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Critical Oakland Estuary BCDC Hearing on Wednesday

Tireless Oakland Estuary advocate Brock de Lappe wrote us to send out the rallying cry for sailors to offer their support and join him this Wednesday, February 22, at 9:30 a.m., on Zoom at the BCDC hearing regarding the agenda item “Abandoned and Derelict Vessels and Anchor-outs in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary.” De Lappe’s leadership, with the support of you and others, is aimed at keeping the Estuary clean, safe and accessible to all. As he has documented on many occasions, what should be a beautiful shoreline for the pleasure of all Oakland and Bay Area residents has been overrun by a nautical blight of abandoned and derelict liveaboard vessels.

Burned vessel in Oakland estuary.
Navigation hazard: On Friday evening, February 10, 2023, a sailboat illegally anchored between Union Point Park and Coast Guard Island caught fire and ultimately sank. This is what remains: a danger to mariners, damage to the environment. and an expense to taxpayers.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe

According to the meeting notice, the BCDC hearing will provide a one-year update on “Actions to Address Shoreline Encampments” and “Abandoned and Derelict Vessels and Anchor-outs in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary, Alameda County.” The committee will receive a briefing on the actions to address shoreline encampments, abandoned and derelict vessels, and anchor-outs in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary by BCDC staff and the cities of Oakland and Alameda, as a follow-up to the discussion and direction provided by the Enforcement Committee during its meetings on February 23 and March 23, 2022. There is supposed to be time allotted for public comment for those who join the meeting by Zoom.

Coast Guard Island
Wrecks along the shore are wrecking what should be a recreational space for all.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe

As de Lappe states, “It is important that the committee receives input from the community on the importance of addressing the growing problem of illegal anchor-outs on the Oakland Estuary. The January storms resulted in multiple sinkings and vessels breaking free of their anchorage and drifting free on the Estuary as an extreme hazard to navigation.”

These are not scenes featured on the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau website.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe

We all know these photos don’t represent the entire Oakland waterfront. Most of the areas from Jack London Square to Brooklyn Basin are greatly improved and under renovation, though many rough patches remain, with illegal liveaboards living rent-free. Brotzeit Local German Restaurant and Biergarten is an inviting oasis along the winding Oakland waterfront, but de Lappe points out that the increasing number of wrecks along the shoreline continues to undermine the health and safety of the waterfront for both marine life and sailors.

Lake Merritt Sailboat House
A photo of beautiful sections of Oakland’s long shoreline similar to this one of the Lake Merritt Sailboat House could do wonders for its image.
© 2023 Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau Website

We visited the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau website, which has a beautifully produced video on the home page and includes the image of the Lake Merritt Sailboat House above. What’s missing in all the enticing scenery in the video is any connection to the Bay. The image above could easily be mistaken for the waterfront in St. Louis or any inland city. A viewer wouldn’t know that Oakland has one of the longest shorelines, with some of the warmest weather and best sailing, of any Bay Area municipality.

It appears some of the boats living rent-free in Oakland are in the guest slips at Jack London Square.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe

De Lappe has put together a flyer for you to share with others if you’d like to get involved. The homeless crisis is certainly one that needs to be solved for the benefit of those in need. However, letting decaying, poorly maintained vessels moor for free or be abandoned along the Oakland shoreline is not going to solve the housing crisis, and will only become a growing expense plus a  navigational and environmental hazard for the city and its residents. De Lappe is asking for others to speak up, as he sees the problem is only growing worse.

Another shot from the Convention and Visitors Bureau website shows the beauty of Lake Merritt and a glimpse of water in the background, which could position the city next to the Mississippi River.

Even if everyone got on board, this process could take years to resolve. The last cleanup in 2013, instigated by de Lappe, took the collaboration and coordination of numerous agencies and actually eliminated the problem for a short while, but lack of enforcement has allowed the problem to return. You can add your voice on Wednesday here. For those unable to attend the meeting, public comments can be emailed to: [email protected].


  1. Steve Haas 10 months ago

    I can’t attend meeting and the link to public comment doesn’t work for me – [email protected] Is there another link?

    • Monica Grant 10 months ago

      Hi Steve, the email link works for us. Maybe copy past the address into your email rather than using the link? [email protected]
      As we understand, the idea is that you email your comment to the posted address, the day before the meeting. I hope this helps. …Monica.

  2. Carliane Johnson 10 months ago

    Thank you for bringing this to the attention of the sailing community. It’s curious why I am just now hearing about it With two boats in the Oakland Marinas and an apartment near Lake Merritt, I see every day the extremes of homelessness and the potential of Oakland’s waterways. Brock has been pivotal in trying to bring solutions to the Oakland Embarcadero neighborhood. It is important to support these efforts even if only to submit a comment whether you live in Oakland or not. The debris and contaminants that go into the water affects the whole bay. We need to see our local agencies take real action to address these issues.

  3. Tommaso 10 months ago

    The people “living rent free” at the guest docks never bother anybody, stop demonizing poor people.

    This is the waterside version of the anti-homeless people efforts on land, and just as pointless. Harassing poor people doesn’t make them any less poor.

    If all this energy, money, and rage was directed at our city and regional governments for failing to build enough housing and preventing people from falling in to homelessness in the first place, maybe we wouldn’t have as many poor people trying to eek a living anchored out.

    • James Eright 8 months ago

      Thank you very much your comment is Right on Target amen.

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From the Magazine
In the February issue of Latitude 38, Max Ebb explores the weight of a traditional anchor rode versus a carbon fibre boat.