RECENT News Stories re: Boat Dock Homes


October 22, 2006

Waking each day with breathtaking views of the channel, resort-like atmosphere and your getaway vessel close by makes waterfront locale seem like a never ending vacation.

It's been said, "If you're lucky enough to live by the water, you're lucky enough." Even luckier if you have a boat dock in your backyard, say a growing number of coastal enthusiasts who want to keep their floating assets close to home. With the emerging shortage of boat slips in California, not to mention the rising monthly fees, a house on the water with an attached private boat dock is an added value that homebuyers are starting to recognize.

The term "mixed use" in real estate refers to the combining of commercial property with residential. "Boat Dock Home" might be the new coin-phrase used to describe the "mixing" of residential and recreation on a single property.

Recent headlines in the Log Newspaper, a So-Cal boating publication declared, "Solution to Slip Shortage Not So Simple," and cited the need to build dry stack storage units for the "Orwellian" future.

A 60-foot slip in a Southern California marina would cost an average $1,500 per month and that's if you can find one.

Boaters are realizing that if they could dock their boat in their backyard for free, that's an extra $1,500 a month they could plow into their mortgage. Factor in utility costs that most marinas charge, the added insurance required and commuting costs, and boat dock homeownership starts to look more attractive. Weigh in the fact that a child's single Saturday soccer match or one spouse's work commitment could be the excuse for not visiting the boat at all for another week, the value of having one's favorite pastime in one's own backyard is, as they say, "priceless."

Welcome to Ventura County — home to not one but two pleasure boat marinas within five miles of each other. Oxnard and Ventura's back bays are the only waterfront communities between San Francisco and Long Beach that offer homes with private attached docks that are deeded to the homeowner. In other words, you own the slip and the house, together, forever. No dock master, no leases and no rising slip fees.

While Oxnard offers both zero-lot-line attached homes (Mandalay Bay) and single-family homes (Leeward Estates), the Ventura Keys are reserved for detached homes on inland canals. Westport and SeaBridge are two more exciting planned communities in Oxnard that combine dockside living with public marinas, parks, recreation facilities and retail establishments designed primarily to cater to the pedestrian and boating community. How many places in Southern California are you able to grocery-shop by dingy?

Randy Render, owner of a waterfront home in Westport, said, "I moved my family here from North Carolina two years ago and I couldn't be happier.

"On an average Saturday morning I might wake up, look out my window, check my boat, pinch myself to be sure I'm not dreaming, go for a run on the beach with my wife and daughter, maybe surf a few swells and hurry back in time to meet my father-in-law, John, down on my dock for a half-day of fishing at the islands. If we're lucky, we'll barbecue our catch on the patio grill with the family, toast a few rounds and retreat into the house to watch a movie."

To some, this scenario might bring thoughts of a faraway resort vacation; but for those who live on the water, it's all in a days work ? er, play.

"Come Sunday, we might kayak over to the Fisherman's/Farmer's market, get some fresh shrimp and the week's veggies, then paddle back home in time to jump aboard our electric boat to join friends from the yacht club for an organized dinghy dine-around," Render said.

Steve and Brooke Giannetti of Santa Monica got the bug in August. Steve said they'd been saving for years and thinking of ways they could share quality time with their three children. Young Charlie was showing a fondness for the water and had excelled at wake boarding during the family's recent trip to San Diego. Leila loves to build sandcastles and be pulled in an innertube while Nick is mesmerized with fishing.

"Rather than take a once-a-year week's vacation, we decided to buy a second home within an hour and a half's driving distance from our primary residence," Steve said. "Here we could enjoy water sports for Charlie, a backyard where Nick could hang his hook, and the beach within biking distance where the girls could do their thing.

"At day's end, rather than test restaurant patrons with three tired kids, we could cook at home, relax by the fire and send the kids off to their own beds."

Thus, the Giannettis happily closed escrow on a beautifully-remodeled boat dock home in Mandalay Bay on Oct. 13 and their new 28-foot express cruiser was delivered dockside a few days later.

