BOATING BUSINESS: Creating a more robust partnership in Marina del Rey
With STEVE CURRAN, Founder, Marina del Rey Yacht Sales, Long Beach Yacht Center, co-founder, MarinaFest, and Past Commodore of California Yacht Club. www.cayachtco.com
THE VISION REALIZED
Marina del Rey was created with the fundamental purpose of serving the recreational boating needs of Los Angeles County. And it was envisioned as a public-private partnership. During its six decades, Marina del Rey has also evolved as a tourism destination, a residential community, and a venue for shopping centers and commercial office space. It is LA’s Marina, the largest manmade small craft harbor in North America, serving the nation’s largest county by budget and population.
A PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
In its partnership with the boating community, Los Angeles County provides essential management, needed infrastructure upgrades and welcome support for boating events and tall ships. Fisherman’s Village continues to host a fishing fleet, boat rentals, and charter vessels. Basin H hosts haul-out, boating services, the main launch ramp, and adjacent dry boat storage. Burton Chace Park hosts guest docks and facilities. The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors provides the public, on its website beaches.lacounty.gov, extensive boating information, including a boating guide with anchorage listings and comprehensive links to boating services. The website VisitMarinadelRey.com provides visitors with boating activities including rentals, fishing, charters, and boat tours.
THE BOATING BUSINESS COMMUNITY
What I want to talk about today is how the boating business community continues to lose ground to the economics of successful land-side real estate; and how a more robust County partnership between the boating business community could play a role in revitalizing boating infrastructure, activities and public access to boating.
As a boat dealer/broker serving Marina del Rey since 1969, I have witnessed the gradual loss of both on-land and in-water dealership boat displays. Although it is the nation’s largest manmade small craft harbor with approximately 4,600 slips, Marina del Rey’s land-side display of boats has dwindled down to a group of five boats on Fiji Way. With the exception of special boat show events such as the MarinaFest, Marina del Rey no longer accommodates in-water displays.
By contrast, land-side boat displays are a common site throughout the year at other harbors, including Newport Beach and Alamitos Bay. Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach is a commercial-friendly marina; And our own Long Beach Yacht Center location near Shoreline Village displays 25 in-water boats.
Over time, the reduction of commercial boat displays has overall revenue consequences. With fewer displays of boats for sale in Marina del Rey there is the unintended effect of driving buyers to shop outside the area— where they are welcomed by a greater abundance of boats displayed— and this drives purchase transactions and slip rentals elsewhere. For documented vessels, sales tax is determined by where the vessel is berthed, not where the owner lives. When used or new boat purchases take place outside our area, the 2% local portion of the 9.5% state sales tax, which normally would be reallocated back to Marina del Rey, instead benefits other harbors.
Marina del Rey’s dedicated boating centers are disappearing. One example would be the former Ship Store complex on Panay Way, whose tenants included sailing schools, charter businesses, and a venerable retailer of boating parts and accessories.
On Basin G, the Pier 44 complex has been beautifully remodeled, but the in-water and on-land boat displays of the former complex no longer exist. I know of three marine-related tenants in the process of moving to Pier 44. All are taking very small spaces on the second floor. The more conspicuous spaces are taken by non-marine related business.
The smaller marine service businesses have gradually disappeared. Boating continues to take a back seat to commercial and residential real estate.
A PARTNERSHIP SOLUTION
My recommendation for expanding the partnership between the boating business community and the County is to establish a dedicated marine center. A first-time visitor with no prior boating experience could get started by simply walking into the office of this marine center. This marine center would provide adequate space for in-water and land-side boat displays, a boating office, charter or fractional usage-friendly slips. The property’s designated use would be restricted to boat brokers/dealerships, sailing schools, boating clubs, charter operations, and related services.
I would also like to recommend creating a boating advocate role within the County’s current structure.