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Oceanside's cheapest housing is in the harbor

Especially if you are a sneak-aboard

There are 850 slips for recreational boats; of those about 85 enjoy live-aboard status.
There are 850 slips for recreational boats; of those about 85 enjoy live-aboard status.

Since Sunday April 26 the water in the Oceanside harbor has taken on a rich brown hue. Although the coffee-colored water looked like it could be a briny fecal stew, harbor fisherman explain that it has nothing to do with a busted sewer main or with toilet flushes from the live-aboards who stay in the harbor year-round.

“This is all because of the red tide,” says Bruce Campbell who has been catching shrimp, lobster, and crab for the last 50 years. It turns out the recent plankton invasion that made for pretty, glow-in-the-dark waves at night, also creates a foul-smelling marina that apparently does not have as much saltwater flushing as it should. “But it normally happens around July 4," says Campbell. "This year with all the fresh water from the rain and the warm weather, I guess it came a little earlier…It sucks up all the oxygen. Pretty soon you’ll probably see [algae] floating in the harbor.”

"The red tide wouldn’t have been so bad without that last seven inches in one week.”

Longtime locals will tell you the brown harbor water will eventually start to emit a strong stench before it goes away. James Garner catches anchovies and sardines which he sells for live bait through his Oceanside Bait Company. He thinks this may the worst red tide invasion in the harbor in 15 years.

“The last time we had a red tide this bad was in 2005 after we had 27 inches of rain,” says Garner. “When [the plankton] died, it turned to acid and it killed everything in the harbor. You’d see all the starfish and lobster crawl out of the water and crawl up on the rocks to get away from it. That’s like if our air got so bad, we’d crawl into the water. This happens anytime we get a lot of fresh water from the rain followed by a lot of sunshine. It wouldn’t have been so bad this year if we hadn’t gotten that last seven inches in one week.”

Garner says back in 2005 the live bait he caught and kept in the harbor water in containers alongside his boat, “…died and turned into a milky lime green.”

A live-aboard with a 30-foot boat would pay about $480 a month in basic slip rent.

Even in the midst of stinky, toxic harbor waters, and with a zombie-like rock lobster invasion looming, Campbell and Garner still seem bullish about the live bounty still available to them out past the jetty.

But the post COVID-19 rules put into effect April 21 by the city of Oceanside brought to light what some says is a dirty little secret about the Oceanside harbor: that the Oceanside marina, built in 1963 to house recreational pleasure craft, has morphed into a permanent residence for the live-aboards who are using it as a “floating trailer park” according to some who are unhappy with the transformation. According to Oceanside harbor manager Ted Schiafone there are 850 slips for recreational boats and about 85 (ten percent) are rented by those who are given year-round live-aboard status. The other 765 recreational boat owners can stay overnight only up to three nights a week.

Based on rates provided by Schiafone, a live-aboard with a 30-foot boat would pay about $480 a month in basic slip rent and an extra $114 because it is deemed a live-aboard. This would include two adults and potentially a child and a pet. The extra $114 means they get free electricity and water and get to use the harbor’s laundromat and shower facilities.

"Our on-shore facilities are not built to handle more live-aboards."

The county mandated a shutdown of all recreational boating which means all craft in county marinas can not head out to sea. On April 22, Schiafone notified the other 765 slip renters who are not permanent live-aboards that they could visit their craft in the daytime but temporarily not utilize their three-night-a-week sleepover option. “Due to all of the measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID 19, overnight stays are not permitted.” Taking away their three-night-a-week sleepover caused some non-live-aboards to protest to the city.

At an April 22 city council meeting, Councilwoman Esther Sanchez railed against the new temporary restrictions for the 765 non-live-aboards who were told they could not stay overnight. “Folks who are slip renters who have the ability to stay overnight, see them as a second home,” says Sanchez.

One slip renter who is not a live-aboard but who did want to be identified because he has become vocal about this issue, outlined Oceanside’s liberal policy for those who aren't live-aboards. He says in addition to the three-night-a-week sleepover allowance, they are allowed an additional “nine or ten three-night sleepover passes a year….and on top of that, they can buy what they call a hotel pass where they can stay an additional three nights a week for $28.”

