Harbor faces stormy future

It could soon cost more to berth a boat at the ailing Marina Yacht Harbor — but a new audit of the harbor’s finances shows signs of fiscal mismanagement.

Granted to San Francisco in 1935, the Marina Yacht Harbor’s east and west harbors contain room for nearly 700 boats, but sand, silt and deteriorated docks have made at least 50 berths unusable, according to harbor users.

“The harbor is in terrible repair,” said Dick Robinson, who has rented a slip at the marina since 1985. “Half of the gangways are functional, half arenot. Many of the pilings are rotten and gone.” Sand is leaking into some areas of the harbor, blocking five berths leased by the Golden Gate Yacht Club, according to its commodore, Marcus Young.

A recent audit of the marina, heard Monday before the Board of Supervisors’ Government Audit and Oversight Committee, found multiple instances in which money meant for the harbor fund — which comes from user fees and is used to pay for maintenance — instead went to the Recreation and Park Department’s funds.

In addition, berth users were double-charged for utilities and other expenses — a sum close to $622,000, according to Bruce Stone, president of the Marina Harbor Association. That money also went to Rec and Park.

“It should be returned to the harbor,” Stone said. “Harbor trust money is not The City’s money.”

Agencies have fallen so behind on dredging that some boats can only move at high tide, Robinson said. “We pay good money for slips that you can’t use half of the day.”

The money boat users pay could increase this summer, when the Recreation and Park Department is scheduled to approve a 4 percent boost in berthing fees, part of a larger fee schedule the Board of Supervisors approved in 2004 to boost slip rents at the marina by 55 percent by 2011.

Bright Wynn, who has leased a berth at the harbor for 35 years, opposed higher fees “because we’re not getting the services,” he said.

But others, such as Robinson, support the increase as long as they’re used to reverse the harbor’s deterioration.

“We were well below Bay Area market rate for these services,” said Recreation and Park spokeswoman Rose Dennis of the 2004 decision. “Rehabilitation of the harbor is one of the points of all this.”

Fees are scheduled to rise another 3 percent in 2009-10, and then 37 percent in 2010-11, according to a report from the Budget Analyst’s Office.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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