As the cost of boat slips rises and the demand outweighs the supply, Marina del Rey boaters are eyeballing the unfinished Esprit Apartments & Anchorage at B and C Basins, wondering what it might offer when finally complete.

Of course, any time the “D” word (development) is mentioned in the Marina del Rey community, tempers flare and opinions jump and spark like a broken power line dancing on the street. Everyone has a take, some with solid information and others with hardly any at all, but most would concur that we could use more slips in the Marina.

So, for the fellows in the 24-foot center console Mako or the Cal 25 who are looking to move up to the next size range, those empty slips might be an integral part of their future.

Anyone who has started the process of purchasing a boat in the 35-to-45-foot range or has poked around in the planning stage, knows too well that finding a slip that size is like finding a Stradivarius at a yard sale — it ain’t easy.

“I have had people on a waiting list since 2004,” one dockmaster recently said.

The optimist hopes that with the unveiling of the Esprit slips, which are slated to open in June or July, although January was the previously stated opening date, the Marina will begin to show more of a balance in terms of slip sizes.

Marketing data and yacht brokerages both indicate that the buying trend is moving towards larger vessels.

“We mostly try to sell boats in the 40-foot range,” said yacht broker Tony de la Vega of The Yacht Exchange on Panay Way. “That’s the size of the majority of the boats that we sell and it’s very hard to find [slips] in the 35-to-40-foot range. And bigger than that is even tougher.”

Many are saying that servicing this trend towards larger boats means ultimately eliminating smaller slips, thereby acing out boaters with limited economic means. As slips sizes grow, so says the argument, Marina del Rey shrinks farther away from its original intent and purpose — to be an accessway to the ocean for any Los Angeles resident to exploit.

“I’m not a boater — I’m just a businessman,” said Doug Ring, president of The Ring Group, owner of Bar Harbor and developer of Esprit. “If there were a demand for three-foot-long slips and no demand for 70-foot-long slips, I wouldn’t build those bigger slips. The reality is that we discovered we had more vacancies in the small slips than we did in the big slips.”

In addition to the Esprit project, Ring will be demolishing the Bar Harbor anchorage (in C Basin) as it stands now and reinvent it as a 241-slip area that is designed to accommodate boats in the 25-to-45-foot range. The thinking is that Bar Harbor will be for smaller to mid-size vessels and Esprit will handle mid-size to large boats.

Bar Harbor will hold fewer slips than it used to, but the hope is, from Ring’s perspective, that the sizes offered will reflect the demands of the contemporary boating market more aptly.

While the implementation of this more balanced blueprint should be welcome to most of the boating public, the “X factor” will be the cost of renting the new slips. Having more slip availability won’t mean much to the common boater if these new spaces are astronomically priced, and then the argument that speaks of acing out the middle-class recreational boater will indeed have merit.

The prices are still being calculated, Ring said, and no approximation could be given.

The breakdown for the slip sizes in Esprit are as follows:

33 35-foot slips,

55 40-foot slips,

60 45-foot slips,

46 50-foot slips,

18 55-foot slips,

8 60-foot slips, and

7 70-foot slips.

So Marina del Rey boaters patiently wait for the dynamic to change, and for some it has already taken far too long.

Ring has been accused and vilified by those claiming that he has ulterior motives and that the lag time in opening the new slips is somehow intentional and laced with clandestine motives.

“I have listened, I must admit frankly, with some amazement to comments that have been made by some of the folk in the Marina that I am not moving as quickly as I could or I’ve got some agenda other than to get this stuff up and operational as fast as possible,” Ring said. “The truth of the matter is that if I could have the thing finished and rented today, it would be finished and rented today.”

Currently, Esprit has over 200 requests for information about renting and they plan on doing a mass e-mail when the time comes to inform those interested about availability.

The www.espritmdr.com Web site is merely a holding page at this point, but as the launch date nears, it should contain more information.

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