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The Worst Laid Plans

We generally categorize ideas as either good or bad, beach volleyball – good idea, beach basketball – bad idea. Some ideas can be both good and bad. Bringing your laptop to the beach could be tempting. You could get some work done while you’re enjoying a day of surf, sun and sand. But laptops don’t like salt and sand. Plus, you’d probably struggle to see the screen on a sunny day.

The plan that’s currently underway for a boat ramp in King Harbor is just such an idea, good and bad. It’s good because people like me, who keep our boats on trailers, would have an easier way to get in and out of the harbor.

Any boat that’s too big to carry has two options for launching in King Harbor. The King Harbor Marine boat yard has a hoist called a Travelift that can get a boat in and out of the water. Redondo Beach Marina has a hoist that can take a boat off a trailer, put it in the water and retrieve it when it’s time to put it back on the trailer. Most trailer boaters use the Redondo Beach Marina facilities.

The idea of building a boat ramp in King Harbor is as good as the idea of bringing your laptop to the beach. Unfortunately, salt and sand are minor considerations compared to the problems facing a boat ramp. Lots of questions should have been asked before Redondo Beach embarked on the path it appears to be following toward construction of a boat ramp

The first question that should have been asked is whether or not the trailer boating public needs a boat ramp. Imagine pouring millions of dollars into a boat ramp and finding out no one wants to use it.

Why did the city of Redondo Beach skip this most fundamental step prior to making their decision to proceed with plans for a boat ramp? The city council seems to have interpreted a relentless barrage of repetitive requests for a boat ramp from a single individual as a substitute for facts.

To its credit, the city has commissioned studies about the best location for a boat ramp. In my opinion, the best location for a boat ramp would be the current location of the King Harbor Yacht Club. I like the KHYC and I’m not suggesting the city replace it with a boat ramp but if we were starting with a blank canvas, that’s where I’d put it.

A city couldn’t just start planning an alternate use for the parcel of land KHYC occupies while the club is still there and it shows no signs of wanting to leave. That would be wrong. However, the current plan for a boat ramp will remove Joe’s Crab Shack and eliminate that location as a place for a restaurant in the future. I’m not sure why that isn’t wrong.

There is no good location for a boat ramp in King Harbor. If there was, a ramp would already be there.

One of the biggest issues surrounding the boat ramp is parking. A boat with a trailer needs two spaces. One of the things the city council would have noticed about nearby boat ramps if they had studied them, would have been they have ample parking for anyone who shows up even on holiday weekends in the summer.

That is simply impossible in King Harbor. There has been talk about using the AES property but is that something that can really be incorporated into a plan at this time?  How long will the new King Harbor boat ramp remain successful when the word gets out that after planning their day, packing up the family and provisions, then driving to King Harbor, boaters couldn’t find any place to leave their car and trailer?

Even if there was some place to park cars and trailers like the power plant or the open space under the power lines up the hill on Herondo, having to hike a quarter or half mile back to your boat after launching it would have the same effect as having no parking. It would drive boaters away.

Traffic is always an issue but in looking at the half-baked plans for a boat ramp, it’s hardly the most compelling reason to abandon the plan. Boat traffic is a different story. The harbor is about to get 24 transient moorings. Almost every visiting boat will arrive with a dinghy, which doubles the number of boats at any given time. Stand up paddling continues to grow in popularity. The 1500 boats in slips need to move freely in and out of the harbor. Peddle boats are everywhere in the nice weather. KHYC has a very active youth program, which puts dozens of small boats with kids in the harbor. The list goes on.

In short, there are a lot of boaters vying for the limited space inside the King Harbor breakwater. I welcome them all but safety is a concern especially as the numbers increase. I wish the city had studied boating safety issues surrounding the plan it has undertaken to build a boat ramp and increase traffic density in the harbor. It hasn’t.

There’s also an issue with the seawall. It’s about 3 to 4 feet above the grade of the land where Joe’s Crab Shack and the Portofino Hotel are located. If you cut through it for a boat ramp, you might as well destroy the whole wall. The protection it provided will be gone.

We don’t know how much demand there is for a boat ramp. We don’t know how it will affect vehicle traffic. We don’t know how it will affect boat traffic. We do know that the very expensive seawall that protects the land where the boat ramp will go will become nearly useless in high seas if it’s cut down to grade.

It makes you wonder why the city of Redondo Beach would be spending money to develop plans for a boat ramp before they bothered to ask these critical questions. Every city official I’ve heard speak on the matter says roughly the same thing. The Coastal Commission requires it.

So what happens if no one uses it or so many people use it traffic in the harbor comes to a standstill or boats and paddlers become engaged in mortal combat or a big swell from the south wipes out the land where the ramp sits? What do you suppose the Coastal Commission will say if the city pins the blame for an ill-conceived boat ramp on them?

Does anyone believe the Coastal Commission wouldn’t amend their requirements if evidence was presented to them about impracticality or threats to public safety? That conversation doesn’t seem likely because the city has begun planning the project without examining any of those issues.

I don’t expect anyone to have all the answers. But is it too much to expect that our elected officials, at very least, ask the right questions?

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