Coast Guard to remove boat ‘parking lot’ from middle of Marina del Rey harbor

Plans to end a public anchorage in Marina del Rey put boater Hans Etter on high alert Photo by Pat Reynolds

Plans to end a public anchorage in Marina del Rey put boater Hans Etter on high alert
Photo by Pat Reynolds

By Pat Reynolds

Back in June, Marina del Rey boater Hans Etter created a Facebook page called Save Our Public Anchorage in response to hearing that the U.S. Coast Guard was seeking to disestablish “a special anchorage” that exists in the heart of Marina del Rey harbor. Few people had even known there was such a thing as a special anchorage, including Etter.

The region in question, established in 1965, is relatively small and located slightly south of Del Rey Yacht Club and the California Yacht Club in the center of the channel. It allows for anchoring, particularly at night without lights. When the Coast Guard partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss development projects that included the addition of slips, they noticed this area on the chart and pointed out the proposed concepts would encroach. Coast Guard officials began to look at the zone more closely and questioned its importance and contemporary relevancy.

After review, in what they deem as a simple “housecleaning,” the agency proposed to disestablish the zone, indicating that it is not a practical place for any type of anchorage.

“What this regulation did, to use an analogy, is it essentially established a parking lot that spans the entire width of the freeway,” Coast Guard Lt. Commander Matthew Salas said during a Nov. 20 public meeting at the Burton Chace Park Community Room.

“And this parking lot, if you can imagine, also blocks the on-and-off ramps,” he continued. “So, using the parking lot analogy, I think everyone can generally agree that it would be unwise to park at night on a freeway with no lights on.”

Salas sees the removal of the anchorage as something that probably should have been done long ago due to its proximity to emergency vessels and the potential for collisions.

For Etter, the removal of the anchorage was less about the relevance of the space than the importance of the operative word — “encroachment” — that was used in the proposal to eliminate the zone.

When he and other politically concerned boaters see a development issue cutting into what exists on a nautical chart of Marina del Rey, the antennae go up. Through Etter’s efforts, a public meeting was held and he was disturbed that wasn’t simply a matter of course and protocol.

“It is about taking public assets with no input from the public for the benefit of private commercial interest,” Etter told The Argonaut. “Why was the public not informed about the exact nature of that agenda/meeting, since it has everything to do with grabbing public assets for private use?”

The issue represents a nervousness that exists at this time in history as Marina del Rey endures its sometimes painful redevelopment. What the Coast Guard sees as a simple clean up to a nautical chart — removing an irrelevant and potentially hazardous designation — can be a politically charged situation that stirs suspicion and concern among certain residents and boaters.