“Absence of Nexus” and absurd double standards

James Lee Han delivered a followup letter to LAFCo Executive Director Martha Poyatos regarding the July 15, 2015 LAFCo meeting. 

Good afternoon Ms. Poyatos,

I just wanted to thank you and staff for including my comment letter re. the Municipal Service Review (MSR) of the San Mateo County Harbor District in the board packet for the July 15 LAFCo meeting. I also wanted to submit this letter as a longer response to some of the points brought up during the discussion of the Harbor District that day:

“Absence of Nexus”

 As I stated at last week’s meeting, one of the key reasons I am interested in the Harbor District is because of my family’s history as regular visitors to Pillar Point Harbor from our home in Redwood City. Despite having been born and raised on “the other side of the hill,” all throughout my childhood our family would take day trips to the San Mateo County coast, and specifically to Pillar Point, at least once a month when I was a child. There were some summers during which we were at Pillar Point almost every weekend. We even erroneously referred to trips to Pillar Point as “going to Half Moon Bay” because to us they were one and the same: all part of a lovely trip to the coast.

It’s for this reason I feel the need to challenge the idea put forth at least week’s meeting and in the staff report that there’s an “absence of nexus” between the property tax revenue base for the Harbor District and the two sites over which the district has jurisdiction. I strongly disagree with the idea that only coastside residents near Pillar Point should be contributing property tax, and I strongly oppose the suggestion made by one of the LAFCo commissioners at last week’s meeting that the Harbor District’s boundaries could be redrawn.

There are many public resources in our county that, like the Harbor District, are ultimately paid for by taxpayers countywide, such as Edgewood Park and San Bruno Mountain. Yet if I mention either of these parks to the average county resident, they are far less likely to have heard about them, much less have actually visited them, in comparison to Pillar Point Harbor. If the “absence of nexus” argument is to be applied equally to public resources within county borders, county residents would have far less of a reason to pay to support parks such Edgewood and San Bruno Mountain than they do Pillar Point Harbor.

Pillar Point is a well known recreation location for working families in San Mateo County and is a nationally recognized destination for commercial fishing and recreational boating. There is no good reason my family, who were regular visitors to Pillar Point and used most of its amenities, should have paid no property tax to enjoy this public resource just because we lived in Redwood City, while a lower income family who may not have had the time or relative luxury to spend so many weekends recreating as our family did should have been made to pay that tax in our stead just because they happened to live ten miles closer to the harbor.

On any weekend or holiday with decent weather, it’s easy to see that most of the people who use and enjoy Pillar Point are not coastside residents. Limiting the tax revenue base of the Harbor District to the small proportion of county voters who live near Pillar Point and Oyster Point would only increase, not decrease, the unfair tax burden alluded to by staff in the “absence of nexus” discussion.

The True “Absences of Nexus”

Those who are truly hit with an unfair tax burden by the Harbor District are minority communities. As widely reported in recent years, the participation of people of color in public parks and outdoor recreation activities is disproportionately low, far lower than their white counterparts.[1][2][3] As a regular user of the county parks system, I can safely say that the disparity in the racial makeup between who actually visits our county parks and the people who actually live in adjacent neighborhoods is striking, particularly at parks like San Bruno Mountain.

If LAFCo is concerned about an absence of nexus where county residents are taxed for a resource that they don’t utilize, I would ask that the commission look into Harbor District policies around inclusive hiring to ensure that harbor and marina staff better represent the ethnic makeup of San Mateo County. I would also ask LAFCo to make recommendations to the Harbor District on ways to increase minority outreach and participation in recreational activities at both Pillar Point and Oyster Point. It is my impression that the MSR did not address these issues.

Also, I would urge LAFCo commissioners who are able to make recommendations to the county’s Parks Department, such as Supervisors Tissier and Horsley, to make similar recommendations to park staff regarding inclusive hiring and minority outreach.

Finally, the “absence of nexus” discussion highlights why I believe the Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) governing Oyster Point Marina should be dissolved and management of the marina given back to South San Francisco. Compared to Pillar Point Harbor, Oyster Point Marina is not a widelyknown destination for recreational activities to the general public, and it is certainly a public resource far less utilized by countywide residents than Pillar Point. Even the ferry service which transports employees from the East Bay mostly serves to bring workers to companies headquartered in South San Francisco. Furthermore, page 33 of the MSR highlights why the Marina is not a fiscally prudent management opportunity for either the Harbor District or the County of San Mateo. If LAFCo remains concerned about absences of nexus I would respectfully ask that staff seriously consider a “decoupling” of the Harbor District from its JPA with South San Francisco and make that recommendation to the district.