Bob and Dianna Thorniley sat in steaming Las Vegas at summer's end. Bob, an adventurer for life, already had a place in the mountains for winter sports, a ranch in the desert big enough to appease a zoo keeper and now yearned for a getaway on the coast. He originally considered purchasing a mega yacht that would double as a floating condominium. But after realizing that a boat that size requires a minimum crew of two, just the employee nightmare they were trying to get away from, he arrived at the idea of a home on the water with a smaller boat in the backyard.

Diana, originally a native of the central coast, introduced Bob to the area. Recently they closed escrow on a new home in the Westport community and parked a fully-loaded 38-foot convertible sport yacht in the backyard.

"It cost me the same to get a house and a boat than it would have to buy and maintain a big boat slip and crew in Orange County," Bob said.

As for the Rehders, their life changes now require a downstairs master bedroom for a family member, so they're moving to another waterfront home nearby to accommodate their new needs. "I wouldn't give up this lifestyle for the world," Randy said.

They've put their 3,447 square-foot home on the market with Susan O'Brien of Sotheby's International Realty. The four-bedroom, three and one-half bath home sits on one of the best lots in the new Westport community.

One of the first buyers in the Sea Side phase, Randy did his homework and chose one of the rare lots that feature a south-facing orientation with views straight down the main channel. Its best feature, Randy says, is the 60-foot boat slip in the private marina outside his back door. Although the slip is now occupied by their 45-footer and an electric boat, the slip can accommodate up to a 65-foot motor yacht. There's even a small basin to tie up a dinghy and mount a few kayaks. "A privately-owned slip this large is a rarity in Southern California," Randy said.

The home itself is an upgraded masterpiece. Its beautifully landscaped front yard establishes a "California-tropics" mood. The flagstone entry, a gurgling fountain and seating on the front porch invite friendly conversation with arriving guests and neighbors. The custom-made mahogany and glass door is one of wife Teri's favorite features.

Once inside, a blonde-capped wooden staircase beckons to the second floor while other paths lead to the live and work areas. A den, natural for a home office, affords a street view so its occupant can keep tabs on the neighborhood. "A marina view would just be too distracting," Randy said.

Huge floor-to-ceiling windows abound in the living room, kitchen and great room capitalizing on the water view. Complementing the elegant living room and dining areas is a fireplace and a pair of 12-foot-high French doors that open to the waterside patio.

The kitchen is an experiment in family living gone right. A granite-topped island stands in the middle of the great room and offers what modern cooks dream of. A centrally placed Wolf stove is flanked by a handy stainless steel sink and expansive storage and counter space that could easily accommodate a half-dozen "assistants" that seem forever drawn to hover in the kitchen no matter what other seating is offered. More Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances including a trendy wine cooler are recessed into the white wainscoted cabinetry.

Within easy reach of the chef's omelet pan is a breakfast nook with sliding-door access to the side courtyard — an easy reach to excuse the family pet while still maintaining a hand on the coffee cup and newspaper.

The southern end of the great room is the hub of the family room and is flooded with sunshine and a view of the backyard — in this case a straight shot of the harbor and boats bobbing in the marina. A large-screened TV and stereo with surround sound are subtly hidden behind custom mahogany paneling.

Four bedrooms are upstairs and, yes, the master overlooks the owner's yacht. The adjoining master bathroom is an impressive travertine and marble masterpiece, a showplace really, that the thoughtful builder didn't ignore.

A smaller suite with attached bath and two other bright bedrooms are down the hall. The fourth bathroom's rich granite, travertine and tile's design exude expense, seemingly generous for a guest bathroom, rounding out the elegant air that no expense was spared in this home.

The household's tour ends back in the foyer where the family's key decisions might be made. Take out the big boat and head to the islands, paddle around the neighborhood in the kayaks; cruise the harbor in the electric boat; or heed the advice from Otis Redding and just sit by the dock on the bay and watch time pass away.

The only one who might feel out of place in this boat dock home is the family's SUV who yearns for a long run on a city-clogged freeway, a fading memory to most waterfront homeowners.

For more information, call O'Brien at 207-9579 or visit the Web site



Feeling the Big Squeeze

As marinas go upscale to accommodate super-size yachts, small boats get pushed out. Homeowners see their blue-water scenery turn to white fiberglass.

