Marina West Harbor renovation on a steady course

Dredging vessel inside the West Harbor
Photo: B. Mason
The Marina’s West Harbor – home to the St. Francis Yacht Club and the Golden Gate Yacht Club – has fallen into disrepair over the last 50 years. The current dock facilities were installed in 1963, but there are photographic records of a harbor in the same location from at least 1928. Surveys were done on existing conditions in the harbor in 1991, 1997 and 2001, with each successive review resulting in the same conclusion: the overall condition of the marina docks and supporting facilities was poor.

In May 2009, S.F. Recreation and Park initiated the design process needed to replace the aging docks; repair the slopes around the harbor’s interior shorelines; build a dedicated guest dock and hand boat launch; repair and improve the two breakwater structures known as moles, that extend into the water at the foot of Scott Street; and to build two new breakwater barriers to help protect the harbor from wave surges.

On June 8, 2011, years of planning became a reality as city officials and members of the boating community came together for a ceremonial “plank pulling” to mark the beginning of construction on the Marina’s West Harbor renovation. District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell and former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier were on hand to thank supporters and to help celebrate a milestone that has spanned both of their tenures.

When complete, the harbor will have 314 slips according to planning documents. That is about 12 fewer then the existing marina, but the new layout will help maximize harbor occupancy with slip lengths, widths and orientations better suited for modern boats.

The project is split into two phases in order to keep the harbor open for boats during the renovation. Phase I will replace about half of the slips at the northern and western edges of the harbor by the end of this year, leaving the remaining half usable for existing slip holders. In 2012, the new slips will be opened up for use, and the last older ones around the Scott Street moles will be replaced in Phase II.

The plan is to have the renovation of the West Harbor complete by the end of 2012 – just in time to welcome the culminating events for the 34th America’s Cup. So far, work has been staying pretty close to schedule.

Over the past two months, visitors have seen major changes in the West Harbor. The first phase of dock demolition removed half of the existing timber docks and abandoned piles. Much of the material from this demolition was loaded onto large logging trucks and delivered to Crescent City for use in rebuilding their tsunami-damaged harbor.

Once half the docks were out of the way, probably the most notable piece of the construction puzzle was brought in: the 120-foot-long dredging vessel. With a bucket able to grab nine yards of material at a time (think of a construction debris dumpster), this behemoth worked around the clock for many weeks to keep the project on schedule. The main channel within the harbor was cleared to a 12-foot depth, while the slip areas were dredged to maintain a 10-foot depth.

By press time, the dredging vessel should be out of the harbor, but it will return again next year for additional dredging during Phase II. 

Next will come the dock and platform deliveries and installation, followed by the connection of some new gangways. After utilities are installed and tested toward the end of this year, the first phase should be complete.

“We share the boating community’s anticipation for the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. “As initial plans take shape for sailing’s most prestigious event, the Marina West Harbor renovation project couldn’t have come at a better time.”