Comments on the financial priorities of the Berkeley Marina, based on an email exchange with Norman La Force regarding a floating restaurant proposal

From Sat Nov 15 00:17:48 2003
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 02:27:35 -0800 (PST)
From: Paul Kamen
To: Norman La Force
Cc: Paul Shain,
Stephen Mackouse,
Justine Staneko,
Steve Bloom,,
David Lewis,,
Arthur Feinstein,
Joanne Drabek,
Sarah Ginskey,
Russ Wilson,
Corinne Greenberg,
Kristin Ohlson,
Peter Rauch,
Kitty McLean,
Ed Bennett,
Teddi Baggins,
Brian Parker

Subject: Re: Floating Restaurant

On Tue, 11 Nov 2003, Norman La Force wrote:

> Dear Commissioners:
> I will not be at your Waterfront Commission meeting because I have to show up at the Planning Commission on some issues there. I note that the Commission has before it the idea of a floating restaurant off the Berkeley Pier. The Sierra Club has not addressed this proposal because we only just learned about it. The comments that follow are my personal comments.
> I hope you sink this idea ASAP. Such a restaurant would constitute fill of the Bay, and I doubt BCDC would approve of it.

There may well be some good reasons for sinking this concept, but I don't think any of them are mentioned here. Note that BCDC gives Hornblower approval for a floating houseboat used only for food preparation. This has even less of a public access character than a floating restaurant. BCDC's position on boats as "bay fill" has changed considerably since the '80s.

> Some Commissioners will recall that in the mid-1980's there was the fellow who had his floating boat moored in the North Basin Cove and other locations Ultimately, BCDC got it removed and out of the Bay. Now you want to proceed with a commercial venture of similar concept for your waterfront.

That was Klaus Von Wendell's waiting-to-be-restored 190 ft. WWII patrol boat and GreenPeace vessel, the "Ohana Kai." The boat had considerable historical value, both from its WWII history and its role in GreenPeace. Cutting it into pieces was a somewhat clumsy way of dealing with Klaus' collection of derelicts in the North Sailing Basin and along the shore near the hotel, but it's too late now. Anyway, there is absolutely nothing "of similar concept" here with Klaus' old pile of junk, except that they both involve things that float.

> In addition, you already have His Lordships, which is a money loser, and Skates, about which I know little. Why add a third restaurant in the water when you have a loser in His Lordships and other vacant buildings at the Marina.

Skates is a very important revenue source, and helps to keep the Marina Fund in the black. We are trying hard to bring our two underperforming restaurants (Hs. Lordships and the old Dock of the Bay building) up to the same level of performance. A new lease is in the works for the Dock of the Bay building. Hs. Lordships' problems seem to be internal, but the site has great potential and will eventually be a valuable asset when the lease is finally renegotiated, if not sooner.

I think you imply that the Marina cannot support any more restaurant business than it already has, but there is no evidence for this. The market is regional, and successful restaurants tend to cluster.

> Any impacts on the Eastshore State Park such as traffic along University Ave would have to be mitigated. I would be comptemplating requesting that the Sierra Club ask for a substantial monetary mitigation fee for impacts on the new wildlife area of the Meadow to cover such impacts.

The Marina does all it can to encourage better performance of its existing restaurants. These efforts have not been particularly effective to date in the case of Hs. Lordships and Dock of the Bay, but if we do succeed, the effect on traffic on U. Ave. will be quite a bit more than that caused by the small floating restaurant proposed. No-one is calling for mitigation. In any case, the relative increase in traffic would be small compared to that caused by existing recreational and commercial uses.

Increased restaurant business means more revenue to the Marina Fund, which increases the Marina's ability to support and maintain various non-profit educational and recreational organizations and public park amenities (Shorebird Nature Center, The Nautalis Institute's Pegasus Project, Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors, Cal Sailing Club, Cal Adventures, the Municipal Fishing Pier, and a number of small public parks). Some of these groups are supported through below-market leases, some as budgeted line items for operation and maintenance.

Aside from the inherent value of these services and amenities to the community at large, note that the Marina has in the past asked for General Fund support when it has faced financial difficulties. I think it is very important to avoid this in the current economic environment. In fact, the Marina may be in a position to do just the opposite: Off-loading some of the City's recreation programs to the Marina could help out with the City's financial crisis, and at the same time provide some very attractive new recreational opportunities for local youth.

> Without knowing more about the proposal, this is all I can say now.
> Sincerely yours,
> Norman La Force
> You know who I am.

Thank you for your comments.

Paul Kamen