The boat owner says that the harbor administration maintains a waiting list for slip renters who want to become one of the 85 who can use their boat as an apartment. “It takes like four to five years to get a permit,” he says. Current live-aboards on the list cannot transfer their live-aboard status to others by sale or by inheritance.

The Oceanside harbor administration uses a “key fob” pass that allows slip renters to open their gates. This pass is supposed to monitor the activity of all slip renters. Some harbor regulars wonder out loud how effective this system is.

“I am not there a lot at night, but what I hear is that there is a lot of people cheating the system,” says bait trader Garner. “I’ve heard it’s been going on for quite some time. They are using all the live-aboard facilities but not paying the live-aboard fees. It’s not fair to the others who live there legally and pay their share.”

Harbor manager Schiafone says his staff does go after Oceanside’s sneaky boat people. “It’s those illegal live-aboards (sometimes called sneak-aboards) that create issues,” he writes. “The Harbor was never designed to handle them living at the Harbor. The electrical system that runs down each dock could never handle the demand. Our on-shore facilities are not built to handle more live-aboards than what are legally permitted. Many vessels are not equipped to live-aboard, such as proper heating, cooking or plumbing for sanitation. That is a huge safety and environmental issue. Illegal live-aboards are stealing a service from the Harbor.”

In order to keep poop and dishwater out of the harbor, Schiafone says all live-aboards are required to have a holding tank on their vessel, and that they can either use a harbor-supplied waste pump, call a service company to pump out the bilge, or take their boat out at least three miles and cast their waste to the sea.

Some marinas do not allow any sleepovers. The closest to Oceanside is the Dana Point Marina 21 miles north. It officially has only 12 slips out of 2400 that are allowed for sleepovers. A lady who answered the phone at Dana Point says the policy there is to phase out all sleepovers. She says that once these grandfathered 12 slip-owners pass, that slip will lose its sleepover status. She says of Dana Point sneak-overs, “We have a lot of those.”

Was Councilwoman Sanchez suggesting that Oceanside should start counting small craft dwelling units as part of Oceanside’s housing element? A written request for comment to Sanchez was not returned.

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There are 850 slips for recreational boats; of those about 85 enjoy live-aboard status.
There are 850 slips for recreational boats; of those about 85 enjoy live-aboard status.

Since Sunday April 26 the water in the Oceanside harbor has taken on a rich brown hue. Although the coffee-colored water looked like it could be a briny fecal stew, harbor fisherman explain that it has nothing to do with a busted sewer main or with toilet flushes from the live-aboards who stay in the harbor year-round.

“This is all because of the red tide,” says Bruce Campbell who has been catching shrimp, lobster, and crab for the last 50 years. It turns out the recent plankton invasion that made for pretty, glow-in-the-dark waves at night, also creates a foul-smelling marina that apparently does not have as much saltwater flushing as it should. “But it normally happens around July 4," says Campbell. "This year with all the fresh water from the rain and the warm weather, I guess it came a little earlier…It sucks up all the oxygen. Pretty soon you’ll probably see [algae] floating in the harbor.”

"The red tide wouldn’t have been so bad without that last seven inches in one week.”

Longtime locals will tell you the brown harbor water will eventually start to emit a strong stench before it goes away. James Garner catches anchovies and sardines which he sells for live bait through his Oceanside Bait Company. He thinks this may the worst red tide invasion in the harbor in 15 years.

“The last time we had a red tide this bad was in 2005 after we had 27 inches of rain,” says Garner. “When [the plankton] died, it turned to acid and it killed everything in the harbor. You’d see all the starfish and lobster crawl out of the water and crawl up on the rocks to get away from it. That’s like if our air got so bad, we’d crawl into the water. This happens anytime we get a lot of fresh water from the rain followed by a lot of sunshine. It wouldn’t have been so bad this year if we hadn’t gotten that last seven inches in one week.”

Garner says back in 2005 the live bait he caught and kept in the harbor water in containers alongside his boat, “…died and turned into a milky lime green.”

A live-aboard with a 30-foot boat would pay about $480 a month in basic slip rent.

Even in the midst of stinky, toxic harbor waters, and with a zombie-like rock lobster invasion looming, Campbell and Garner still seem bullish about the live bounty still available to them out past the jetty.

