Civil Grand Jury

Oyster Point Marina JPA Considerations

By Ed Carter

This is in response to recent meetings, Staff Reports, 5 Year Capital Improvement Project Summary (CIP) and proposals involving a possible Oyster Point Marina (OPM) JPA Rewrite/Update by South San Francisco (SSF) and the San Mateo County Harbor District (HD).

I strongly suggest that the Harbor District limit any JPA update to the current term of the JPA and make no new capital investments at OPM.

SSF has publicly threatened to push for dissolution of the HD if it does not “go along” with funding massive new capital investment at OPM. This undermines any future partnership and strongly suggests that SSF was involved in the Grand Jury inquiries and other behind the scenes maneuvering to dissolve the HD. This antagonism should caution the HD commissioners against extending the JPA.

The LAFCO Municipal Services Review (MSR) and Grand Jury Report both cite a long history of HD operating deficits as justification for its dissolution. The OPM JPA is a significant contributor to these deficits. Continued revenue deficiencies may lead to dissolution of the HD if the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors decides to do so. There has been no economic study completed of the projected return on investment of the HD’s proposed OPM CIP items. I would argue that an accurate projection is impossible until after the OPD project is completed and fully leased for a year or more. Failure of any additional capital investment in enterprise projects, to produce adequate revenues, would further jeopardize the future of the HD.

JPA land that previously provided revenue to the HD has been transferred to a private developer. This revenue will not be replaced. Reduction in the land area in the JPA and development of adjacent, previously JPA controlled property, by others (Oyster Point Development, OPD) makes prediction of future productive use of the remaining “substandard” JPA property very difficult. The Marina has long had excess capacity, over 20% of the berths are not currently rented. Future parking for the existing western berths will be reduced by fifty percent. Therefore, access to these berths will be more difficult.  Existing boat maintenance facilities will be gone. No one can predict how these changes will affect  the demand for marina facilities.

SSF appears to believe the HD will supply all of the capital for future development by the OPM JPA. The HD does not own the land or have a long‐term lease (nor should it want either) to justify any more capital investment at OPM.

The JPA has not developed the landside facilities of the marina significantly since its inception. There is no reason to believe this will change in the future. The OPM CIP includes $250,000 in Planning, specifications and engineering investment in landside development in 2017‐18 without a hint as to the nature of successful enterprise activity that might be developed there.

JPA property has been reduced to only the most exposed and unstable area of the old landfill. Barriers to future landside development include the landfill legacy problems of hazardous waste, subsidence and geotechnical issues complicated by projected sea rise. Extension of the JPA may also result in HD being held responsible for problems associated with hazardous waste deposits at the site that existed before the JPA was formed. These issues will result in limitations on what can be built including increased costs of construction. Further, the proposed 40,000 square feet available for new development in the remaining JPA Property is: small, irregular in shape, landlocked and otherwise limited in its use by adjacent trails and planned hotel development on adjacent property.

The HD has challenging issues at Pillar Point Harbor (PPH), including: the demand for more and larger berths, implementation of the PPH 5 year CIP, water quality improvement, landside development supporting existing enterprise activity tenants, expansion of enterprise activity, ADA compliance, dredging and beach enhancement. The HD should utilize all of its available and future capital resources at PPH in order to fulfill its mission statement: “To assure that the public is provided with clean, safe, wellmanaged financially sound and environmentally pleasant marinas”. If it continues in the OPM JPA with a business as usual approach the operating losses will continue and the HD will not be able to fulfill this mission at either PPH or OPM.


Given the above it is difficult to understand the apparent willingness of the HD to expend its resources on this failed JPA partnership. The HD should set future priorities based upon the LAFCO MSR and Grand Jury comments. This will help direct staff and make future planning fact based and goal oriented

HD has experienced consistent operating losses under the JPA. Future marina development and landside enterprise activity at OPM should be left to the landowner, SSF. All future HD tax revenue should be reserved for use at PPH.

While it may be desirable for the HD to have a continued presence at Oyster Point it is under no obligation to invest in additional capital projects at OPM. It makes no sense to build SSF and their developer partner OPD a shiny new marina with San Mateo County Taxpayer money.

The currently proposed OPM CIP should be suspended. The HD should limit its future involvement with the JPA and OPM to operation and maintenance of the marina under a cost plus contract, with SSF funding all CIP and operating losses. The HD should look for partners and other funding sources to support its public access and marine safety activities at OPM. Without implementing these strategies it may be impossible for the HD to achieve revenue neutral operations at OPM.

