Dave Pine

How the Harbor District gave up lease revenue and took on liability for a hazardous fuel system at Oyster Point

Perspective by Sabrina Brennan

The 20,000-gallon fuel system at Oyster Point Marina should be replaced as soon as possible to protect the safety of Harbor District employees and the general public.

On May 26, 2017, a report commissioned by the City of South San Francisco detailed numerous hazardous conditions identified during a fuel system inspection, including concerns about electrocution and water pollution.  In August 2017, Kenneth Dixon, Environmental Engineer & California Project Officer with the U.S. EPA said “Many releases are discovered during tank removal, so it would behoove California’s single-walled UST owners and operators to close/remove their tanks well before the end of 2024. Otherwise, they would not have sufficient time to submit a claim if the State opened a cleanup case ... The 2015 inspection revealed that aboveground piping was not being visually inspected on a daily basis, and that a leak was occurring. This tells me that the State of California--through either the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board or the San Mateo County Environmental Health Department—likely has the authority to open a leaking UST cleanup case.”

Over the past eight years a developer (Oyster Point Development or OPD) consistently declined to make repairs as required by their lease agreement with the Harbor District. Drakes Marine, the sub-lessee for the fuel system, repeatedly provided the developer with multiple estimates for repairs yet OPD failed to make them. The lack of repairs and maintenance has resulted in a dangerous and decrepit fuel system as noted in the May 2017 Anchor Report. This October, the same developer is planning to break ground on a 2.25 million square foot project that will be constructed in phases over the next decade or two. To grasp the scale of the project, imagine three 58-story Millennium Towers spread-out in mid-rise buildings over 80 acres on the Bay front in South San Francisco.

In 2011, the Harbor District and the City of South San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (RDA) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to facilitate development at Oyster Point Marina (phase IC and IIC). The MOU stipulated that when certain city-owned parcels managed by the Harbor District were transferred to the developer pursuant to a development agreement (DDA), that those now developer-owned parcels would automatically be removed from the JPA. As specified in the MOU the parcels to be removed from the JPA include Fuel Dock parcels E-3 and E-4 as well as landside parcels E, E-1, and E-2. In 2011, Harbor Commissioners, Robert Bernardo, Pietro Parravano, James Tucker, Leo Padreddii, and Sally Campbell approved the MOU.

On Aug. 16, 2017, Harbor Commissioners Tom Mattusch, Virginia Chang-Kiraly and Robert Bernardo approved an Implementation Agreement to transfer property to the City in accordance with the 2011 MOU. Their vote reduced the District’s annual lease revenue by $215,000 and put the public on the hook for more than $2.5 million for fueling infrastructure (parcels E-3 and E-4) that the developer was contractually bound to properly maintain and operate. Not to mention incalculable financial liability for the fuel system in its current state of disrepair.

In March and June 2017, the District sent two letters to OPD demanding that the infrastructure be improved and maintained. These letters clearly identified the numerous issues with the systems and promised legal action by the Harbor District if the developer did not immediately bring the fueling system into compliance with the safety standards. Six weeks after the District sent it’s June 19 demand letter to OPD the Implementation Agreement was favorably presented to the joint Liaison Committee on Aug 2, 2017. Remarkably, in a month and a half General Manager Steve McGrath made a 180-degree reversal in course. He went from demanding that the fueling system be fixed by OPD prior to initiating an Implementation Agreement, to recommending that the Harbor District take on all liability for the fueling infrastructure, as well as the stunning admission that the District may need to front at least $2.5 million for at least five years or more to build out a replacement system. Funding in the Agreement was hinged on the “hope” that SSF would create a new taxing mechanism known as a Community Facilities District (CFD) and then pay the District for the new fueling infrastructure some five or more years down the road. Funding by the CFD is not guaranteed in the Agreement.

Steve McGrath said that the turnaround was prompted by the threat of litigation. On Aug 14, 2017, two days before the Aug 16 Harbor District meeting McGrath told me that South San Francisco City Manager Mike Futrell threatened the SMC Harbor District with a massive lawsuit during a “heated exchange”. It appears that Futrell’s threat caused McGrath to suddenly veer into the role of being an evangelist for an Agreement that benefited the developer and the City.

