SF Bay Marinas for All Files Lawsuit Against SF BCDC Alleging Improper Issuance of Demolition Permit for Smith Slough Marina, formerly Pete’s Harbor in Redwood City

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Nonprofit San Francisco Bay Marinas For All, Inc. (SFBMFA) announced today it has filed a Verified Complaint against the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC ) in San Francisco Superior Court, alleging improper issuance of a demolition permit for the former Pete's Harbor marina in Smith Slough. SFBMFA seeks an order stopping all further demolition, grading or building work at the site, and stopping Redwood City permits and approvals until the case is resolved, as well as monetary compensation to replace the marina in Smith Slough, removed under the allegedly improper demolition permit.

Nonprofit San Francisco Bay Marinas For All, Inc. (SFBMFA) announced today it has filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). The Verified Complaint, filed in San Francisco Superior Court (Case No CPF-13 513328) last week, seeks to protect the public interest in access to the waters in Smith Slough, part of San Francisco Bay in Redwood City, California. SFBMFA seeks an order stopping all further demolition, building, grading or other construction activities at the former harbor site, and stopping Redwood City permits and approvals until the case is resolved. In addition SFBMFA is seeking monetary damages, which it intends to use to replace the marina in Smith Slough removed by the former owner under the allegedly improperly-issued BCDC permit.

SFBMFA maintains in the suit that the Abbreviated Regionwide Permit (ARP) issued by the BCDC on August 9, 2013 permitting demolition of the entire Smith Slough marina is contrary to the McAteer-Petris Act that established the agency, in that: (a) no environmental review was undertaken; (b) more than fifty percent (50%) of the marina was removed; (c) there was no public hearing before the BCDC, as required by law, and (d) the Commissioners of the BCDC did not act upon the request for the demolition of the entire marina, as required by law.

The marina, a historic icon in Redwood City for over fifty years, was removed by the former harbor owner is less than three full days in late October, 2013, working past midnight with no oversight. Pictures are available online and can be provided on contact to the PR contact below. The former marina owner applied for the ARP demolition permit on or about June 21, 2013 according to documents obtained by SFBMFA in public records act requests to the BCDC, and in unlawful detainer court proceedings evicting the former tenants. The harbor owner also filed on June 21, 2013 for an ARP with the BCDC for its after-the-fact erection of a barbed wire fence surrounding the property, which was also granted until early December 2013.

As background, in the 1980’s, a legislative settlement of a state action against Peter Uccelli alleging trespass onto state public trust lands for building the Smith Slough marina resulted in two leases, PRC Nos. 6856 and 6857, according to Ch 447, Statutes 1983 of the California Legislature, as well as San Mateo County Case No. 251155 (State of California ex rel State Lands Commission (SLC) v. Peter Uccelli dba Pete's Harbor). According to additional public records obtained by SFBMFA from the court file and the SLC, the leases were granted to Peter Uccelli, dba Pete’s Harbor, for the sole purpose of operating a commercial harbor and marina and ancillary facilities open to the public, and fell under ongoing SLC management.

According to records obtained by SFBMFA in public records act requests to the City of Redwood City, in 2012 potential developer The Pauls Corp. of Denver Colorado, applied to the Redwood City Planning Commission for a planned development (PD) permit. That application sought approval for 411 condominium units and to privatize the Smith Slough public marina under the PRC Leases. According to the Redwood City Planning Department's website and the PD Permit application, such privatization would enable only condo owners to have private boat slips on the public trust tide and submerged lands. On October 30, 2013, the Redwood City Planning Commission approved the PD Permit application unanimously (7-0). That decision was later reversed by the City Council after an appeal lodged by SFBMFA members, and after the SLC advised the City it would not agree to privatizing the public trust.

In June 2013, SFBMFA filed a lease application with the SLC for a lease to the marina in Smith Slough. In addition, despite the harbor management and the City of Redwood City treating Uccelli Boulevard as the property of Pete’s Harbor, in July 2013 SFBMFA discovered that the real owner of Uccelli Boulevard was the US Department of Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the federal agency overseeing the adjacent Bair Island portion of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. SFBMFA discovered this ownership through publicly accessible maps and by calling the Peninsula Open Space Trust in San Mateo County to confirm it had deeded the land to the USFWS in 1999 upon granting other major land holdings for the federal wildlife refuge. After obtaining the deeds, SFBMFA advised the USFWS, which was apparently then unaware it held title to the land.

SFBMFA board member, Secretary and counsel Alison Madden observed: “SFBMFA believes the SLC, BCDC, Pete’s Harbor and potentially the City of Redwood City and the new developer were all involved in communications and planning to remove the existing infrastructure, including 72 pilings and 135 dock slips. In actual fact, the proper process should have involved environmental review, a public hearing and action by the BCDC Commissioners, which was all averted by the harbor’s application for, and eventual action under, an improperly obtained fast-tracked permit.”

SFBMFA seeks a decision that as matter of law, BCDC staff did not have and does not have the authority to issue an ARP for the removal of a complete marina. According to Madden, through a number of public outreach efforts, the nonprofit sought to prevent issuance of the ARP, including lodging a ten page letter from outside land use counsel, speaking in public comment at BCDC public meetings, and circulating a public petition. In addition, counsel and Madden had repeated phone calls and email correspondence in July 2013, without response from BCDC counsel or the Attorney General's office. All levels of staff refused to consider SFBMFA's outreach and authority, and refused to reconsider their action and a lawsuit unfortunately has become the only available recourse to protect the rights of SFBMFA and the people of California, according to Madden.

The BCDC was created by the California Legislature in 1965 by the McAteer-Petris Act in response to broad public concern over the future of San Francisco Bay. Pursuant to the Act, the Commission was established as a temporary state agency charged with preparing a plan for the long-term use of the San Francisco Bay (the Bay Plan). In August 1969, the Act was amended to make the Commission a permanent agency.

SF Bay Marinas for All, Inc. (SFBMFA) is a California public benefit nonprofit seeking to preserve public access to marinas in and around San Francisco Bay. SFBMFA was formed to stop the demolition and privatization of marinas and to support the not-for-profit operation of public commercial and recreational marinas open to all members of the public. Its initial focus is to preserve and develop Smith Slough as a public space accessible to all boaters and visitors in Redwood City. Activities include the construction and maintenance of public piers, docks and boat slips easily accessible to the general public, as well as operation of a Water Trail site and numerous commercial and recreational facilities for boats of all kinds, including human-powered. Please visit our website at http://www.sfbaymarinasforall.org.

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Tania Sole
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