David Mendez

Redondo Beach discusses pop-up SUP rental permits

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Stand-up paddlers during the 2015 Beyond the Shore Paddlefest. Organizer Jeremy Godo Kiss is seeking a permit to provide mobile SUP rentals in King Harbor. File photo

by David Mendez

With four brick-and-mortar paddleboarding shops in King Harbor, it’s not hard for a person to join the ranks of the many stand-up paddlers that enjoy harbor on warm, sunny days.

A proposal headed to the Redondo Beach City Council would make it easier to pick up a stand-up paddleboard on a whim, by allowing mobile paddleboard rentals in King Harbor, which are currently prohibited.

Some existing brick-and-mortar businesses don’t share the stoke, and one owner believes that legalizing so-called “gypsy tents” would force his business to close.

The Redondo Beach Harbor Commission began discussing the issue last November.

During the summer of 2017, city staff noticed an increase in mobile SUP rental operations and became concerned that they were a threat to the city’s brick-and-mortar shops.

That uptick in operations came, in part, from Olympus Board Shop. The Torrance-based retailer struck out alone in 2017, after running an operation near King Harbor’s Portofino Hotel. The mobile business allows renters to meet his staff at King Harbor’s public hand launch, where they’ve issued a paddleboard, safety equipment, and instruction.

Owner Jeremy Godo Kiss got into the stand-up paddleboard business in 2007. It wasn’t long after he brought SUPs into his inventory that he began his mobile rental business, meeting customers at King Harbor to rent out equipment and give lessons to those who need it. While he had discussions with the City about permitting agreements in the past, those talks fell off until this summer.

“I know why: the shop that was opposed made a fuss and wanted to eliminate completion,” Godo Kiss said. “In the long run, I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I don’t think anyone willing to do concessions would have a problem paying rent.”

Under the current proposal, concessioners would pay either a minimum of $6,200 annually – $600 per month from April to October, $400 from November to March – or 10 percent of their gross revenue, depending on which total is greater.

But paying rent is the issue for Patrick Webb, owner of the Paddle House in the marina, on the International Boardwalk.

“It would put us out of business. We wouldn’t even try to compete with that,” Webb said. “All of our business is done on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday… there’s no way [for us] to survive when you’ve got people cherry-picking the weekends.”

Paddle House’s lease with the City of Redondo Beach, signed in 2014, is $2,736/month in base rent, plus 12 percent of gross revenue, with an escalator that kicked in last year. A separate building storage costs Paddle House $900/month, plus 20 percent of the gross. All told, Webb said his business is paying $5,200 to the City each month.

A flyer circulated by Paddle House says that the business would be forced to close up shop and that any business type would be allowed.

“That means food trucks on city streets and gypsy tents in the parking lots, like Venice Beach,” the flyer reads. “So just get a permit, pop a tent, or park your food truck anywhere. All businesses in Redondo Beach will be under attack.”

“That’s a little over the top, and not what we’re proposing,” said the City’s Harbor and Economic Development Director, Stephen Proud. The permitting would be limited to equipment rental and SUP instruction.

Godo Kiss noted that he also has a brick and mortar shop down the road, in Torrance.

“It’s not fair to eliminate another business because they’re competition. You’re supposed to be able to open your doors and give it a go,” Godo Kiss said. “If you can’t keep up with your neighbor, your change how you operate or  move on to the next thing.”

Webb isn’t the only retailer concerned. Laura Edwards, of Fast Kayak, regularly sees paddleboard operators in King Harbor with poor safety instruction and poor equipment.

“All these other groups coming in don’t have a clue…groups from Craigslist come out and everyone is in the middle of the channel, or on boards that are too small,” Edwards said.

But unlike Webb, Godo Kiss is one of the few mobile operators she embraces. He, and nearby Tarsan Stand-Up Paddle, which has a storefront in the marina, on Harbor Drive, are the only businesses she trusts to bring people into King Harbor.

“I’d love to have [Olympus] back and get the big groups, and find a way for him to do it legally,” Edwards said. “But it’s frustrating seeing some of these guys unload out by Seaside Lagoon when we’re all paying rent to the City.”

The proposed permitting process will be discussed by the Redondo Beach City Council, either on May 1 or May 15, according to Proud.

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