This was not the first time Mike Futrell bullied the Harbor District. In 2016, Futrell demanded the Harbor District pay for mitigations required by the Regional Water Quality Control Board to address chronic flooding caused by landfill subsidence. On April 28, 2016, I pushed back as an appointed member of the OPM Liaison Group by providing a copy of the 1976 Oyster Point Geotechnical Report. I informed Futrell, the City attorney, and my fellow Liaison Group members that chronic landfill subsidence was expected per the City’s 1976 report that predated the JPA between the City and the Harbor District. The report proved that landfill subsidence and flooding mitigation were the responsibility of the City and the developer, not the Harbor District. A court reporters transcript of the April 28, 2016 joint Liaison Committee meeting is available.

Futrell’s role as a board Director on the South San Francisco Chamber of Commerce combined with his history of OPD related legal threats has the appearance of conflict. OPD is featured on the Chambers website as a prestigious Chairman’s Circle $10,000+ level contributor and Futrell makes staff recommendations regarding OPD to both the City Council and the OPM Liaison Group. From a public perception standpoint the City’s relationship with OPD looks uncomfortably cozy.

On Aug 2, 2017, Vice-Mayor Liza Normandy, in her capacity as chair of the OPM Liaison Group, blocked public comment regarding numerous fuel system safety hazards that OPD was responsible for fixing per their lease agreement with the Harbor District. Normandy walked out of the committee meeting three times in an effort to block me from raising significant concerns about the hazardous fuel system.

The afternoon meeting at SSF City Hall included a lengthy presentation by Futrell in support of the OPD project and the proposed Implementation Agreement. Harbor Commission Liaison Group members did not ask questions or raise any concerns about potential conflicts or safety hazards. Committee member Virginia Chang-Kiraly, an elected Menlo Park Fire District Director, as well as an elected Harbor Commissioner was befuddled by the complexity of the proposed agreement, recommended by Futrell and McGrath. Harbor Commission President Tom Mattusch did not ask any questions, or make any comments, about the Agreement or the development throughout the entire meeting.

  • VIDEO—Aug 2, 2017, Oyster Point Liaison Committee meeting 

All of which leads to the conclusion that the GM of the District used the inability of the District’s two Liaison Group members to absorb and understand the data to force through an Agreement that would not survive scrutiny were it to be fully vetted by impartial counsel and elected officials.

Further proof that this Agreement was pushed through by the GM is the fact that at the Liaison Group meeting both the City and the District agreed that the Implementation Agreement should be considered at the District and Councils September meetings. Instead, and in the face of mounting concerns about the safety of the fuel system and speculation about the Agreement, McGrath brought it to the Board just twelve days after the Liaison Committee meeting. Thereby ending important discovery, research and discussion, which were essential to protect County Taxpayers from the complex and apparent harm that this agreement brings to the District.

A growing number of people are concerned about the appearance of a conflict regarding Normandy’s role as SSF Chamber CEO. Normandy did not recuse herself from the Aug 2, 2017 Liaison Group meeting or Sept 6, 2016 City Council special meeting and staff recommendations that favored to the OPD project were made by Futrell at both meetings. To put it in context consider that Futrell is one of Normandy's bosses in her role as CEO of the Chamber and she’s one of his bosses In his role as City Manager and OPD is one of the largest financial contributors to the SSF Chamber.

At the Sept. 6, 2017 7:00pm SSF Special Meeting Normandy abstained from voting on the Oyster Point Implementation Agreement resolutions. During the meeting the Vice-Mayor said, “I would like to advise my Council, with the recommendation and consulting with Jason Rosenberg [City attorney] that due to an email that was received, I will not be partaking in this vote. In the meantime I did want to inform the council and the audience that based upon my position as the Chamber of Commerce CEO and sitting on this body as Vice-Mayor we are seeking, through the FPPC, formal advice in reference to OPD because they are a member, a Chairman’s Circle member as well as a client of the City, so I will be abstaining from this vote.”

  • AUDIO RECORDING—Sept. 6, 2017 7:00pm South San Francisco Special Meeting, to hear Vice-Mayor Normandy explain why she abstained go to 1:36:20 in the City Clerk’s audio recording.

It's unlikely that the FPPC would find that Normandy has a disqualifying financial conflict based on her day job. However Futrell and the SSF Chamber's promotion of the OPD project raises some eyebrows. 

