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Inter-Agency Estuary Cleanup Expected This Fall

Dozens of residents and boat owners gathered at the Encinal Yacht Club on Thursday, October 5, to discuss crime and the continued presence of anchored-out vessels on the Oakland Estuary. Law enforcement officials from the Oakland Police Department (OPD), Alameda Police Department (APD), and the United States Coast Guard discussed ongoing crime fighting strategies and how the three agencies are working to address Estuary safety. Also in attendance to field concerns were Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Councilmembers Trish Herrera Spencer and Tracy Jensen, City Manager Jennifer Ott, and Assistant City Manager Amy Wooldridge.

Alameda Post - sailboats piled up colliding with a bridge in the Oakland Estuary
Unmoored sailboats collide into the Coast Guard Island Bridge in January 2023. Photo Brock de Lappe.

Since the Post first reported on anchor-outs, the Oakland City Council has passed a Nuisance Vessel Ordinance that deems any anchored-out or abandoned vessels “immediate or potential hazards to navigation and the environment” and places a 12-hour limit on mooring in the Estuary. The ordinance also gives OPD the authority to inspect and remove occupied vessels if found in violation of the March 2023 Ordinance. Until now, state law has only permitted the removal of abandoned vessels.

The community meeting follows a summertime crime spree instigated by “pirates” who, according to the Estuary community, live aboard illegally moored vessels in the waterway and have stolen parts, radios, and even entire boats under the cover of darkness.

Kame Richards, co-founder of the Alameda Community Sailing Center (ACSC), described a particularly harrowing incident to the Enforcement Committee of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) at its September 27 meeting.

“One night we had four safety boats stolen from Ballena Isle. It took until lunchtime the next day to get an APD officer to respond,” Richards stated. He added that, despite pleas to APD, OPD, and the Coast Guard for assistance, the three agencies apparently just passed the buck. Ultimately, a team from ACSC found the stolen boats tied up at Union Point Park in Oakland and retrieved the vessels.

Agencies pledge collaboration for Oakland Estuary

In response to the community’s frustration, APD’s Chief Nishant Joshi summarized the current state of policing and crime trends in Alameda. Joshi anticipates near maximum staffing—86 of 88 sworn positions filled—by June 2024, thanks largely to a recent hiring push that included a $75,000 enlistment bonus. Currently, APD’s Marine Patrol Unit spends approximately 60 hours per month on the Estuary, which the Chief hopes to increase once additional staff are sworn in.

Alameda Post - the police chief stands at the front of a room talking
APD Chief Nishant Joshi discusses ongoing strategies to address crime in Alameda. Photo Ken Der.

Meanwhile, APD has strategically deployed resources using a data-driven approach to address crime hotspots around the City. Joshi also suggested the installation of motion-sensor lighting and security cameras as well as the formation of a neighborhood watch as an additional deterrent to crime occurring near marinas.

Alameda Post - a chart comparing 2022 and 2023 for crimes at various locations in the Oakland Estuary
Crime trends at key locations along the Estuary. Image Alameda Police Department.

Officer Kaleo Albino—the lone full-time officer on OPD’s Marine Patrol Unit—laid out plans for a 90-day, full-scale engagement and cleanup of the Estuary tentatively scheduled to take place this fall. The effort, funded by a $170,000 Surrendered and Abandoned Vessel Exchange (SAVE) grant from the California Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW), may potentially remove up to 21 existing anchored-out vessels.

OPD will first conduct a round of education and outreach before launching into an enforcement and citation mode. Boats in violation of the Nuisance Vessel Ordinance will receive a 30-day notice to leave the Estuary, after which all remaining boats will be seized.

Alameda Post - an officer stands at the front of a room next to a presentation and talks
OPD Officer Kaleo Albino outlines the duties of the Marine Patrol Unit, for which he is the sole full-time officer. Photo Ken Der.

Albino, Joshi, and US Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Response Department Head Danielle Shupe pledged that the cleanup will be just the first step in a process that will require ongoing collaboration between each agency to stagger patrols and maintain a constant law enforcement presence on the Estuary.

APD and OPD plan to apply annually for SAVE Grant funding to stay ahead of abandoned vessels and keep them from sinking, while serving as liaisons for DBW’s Vessel Turn-In Program, which allows boat owners to surrender their unwanted vessels to the State.

Community response

Attendees broke into small groups for conversations moderated by local officials to discuss feedback and reactions to the presentations. Many called for improved forms of reporting and communication between the community and law enforcement, perhaps a centralized contact or system to report crimes occurring on the Estuary. One speaker noted that political support is key to the success of future efforts, while another encouraged awareness of the broader issues of homelessness and housing affordability.

Alameda Post - a table of seven people sit and talk about the Oakland Estuary issues
A small group concerned Estuary community members express their reactions to the speakers. Photo Ken Der.

As the meeting came to a close, there was a sense of cautious optimism for the upcoming cleanup.

“It’s a very hard and challenging problem,” ACSC’s Kame Richards said, “but Albino gave us dates, and I like that a lot.”

“One word changed everything: ‘Pirate,’” added Brock de Lappe, the former Harbormaster at both Oakland Marina and Alameda Marina, who has been instrumental in raising public awareness of conditions on the Estuary and has organized Estuary cleanups in the past.

Scott and Cindy, boat owners at the Oakland Yacht Club, are hoping to see follow-up conversations on this issue. “But it’s a good first start,” they agreed.

In addition to pledging further inter-agency collaboration, officials proposed additional outreach to unhoused individuals on the Estuary and support for community trash cleanups from APD and Alameda County Industries (ACI). APD also introduced the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) program and asked residents to email Lt. Josh Crossley ([email protected]) for individual consultations on how homeowners can deter crime.

Both the City of Oakland and the City of Alameda are expected to provide an update on Estuary conditions at the December meeting of the BCDC’s Enforcement Committee.

Ken Der is a contributing writer for the Alameda Post. Contact him via [email protected]. His writing is collected at

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