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Politics & Policy

Marina boat owners shocked as city seeks 30% fee hikes

Marina with boats; Golden Gate Bridge in the distance under a clear sky.
The city is considering raising berth rates at the San Francisco Marina by 31.4% by summer 2025. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

After a proposal to build a yacht harbor in front of Marina Green was squashed by grassroots organizers, an effort is underway to raise the fees for berthing a vessel at the boatyard. The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department says the move will help make its operations there financially sustainable.

The department notified boat owners this week that it would like to bump berthing fees by a whopping 31.4% by summer 2025. If the fee increases are approved, it would affect about 600 vessels, the department said.

"It's to make the marina self-sufficient," department spokesperson Tamara Aparton told The Standard. "We can't subsidize it. We think our funding should go toward recreation, not for subsidizing the marina."

Keeping a boat at the marina currently costs $6,000 annually for the smallest, 25-foot slip and up to $30,600 for the largest, 100-foot slip

The new proposal comes after the city tried to use part of a $160 million settlement with PG&E to redesign the harbor. The funds, which came as the result of a 2021 legal settlement, were intended to clean up pollution caused by a former coal gasification plant and help pay for some improvements to the area.

The department had proposed extending the harbor and adding a new breakwater, arguing that the project would have added funds to its coffers by allowing it to cut back on expensive dredging. The plan was put forward as the city contends with a massive budget deficit that has led to orders by Mayor London Breed to cut department costs.

People stroll by the water near Fort Mason, seagulls on the path, a clear blue sky overhead.
People walk along the San Francisco Bay Trail at Marina Green. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

An analysis by city staff suggested that additional boats could make the marina profitable to the tune of $1 million a year. But the project was spiked in late January after an outcry from residents who argued that building anything in front of Marina Green would ruin a vital community space.

Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' Land Use and Transportation Committee agreed with opponents and passed an ordinance blocking the plans from moving forward. The committee vote was unanimous, and the ordinance was ultimately approved by the full board and signed by Breed.

Now, the Recreation and Park Department is looking for other ways to keep the boatyard afloat.

The proposal for the fee increases will be heard at the Budget and Finance Committee in the coming weeks.

"We understand that any increase in fees may impact you, and we assure you that these adjustments have been carefully considered in light of our operational needs and commitments to maintaining high-quality facilities and services," the he Recreation and Park Department said in a message to owners.

Joe Bravo, who has been boating at the harbor since the 1970s and currently docks a 35-foot sailboat there, said he understands that the city needs to find funding somewhere. But he worries that the cost increases could end up driving boat owners elsewhere, noting that the current rates are already expensive.

"You’re going to lose them," Bravo said. "It's too easy to go somewhere else. There are plenty of places to go to."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date when the Budget and Finance Committee will hear the proposal for fee increases.