“Enjoy your houseboat while you can because you’ll all be gone soon,” Elisabeth (Suki) Sennett remembers the then Executive Director of the BCDC saying to her as he stood as a guest on her deck shortly after she moved onto Main Dock 35 years ago.
Suki was working as an aide to a county supervisor when she first came across this community when the permitting process for Waldo Point Harbor was just beginning. That was in 1984. They worked with the Harbor owners, the county, BCDC, the state, and the Army Corps of Engineers on a process that would end up taking over three decades.
“I just liked the people so much I decided to move here myself,” she said. In 1987 she bought a boat that was about 6 months old. She decided to throw a housewarming party and invite all the county supervisors and others working on the permit. That’s when one of them uttered those welcoming words. She proved him wrong as she has lived on the same boat ever since, though it’s been on two different locations on Main Dock.
As a floating home owner, she became involved in the Floating Homes Association and then became president. “We and Waldo Point worked as allies on that permit for 34 years,” she recalls.
She remembers when the Floating Homes Association had almost 100% membership at the height of the permit negotiations. “You never know what’s going to happen. We are at the mercy of our landlords, the county, BCDC. Individually we have no clout. But we have strength together,” she says.
Suki was born to a noble family: her parents were Count and Countess Zandari-Landi of Austria. She studied ballet until she “grew too tall.” She earned a masters in Theater Administration and “became the drama department” at Dominican College. Wanting a new challenge, she received a fellowship for a public affairs certificate program and then went into negotiating contracts between cable companies and the county. As she put it, she finally left the “dark side” to go to work for the county. Though she formally retired, she continued to work as a consultant to many community organizations until she was 87 years old! Due to her efforts and those of many others we enjoy a thriving neighborhood that includes the dog park on Bridgeway and the Marin City Library.
Now 93 years old, she is leaving the docks to move to Drake Terrace Senior Housing, but she will keep her boat and rent it for the time being. “My son wants to live here eventually. He remembers living here when he was younger.” But she worries about rising costs and whether he will be able to afford it.
She has one thing to say to other owners: “Our survival depends on the Floating Homes Association. We all need to be members of FHA. This AB252 rent protection could completely go away. We need to have a strong voice together. Back then if there had been no FHA, we all would have been gone. And it could happen again.”