State's marina planning and management
is all wrong

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (4/18/98)
By Ray Pendleton

"How do we get a Marina del Rey in Hawai`i?"

That question came not from one of Hawaii's many disgruntled boater owners, but from state House Representative Cynthia Thielen during a briefing from acting Boating and Ocean Recreation Administrator Howard Gehring.

The topics that day were the recent critical audit of his division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the status of the statewide boating program, and the division's visions and strategies for the future.

Marina del Rey, as Thielen noted, is the world-class marina you see on the approach into Los Angeles International Airport.

Representative Thielen's question - perhaps rhetorical in nature - was not answered at the time, but I think it's safe to say that the only realistic answer is, sorry, but it can't be done here.

To explain, let's look at Marina del Rey, with reference to California waterfront planner Lawrence Williams' testimony to the DLNR regarding Haseko's Ewa Marina project on O`ahu.

Owned by Los Angeles County, Marina del Rey was constructed in the early 1960s in a cooperative effort between the Army Corps of Engineers, the state of California and the county of Los Angeles, with an original capitol investment of $36 million.

The publicly funded project created the harbor entrance, the main channel, the mooring basins, the infrastructure and the public use features - and it became the largest manmade marina in the world.

Then, with long-term fast land leases from the county - 158 in all - the private sector constructed 20 separate boating facilities - with a total of 6,000 slips. It also built ancillary marina facilities (boat yards, hardware stores and dealerships) 6,000 residential units, several hotels, and many restaurants and shops.

This combination of publicly funded marina development, followed by private investment and management, has created, arguably, L.A. County's most successful revenue-generating project, with millions of dollars each year coming from leases and taxes.

It also provides the boaters of the L.A. area with competitive, well maintained and managed, mooring facilities. Their rates rise and fall with supply and demand, but most of the marinas are charging from $7 to $15 per linear foot a month - depending on factors such as boat size, slip location and amenities offered.

Compare the above with the realities of Hawai`i.

Historically, the state has developed all of Hawaii's marinas, and then gone on to manage their operation. Rarely has there been any attempt to involve the private sector, or allow private development, or to plan for the ancillary - or even basic - needs of boaters.

Rather than charging a fair market price, the state's marina management has tried to maintain a somewhat socialistic pricing structure, attempting to keep all mooring fees the same throughout the Islands. It is rather like trying to maintain a level price for all real estate from Kahala to Waianae, or a fixed green fee on all golf links.

So, I'm afraid, without some nearly revolutionary changes in the overall marina development and management philosophy in Hawai`i, the odds are, Representative Thielen, that you - and the boating public - will never see a Marina del Rey-like facility here.

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