by: Ruarri Serpa
Oceanside CA- Oceanside plans to bring structural changes to the way it manages the harbor, when it selects a new harbor master this spring. Former City Manager Peter Weiss, now a consultant to the city, announced a plan to pull the position out of the Department of Public Works, make the new Harbor Master directly responsible to the City Manager.
“It cuts down on the number of steps, and gives direct access to management,” said Officer Jonathan Hoover, Harbor Patrol. “This is huge.”
The change reflects new priorities for the harbor, including better marketing, tourism, and communication with commercial tenants to combat declining interest in the harbor. The waiting list for slip rentals is 33 people, with one available slip, according to Steven Rodriguez, interim Harbor Manager, in his report to the committee. Committee members noted this is down from over 125, just two years ago.
“We do need a Harbor Master back,” said Council member Sanchez, who serves as the liaison to the Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee. “It needs to be someone who can communicate, and work well with everyone in the harbor.”
Oceanside has the only harbor between Dana Point in Orange County, and Mission Bay to the south, making it a major asset to boaters looking to access the southern California coast. Bringing the harbor master under the purview of the city manager will make efforts to boost tourism throughout the city more effective, and coherent.
It also requires a higher salary to attract a stronger pool of candidates, Weiss said. Weiss, and Sanchez both stressed that the next candidate be able to communicate with people concerned about the harbor, and bring ideas to City Council.
Committee members discussed the idea of group management, a “board of directors for the harbor,” as opposed to a executive manager. City Manager Steve Jepsen was opposed to the idea. “There are no other advisory bodies that provide day-to-day direction to city employees.
Oceanside Harbor Patrol Boats
Any boosts to the harbor, however, will have to be met with increased emergency response capacity. Currently, Oceanside Police Harbor Patrol has two vessels that provide towing, fire extinguishing, and policing capability. Both are nearly 10 years beyond their rated lifespan for recreational use.
A third boat was purchased in 2012 with money made available by the Department of Homeland Security, which provides greater response time to calls along the coast. This third boat should not be included when considering Harbor Patrol’s response capacity, said Hoover, because it has to remain available for DHS missions.
“Our number one goal is to have our two vessels replaced through a grant,” said Hoover. “Our second option would be through a Capital Improvement project.” Harbor Patrol is also asking for additional vessels, called “Red Boats,” to provide more adequate response. “We may require three to four Red Boats,” Hoover said. Liz Rhea, of the Harbor and Beaches Committee questioned whether it was necessary to have more than two vessels. “Can’t we sell one, and use that money, with a grant, to purchase a new one?”
Harbor Patrol will provide a report on the capability that is needed for new vessels, as well as the training required of officers at a special meeting set in May. If Capital Improvement funds are required, the Committee will have to make a recommendation to City Council before the city’s annual budget is voted on in June.
Ruarri Serpa is a freelance reporter from Oceanside, CA. You can contact him directly at RuarriS@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @Ruarris