• Berkeley Marina at Crisis Point?

    Berkeleyside's Tony Hicks reports on the status of The Berkeley Marina

    In debt and in urgent need of investment, Berkeley waterfront is at a ‘crisis point’

    Berkeley Marina: The city’s waterfront will be insolvent by 2020 if urgent action is not taken, according to a new report. Photo: betsysaur

    Berkeley’s waterfront is at a “crisis point,” running about $1 million in debt, and will be “insolvent” by 2020 if the city doesn’t take fast action.

    According to a report released Monday for the City Council, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley said the Marine Enterprise Fund – which manages waterfront revenues and expenditures — can no longer support the Marina’s basic operating costs and maintenance.

    Current annual revenues of $6.2 million lag behind the Marina’s $7.2 million in expenditures.

    Williams-Ridley wrote that, of $106 million of overall maintenance needs, $10.33 million are of “immediate concern,” $3.45 million of which is “needed now to make critical repairs to docks, pilings, electrical systems, and restrooms.”

    “If these investments are not made, facilities and infrastructure will either require more costly emergency funding or be closed, as in the case of the Berkeley Pier. Waterfront customers will continue to leave the Berkeley Marina, continuing the downward spiral of revenue loss and blight.”

    The report “builds on previous reports dating back to 1999, documenting a long history of the Marina Fund revenues struggling to cover basic operating costs, leaving little to no room for capital or maintenance wrote,” she wrote, adding Marina funding is at “its breaking point.”

    The fund will reportedly run dry in 2020, “with more than $950,00 needed to maintain existing waterfront operations through the next budget cycle.” Failure to do so will result in “deep cuts to programs and amenities.”

    The deficit has reportedly been caused by recent safety issues and deteriorating infrastructure. There have been unexpectedly sharp declines in revenue from berths, as boat owners are choosing to go elsewhere. Occupancy rates dipped as low as 77% earlier this year, compared to 88% three years ago.

    Business is also down at the nearby Doubletree Hotel, with revenue falling 4% in 2018 from the previous year.

    At the same time, delayed repairs are becoming costlier, as “pilings, docks, building systems, parking lots, and street paving begin to fail.”

    The Berkeley Pier was closed in 2015. Other waterfront infrastructure may need to be closed if the city doesn’t take fast action on investment, according to a new report by Berkeley’s City Manager. Photo: Dorothy Brown

    Williams-Ridley also wrote that the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan needs an additional $1.05 million. In October, the city received two proposals that confirmed the current budget allocation of $150,000 for the long-term plan falls well short of the necessary $1.2 million.

    Instead of funding a more “piecemeal” amount of “$150,000, the city chose to ask for bids on the full scope of the project, hoping to move forward when funding was available. The goal is to make the area self-sustaining.

    “These funds are needed immediately in order to pave the way for changes that will ultimately make the Marina Fund more viable and stable,” Williams-Ridley wrote.

    Read city’s report on the Berkeley waterfront. CLICK HERE

    The city incurred unexpected costs, and revenue loss, when longtime Marina restaurant, His Lordships, went out of business in July. The restaurant notified the city of its plans in May.

    The city is now on the hook for costs related to repairs, maintenance, utilities, security, and other associated fees, which would come from the Marina Fund. Currently, the fund is projected to be exhausted by 2021.

    The report offers three short-term solutions.

    The first option entails a one-time infusion of $4.5 million into “immediate needs,” which would keep the marina solvent until fiscal year 2021.
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