The tent encampment next to Dunphy Park has grown to an unlucky number: 13. Sausalito Mayor Jill Hoffman told the Floating Times that 9 of these tents are occupied and 4 are used for storage. She added, “the number one priority for Sausalito is to find shelter for these people. We are working incredibly hard to secure commitments for support from county and state agencies.” The majority of the 9 occupants are anchor-outs.
On January 31, the Marin IJ reported that the camp was started by Richardson Bay mariners who had lost their boats in rough weather or to official confiscation. High winds in mid-January caused 23 vessels anchored in county waters to drag anchor or break loose from their moorings, according to the Sausalito city website. Curtis Havel, harbormaster of the Richardson’s Bay Regional Agency (RBRA) reports that his agency retrieved and disposed of 5 vessels plus 3 sunken tenders after that windstorm.
While the windstorm may have contributed to some anchor-outs moving ashore, regulatory pressures seem to be the main reason. The founder of the tent camp, Mike Arnold, told the Marin IJ that “the Richardson Bay Regional Agency is terrorizing the marine community by seizing and destroying occupied boats.”
The RBRA is a joint powers authority tasked with enforcing a 72-hour anchorage. These days they take their marching orders from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), which has mandated the removal of all anchor-outs from the Bay.
According to the draft minutes of the BCDC’s Enforcement Committee meeting on December 16, Principal Enforcement Analyst Adrienne Klein stated that the Richardson Bay Special Area Plan requires that vessels and floating structures used for residential purposes (i.e., houseboats, floating homes and liveaboards) should be allowed only in recreational or houseboat marina berths in compliance with state law and local codes. The plan, which was finalized in 1984, further states that all anchor-outs should be removed from Richardson Bay.
Sausalito pulled out of the RBRA in 2017 and has committed to remove all unlawfully anchored vessels from city waters by the end of 2025. Three vessels that arrived after January 22, 2018 are to be removed first; vessels that arrived before that date will be transitioned off of Richardson Bay before the end of 2025. Klein stated that the city will comply with the Marin County Public Health Order relating to COVID-19 and ensure that “no enforcement action places any individual in a more adverse position vis-à-vis the coronavirus.”
Sausalito Currents, the online city newsletter, states: “the City’s priority is to locate alternate and appropriate shelter for individuals at the tent encampment at Dunphy Park.” City staff and the city council are working with government agencies and local nonprofits such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Veterans Service Office, and the Downtown Streets Team to accomplish this goal. The Sausalito police are closely monitoring the encampment and the health and welfare of its inhabitants, especially during bad weather.
“Meanwhile, city officials, still grappling with pandemic-fueled budget cuts, are being pressed to clear the camp by residents threatening protests and litigation,” reports the Marin IJ. On the NextDoor social media feed, concerned citizens have started a pressure group demanding that the encampment be dismantled and that measures be put in place to prevent this from happening again. However, the city is limited in its authority by the 2019 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Martin vs. Boise, which says people cannot face criminal penalties for sitting or sleeping on public property.
The city will provide updates on the Dunphy Park encampment at the end of each week day.