By Olin Ericksen
March 27 -- Rising gas costs, new fishing restrictions
and insurance concerns could be brewing the perfect storm
to drive off companies interested in bringing back boating
to the financially struggling Santa Monica Pier, The Lookout
Nearly six months after the City launched an ambitious plan
to build a gangway adjacent to the century-old landmark, the
only applicant is reportedly having second thoughts about
building the structure needed before boating can return after
some 25 years.
"They are giving it serious consideration," said
Ben Franz Knight, CEO of the non-profit Pier Restoration Corporation.
According to Franz-Knight, representatives of In-Seine Bait
Dock have not withdrawn their application, but are worried
about uncertain conditions brewing on the horizon that could
impact the company and other possible leasees from turning
a profit on the pier.
Perhaps the most serious concern is the price of gasoline,
which has been hitting the fishing and boating industry hard
in recent months, he said.
"The increase in fuel costs is a huge concern for everyone,"
said Franz-Knight, who has spoken with several boating companies
along the Southern California coast.
At a time when studies are showing the continuing depletion
of marine life, new State regulations that restrict fishing
along the coast are throwing cold water on sport-fishing companies
interested in locating to the Pier, he said.
In addition, without a breakwater to protect against possible
choppy and unpredictable surf near at Pier, passengers could
slip or fall climbing aboard and disembarking from boats,
driving up insurance costs for leasees.
A series of storms in 1983 not only destroyed the City's
breakwater, but also brought an end to boating services at
the Pier, though they are still advertised at the landmark's
While turning a profit could be difficult under the current
market conditions for boating-related businesses, there is
no lack of interest setting up shop at the Pier, according
"All have expressed great interest in accessing Santa
Monica's sizable visitor base,” he said. “The
big question now is how to do that."
While a gangway built with private dollars could come up
short, the idea is not dead in the water, yet.
"It would not be a serious problem if the request for
proposal was rewritten to exclude the building of the gangway,"
Another idea floated by some would be to use City dollars
to fund the project, which could add visitor dollars to a
destination that for years has operated at a deficit, despite
"At some point we'll need to do it to further emergency
access at the Pier," Franz-Knight said. "There has
been a lot of support… to make true our historic sign."
The Pier Restoration Corporation leasing committee is expected
to review the application in coming weeks, Franz-Knight said.