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Oakland Waterfront Free-for-All

The February issue of Latitude 38 includes a perspective from former Oakland Marina harbormaster Brock de Lappe on the deteriorating state of the Oakland waterfront.

The City of Oakland’s annual budget is about $2.3 billion and it has over 4,800 employees, but that doesn’t appear to be enough to take care of its waterfront. Like Long Beach, it’s a city blessed with a large, successful shipping port, plus over two miles of shoreline theoretically available for public access and recreational use. Unlike Long Beach, much of the Oakland waterfront is littered with trash and overrun with derelict boats that continue to sink, wash ashore, and pollute the Estuary. Despite their budgets, the City and Port of Oakland seem unable or unwilling to manage much of their own waterfront.

Oakland Waterfront
The City and Port of Oakland appear to welcome anyone to tie up on their shoreline for free without regard to local laws, environmental concerns, other mariners, or the rest of Oakland’s residents who’d like to enjoy the waterfront too.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe
Oakland waterfront
Much of the waterfront is littered with trash and inhabited or abandoned boats.
© 2023 Brock de Lappe

The Long Beach waterfront and shoreline marinas are shining examples of what is possible for a well-run waterfront. Long Beach’s waterfront boasts a long, clean walkway continuously busy with people walking, running, biking and roller skating past thriving businesses and welcoming parks.

Long Beach Shoreline Marina
Long Beach’s Shoreline Marina and the waterfront is inviting to visiting boats, bicycles, pedestrians and all members of the surrounding community.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Jack London Square and the new $3.5 billion Brooklyn Basin development demonstrate the potential, but not far from these waterfront upgrades, basic care for the waterfront goes missing.

Read Brock de Lappe’s story here.


  1. Captain Curt Taras 1 year ago

    The journalism here describes the dangers and decay allowed by the City of Oakland on its streets and waterways. I don’t tolerate or give anything to polluting bums.

  2. Neal Holmlund 1 year ago

    “Journalism”??? How about including a beauty shot of Jack London Square, the Almar marina, the free dock adjacent to Brotzeit Local, Brooklyn Basin, the bike paths along the estuary….Ironic, too that the beauty shot of Long Beach shows the Queen Mary rusting in the background (hasn’t it been condemned?) de Lappe’s article focuses on derelict boats in the estuary. I agree 100% this problem should be fixed, but Oakland has been improving facilities on land, and should be given credit for that. The cleanup of Union Point Park last year was a big positive step. I’m more troubled by the tent community between Jack London Aquatic Center and Lake Merritt, negating the investment made to improve that walkway.

  3. Bert Felton 1 year ago

    Personally, I am more concerned about the rampant building on both sides of the estuary and last years algae bloom caused partly by discharged treat waste from EBVMUD among others.

  4. TRACY REIGELMAN 1 year ago

    Like Long Beach and San Pedro in Southern California, the Oakland Estuary can be a beautiful example of community and a commercial port. Rules need to be changed and agencies need to all work together and enable change. To get any project done on the Oakland Estuary involves multiple Government and Quasi Governmental agencies, and dancing around laws that are centuries old. Boats are left as navigational hazards, because to tie them up places the burden of disposal on the Good Samaritan. Simple repair projects can take years to complete – due to lengthy analysis periods and limited construction windows.

    The cities of Oakland and Alameda need to align on a vision, and commit resources to improving the waterfront – and encourage development of shoreline resources. Government agencies, such as the Water Quality Board, should step outside the bubble and see that the projects they are delaying would actually benefit the “little fishy’s” they are trying to protect.

  5. George DeVore 1 year ago

    So shameful! Can you imagine the impression this leaves on sailors visiting the Bay in their boats from San Diego, Dana Point, Long Beach, Channel Islands Harbor or Santa Barbara?

    • Basilio Teja 1 year ago

      How shameful? What is shameful is neglecting your neighbors who struggle, many from influences beyond their control. ANd even more shameful, is prioritizing what other people think. Is every facet of your life controlled by what strangers think of you? Shameful is being controlled by vanity, by your ego’s dependence on the opinions of others. I dont care what religion you are, it’s in the proverbs of all of them. There are so many other ways to fix this problem. Yours is based purely on turning your back on your fellow man, on the veterans, and hardworking americans that are out there among those boats. And there are a lot of them, ive talked to them. You just want to kick the problem on to somewhere else, ignoring the logic that they will be back anyway. And you obviously get some kind of pride out of looking down on these people. But all of that is transpearant. To me, since you care so much about what people think, i wont bother to give you my opinion. ANd have little confidence that you could figure it out.

  6. Brock de Lappe 1 year ago

    Having worked on the Embarcadero for years, I completely agree that the City of Oakland should be commended for its efforts to remove encampments from Union Point Park and RVs lining the street. This was a challenging undertaking and it has dramatically improved the neighborhood. This shows that where there is a will there is a way. The current problem is what is happening in the Oakland Estuary. Jack London Square was mentioned. There are currently three derelicts on the public docks where guest berthing is limited to four hours. One of these has been there for years. My hope is that bringing attention to these conditions will ultimately result in both an effective cleanup and full support of the OPD marine unit to prevent any recurrence.

    • Damon Taylor 1 year ago

      Do you mean at the JLAC? Where these 3 “derelict” boats are? Because there are no boats at the JLSq guest docks that I can see. Or am missing something. I may not be looking in the right place.

  7. Lewis harry Brackett 7 months ago

    Neither the state nor local governments have any lawful jurisdiction on the bays or coastline, no matter what laws they pretend to pass. I look forward to the day when a federal court finally takes the case and puts all the port authority members in federal prision for the crimes they have done against people and property.

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The World Famous L38
While it could be a recent occurrence, given January's wild weather, no boats known to us were harmed in the taking of this photo.