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Excerpts from the May 2017 Anchor QEA Condition Assessment Report recommending full replacement of the fuel system:

Utilities - page 6

The existing utilities on the fuel dock include fuel lines, which were reviewed by our fuel system subconsultant in a separate section, domestic water, fire protection, wastewater pump-out, and electrical conduits. These utilities are various states of disrepair. The domestic water and fire protection systems are in replace condition, the wastewater pump-out system is in replace condition, and the electrical system is in worn condition.

Domestic water, wastewater, and fuel flex lines should always be kept above the water line, but this was not observed on the fuel dock. Non-submersible electrical cables and conduits also must be kept 12 inches above the water line. Many of these pipes, conduits, and cables are supported by nylon ropes or bungee cords tied to cantilevered timber boards nailed into the deck, as can be seen in Photographs 5 and 6. Several conduits and cables were observed to dip into the water, creating the potential for hazardous stray currents, which can electrocute people and corrode metal boat components such as rudders, propellers, drive shafts, and even metal hulls.

Domestic water lines should never dip into the water to prevent the potential for contamination of the potable water supply. Fire protection lines, however, may be placed in the water, and if fire protection piping is PVC or HDPE plastic pipe, it is in fact required to be placed underwater to prevent it from melting in a fire. All fire protection piping above the water line is required to be made of metal such as stainless steel or copper. There was no indication that all the above water fire protection piping is metal pipe, except for the risers. Lastly, the wastewater pump-out line has been allowed to drop into the water in some locations. Although vacuum-style wastewater pump-out pipes are typically dry when not in use, they should be kept above the water to observe any leaks during operation.

Fuel System - page 9

However, there is no evidence of double-lined pipes or spill containment on the docks. In addition, the on-dock control panel/ emergency stop and land-to-dock transition piping are severely corroded and in otherwise decrepit condition. A timber frame and nylon ropes are supporting a portion of this transition, as shown in Photograph 7. There is no real transition to land, with pipes simply diving into the ground and simple sawhorse warning signs “protecting” this location. Fuel lines should transition in a vault at the shore. Overall, except for the tank fuel pumps and monitoring equipment, the fuel system is in replace condition.

Electrical - page 12

The critical utility issue, which should be addressed immediately, is submerged electrical wires and conduits.

Fuel System - page 13

The fuel system, except for the tank pumps and monitoring equipment, is not salvageable, nor are repairs anticipated to extend the remaining useful of the fuel system.

Click here to read the full report.

Oyster Point Marina Underwater

Please checkout my presentation about chronic flooding at the Oyster Point Landfill.

The map below indicates the area the color photo were shot.

Please click the map to see a larger version. The map photo represents a low tide.

Oyster Point Marina is result of Bay fill dump era

Trash Dumps and the Hidden History of the Bay Shoreline    First there were marshes; then there were dumps. The dumps were eventually turned into regulated landfills, and the landfills into shoreline parks.

Trash Dumps and the Hidden History of the Bay Shoreline

First there were marshes; then there were dumps. The dumps were eventually turned into regulated landfills, and the landfills into shoreline parks.

The Oyster Point Landfill is a closed, unlined Class III landfill that was in operation from 1956 to 1970. Prior to 1956, what would become the Oyster Point Landfill area consisted of tidal marshlands and upland soils and bedrock.

Between 1956 and 1970, the City of South San Francisco leased the site (approximately 57 acres) to South San Francisco Scavenger Company

In 1956, Scavenger began disposal operations at the landfill. Initially, municipal solid waste was disposed of on the ground and burned. This activity ended in 1957 following the enactment of laws prohibiting open air burning of rubbish in the Bay Area. To address the new air quality restrictions South City and Scavenger established a solid waste disposal site on the submerged lands just east of the original Oyster Point. 

The landfill was developed in three phases. Filling of the first section began in 1957 and was completed by late 1961. The first area to be filled extended into the Bay about 1,500 feet eastward from the original bluff. Scavenger placed waste directly into the tidelands and used a wire fence to control the discharge of solids into the Bay due to tidal action. Waste disposal operations eventually resulted in the relocation of the shoreline approximately 3,000 feet to the east of the pre-landfill shoreline. 

