There Floats the Neighborhood

In the waters just off the Coronado Municipal Golf Course, from the clubhouse stretching south about half a mile, more than twenty boats are anchored year-round while their owners live aboard them, and another seventy or so remain there for periods ranging from several days to several months. Similar situations exist in half a dozen other areas in San Diego Bay, such as the northeast portion of the Embarcadero off the foot of Laurel Street, where a recent Port of San Diego study says ninety-two boats are moored, and the Commercial Basin north of Shelter Island, whose 228 boats make it the bay’s largest free anchorage, the study says. Legally, says the port’s director of planning, Fred Traull, these and other small craft outside the confines of the marinas can stay where they are for as long as they want; the federal government has designated all of San Diego Bay as free anchorage, he says, and the only areas off limits are those under military jurisdiction or those in the way of major navigational channels or cable crossings. But for more than a year the presence of the Glorietta Bay “live-aboards” has been the cause of mounting concern among Coronado city officials. “As their numbers grow,” says City Councilwoman Mary Herron, “the complaints against them increase, and that’s caused some problems.” Among them, she says: interference with water-skiers, fishermen, and other recreational boaters; use of golf course facilities, primarily the bathrooms, by live-aboards; no provisions for such service as fresh-water supplies and trash pick-up; trespassing across the golf course to reach the main street; Glorietta bay Boulevard; and parking their cars on residential streets and frequently repairing the cars in front of residents’ homes.

So last November, after months of public hearings, council sessions, and even the formation of a bay Anchorage Review Committee, the Coronado City Council drafted a new ordinance “to regulate the business of the bay so that the various uses don’t infringe upon each other’s rights,” Herron says. The original Glorietta Bay ordinance, she adds, was passed by the council in 1976 and dealt only vaguely with the subject of live-aboards; it simply required small crafts to be moored in accordance with port district rules. The proposed ordinance, however, gave the city council the authority to declare certain portions of the bay, “water use zones” and thus regulate them more closely—requiring a permit from the Coronado harbor master for boats docking there for more than five hours, for example, and limiting a boat’s stay to seventy-two hours in the areas deemed “temporary anchorages” and ninety days in those called “extended anchorages,” In addition, the proposed ordinance said people may only live aboard their boats if they adhere to certain rules; their boat must have holding tanks for storage of sewage and refuse, for example, and the harbor master, or one of his representatives, must be allowed to perform impromptu inspections.

But protest from various live-aboards—and cries of overregulation—were voiced almost immediately. Herron says, and nine revisions later, the ordinance still has not been passed. So the council abandoned its efforts and turned matters over to the port, which is in the process of drafting an ambitious amendment to its master plan. The Small Craft Mooring and Anchorage plan, scheduled for its first public hearing August 21, deals with all of San Diego Bay, but to Glorietta Bay live-aboards breathing a sigh of relief that the Coronado City Council is finally leaving them alone, the new alternative looks equally unappealing. The major intent of the plan says the port’s Fred Traull, is to get the federal government to relinquish its designation of San Diego Bay as a free anchorage and let the port name eight areas “designated anchorages,” including one on both sides of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge just north of the current live-aboard area. Under the proposed plan, Traull says, live-aboards would be allowed to anchor only within eight zones for periods in excess of seventy-two hours. And in order to moor their vessels within these zones, boats will have to meet a variety of stringent regulations that make even the one proposed by the Coronado City Council a year ago look mild in contrast. In order to get the required docking permit, Traull says, ownership will have to be documented. Coast guard and port officials must be allowed onboard for periodic inspections, and their crafts must comply with various other port and Coast Guard regulations in regard to water, sanitation, fire-fighting and life-saving equipment, and overall seaworthiness.

The current group of Glorietta Bay live-aboards is not too happy about the impending restrictions, or with the fact that under the accompanying environmental impact report the port has issued with the proposed plan, the Coronado Mooring area will only allow a maximum of seventy vessels within its bounds—thirty fewer than are anchored in the area today. “I want to stay where I am,” says Connie Ciskowski, who with her husband John has lived in the waters just off the golf course’s clubhouse for three years aboard a forty-foot sailboat. “This is the last port you can anchor in before you leave the country; it’s been a free anchorage for years, and that’s the way it should stay.” As of r the complaints from local residents about people using the golf course, Jay Herdman, who has lived in the same area aboard a twenty-six foot sloop for a year and a half says, “Go to the rest room anytime—how often do you see a boater in there? The only thing we do is eat breakfast at their clubhouse and I bet we give them more business than the golfers do.”

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