settled through a “challenge suit”. He said that the system’s cost has been estimated at $40 million, while measure G allows $58 million in expenditures and most of that money has been spent. He said that until the financing and legality have been clarified work on the system should stop.
4. RATE STRUCTURE FOR BERTH FEES
Motion: MSC (Smith/Kawczynska) that the Commissioners with boats at the Marina be allowed to participate in the discussion on rate structure methodology but not vote on the adoption of a specific rate structure methodology. Ayes: Kamen, Smith, Kawczynska, Minasian, Wolgast, Cobb, Felix. Noes: none. Abstentions: Minasian. Absent: Windham, Wozniak.
Cliff Marchetti introduced his report on rate structure methodology. He offered two proposals. He said the first proposal established a graduated series of base rates, dependent on the size of the boat, with extra charges levied for amenities. He warned that an excessively complex rate schedule might be confusing to staff and customers. He said the second proposal would simply raise fees by a certain percentage to be determined by the Marina’s revenue goals.
Commissioner Kamen said that he agreed with the basic structure of staff’s proposal number one and that the only substantive difference between his proposal and staff’s was the rate of progression in fees and his suggestion that deductions be made from the flat rate for less desirable locations or the absence of certain amenities. He said the only rational way to set prices was according to supply and demand which would result in vacancies being distributed evenly across all size categories, eliminating long waiting lists and large vacancy rates for certain sizes. He said that if fees were set with regard to the market the progressive rate would be steep.
He distributed the chart on the left showing berth fees as a percentage of the price of boat and the chart below showing a comparison of the length of a boat with asking price. He said the demand for big berths is less sensitive to price than the demand for smaller berths because the owners of large boats do not determine their selection of a Marina based primarily on the price of the berth. He said that because the berth fee is a relatively large percent of a small boat’s value, their owner’s are more likely than large boat owners to choose a Marina based on cost. He said that if prices were based on the portion of the marina occupied by a berth, the progressive rate would again be steep, with the price nearly quadrupling at each doubling in berth length. He said that there are too many subjective decisions to be made in calculating the actual cost of a berth on a per foot basis.
Harbor Supervisor Brad Gross said that the occupancy rate of 93% indicated that demand is strong and that the high demand called for a restructuring of the rates to generate additional revenue for the Marina. He agreed with Commissioner Kamen’s general approach but objected to the idea of deductions for less desirable features. He said that many berthers in the apparently less desirable older docks and cross wind slips like their location.
Chair Wolgast asked how many cross wind slips currently exist. Brad Gross said there are a few on H and I and that many berthers like this location in part because the docks are sheltered by floating homes.
Commissioner Kamen asked whether cross wind slips would be reoriented when docks H and I are reconstructed. Cliff Marchetti said that the slips would more than likely be reoriented to eliminate cross wind slips.
Commissioner Kamen said that the old docks including H and I are indeed inferior. He said that age, physical condition and location determine a dock’s desirability. Brad Gross said assessments of desirability were subjective, but he acknowledged that demand was strongest for upwind docks. Commissioner Kamen said he would not be opposed to removing the credit for old docks from his proposed fee schedule.
Commissioner Smith said that the Commission needed to decide whether a new rate structure should be revenue neutral or whether it should increase revenue. He distributed a spreadsheet that estimated cash flow over the next 20 years. He said the Marina would require increasing revenue flows over the projected 20 year period simply for basic maintenance. He noted the City Council’s prohibition of any new large-scale commercial development and said that the main source of new income would have to be an increase in berther’s fees. He urged the Commission to direct the staff to devise a progressive rate schedule which would increase the Marina’s annual revenues.
Chair Wolgast asked whether the occupancy rate of 93% includes berths in F&G and delinquent accounts. Brad Gross said that on average approximately 10 percent of the Marina’s berthers are in arrears on their monthly berth fee payment. He said most of these berthers are on a payment plan which includes late payment penalties.
Motion: M/S/C (Smith/Felix) to direct staff to develop a set of rates for review by the Commission that will enhance revenues by approximately $150,000 a year. Ayes: Kamen, Minasian, Wolgast, Smith, Cobb, Felix. Noes: none. Abstention Kawczynska. Absent: Windham, Wozniak.
Commissioner Cobb advised the Commission of pending park and water bonds that she said could result in new sources of grant monies for the Marina.
