San Mateo County

Oct 12, 2018, California Coastal Commission hearing in San Diego

I’m Sabrina Brennan, I’m currently serving a second term on the San Mateo County Harbor Commission and I’m a co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing. I’m here today as a representative of CEWS.

When it was my turn to speak at the Nov 2015 Coastal Commission hearing, I explained that the San Mateo County Harbor District had a five-year exclusive permit with Cartel Management, the Titans event promoter. The permit specified that only one surf contest could be held at Mavericks from Nov 1 to March 31.

Three years ago, I asked you to add a condition requiring a women’s heat to a CDP for the event. It was the first time the Coastal Commission had ever considered permitting the Mavericks competition and some of you were surprised to learn that the event’s founder, Jeff Clark, had a history of gender-based discrimination.

At your Nov 2015 hearing a motion was made to approve the CDP application, and that was the moment Coastal Commissioner Mark Vargas said, “I'm a little concerned about the fact that there is no clear plan for highlighting, involving, or encouraging the growth of women in this event or in this sport. I'll float it out there. I'd like to see if I can make an amending motion to add a specific condition that we ask the applicant to provide a plan for encouraging equal opportunity for women surfers in future events.”

A clear mandate was issued in a 7-4 vote to approve Vargas’ amended motion. And in 2016 and 2017, your Commission voted unanimously to include women in the Mavericks competition.

There have been many hurdles including Griffin Guess’ discriminatory behavior and retaliation against women and his company, Cartel Management, filing bankruptcy in federal court.

In Aug 2017, the World Surf League bought the San Mateo County Harbor District multi-season permit out of bankruptcy for $525,000. We were hopeful that, women would finally have an opportunity to compete. However, by the time the WSL got their permits in order the seasons best surf conditions had already passed.  

In 2018, the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing requested a meeting with the WSL on numerous occasions to address concerns about gender-based discrimination and equal pay. The WSL refused to schedule a meeting with us until after we sent Coastal Commission staff a letter on July 9, 2018, that said, “Unfair business practices prevent women professional surfers from utilizing public resources and coastal access. Please take action to prohibit gender-based discrimination.”

On July 23, 2018, CEWS met with the WSL in Redwood City. We presented a proposal for equal prize money and a multi-heat Women’s Division in the 2018/2019 Mavericks Challenge. 

On July, 30, 2018, the WSL agreed to a three heat Women’s Division that would include up to 10 athletes. 

 On Sept 5, 2018, the WSL agreed to full prize money equality across all global WSL controlled events.

  • Starting in 2018, equal prize money will be awarded in the Big Wave Tour.

  • The season schedule for the 2018-2019 Big Wave Tour Women’s Division will include the Mavericks Challenge and the Pe'ahi Challenge.

  • In 2019, the Championship Tour, the Longboard Tour, and the World Junior Championships will be awarded equal prize money.

 This is a precedent setting victory!

Recently, economics professor David Berri was quoted in a Cal Matters article by Laurel Rosenhall. Berri said, “the Mavericks case could set a precedent for local governments to demand equal pay in any sporting event held on public property.”

We hope that our success will expand future opportunities for inclusion and pay equity for all sport leagues and we look forward to future legislation.  

The persistence of women and girls paid off

Women surfers and their supporters stood together, united in their demand for equality and pay equity. We did not back down and we refused anything less than equal pay when offered compromises such as equal pay at some future date in the next few years.

In July 2018, the WSL threatened to cancel the Mavericks surf competition and we stood our ground with helpful collaboration and assistance from two state agencies.  

We thank the California Coastal Commission members and staff who have worked tirelessly to bring equality to the use of state resources for the Mavericks Challenge. 

We thank the California State Lands Commission members and staff for their work in bringing equality to the publicly owned sovereign lands of California. 

County Harbor Commissioners Brennan & Larenas Support District Elections

Press Release

SAN MATEO COUNTY— Harbor Commissioners Larenas and Brennan are calling for district elections to save millions in property tax funds currently being wasted on a countywide at-large election system. The Harbor District paid the County $752,490 for the Nov 2017 countywide at-large election. Switching to district elections would improve accountability; increase citizen participation including marginalized communities and lower taxpayer costs.

It is time to change the Harbor District’s election system to the much more equitable District Elections.

—Edmundo Larenas, SMC Harbor Commissioner

The current countywide at-large system for electing Harbor Commissioners prevents voters from holding incumbents accountable. In Feb 2018, Commissioner Tom Mattusch admitted to sexual misconduct. A countywide recall initiative would require a staggering number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. The at-large system blocks the path for removing a commissioner. District elections empower voters to take action when the public trust is violated.

—Sabrina Brennan, SMC Harbor Commissioner

At-large elections have been abandoned by many local agencies because they favor candidates with deep pockets and politically connected incumbents, making it prohibitive for lower-income people and people of color to run successful campaigns. In 2009, the benefits of district elections were supported by the SMC Civil Grand Jury, which issued a formal recommendation to the County Board of Supervisors in favor of district elections. In Nov 2012, the voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure to dismantle the at-large elections system for county supervisors. In Oct 2017, the Menlo Park City Council adopted a resolution declaring the intent to transition to district-based elections.

In 2010, Sabrina Brennan first proposed district elections as a way to reduce election costs.

Half Moon Bay Review – July 12, 2010

Resident suggests new format for harbor elections

According to Brennan, lowering the cost would not only relieve the burden on taxpayers but also encourage more qualified candidates to run for board positions.

"I'm concerned about the fact that for people who want to run, like myself … it costs a lot of money," she said, citing it would cost $7,000 for a candidate to place an optional statement onto the voter pamphlet.

It’s time to eliminate at-large elections and comply with the California Voting Rights Act.

Local agencies that have switched to district as a result of CVRA challenges:

Due to the significant costs of defending against CVRA lawsuits, the vast majority of local agencies approved voluntarily transitions to district elections.

Examples of settlements:

  • Anaheim - $1.1 million
  • Hanford Joint Union Schools - $118,000
  • Madera Unified - about $170,000
  • Merced City - $42,000
  • Modesto - $3 million plaintiff's attorney fees and $1.7 million for its own lawyers
  • Palmdale - $4.7 million
  • Placentia - $20,000
  • Santa Barbara - $600,000
  • Tulare Hospital - $500,000
  • West Covina - $220,000 
  • Whittier - $1 million

Bringing SMC Harbor District government closer to home would increase countywide awareness about the following:

  • Public Harbors and Marinas
  • California Coastal Trail and Bay Trail Access
  • Wildlife and Marine Environment Education
  • Water Quality and Environmental Protection
  • Public Transportation to and from District facilities
  • Human Powered Vessel Rental and Launch Opportunities
  • Commercial Fishing Industry and Sports Fishing
  • Ocean and Bay Safety
  • Sea Rise Preparedness
  • Tsunami Inundation Evacuation Routes

CBS KPIX: Sexual Harassment Investigation—Harbor Commissioner Tom Mattusch Accused of Mailing Lewd Photos

Watch the news segment:

It's a case making waves in the San Mateo County Harbor District where two commissioners have conflicting takes on graphic photos sent by e-mail. Katie Nielsen explains. (2-22-18)

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.