Current and Past Makeup of the Board of Commissioners

It was repeatedly asserted in last week’s meeting that none of the findings in the MSR were in any way influenced by the current or past makeup of the board. However, the reason why staff’s analysis is generally understood by concerned members of the public who read it as being at least partially influenced by the board’s makeup is that a number of the problems raised in the MSR can be traced directly back to specific board members, mainly Commissioners Will Holsinger and Jim Tucker, both of whom were voted out nine months ago:

This includes the concern over a “lack of board consensus” expressed in the MSR regarding the district’s board, as exemplified by the way both of the former commissioners wasted staff time and public resources by trying to stonewall or take issue with even the most basic requests and actions taken by their newest board colleague Sabrina Brennan, such as posting her contact information on the Harbor District’s website and instituting public, “_______@smharbor.com” email accounts for Harbor Commissioners.

It is my impression that the public is also concerned that a number of the issues raised by the MSR were issues that should have been raised long before the three newest commissioners joined the board. For example, concerns raised in the MSR over an undue board influence on staff should surely have been raised years earlier about Commissioner Tucker, who was regularly seen taking meals with the former General Manager Peter Grenell and other members of district staff at restaurants in South San Francisco during their time with the Harbor District. Likewise, concerns about inappropriate interactions between commissioners and staff should have been raised when Commissioner Holsinger openly criticized staff attorneys for “shoddy legal work” at a public meeting a couple years ago. The fact that such concerns have been raised only when three new board members have been elected in the last three years and two of the biggest sources of concern have been voted out by county residents raises the specter of partiality, even if this was surely not the intent of staff. Based on comments made at last week’s meeting it’s my impression that staff is aware of the optics of the situation and I am hopeful that these concerns will be minimized in the future.

I want to note as well that during last week’s LAFCo meeting the staff consultant present made particular note of the fact that Harbor District meetings were videotaped and made available online, and he spoke positively about how easy it was to find the source material he needed. The reason district meetings are recorded and made available to the public is because Commissioner Brennan advocated for that well before she was elected to the board in 2012. In contrast, it was the two commissioners ousted nine months ago who voted to stop funding the videotaping of meetings two years ago, along with the two current commissioners who have served on the board the longest. It precisely the changing nature of the board, starting from the 2012 election, that leads me to believe the district is worth maintaining as an agency separate from the county.

Public Participation

 As you will have gathered by the number of written comments received on the subject, county residents representing a wide spectrum of interests, personal or otherwise, are very concerned about the future of a Harbor District they ultimately fund. I appreciate that the commission let a couple members of the public speak for longer than two minutes, but I respectfully ask that in future the public be allowed three minutes to speak. While I am mindful of the fact that your meetings can run long, many elected and appointed bodies allow the public three minutes of speaking time, especially when there are only about ten people present to speak on an item.

Also, it is my understanding that LAFCo meetings are not recorded and made available to the public. I would respectfully ask that LAFCo start doing so, at least online if not on TV. As the commission already meets in the Board of Supervisors’ chambers, it seems like a clear missed opportunity to not use the existing infrastructure within the chambers to record these public meetings. As your staff consultant mentioned at last week’s meeting, the availability of Harbor District meeting videos helped him significantly with the work he was doing for your MSR. It seems that recording of LAFCo meetings would likewise only benefit the public in a similar way.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

James Lee Han

My remarks to LAFCo Commissioners

Sabrina Brennan made the following remarks as a member of the public, during a two minute comment at the July 15, 2015 LAFCo meeting held in Redwood City at 1:30pm.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the LAFCo, and thank you Martha (SMC LAFCo Executive Director) and Mr. Berkson (consultant) for all your effort working on the Harbor District Municipal Service Review (MSR). 

The Board of Harbor Commissioners is committed to moving the District forward in a positive direction.

At the boards special meeting last night we unanimously approved a contract with OpenGov to provide the District with best in class financial transparency. The online platform will improve the District's financial operations and reduce the amount of staff time spent on public records requests, by making the District's budgets and annual audits accessible online to everyone.

This is one of many needed improvements the board will roll out this year.

With regard to the governance options included in the MSR I would like to note that the District should consider terminating the Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) with the City of South San Francisco.  