Look beyond the Grand Jury Report

by Sabrina Brennan

The San Mateo County Harbor District's focus is shifting towards the needs of the community. This is why I ran for a seat on the Harbor Commission.

I've worked hard and made measurable progress while serving my first term. I'm happy to report that significant change has been accomplished; with new management in place we're becoming a well-run District. In 1976, when I was age 8, the District borrowed millions of dollars from the California Division of Boating and Waterways. In April 2016, the Harbor District repaid those loans. As board President I created the Finance Committee and I’m very pleased that the District is debt free for the first time in 40 years.

In May 2016, I organized a Sea Level Rise & Erosion Forum that included speakers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Over 175 people including city, county, and state representatives packed the Douglas Beach House to the rafters!  We're fortunate to live in an area with an engaged electorate and strong leadership. In June 2016, our County Supervisors included $2.6 million in their approved budget specifically for erosion protection for businesses, Coastal Trail access, and homes near Mirada Rd. in Half Moon Bay.

In May 2015, we moved the District’s headquarters back to the Coastside, within sight of Pillar Point Harbor. In July 2015, the board unanimously approved the District’s first Code of Ethics & Values. In August 2015, President Mattusch and I were the first commissioners from our District to receive special district governance awards for completion of the California Special District Association Leadership Academy.

A recent Grand Jury report instructs the County Board of Supervisors to “look beyond” the Harbor District’s performance improvements. The report advises Supervisors to weigh in on early termination of the Oyster Point Marina/Park Joint Powers Agreement between the City of South San Francisco and the Harbor District. In May, a development agreement was signed by South City and Greenland USA, an international developer based in China, for a biotech business park located on the Oyster Point Landfill. The Harbor District currently operates the site as a public park and marina. The project was originally approved in 2011 and it includes 2.25 million square feet of office space, new roads, removal of existing roads, and grading for a new hotel site. The first phase of a three phase project will include 600,000 square feet of office/R&D space attached to a parking garage structure on approximately 10 acres.

A recent San Francisco Examiner article provided some insight into the Cities plans, “City Manager Mike Futrell noted Greenland is going to re-cap all of the landfill, including places where no construction is planned.” This is good news because portions of the landfill cap are submerged in the Bay. State environmental regulations require replacing the old clay cap.

In June, Greenland gave a presentation to the Harbor Commission. “This is a long-term project,” said development director Clara Tang. Regulatory hurdles are expected to take one year or more before construction can begin. Tang said the project could take 10 years to complete.

Concerns about lease revenue were raised. District management recommended leaving a bait and tackle shop vacant because there are too many unknowns about the development. Slip occupancy may dip as tenants relocate to avoid construction-related nuisances. A 2011 agreement between the City and the District grants the District 40,000 square feet of commercial lease space after development is complete. The $1.00 per year lease ends when the Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) expires in 10 years. District management concluded that a new agreement should be brought forward. 

In May, Tetra Tech, consultants for South City, produced a flood protection report focused on landfill subsidence and sea level rise. The report discusses the City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) interest in forming a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to address sea level rise and it concludes that Oyster Point flooding is a regional issue. Measure AA has been identified as a possible funding source for addressing flooding caused by landfill subsidence.

Oyster Point Landfill was in operation from 1956 to 1970. Consistent with landfill practices at that time, no liner was installed at the site. Waste disposal design features such as liners, cellular division of waste, and leachate collection systems were not installed. Instead, the waste materials were placed directly onto the Bay mud.

Around 1976, the closure of the City-owned landfill prompted local officials to make a deal with the Harbor District to obtain long-term funding for marina operations and improvements. In 1977, South City and the Harbor District entered into a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) that terminates in 2026. As a result countywide property tax funds the City owned facility. Historically, Oyster Point Marina operating costs and capital improvements exceed operating revenue and the shortfall is funded with countywide property tax.

Pillar Point Harbor is one of the few commercial fishing ports in California and it’s owned and operated by the Harbor District. It’s located in an unincorporated area of the county; the District’s Harbor Patrol provides search and rescue emergency response, tenant occupancy rates are consistently high, and it’s the only harbor of refuge from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. The Half Moon Bay location provides ocean-dependent recreation and a local source for sustainable seafood. A strong case can be made for funding Pillar Point Harbor emergency response, repairs and improvements with countywide tax dollars. Maintaining a decades-old commercial fishing harbor in need of TLC is like owning a boat—things are always breaking and maintenance is required.

The Harbor Commission is moving in a positive direction, and with change comes creativity, innovation, improved accountability, opportunities to evaluate and define long-term goals, and the need for greater cooperation.