The landfill material consists of up to 45 feet of poorly compacted municipal and industrial waste. Typical waste found within the landfill includes the following: chemicals, drums, paper, cardboard, organic matter, wood, glass, metal, rubber, rocks, concrete, and other materials. The base of the landfill material has been compressed into, and mixed with, the upper part of the Bay Mud. The volume of waste in the landfill is approximately 2.5 million cubic yards and total tonnage of this material is approximately 1.4 million tons. This volume of waste would cover a football field almost to the height of the Empire State Building. 

Beginning in 1961, the landfill received liquid industrial waste for disposal. The types of liquid waste included paints, thinners, and coagulated solvent sludge. The liquid wastes were placed in a sump (Sump 1). No records describing the construction of the sump have been found. Liquid industrial wastes were disposed of in this sump from 1961 until 1966. In July 1966, the City of South San Francisco discontinued the use of Sump 1 and used Sump 2 until 1967. The total volume of liquid industrial waste received by the landfill in 1965 and 1966 is estimated at 608,351 and 378,680 gallons, respectively. Sump 1 alone is almost enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool. 

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 and soils overlying bedrock. In order to contain the solid waste from contact with waters of the State, Bay Mud berms were constructed around portions of the waste disposal areas in 1961, 1962, and 1964. However, there is no data to suggest that the industrial waste sumps were ever constructed with additional berms or dikes to control the migration of liquid wastes. 

In 1962, a small craft harbor was constructed along the north shore of the landfill. To create a breakwater for the east side of the marina, the second phase of landfill was placed in the form of a mole extending from the eastern end of the first fill and north about 400 feet into the Bay. The third phase of filling began in 1964 and was accomplished by dredging up Bay Mud and forming mud dikes and a dike-enclosed cell in which solid waste was later placed.

Upon completion of the disposal operations, various landfill closure activities took place through the late 1980s. The closed landfill then became the site for development of the Oyster Point Marina/Park.  

The landfill is currently owned by the City of South San Francisco and is operated as a marina, ferry terminal, yacht club, hotel, office space, and open space. South City is responsible for landfill maintenance and the San Mateo County Harbor District manages marina operations pursuant to a Joint Powers Agreement that terminates in 2026.

South City hopes to redevelop the site. The 2015 Semiannual Oyster Point Landfill Report states that a project would include excavation of landfill materials at the former Oyster Point Landfill and relocation of these materials on- and/or off-site. The landfill cap would be upgraded to meet the current requirements of Title 27 of the California Code of Regulations with the approval of the Regional Water Quality Control Board and San Mateo County Environmental Health Division. 

The first phase of redevelopment plans call for up to 600,000 square feet of office/R&D space, envisioned as a biotech campus, and possibly a retail/restaurant building, in the area currently occupied by the existing commercial development at the eastern side of the landfill site. Phase I also includes the reconfiguration of Marina Boulevard and a portion of Oyster Point Boulevard, and a shuttle turn-around will be constructed adjacent to the Ferry Terminal. Parcels to the east of the new development will be graded and improved as sports fields. Further east a future hotel and retail complex is envisioned. The existing Yacht Club structure and the Harbor District maintenance building would remain.

Where is the wisdom in developing such a risky site?  Health, safety, and public access concerns include flooding from landfill subsidence and sea-level rise, Bay saltwater breaching the landfill cap, underground electrical saltwater intrusion, gas explosions, and liquefaction.

On Dec. 9, 2015, Bruce H. Wolfe, Executive Officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board sent the City of South San Francisco an enforcement letter regarding recurrent flooding overtopping the landfill cap.  The San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control BoardSan Mateo County Division of Environmental Health, and Bay Area Air Quality Management District are the agencies that regulate the landfill.

 

Refer to the following documents for more info:

King Tide flooding at Oyster Point Marina—Wed., Nov. 25, 2015

 

Pillar Point is Our Harbor

James Lee Han

My name is James Lee Han. I’m a 35-year-old native of Redwood City. I’m also a community activist, a writer, and an avid fan of the San Mateo County coast.