The JPA ends in eleven years and Oyster Point Marina is a greater burden on the District's resources due to an average 60% slip occupancy rate. Two docks with slips were removed to make room for the WETA Ferry Terminal and this has resulted in reduced opportunity for generating revenue.  Opportunities for developing additional commercial lease space at Oyster Point Marina are limited because the District does not own the land. Oyster Point Marina requires a larger subsidy of its enterprise functions than does Pillar Point Harbor.

The City of South San Francisco could consider assuming full management responsibilities for their marina and build additional commercial lease space to generate revenue, begin needed infrastructure improvements, and expand recreational opportunities.  

Thanks for your consideration.

Sabrina Brennan

Seal Cove—Moss Beach


JPA documents

1977 — Engineer's Estimate Phase 1

1977 — Joint Powers Agreement

1985 — Resolution 247-85 and other documents... 

2007 — Breakwater Agreement

2009 — MOU

2011 — Draft EIR Oyster Point Specific Plan, Hazardous Materials, Chapter 11 

2011 — Invoice for Legal Services: Richards, Watson & Gershon

2011 — SSF Redevelopment Agency Agreement: March 25, 2011

2012 — Letter regarding $600,000 agreement for wave attenuators

2012 — Letter regarding two million dollar agreement for docks 8 and 11

2013 — Oyster Point Breakwater Modification Project-Completion Ceremony

2013 — OPM Managment Plan and Capital Improvement Program

2013 — Annual Environmental Report on the Oyster Point Marina Landfill

2014 — SSF Staff Report: Review of SMCHD Relationship with the City

2015 — Semiannual Environmental Report on the Oyster Point Marina Landfill

2015 — Consolidated JPA  (for reference only)

July 30, 2015 — Letter from City of South San Francisco to the SMCHD

Sept 16, 2015 — Recording of South San Francisco Special Meeting

Dec 9, 2015 — SF Regional Water Quality Control Board letter to City of SSF

Dec 10, 2015 — The 2nd Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting held in Redwood Shores. The SMC Office of Sustainability recommended that Oyster Point Landfill be included in the County Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment. Oyster Point Landfill was number 8 on a list of 26 recommended assets.

Dec 18, 2015 — PRA Request from City of SSF to the SMCHD for Oyster Point documents from Jan 2000 through Dec 18, 2015

Dec 23, 2015 — KQED Radio morning news at 6:20am and 8:20am; Peter Shuler's clip included interviews with City and Harbor District officials about persistent flooding at Oyster Point.

Dec 23, 2015 — NBC Bay Area KNTV Channel 11 at 6:00pm and 11:00pm news segment, “King Tides May Alter Development Plans at South San Francisco's Oyster Point”

Jan 30, 2016 — The SMC Office of Sustainability removed Oyster Point Landfill from the list of recommended assets. The change was disclosed at the County’s SeaChange Open House at Genentech in South San Francisco. The City of South San Francisco informed the County that they would prefer Oyster Point Landfill not be included in the Army Corps of Engineers funded SLR Vulnerability Assessment. The County responded by removing Oyster Point Landfill and replacing it with a landfill located in Half Moon Bay approximately 100 feet above the ocean.

The following rendering of Oyster Point Marina are from the Shorenstien website:

Checkout the Virtual Tour (click on Vision) for information about future plans for Oyster Point Marina.


Mike McHenry's Letter to LAFCo

Dear LAFCo Commissioners and Executive Director Martha Poyatos,

My name is Mike McHenry, I'm a 71 year old fisherman at Pillar Point Harbor.  I'm also a fish buyer, and leaseholder on Johnson Pier.

I started fishing at the harbor before the breakwater and the pier were built. As time marched on, Johnson Pier was constructed and it was first run by the County, then it went to the Harbor District.

In those early years fishermen had a great relationship with Harbor District Staff and the Harbor Commission. Our Harbormasters were all seafaring people who knew the ocean like the back of their hands. They saved many lives and the fishermen assisted them when needed.

About 20 years the District changed when a Commissioner who also served as the Treasurer of the Half Moon Bay Fishermen's Marketing Association embezzled over $100,000 from our association's bank account. At the time fishermen were disgusted with the Harbor Commission and they stopped showing up for board meetings. As a result the Commissioners got bolder and bolder, with no checks and balances in place. Our association melted away to nothing and the dark side of the harbor leadership emerged. 

