Anchor-Outs Past and Present

KQED reports at last count there were 235 boats anchored in the bay  |  Photo by Ryan Levi | post by Larry Clinton

KQED News is airing a report entitled “From Arks to Anchor-Outs: The History of Waterfront Living on Richardson Bay.”  Written and narrated by reporter/producer Ryan Levi, the piece contains interviews with two long-term anchor-outs and local officials. You can read or listen to the report on the KQED website. You might even recognize a familiar voice.

If you scroll through the written report, you’ll find a link to an article on the houseboat wars that ex-anchor-out Jeff Costello wrote for the Anderson Valley Advertiser in 2013. Back in the day, Costello was a member of Joe Tate’s notorious pirate band, the Redlegs. There’s also a link to a cartoonist’s depiction of “Life on the Hook: Sausalito’s Floating Homeless.”

Greg Baker, who’s been anchored out since 1963, is part of a group who have committed to having their anchors inspected to make sure the boats don’t get blown away, registering their boats with the U.S. Coast Guard, having a reliable way to dispose of sewage and keeping their decks clear. He makes it clear that he doesn’t plan on leaving the water anytime soon: “It’s home, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” he says. “They’ll have to take me away in handcuffs.”

Near the end of the story, Sausalito councilmember Joan Cox is quoted as saying “It’s not our intention to ever force folks who are living on their boats to leave our waters. But as people do leave, we intend not to have them replaced by other people.” Cox later told KQED the City Council was working on a plan to pay for eight anchor-outs to move into regular marina slips, “by the end of June.”

Since then, Sausalito Currents and the local press have provided more details of that plan. The pilot program is being developed in conjunction with the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services and Ritter Center of San Rafael. Under the program, eight anchor-outs would be eligible to move their boats into live-aboard slips at commercial marinas in Sausalito for a transitional period of 6 or more months.

After the transitional period, the program’s goal is to move participants into permanent housing on land or to transfer their boats to more permanent live-aboard slips. Participation in the program would be voluntary.

According to a recent census, 16 individuals are currently living anchored-out in Sausalito waters. The police department has been enforcing a 72-hour rule against any new occupied vessels in Sausalito waters since January 2019.

To pay the slip fees to the marina operators for the pilot program, the City expects to use approximately $25,000 from its Tidelands Fund, which generates revenues from City waterfront properties like the Sausalito Yacht Club and the Spinnaker restaurant. If the pilot program is successful, other funding sources may be identified.

City staff will seek approval for the pilot program from the County of Marin and regional agencies like the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and return to the City Council to finalize and approve the program. This plan will not affect the 200+ anchor-outs in County waters, which are under the jurisdiction of the Richardson’s Bay Regional Agency. The RBRA continues to pursue establishing a mooring field for those anchor-outs.