Berkeley’s Marina Fund to enter deficit in less than 5 years

Aren Saunders-Gonzalez/File

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Berkeley’s Marina Fund will enter a deficit in less than 5 years, city officials announced at a special Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday.

The current structural deficit is approaching $400,000 per year, exceeding the marina’s $250,000 per year fund, according to Christina Erickson, deputy director of the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department. Erickson said a declining number of berthers — tenants who pay to dock their boats at the marina — and reduced revenue from marina fees have added to the deficit. The docks are currently 20 percent vacant.

“For the first time in over a decade, occupancy rates and berth rental revenues are declining,” Erickson said.

Berthers are the main source of revenue for the city’s marina fund, according to Erickson. They have complained about the lack of safety and security, especially around restrooms and parking areas, and the poor condition of the docks and restrooms.

The marina’s 52 acres of water and 1,100 berths can accommodate about 1,100 vessels from 16-110 feet, according to the city’s website.

Part of the deficit is due to a delay in fee increases, according to the proposal submitted to the council by Scott Ferris, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department. Although marina fees are scheduled to increase every two years, because of declining occupancy rates, the city delayed the most recent scheduled increase. Despite this, fees will increase as scheduled in the future to reduce the deficit, according to the proposal.

The marina receives funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the California State Coastal Conservancy and other government agencies.

Several council members stressed the importance of the marina and its future potential at the meeting.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn said at the meeting that the marina requires a visionary plan and encouraged the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department to fully think through the potential development for the waterfront.

Councilmember Susan Wengraf encouraged a big-picture view for the marina, adding that it could be more integrated into city life.

“There’s such extraordinary potential down there,” Wengraf said at the meeting. “It’s going to cost us a lot, but it has the potential to bring us a lot.”

Mayor Jesse Arreguín supported the development of a ferry terminal in the marina.

Before discussing the marina, Ferris began the meeting with an overview of the T1 Measure. The measure is a $100 million bond for renovation of existing city facilities and infrastructure. Berkeley voters passed Measure T1 on Nov. 8, 2016 with 86.5 percent of the vote.

The department, for some projects, will produce a plan for construction so that other donors, such as FEMA, can contribute grants, which will then be used for the construction of projects, according to Ferris.

Wengraf supported the development of solar panels on all buildings under construction.

Ferris said the city has planned substantial energy development in its projects.

“This is our own little (Works Progress Administration) right here,” Wengraf said, referencing the expansive Great Depression government infrastructure program.

Contact Henry Tolchard at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @htolchard.