But the post COVID-19 rules put into effect April 21 by the city of Oceanside brought to light what some says is a dirty little secret about the Oceanside harbor: that the Oceanside marina, built in 1963 to house recreational pleasure craft, has morphed into a permanent residence for the live-aboards who are using it as a “floating trailer park” according to some who are unhappy with the transformation. According to Oceanside harbor manager Ted Schiafone there are 850 slips for recreational boats and about 85 (ten percent) are rented by those who are given year-round live-aboard status. The other 765 recreational boat owners can stay overnight only up to three nights a week.

Based on rates provided by Schiafone, a live-aboard with a 30-foot boat would pay about $480 a month in basic slip rent and an extra $114 because it is deemed a live-aboard. This would include two adults and potentially a child and a pet. The extra $114 means they get free electricity and water and get to use the harbor’s laundromat and shower facilities.

"Our on-shore facilities are not built to handle more live-aboards."

The county mandated a shutdown of all recreational boating which means all craft in county marinas can not head out to sea. On April 22, Schiafone notified the other 765 slip renters who are not permanent live-aboards that they could visit their craft in the daytime but temporarily not utilize their three-night-a-week sleepover option. “Due to all of the measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID 19, overnight stays are not permitted.” Taking away their three-night-a-week sleepover caused some non-live-aboards to protest to the city.

At an April 22 city council meeting, Councilwoman Esther Sanchez railed against the new temporary restrictions for the 765 non-live-aboards who were told they could not stay overnight. “Folks who are slip renters who have the ability to stay overnight, see them as a second home,” says Sanchez.

One slip renter who is not a live-aboard but who did want to be identified because he has become vocal about this issue, outlined Oceanside’s liberal policy for those who aren't live-aboards. He says in addition to the three-night-a-week sleepover allowance, they are allowed an additional “nine or ten three-night sleepover passes a year….and on top of that, they can buy what they call a hotel pass where they can stay an additional three nights a week for $28.”

The boat owner says that the harbor administration maintains a waiting list for slip renters who want to become one of the 85 who can use their boat as an apartment. “It takes like four to five years to get a permit,” he says. Current live-aboards on the list cannot transfer their live-aboard status to others by sale or by inheritance.

The Oceanside harbor administration uses a “key fob” pass that allows slip renters to open their gates. This pass is supposed to monitor the activity of all slip renters. Some harbor regulars wonder out loud how effective this system is.

“I am not there a lot at night, but what I hear is that there is a lot of people cheating the system,” says bait trader Garner. “I’ve heard it’s been going on for quite some time. They are using all the live-aboard facilities but not paying the live-aboard fees. It’s not fair to the others who live there legally and pay their share.”

Harbor manager Schiafone says his staff does go after Oceanside’s sneaky boat people. “It’s those illegal live-aboards (sometimes called sneak-aboards) that create issues,” he writes. “The Harbor was never designed to handle them living at the Harbor. The electrical system that runs down each dock could never handle the demand. Our on-shore facilities are not built to handle more live-aboards than what are legally permitted. Many vessels are not equipped to live-aboard, such as proper heating, cooking or plumbing for sanitation. That is a huge safety and environmental issue. Illegal live-aboards are stealing a service from the Harbor.”

In order to keep poop and dishwater out of the harbor, Schiafone says all live-aboards are required to have a holding tank on their vessel, and that they can either use a harbor-supplied waste pump, call a service company to pump out the bilge, or take their boat out at least three miles and cast their waste to the sea.

Some marinas do not allow any sleepovers. The closest to Oceanside is the Dana Point Marina 21 miles north. It officially has only 12 slips out of 2400 that are allowed for sleepovers. A lady who answered the phone at Dana Point says the policy there is to phase out all sleepovers. She says that once these grandfathered 12 slip-owners pass, that slip will lose its sleepover status. She says of Dana Point sneak-overs, “We have a lot of those.”

Was Councilwoman Sanchez suggesting that Oceanside should start counting small craft dwelling units as part of Oceanside’s housing element? A written request for comment to Sanchez was not returned.

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Comments
14

With the cost of living in California, I'm not surprised this is going on. It's unfair to the people who are playing by the rules. Sleepovers, sneak overs and key fobs is a little too bizarre for me. It is a huge safety and environmental issue, and if it gets out of hand will they shut down residential living on the water?