Commissioner Minasian asked if there is a particular profile of boat the Marina should attempt to attract in order to make the area appealing for its lessees. Brad Gross said that the Berkeley Marina was a recreational facility whose goal was to offer all citizens an opportunity to enjoy their boats. He said the Marina had a wide range of boat types and berther incomes. He said that some of the Marina’s businesses and their clients may not find some of the smaller boats appealing but that there is no plan to attempt to improve the type of boat berthed at the Marina.
Chair Wolgast noted that some berthers would incur a substantial increase in their rates if a rate structure similar to that proposed by Commissioner Kamen and staff is adopted. He asked if the Commission was troubled by such a high increase. Commissioner Kamen said owners of the largest boats in double finger upwind slips, who had for years enjoyed pricing geared to small boats with downwind single finger slips, would see the sharpest increase. He said some people will complain that they are taking a disproportionate share of the cost burden but that a more sharply progressive rate structure is a sound policy.
Brad Gross said that Berkeley’s average price per foot is near the Bay Area median according to the last price survey. He said that the occupancy rate warrants a higher average price and that demand will withstand a price increase.
Cliff Marchetti said the Commission should be mindful that there may be an unfavorable public response to a price increase.
Commissioner Smith said the Commission would take responsibility for its recommendations. He said that Commissioner Kamen had made a strong case for a price increase and the method by which it should be structured. He said Commissioner Kamen’s proposal was reasonable, necessary and prudent.
Commissioner Cobb reminded the Commission of funds available from the Department of Fish and Game, the Coastal Conservancy, and the pending water and park bond funds for which the Marina might be eligible.
5. OVERHANG POLICY
Commissioner Wolgast said that he does not see any ambivalence in the term “length over all”. Commissioner Kamen said that length overall is a term of art which does not include the rudder or other extensions. He said that some other term should be used to eliminate confusion. Chair Wolgast noted that this would require changing the Marina Ordinance. He said that a common understanding of length over all was the boat’s total length. Brad Gross said that when berthers first registered they were given two diagrams which show the definition of length for purposes of fee assessment as the furthest edge of the rudder to the edge of the pulpit. He said the diagrams allow berthers to state accurately and honestly the lengths of their boats.
Brad Gross described the process by which staff measures boats to determine how much to charge the owner. He said that boaters were charged for a full foot for any portion of a foot over 6 inches in excess of the slip’s length. He said up to two feet of overhang was allowed. He said that he thought 95% of the boats are being charged correctly. He said that there are some berths that can accommodate more than two feet of overhang and that allowing longer overhang in these cases would be a way to enhance revenue. Commissioner Wolgast said he thought some boats in some slips could overhang by 25% of their length without causing a problem. Commissioner Kamen said that his April proposal to allow berthers a certain amount of free overhang was based on his belief that there were many more than 5% of the boats in the Marina with overhang greater than two feet. He said that he was not completely convinced that the Marina staff is able to enforce the two-foot overhang requirement strictly. Brad Gross said he has not done an entire Marina inventory, but that on a regular basis he and his staff measure a proportion of the boats in the harbor. He said the overhang policy in the Marina Ordinance follows the industry norm.
Cliff Marchetti said that at the October meeting staff would bring the Commission a revised Marina Ordinance that allows for overhang in excess of two feet in slips that the harbor master feels can accommodate them.
6. JET SKIS
Commissioner Kamen proposed banning jet skis from General Anchorage No. 6 as shown on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration nautical chart. Brad Gross said that enforcement would be difficult. He noted that there was no legal way to prevent jet skis from launching from the Marina’s launch ramps. Chair Wolgast suggested Berkeley adopt San Francisco’s ban of jet skis within 1,200 feet of the shore. He said San Francisco’s ban is working well and the area from which jet skis are banned is easy to understand. Commissioner Kamen said that such a ban would require publishing and distributing new maps, while his proposal would rely on an already existing map and existing boundaries. Commissioner Minasian asked how much jet ski activity there had been this past summer. Brad Gross said he received two calls this summer regarding jet skis racing inside the breakwater. He said that the Berkeley shoreline is not an optimum jet ski area because of the rough, cold water. He said that as other areas become more restrictive jet skis may migrate to the south basin.