My childhood, with many long days spent on the Coastside, is one of the reasons I care deeply about what happens to our Harbor District. Growing up, my family would visit Pillar Point Harbor at least once a month to buy or catch fish as well as enjoy the coastal views. Despite being born and raised on “the other side of the hill,” almost every summer weekend was spent at Pillar Point Harbor (PPH). We mistakenly referred to trips to PPH as “going to Half Moon Bay” because for us they were one and the same: all part of a lovely trip to the ocean.

My early childhood memories and my love for the harbor are why I strongly disagree with the recent assertions made by San Mateo County’s LAFCo that there’s an “absence of nexus”—or in layman’s terms, a serious disconnect—between the countywide property tax revenue base for the Harbor District and the two sites over which this special district has jurisdiction: Pillar Point Harbor (PPH) on the coast and Oyster Point Marina (OPM) in South San Francisco. I strongly oppose the notion that only Coastside residents near PPH should contribute property tax revenue to help fund the harbor’s operations, and I also oppose the suggestion made by Supervisor Horsley in his role as a LAFCo commissioner that the Harbor District should change its boundaries and its election format.

James Lee Han Martins Beach CA

There are many public resources in our county that, like the Harbor District, are paid for by taxpayers countywide, such as Edgewood Park and San Bruno Mountain. I love these parks and visit them often, but if I mention Pillar Point Harbor, Edgewood Park, and San Bruno Mountain to the average county resident, it’s more likely that they have visited the harbor. If we apply the “absence of nexus” argument equally, why should all county taxpayers support county parks but not support PPH?

Pillar Point Harbor is a well-­known recreation location for working families in San Mateo County. It’s a nationally recognized destination for commercial fishing and recreational boating. There's no good reason why my family—who enjoy visiting PPH—should be excused from contributing property tax, while a lower­-income family living closer to the harbor should now be asked to cover the full cost for the whole county.

Any regular visitor to the Coastside knows you only have to be at Pillar Point Harbor on a weekend or a holiday to see that most people who use and enjoy the harbor aren’t Coastside residents. Shifting the tax burden of the Harbor District to a small segment of county residents who live near PPH actually increases, not decreases, the so-called unfair tax burden referred to as an “absence of nexus.”

However, if we want to relieve county taxpayers of an unfair tax burden, what about Oyster Point Marina? OPM is governed by a Joint Powers Authority agreement which gives South San Francisco and the Harbor District shared authority over the site. I believe that agreement should be terminated and management of the marina should be returned to the City. Compared to Pillar Point Harbor, OPM is not a widely­-known destination for recreational activities, and the resource is certainly utilized far less by countywide residents than PPH. Even the ferry service which transports employees from the East Bay primarily serves companies based in South San Francisco, and as the information in LAFCo’s own Municipal Service Review indicates, OPM isn’t a fiscally prudent management opportunity for the Harbor District. If we really want to address “absence of nexus” concerns, we should seriously consider “decoupling” the Harbor District from OPM and terminate the Joint Powers Authority agreement.

There are county residents who are hit with an unfair tax burden by the Harbor District: its minority communities. As widely reported in recent years, the participation of families of color in outdoor recreation activities and their engagement with public parks is markedly and disproportionately lower than that of their white counterparts. As a regular user of parks I’ve seen how striking the disparity is between those who visit our public parks and the people who actually live in adjacent neighborhoods, particularly at parks like San Bruno Mountain.

The LAFCo “absence of nexus” logic incorrectly suggests that the solution is to tax people who live near those facilities more. But if we’re really concerned about county residents getting taxed for a resource they don’t fully utilize, the solution isn’t to drastically narrow the revenue base for the Harbor District. It’s to increase minority outreach and broaden opportunities for people of all class and ethnic backgrounds to participate in recreational activities at PPH and OPM. It’s also to ensure that the District has inclusive hiring policies so that harbor and marina staff better represent the ethnic makeup of our county. And it means supporting diversity in countywide politics: we now have a Harbor District board which boasts a Latino commissioner and a Filipino commissioner, and this board also now happens to be one of the rare elected bodies in the Bay Area, perhaps even in California, with a majority of openly LGBT officials.

Since 2012, new faces have joined the Harbor District board, and things have been improving ever since. Let’s ensure the District is allowed to do its job, to preserve and maintain one of our county’s most important public resources.

If you have any questions you are welcome to call me at (650) 207-7251.

Respectfully yours,

James Lee Han
720 Warren St.
Redwood City, CA 94063

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