April 29, 2020

With the cost of living in California, nobody could afford to wait 4 or 5 years to get one of 85 slips, and then buy a boat, get all the other licenses and permissions, park their car in the sun -- Leighton has greased you and all the Reader readers. He never listed the safety and environmental issues, either. Leighton is sharpening his hatchet on a minority of a minority, 85 liveaboards out of 850 slips out of 180,000 people in Oceanside.

April 29, 2020

I can't speak for other readers, but Mr. Leighton hasn't greased me at all. I've been reading his articles for years. He's a straight shooter, and he tells it like it is. You're obviously too thin skinned to handle his writing style, so whether you choose to read his articles is a decision only you can make. Keep in mind you're not his mother, nor are you his editor. You are entitled to your opinion, and so am I.

April 29, 2020

I was not responding to Leighton personally. Nor to his writing style, which is clear and focused. I was responding to the level of professionalism he displayed in his reporting. To use your phrase, very little in this article qualifies as "straight", but most of it qualifies as "shooting." Keep in mind he is asking you to take his opinion as fact. I understand that you are entitled to like opinions that make you feel comfortable, I feel that way. We should also have an understanding of standard reporting practices so we can tell fact from opinion. This piece does not qualify as reporting. It's a relatively well-written essay that uses some facts and ignores others to promote a specific opinion. Whether you agree with that opinion or not, the Reader readers should know it's an opinion. The Reader should have labeled this piece as such.

April 29, 2020

Perhaps you should buy the San Diego Reader. Or apply for an editors position. We'll agree to disagree.

April 29, 2020

David....you say I was "sharpening my hatchet" Really? The fact is, I don't spend much time among the people in the harbor. Two people I did speak with (who let me use their name unklike you) told me that there is all kind of loosey goosey behavior as far as the harbor not keeping up with sneakaboards. And as I quoted the gentleman with the bait business, it is widely accepted that there are all kinds of people who aren't paying their fair share in liveaboard fees and still get to use the facilities (electricity, water, showers) and don't have to pay any extra. You even told me how non-liveaboards can get all kind of extra 3-day passes on top of their standard 3-day passes and THEN can buy extra "hotel" passes on top of that. And they STILL don't pay the extra fee that the legal liveaborards pay. I am glad to have done this story to explain what is going on in the harbor. I had no idea. Everyone else I spoke to had tghe same reaction. By the way David, why not use your name? What's the deal?

April 29, 2020

This could have been a balanced article if Mr. Leighton had done some rudimentary legwork. Questions such as, What do the liveaboards themselves see as the pluses and minuses of livng in a marina? How much does a liveaboard boat cost? I don't live on a boat, but seems to me a 30-foot boat is too small, my guess is 40 or 50 feet would be a minimum. What is the living area square footage? What are the costs of maintenance, dry-docking, engine upkeep, marine fuel and other costs? When the costs of the boat, slip and maintenance are added, is the cost similar to the costs for an apartment or condo of a similar size? No, I think the cheapness here is specifically Ken Leighton's inability to spend an hour to give the Readers an informed look at liveaboards in Oceanside, Dana Point and in general. The name-calling ("floating trailer park," "sneaky boat people" and other unconfirmed snarky comments disguised as fact) would be deplorable even if the "author" had followed basic journalistic practices and obtained facts and opinions on the other side. Right now, it's just a hatchet job. Leighton went out of his way to compare legitimate liveaboards who are following the law and marina regulations to the noxious red tide. Why didn't Schiafone write it himself? How can the Reader editors keep Ken Leighton on staff or even on their freelance list?

April 29, 2020

Mr. Schiafone is hired to look after the people of the city of Oceanside. He used his name, unlike you who were afraid to use your name. The fact is, Dana Point which is over twice as big as the Oceanside Harbor, has decided that liveaboards are not a good thing and are phasing them out. Because my parents were Oceanside taxpayers in the 50s and 60s they helped pay for the Oceanside harbor. It was sold to residents that this was to be built to house recreational craft. In the early 80s the city voted to let 10 percent be turned over to liveaboards to deal with all the poachers. At least they were honest about it. My issue now is that if the city wants to provide these people with affordable housing, they need to step up and admit what it is. Oh, and by the way, the fact that you have to pay to clean your own boat does not mean that you are not getting inexpensive housing. I will admit that no one seems to say the liveabords (legal or otherwise) are bringing problem behavior to the harbor docks. There may have been a few over the years, but not now according to the harbor regulars. The issue sir is that the city needs to decide if it wants to declare the harbor as affordable housing, and if it does, it should make everyone pay their fair share. Why should I , as an Oceanside resident, cover all the free utilities these liveaboards suck up? Are you defending this David?