By Mike Anton, Times Staff Writer
July 9, 2006


Chris Herman's clients want luxury and space in their coastal getaways. They want expansive kitchens with granite countertops and bathrooms bathed in marble. Giant flat-screen televisions are standard, as are fine custom woodwork in the master suite and Italian-leather sofas in the salon.

Herman isn't a real estate agent hawking ocean-view mansions. He is a yacht broker on Newport Beach's Mariner's Mile, where, by one estimate, half a billion dollars' worth of floating condominiums were sold last year.

"It's just like homes today: Bigger is better," said Herman, a salesman at Bayport Yachts, where one customer recently bought and traded in three boats in just 18 months before he found what he wanted: 57 feet. "Buyers want more comfort. They want more status."

Big vessels have long plied California's coast. But in the last decade, a surge in sales of longer, wider and taller yachts has done more than satisfy the dreams of deep-pocketed people wanting to stretch their sea legs.

The trend has become a public policy issue. Homeowners complain that their views and docking space are invaded as aging marinas go upscale, reducing the number of small-boat slips to accommodate larger boats, which pay higher rents when they aren't languishing on waiting lists.

"It is a key issue in all of the projects that have come up in the past year or so," said Deborah Lee, senior deputy director of the California Coastal Commission, which must approve marina renovations and protect access to recreational boating. "There's concern about keeping smaller boaters from getting pushed out…. But larger slips are where the demand is…. We hear it from both sides."

California has a shortage of coastal slips because of environmental regulations that virtually stopped marina construction a quarter-century ago. Demand for this liquid real estate is expected only to grow as the state is projected to add as many as 23,000 boats a year through 2020.

"They can't all go in the water," said Harold Flood, planning supervisor for the state Department of Boating and Waterways.

Although big boats constitute a fraction of the market, a growing armada of posh vessels is having a profound effect on harbors designed with boats smaller than 25 feet in mind.

About 2,000 new powerboats longer than 40 feet were registered in California from 1998 to 2005, according to Info-Link, a Florida company specializing in the boating industry. Nearly half were longer than 50 feet.

"In 1960, there were probably no more than 10 boats over 60 feet in the harbor. Now there's probably a couple hundred," said Seymour Beek, 72, a sailor and member of the Newport Beach Harbor Commission. "It's a different culture."

Owners of super-yachts of 80 feet or more — the average size of a blue whale — have taken extraordinary steps to dock their multimillion-dollar trophy boats in Newport.

Philanthropist John Crean, who made a fortune in recreational vehicles as founder of Fleetwood Enterprises, bought a home on Lido Isle two years ago because it could handle his new 125-foot yacht, the Donna C. III.

"You've got to park it somewhere," he said.

Sales of these luxurious leviathans are booming. In the 1990s, 150 to 275 were constructed annually worldwide, according to industry spokesmen. Now there are 688 at various stages of completion in the world's shipyards and about 3,200 cruising the globe in high style.

Although there was a time when a yacht about the size of an aircraft carrier might have been seen as a tad ostentatious, we're over it, said Doug Sharp, a San Diego yacht designer and president of the Florida-based International Superyacht Society.

"Now it's OK to be wealthy and show your wealth," he said, pointing out that a custom-built 100-footer — "that's considered quite a small yacht now" — goes for about $5 million.

The trend has even been felt down in the mid-double-digits, where boat builders say 60 feet is the new 40 feet.

"It's been kind of like 'super-size me' for the entire industry," said John Freeman, a spokesman for Knight & Carver YachtCenter, a San Diego shipyard.

Super-yachts are more numerous in Florida than California, but smaller large boats chugging into port are enough to shiver the timbers of many a harbor official here.

In Newport Beach, officials regularly receive complaints from homeowners whose blue harbor vistas have been replaced by walls of white fiberglass.

The city has acted when a boat extends as little as an inch onto a neighbor's berth. "If it's not encroaching by that inch, then it's just a matter of them not liking that boat next door," said Chris Miller, Newport Beach's harbor resources supervisor. "There's nothing I can do."

