Water Ways
Ray Pendleton

Santa Cruz shows Hawaii
how it’s done

That the Ala Wai Boat Harbor -- as well as nearly all of the state's other marinas -- is in a downward spiral of disintegration isn't a fact that's been lost on its occupants and guests, or even those tasked with its maintenance.

Everyone I quoted in last week's column, from internationally respected yachtsman Roy Disney, to our politicians and bureaucrats, all recognized the problem, but little was offered on how best to reverse the situation.

Another well-known yachtsman, though, e-mailed me a few of his thoughts on some management changes that might bring about the improvements Hawaii's public marinas so badly need.

Bill Lee has been known worldwide for decades as the "Wizard" of high-performance sailboat design and construction. His company is in Santa Cruz, Calif., where he is also one of five members of that city's Port District Commission.

"The Santa Cruz public harbor is a special district chartered by the state and administered by our commission, which serves without pay and oversees the policies and management of the harbor," Lee told me.

"Because the Ala Wai is very specialized and different from typical state operations," he said, "Hawaii really should look at the Santa Cruz model."

Fortunately, all it takes to look at that model is to view its Web site at www.santacruzharbor.org, rather than making a long flight to the mainland.

The site tells us that the voting residents of the district elect at-large members of the commission that govern it for four-year terms.

Their basic responsibilities are to set policies, approve an annual operating budget, govern land-use questions and act as judge for any tenant disputes over policy or enforcement of regulations.

Physically, Santa Cruz Harbor encompasses about 90 acres and moors approximately 1,000 vessels (at $8.25 per foot a month) and has dry storage for 275 boats.

The port district operates as a government-owned business that provides nearly all of its own services -- maintenance, security, financial and administrative -- funded entirely by user fees. Major fire suppression, schools and police assistance in transporting and jailing criminal offenders are about the only outside services the district requires.

Its harbor patrol boat assists the Coast Guard and local agencies with emergency rescues and law enforcement under the Good Samaritan Act.

Along with the port director, the district has a permanent staff of 23, plus 20 to 25 seasonal workers.

Surrounding the harbor, there are 40 boating-related businesses, restaurants and shops that employ some 800 people and help the district generate more than $40 million in gross product for Santa Cruz County. Those businesses also generate more than $600,000 in sales tax that is shared by the state, county, city and local transit district.

Perhaps Santa Cruz does provide an attractive alternative to Hawaii's present disappointing marina management practices, or even to privatization, for that matter.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu. His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached by e-mail at raypendleton@mac.com.

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