April 29, 2020

David.....You say the article was not balanced because I didn't ask the liveaboards about the "pluses and minuses of living in a marina." I don't think that is the point here. A councilwoman said at a recent city council meeting that these people who are not identified as liveaboards, need to have their three nights aw week because they need it for housing. That's what the article was about David. You say I didn't address "How much does a liveaboard boat cost?" Well, according to the city, a liveaboard on a 30-foot boat pays the city less than $600 rent a month and that includes utilities. That was in the article David. Hope this clears it up for you.

April 29, 2020

Ken -- You are awfully good at dancing. From your explanations after you finished your article, it seems you intended your article to be about the people who are gaming the system, not the people who are following the rules and laws by living aboard their boats. The headline was about "Oceanside's cheapest housing ..." which was your editorial staff undermining you, though in normal circumstances writers have no control over headlines. However, your mention that the cost of a slip is the entire cost of housing is not true; the cost of the boat, maintenance and other necessary costs must be included in the cost of housing. A 30-foot boat (costing how much?) is not really big enough for reasonable living space -- this can be no more than 300 square feet, smaller than most tiny houses with significantly higher costs. Again, I seriously question your reporting and I urge you to consider asking appropriate reportorial questions in your next informational piece. As for my name, I thought it would show up when I signed in. However, you are being paid for your time and expertise in this situation, I am not. I am not making personal comments, simply professional comments and suggestions. You have a good hand at writing an opinion piece, as evidenced by your editors' label of you as an "author." Even with that, you should have included the fascinating history of the O'side harbor as you did in your comments, and I would hope you would have made it more balanced. Your profile of the Harbor Master is not very complimentary, but it does follow with your authorial thesis. I think you can do much better than this. Your extensive coverage of the red tide as symbolic of the dirty dealings in the O'side Harbor is evidence of your talent. You, me and your editors know that this is not reportage, but opinion. You have put the Mr. Schiafone and the liveaboards he looks after in a negative light. As an Oceanside resident, I am happy at least some of my taxes go to looking after people who live the life they wish, although a good reporter would tell me if I'm spending more than they are. In the same way that I spend more for most residential homes than they give to Oceanside. I am unhappy that any of my taxes go to support people who are forced to live in ways that limit their abilities to serve their personal responsibilities and personal enlightenment. As for you, I hope you find the courage to write better reporting. As for my name: I have no power over your ability to live the life you desire. You, however, can have a lot of power over me, my family and my ability to live the life I desire. You are in a professional position to be very scary.

April 29, 2020

You made it personal towards me and all the other readers, but I know that all comments are "fair game." I hope you find happiness within. We don't live in Oceanside, and I wish you well. You sound very paranoid. He was just writing an article, because that's what journalists do.

April 29, 2020

I have no idea what you are trying to say here. The point is, before this week, I had no idea that non-liveaboards were in fact living aboard their boats without paying anything extra for their free utilities. They automatically get three nights a week, plus an extra set of nine or ten of extra three days a week, PLUS the ability to buy a an additional hotel set of three weeks at at time. This clearly shows, I think a reasonable person would contend, that Oceanside slip owners are using their boats for housing. This needs to be brought out in the open and discussed. Last week a city councilwoman admitted that the harbor is in fact affordable housing to some. This also needs to brought out and discussed. Nobody that I have spoken with knew anything about this. I would dare say this is reporting that is useful. Because I brought it up, you are saying I am bad reporter. Hmmmmm. I think some may disagree with that. The fact you are so upset that I even brought it up says something. I think I made it balanced by asking you to comment for the article. It makes me wonder why you did not want your name used. The red tide invasion just happened to take place at the same time I was writing this. I did not command the red tide to happen to entice the article, David. Thank you wishing that I find happiness within.

April 29, 2020

Ken - my above comment was directed towards David. He leaves me with the impression that there's a little more "going on" than life along the water in Oceanside.

April 30, 2020
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
April 30, 2020

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