Peter Grenell's Retirement Memo


"Destruction of Records" agenda item 6

January 14, 2014

SMC Harbor District
Attn: Harbor Commission President Bernardo (sent via email)

RE: Item 6 of the 01-15-2014 Harbor District Board meeting - Records Management: Destruction of Records

Dear President Bernardo (et all),

I am writing this to express my deep concern with recent actions taken by the Harbor Board (Board) over the course of the last year, culminating (so far) with this, Item 6, on the 01-15-2014 Harbor District (HD) Agenda; Destruction of Records.

As much as Iʼd like to attend and present the Board with my concerns personally, I will unfortunately not be able to attend, hence this communication. It is my hope that you and your fellow Commissioners heed the request that myself and others are proposing; please pull Item 6 from this Agenda - please do not take action on this matter at this time. Following is the background and supporting data to justify removing Item 6 from the 01-15-14 Agenda at this time.

You may remember me from my comments suggesting that the vacated HB seat (due to death) should go to the voters as opposed to being appointed by the Board (Comfort Inn meeting). You may also remember that my argument, to place the seat on the ballot at the earliest convenient time was based on the fact that the vacated term was as close to the full term as it could have been (almost the full 4 years) and that the Board should be made up of elected officials as opposed to appointed (by the Board). Your predecessor, Mr Tucker was Board President at the time.

Over the recent months the HD has set several disturbing Policies that have gotten the attention of the electorate (and others). Taken singularly, each one is cause for concern; but collectively, they certainly appear very damning. With your permission, Iʼll be blunt in my recantation, from my perspective: First, pitch a fit about a Board member asking questions and shut that down / next, curtail public input / next, curtail member input / next, cease all video recordings of the Agency meetings / next, move to Action Minutes (veiling Item discussion) - and now, for the cherry on the cake, destroy Agency records. Certainly you can clearly see cause for concern from those your Board serves. It is abundantly clear to the public that the Board is circling the wagons against its constituents. It should be equally obvious to this Board that this Boardʼs actions have created a breach of trust with your constituents. The more than obvious question is - Why? What is it that this Board is working so feverishly to hide &/or protect?

When one further considers the recent questionable financial discoveries, the benefits package Board members enjoy, and the rancor both with the public and between your own Commissioners, one can clearly understand the the erosion of faith by the electorate and that the HB has some major issues that need to be dealt with.

I am and always have been an advocate for transparency, thereby creating a genuine partnership between governing boards and their constituents. Transparency is a lot more than a word found under T in Websterʼs. It is a mindset, a core value, a necessity in good governance for achieving the best results for all. Every governing board for every district should work with those they represent, not at odds with them and most certainly not in a vacuum. It is the public, after all, whose funding pays for every stitch of everything the governing boards claim and use. If nothing else, transparency should be a good example of governing boards respecting the public that funded their district and elected the members. Honesty is the key - both between the public and its elected and between the elected and the public.

I am requesting that Item 6 be pulled from the 01-15-14 meeting Agenda. Further, and I realize how critical document management can be, this Item should be publicly vetted at both HD meeting locations, casting the net as broadly as possible to collect all the public input possible Before action is taken on this matter. I would tag it as ʻdue diligenceʼ on the part of the District.

Please understand; I am grateful for the concept, efforts and intent of most governing boards, even in disagreement; but when public perception of bad practices by their board(s) coupled with the specific actions of this HD (described above) are combined, as they are here, it would be my suggestion that fixing that set of issues takes precedent over all HD business, as opposed to furthering the hole you seem to find yourselves in.

How can a Board be effective in doing their charge when they are too busy circling their wagons and dealing with damage control?

As you will note, I am ccʼing your peers, all SMC Board of Supervisors and our local press. It has been my experience that folks seem to be more careful when others are looking over their shoulder. I am truly sorry it has come to this and wish you all only the best, but I am doing here what I feel is the right thing to do and what I feel I have to do.

It is my fervent hope that you and your peers take the same posture. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully submitted,

George Muteff
Half Moon Bay


Harbor Board Commissioners;

  • Robert Bernardo -
  • William Holsinger - 
  • Jim Tucker -
  • Pietro Parravano -
  • Sabrina Brennan -

San Mateo Board of Supervisors members;

  • President of the SMC BOS Dave Pine -
  • Don Horsley -
  • Warren Slocum -
  • Carole Groom -
  • Adrienne Tissier -

Local news;

  • HMB Review reporter Mark Noack -
  • Christa Bigue, HMB Patch Editor -