Commissioner Minasian asked why the Commission was concentrating on jet skis. He asked whether they presented a serious enough problem to warrant changing the ordinance. Commissioner Kamen said the prohibition would be largely preemptive. He said that as other waterfronts restrict their use, they might come to the Berkeley shoreline. He said any nonmotorized activity is made intolerable when jet skis are present. Commissioner Kawczynska said that banning jet skis close to the Berkeley shoreline would demonstrate support for the other communities who had enacted similar bans.
Concerning the difficulty of enforcing the ban, Commissioner Kawczynska said that many laws were difficult to enforce including litter laws. She said that it would largely be the public who would enforce it through complaints. Commissioner Kamen suggested banning jet skis closer than 122 degrees 20 minutes longitude. Brad Gross said that the Anchorage 6 ban is overly ambitious. He said that the 1,200 foot ban was the most manageable of the proposals and would keep jet skis out of the north and south basin.
Motion: M/S/C (Smith/Felix) Recommend to the City Council the creation of a special use area that prohibits the use of jet skis within a certain distance of the Berkeley shoreline and ask the city attorney to review the jurisdictional constraints and legality of such a special use area.
Cliff Marchetti described the capital improvement projects identified for FY 2000 and 2001 including piling replacement, repair to N& O restrooms, concrete dock replacement, pathway repair, and building a foundation for the Nature Center. He said that the projects were critical to the operation of the Marina. Commissioner Wolgast suggested that the Marina might be eligible for a grant for the nature center’s foundation. Commissioner Smith reconciled discrepancies between his spread sheet and staff’s CIP list.
He noted that CIP expenditures for FY 2000 would exceed the combined sinking fund and CIP budget allocation. He said that some projects would have to be dropped or funded in another manner. He noted that according to the plan presented by staff the annual sinking fund contribution would be spent this year, and not set aside for future needs as is the intent of the fund.
Chair Wolgast said that as long as the boat trailers pay their fees they cannot be prohibited from parking along Spinnaker. He said that it was not proper to displace boaters from the Marina. Commissioner Kawczynska said the trailers take up three spaces. Brad Gross said that boaters parked their trailers along Spinnaker when the boat launch parking area is full. Commissioner Kamen said there was adequate overflow parking in other parts of the Marina.
Cliff Marchetti updated the Commission on the progress of planning the I-80 Overpass. He said he had spoken with project director Deborah Chernin. He said construction of the overpass is scheduled to begin January 1, 2000. He said the project’s $3.1 million budget does not include the funding for improvement of the touchdown plazas. Commissioner Kawczynska said that she had understood there was sufficient funding for the touchdown plaza from Bayer’s contribution to the project. Cliff Marchetti offered to confirm the funding shortfall and ask Deborah Chernin what had become of Bayer’s contribution. He said he would ask her to attend the next Commission meeting. Commissioner Kawczynska said that Caltrans had informed her that contrary to information from staff two-inch mesh for the fencing was feasible. Commissioner Cobb said there may be funds in a pending transportation bill for which the overpass might qualify. Chair Wolgast noted several design elements that he said were either dangerous or inappropriate. He said that the present design for a split-level roadway presented a hazard for wheel chairs, and should be changed to a flat, single level roadway. He also said that the formal large paved areas as the touchdown points were unsuitable to the natural environment. He said his sketches presented briefly at the last meeting improved upon the current design.
10. MARINA MASTER PLAN UPDATE
Cliff Marchetti said the report recommending approval of the preliminary design concept was scheduled for the Council’s September 28 meeting. He asked for Commission attendance at the Council meeting. Chair Wolgast said that he would not be able to attend. He reported his discussion with 5 windsurfers who told him that they wanted improved rigging areas at his lordships and near the dry boat storage at the south sailing basin and a concrete launching pier near Hs Lordships. He said they are not interested in a clubhouse. Commissioner Kamen said he thought some windsurfers would use such a facility and that it would be reasonable to retain the potential clubhouse in the Preliminary Design Concept.
11. AQUATIC PARK
Cliff Marchetti said great strides have been made in cleaning up Aquatic Park. He said that Parks crew, Commissioner Kawczynska and Commissioner Mark Liolios from the Parks Commission had walked the park and identified areas where trimming was needed. Commissioner Kawczynska said that the park would be safer and more hospitable to visitors as a result of the trimming and clean up. Commissioner Marchetti said that the September 18 clean up included a creek clean up on one of the creeks in Aquatic Park.
Chair Wolgast noted that a bird refuge island had been contemplated in the Master Plan for Aquatic Park but had been dropped. He said that a bird refugee island should be given some priority.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.