Envisioning the Future of Marinship

It was a full house at the Spinnaker for the Marinship visioning workshop  |  photo and post by Christina Leimer

There’s no shortage of opinions about Marinship’s future. It’s a hub of innovation, ingenuity and creativity with a strong maritime, artistic and civil rights history. The area between Bridgeway and the Bay from about Napa Street to just past Gate 5 Road, known as Marinship, is primarily industrial and waterfront with a small public park, post office and the Bay Model. About 3,000 people work there. They’re boat builders, artists and employees of robotics, electronics and engineering firms.

About 150 people showed up on a Saturday morning, September 7, for a 4-hour visioning workshop hosted by the City of Sausalito’s General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) to get public feedback as they update the city’s 1995 General Plan. GPAC has spent the last two years reviewing the existing plan, its progress and an existing conditions report. “We did the understanding phase and we’re now starting the visioning stage,” said GPAC Chair and former mayor Joan Cox. “We’re asking you, where do we go from here?”

Before answering that question, an overview of planning considerations was provided for context. These included sea level rise, land use and investment, and Marinship’s character and historic significance. Then 14 tables of 10-12 people discussed and reported on their discussions.

Many were concerned about the genuineness of this public feedback process. Loud applause broke out when someone said planners need to take into account what’s valuable to the people who live and work in Marinship, not just to property owners, potential investors and the city. “ROI [return on investment] isn’t the primary lodestar—and shouldn’t be.” Again, the applause thundered when someone said public meetings aren’t enough for transparency. The public should be told how their feedback from these sessions was used and how it was prioritized in the final plan. Several people indicated they want to see a comprehensive master plan with tradeoffs identified.

Suggestions receiving the most support included:  preserving Marinship’s nature and character, sea-level rise, paths and shore access plus affordable housing.


“Don’t remove what’s real and turn it into a theme park,” said a participant at our table, summing up the common sentiment about preserving the maritime, arts, historic and waterfront character of Marinship. Keep it a working waterfront.

Another suggested we need to “somehow take control of tourism and change its nature, showcase houseboat living, industry, arts and crafts, and maritime tourism.” The seaports Mystic and Port Townsend were given as examples. In addition, the area was formerly Miwok land, a 1942 civil rights case originated in Marinship, WWII Liberty ships were built here, and the Bay Model continues to attract tourists worldwide. “We need to educate and inform.”

Sea Level Rise

Because Marinship is built on fill, it’s susceptible to subsidence (gradual sinking). Projections are that 25 acres and 9 miles of roadway will be inundated by 2050. Some participants argued this will happen sooner, by 2030. A citywide sea level rise map showed a large portion of land around Gate 5, Coloma and Harbor underwater along with Schoonmaker Beach, Galilee and Dunphy Park at the other end of Marinship.

Some piers and docks will need changes, the cost of infrastructure will rise and there may be hidden costs if indigenous mounds or toxic areas are found, for example. Property damage is expected, and 3,000 jobs are at risk when buildings flood.

A seawall as a mitigation strategy was controversial. Other possibilities presented are a sea level rise tax district, voluntary weatherization initiatives, wetlands restoration and floating foundations.

Shore Access and Paths

Clear, safe paths though Marinship are needed. Most of the roads in this area are privately owned and parking is limited. This affects the way people experience Marinship and get around. Some suggestions were to create separate pedestrian and bicycle paths, put signage with the history of the area along walking paths and facilitate a lot of foot traffic like at Larkspur Landing. Another suggestion was to take people from Marinship to downtown by water as an alternative to the car, foot and bicycle traffic on Bridgeway.

Affordable Housing

Senior and/or affordable housing for people who work in Marinship was supported. Market rate housing, hotels and other commercial development generally were not. Currently, however, land-based housing isn’t permitted. In the context presentation, issues were raised about what land uses are most viable and how regulations affect land use and owner or developer incentives to invest. Whether to relax or change land use restrictions is a consideration.

If you missed the meeting, but want to have your say, you can share comments through the Sausalito General Plan website or by emailing. GPAC meets twice a month and meetings are open to the public. You can find their meeting schedule, along with videos and minutes of previous meetings, at the General Plan website along with other information about zoning regulations, previous Marinship plans and planning resources.