A project that has long been in the works to replace and upgrade the piers and other landside utilizes near Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey was greenlighted by the county Board of Supervisors July 17.

The project will cost an estimated $12.2 million.

Eleven new reconfigured piers will take the place of the current 23 docks and 330 boat slips. The new docks will have 253 slips, a reduction of 77.

According to county staff reports, the reduction in slips is due to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for public marinas and the California Department of Boating and Waterways design guidelines.

Charlotte Miyamoto, the county’s division chief of asset management, said the docks are in great need of repair. “They are way beyond their useful life,” Miyamoto said about the Anchorage 47 docks, which were built in 1973.

A private lessee whose lease was terminated in 2008 formerly owned Anchorage 47. The county has assumed the operating responsibilities of the docks.

Fire, water, power and sewer utilities will also be upgraded.

Plans to upgrade the piers have been in the works for more than a year.

Miyamoto said the new piers and slips would help accommodate modern boats in a more efficient fashion.

“The current docks are double wide slips and are very outdated,” she explained. “And boats have gotten wider over the years.”

County officials believe that slip fee rental revenue is not estimated to fluctuate during construction. Boat owners who will be affected will be relocated to other anchorages that the county operates instead of having their leases terminated.

Profits from slip fees are expected to increase when the new docks are completed, states a county staff report, due to the fact that the new docks will command a higher rent and are expected to maintain a higher rate of occupancy.

A group of boat owners in the Marina have complained over the years about the condition of the docks and slips as well as the rates that they pay to dock their boats.

Redondo Beach has four harbors and the last one to have its docks replaced was Portofino, according to Michael Aakers, the president of King Harbor. “They put in concrete docks a few years ago,” said Aakers, whose harbor has been refurbished with recycled timber.

“It’s environmentally friendly, it doesn’t rot and there are no splinters,” Aakers added.

David Levine, the president of the Marina Lessees Association, echoed Miyamoto’s assessment that most docks have certain lifetime expectancy and in order to attract boat owners and visitors, it is essential that Marina del Rey continue its upkeep of the coastal enclave’s landside facilities.

“It’s important for all docks to be upgraded when they fall into poor condition after several decades of use whether they are publicly or privately owned,” Levine said.

Miyamoto said harbor engineers have said the “useful life” of marina docks is approximately 40 years.

The asset management chief said the county would examine the rates of other renovated piers before deciding on how much they will charge for the new docks. “We’ll look at comparable docks once construction has been completed,” she said.

Levine said it is not unusual to expect higher fees once the new utilities are upgraded and the new docks are installed, given that some of the docks will be lost due to federal compliance for people with disabilities.

“New facilities are likely to command higher revenue,” he said. “New docks also need to be consistent not only with state and federal laws, but should also reflect the marketplace.”

County officials use a market-based approach to determine the price of the slips fees, a formula that has been unsuccessfully challenged to date by a group of small boat owners who claim that the department’s strategy is illegal.

Regarding the relocation of boats during construction, Miyamoto said it would likely not be an obstacle for boat owners due to the projected construction schedule that county authorities have planned for the utilities and the docks. Rebuilding and refurbishing the docks will take place in three different stages, with no more than one-third of the piers under construction at any time, say county authorities.

“We’re really not expecting any problems accommodating them,” Miyamoto said. “We’re hoping to be able to move some vessels around to other marinas where there are vacancies, and because there are significant vacancies for smaller boats we don’t think that should be a problem.”

Levine said the docks must also be refurbished due to the more contemporary styles of boats that harbor throughout Southern California. Boat brokers have said over the last decade that recreational boating trends have moved toward larger vessels and marinas are moving to accommodate them.

“Because of changes in boating tastes and in sizes there has been a move towards larger boats,” he said. “The California Coastal Commission recognized that fact when it reviewed and approved the coastal permit for the (county’s) redevelopment plan.”

The commission approved the redevelopment plan Nov. 3.

The county Department of Beaches and Harbors will be soliciting construction permits from the Coastal Commission as well as from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Miyamoto.

Noble Consultants, Inc will design the proposed project.

Construction of the docks and utility upgrades is scheduled to begin next July and is slated to be completed by September 2014.

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