Dispatches from the Waterfront

Pilot houses salvaged from the ferry Issaquah mark the entry to Galilee Harbor  |  photo and post by Larry Clinton

Local media has been abuzz lately with stories from the Southern Marin waterfront.

Galilee Harbor. The March 27 San Francisco Chronicle carried a front–page story about rising berth rents at Galilee Harbor. The article describes Galilee’s unique status this way: “It is the only wholly owned and operated live–aboard cooperative harbor on the West Coast—meaning residents live on their boats full time and own the property, rather than paying rent to an owner. Residents believe it’s the only one in the United States.”

The artists, boat workers and families living on 38 boats docked at 300 Napa St. have no landlord. They control their own property and rents, which are as low as $650 a month. However, Galilee is facing some major expenses, such as installing “a multimillion-dollar wave attenuator, which decreases wave height and energy to protect docks from storm damage.” In addition, “the harbor needs to be dredged to remove sediment that has some boats sitting atop mud even during high tide. It likely will need more than its annual Maritime Day festival and grants to pay for these and other projects. Meanwhile, the harbor is still paying off its mortgage to the Marin Community Foundation.” Residents are exploring various fundraising options.

The Taj Mahal. The bomb cyclone of March 21 sank the iconic Taj Mahal in the Sausalito Harbor at the end of Johnson St. According to an ABC7 news report , the community landmark was flooded up to the main floor, and is not salvageable due to the extensive damage. Another floating home lost in the storm belongs to Stephen Ehret, an anchor–out resident well known as an artist and musician who has participated in numerous FHA events.

Affordable Housing. Meanwhile, an environmental group is suing Sausalito over its hastily approved housing element plan. A nonprofit housing advocacy group called Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) alleges that the city violated state law by failing to identify an adequate number of potential housing sites in the new  plan. Among other complaints reported by the Marin Independent Journal, the city council assigned 30 lower-income homes to a marina, despite the fact that adding more floating homes is “prohibited by established Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission policy.” The paper added that the city acknowledged that the BCDC “places strict limitations on the amount of liveaboard housing allowed in the marinas.”

Seaplane Adventures. Aaron Singer, owner of Seaplane Adventure and Commodore Marina, finds himself in the crosshairs of two powerful state agencies. The Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) has fined Singer’s company more than $200,000 for alleged regulatory violations, according to the IJ . The company has permits from the commission for one heliport landing pad, an 11–houseboat marina, a fuel storage tank, an office building and 17 parking spaces, but according to the IJ: “The commission says the business installed a second fuel tank and helipad, raised some asphalt walkways and built a new concrete and rebar water access ramp for its seaplane without its approval. The company is also being fined for failing to complete houseboat remodeling and relocation work prior to a permit expiring on August 31, 2021, and failing to provide public access improvements, including portions of public shoreline paths.” Singer maintains that most of these conditions existed prior to his 2021 purchase of the two waterfront parcels. An enforcement hearing is scheduled for April 13.

Back in November, the IJ reported that the California Coastal Commission had endorsed a long–awaited federal plan to regulate helicopter and airplane tours over Marin’s national parks to reduce noise impact. The plan would halve the number of flights allowed over Point Reyes National Seashore, the Golden Gate Recreation Area and Muir Woods National Monument to reduce disturbances to wildlife and park visitors.

Just to complicate things further, the IJ recently reported that a lawsuit filed by environmental groups alleges the California Coastal Commission’s plan violates federal law by not adequately studying environmental impacts. The groups are seeking a court order requiring an environmental analysis and limiting the number of flights over the parks to 50 per year until a new plan is adopted. The plan currently allows for about 2,600 trips annually.

“We have an incredible diversity of wildlife from all the marine mammals and birds that roost, nest and pup along the coast,” Barbara Salzman, executive director of Marin Audubon, told the IJ. “They really didn’t do an environmental review so we want them to do an adequate environmental analysis of the impacts. All they did was basically accept what’s been going on.”

Stay tuned to the FT for updates to these developments.