There was little the city could do when, in 2001, a 50-foot-plus yacht owned by former Arco Chairman Lodwrick Cook landed on Balboa Island to protests from homeowners who complained that the Carole Diane blocked views, limited public beach access, was unsafe for swimmers and harmed sensitive eel grass.

"I'd like to introduce you to the Carole Diane," Richard Ashoff told City Council members at a meeting recounted in the Costa Mesa Daily Pilot. "She weighs in at about 20 tons, and she hasn't eaten today."

The Carole Diane wasn't the first large boat docked on the island. But Cook's proposal to modify a pier in front of adjacent homes he owned so the boat wouldn't encroach over the lot line galvanized residents.

City officials denied the dock modification, but a year later they decided there was nothing they could do to prevent the Carole Diane from sitting in front of Cook's two homes.

One day, the boat was gone. But the incident still resonates.

"It sent a message to me that certain rules apply to certain people," Ashoff said.

A hundred miles up the coast, in Ventura County's Channel Islands Harbor, a clash of a different kind portends the future of California's aging marinas.

In May, the Coastal Commission approved a $12-million plan by the harbor's largest marina to demolish its wooden slips and replace them with fewer, but generally larger, concrete ones.

The project is the first step in a broad overhaul that backers hope will resuscitate the county-owned harbor, an eclectic place where pricey cruisers bob alongside sturdy backyard-built sailboats and weathered buckets.

"It's tired," said Lyn Krieger, director of the Ventura County Harbor Department. "It's functioning, but like a lot of 40-year-old centers, it needs a face-lift. We want an up-to-date, competitive marina environment."

At Channel Islands Harbor Marina, achieving that — and complying with new state safety standards and the federal Americans With Disabilities Act — will mean the loss of 255 slips for boats of less than 36 feet in favor of 174 slips for boats longer than 38 feet.

That has rankled small boaters who say the project and others to come will mean rising slip fees that will price them out. Half the harbor's marinas will propose similar renovations in the next few years, Krieger said.

"This whole harbor was built for the enjoyment of everybody, not just the wealthiest persons," said Michael Salvaneschi, 65, who said he pinched pennies for years, buying clothes at the Salvation Army so he could afford to sail solo around the world for seven years.

"We're building this for millionaires in L.A.," Salvaneschi said.

Today, there is a waiting list for large-boat slips in the harbor while small-boat spaces lie vacant as rising slip fees lead some to choose the cheaper alternative of storing their craft on land.

But some say that after the harbor is remade, the situation will flip and many small-boat owners who have no interest in dry-docking will be forced to.

"It's all about the almighty dollar," said Dominick Mercurio, 80, whose squat, 1970s-era tub with a cramped cabin and garage-sale decor is docked across from a gleaming new sailboat more than twice its size and selling for $438,000.

" … They're trying to push people like me out of the water."

Similar concerns have been raised in harbor renovations elsewhere, including Redondo Beach, Long Beach and Marina del Rey, the last of which has lost hundreds of small-boat slips in recent years.

Although the shortage of large-boat slips is undeniable, demand is expected to increase for large- and small-boat slips, said Gary Timm, the Coastal Commission manager in Ventura. "We're trying to come up with a balance … while protecting some amount of smaller spaces," Timm said. "We're still struggling with what that is."

But with state officials estimating construction costs as much as $40,000 per slip, marina owners are looking to bring in big boats on waiting lists to recoup their investments.

"For the Coastal Commission to socially engineer a facility … isn't right," said Brad Gross, San Francisco's harbor master, who expects opposition to a planned makeover of two city-owned marinas that will eliminate most small-boat slips.

"As an industry, we've seen the writing on the wall…. Things have changed."


Times staff writer Steve Chawkins contributed to this report.

From dolphin to whale

Over the decades, marinas have responded to the super-sizing of boats by designing slips to accommodate vessels that are longer and wider.

Then and now

In earlier decades, the ratio between the average boat's length and its width, or beam, was much higher than it is today as stronger materials allow wider boats to be built.

Average boat size*





29 ft.

7.0 ft.










*Based on sizes of boats being built and existing boats stored in water

**Widest point of boat
Source: Corrough Consulting Group