Three years ago, out of the blue, the highest fish unloading fees on the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle, were levied on Pillar Point Harbor Commercial Fishing businesses. In 2012 the Commissioners and the General Manager admitted the fees were high but refused to adjust them to be competitive with the rates in Moss Landing and San Francisco. These high fees paid by fishermen are ultimately passed on to the consumer, and have resulted in driving business away from San Mateo County to other neighboring ports.

After Harbor Commissioners hurt our local fishing businesses I began to attend board meetings and contest the fees. In 2013 I observed newly elected Commissioner Sabrina Brennan being ridiculed by the old boys club on the board because she dared to ask questions.

I immediately formed a bond with Sabrina because of her integrity, and because she asked for fiscal responsibility and transparency. Our newly formed fishermen's association, The Half Moon Bay Seafood Marketing Association, also sided with Sabrina, and needless to say this upset previous board members.

Then came the illegal installation of a new hoist on Johnson Pier for the fish buying business Three Captains, with dock space included. A total of three fish-buying businesses are located on Johnson Pier, and we all pay the same rent. However the new hoist location and dock space was never offered to the other two fish-buyers. It was clear to local fishermen that Three Captains was receiving preferential treatment by the Harbormaster and General Manager. To allow more room for Three Captains new hoist, we were told to move our bait lockers and bin storage from the end of the pier. The cost to the Harbor District was $175,000.  

The new Fishermen's Association and others asked Sabrina to look into this, which she did. At the time the old board and General Manager Peter Grenell would not even answer our questions. I also started checking into who paid what and I noticed that Three Captains' fee payment schedule was in disarray and appeared to be short a considerable sum of money. It was odd that the fish buyer with the new hoist location appeared to be short paying fees.

In early 2013 the General Manager Peter Grenell slyly buried a sentence into all three fish-buyers' 42 page lease agreements, under the Use and Limitations section. The leases allowed the installation of a new hoist at the Harbormasters discretion, strangely Three Captains knew all about it, but the other two buyers were unaware of the new provision because the changes were never redlined in the draft leases.

When I started reading my new lease more carefully I noticed that the General Manager had left out all the perimeters that designate the areas we operate within. This change was also not redlined in the draft lease agreements. The new leases changed 35 years of operations on Johnson Pier without any redlines in the draft agreements. Every fish unloading station on the West Coast of the US has well-designated perimeters except Pillar Point Harbor. And now Three Captains is suing the Harbor District over the new hoist.

Those of us who felt burned, decided to campaign to unseat the board in the November 2014 election. We succeeded in electing Commissioners Mattusch and David. Thankfully Commissioners Jim Tucker and Will Holsinger, both notorious for voting to end videotaping and public access broadcasts of board meetings, were swept out. 

After many high-fives the new board was seated. As expected it didn't take long before they realized what a mess was left behind. Not surprisingly longtime General Manager Peter Grenell bailed out just before the new Commissioners were seated. After 17 years of mismanagement he retired and left the sinking ship before his corrupt business practices were fully discovered, and his girl Friday, the human resources lady, resigned.

Berth holders and fishermen are excited about our new board. We feel that dissolution at this time is foolish.

Don Horsley's recent public statements in support of an appointed board are ludicrous. It appears some poor losers are putting pressure on the Board of Supervisor. Politically appointed representatives who lack wildlife credentials are the reason why the State Fish and Wildlife Commission is nearly defunct. Why would we want somebody from Hillsborough to represent a harbor?  

With an appointed board we would wind up with the same old Commissioners who were voted out. We haven't forgotten who gave the deceitful past General Manager a raise last year in a 4-1 vote before he retired.

Give this board a chance. 

One more election and the new board will be a well oiled-machine. If the voters had not spoken we would still be grounded on the dark side.

LAFCo, you have looked into all the problems at the Harbor District and none of them were created by the new Commissioners.  


Michael D McHenry

Michael D. McHenry

Merva W  (60-foot fishing vessel built in 1971)

Pillar Point Seafood

223 San Clemente Rd., Half Moon Bay, CA

Half Moon Bay Seafood Marketing Association

Letter from Jule Lynch & John Lynch to LAFCo Executive Director

Dear Martha Poyatos,

We urge the LAFCO Commissioners not to support the recommendation for dissolution of the San Mateo County Harbor District. 

We were dismayed to read in the San Mateo Daily Journal recently that Supervisor Horsley is recommending the Harbor Commission become an appointed board.

The spread of democracy around the world has been a significant achievement of our times. Elections sit at the heart of this, making possible the act of self-determination. Abraham Lincoln said it best in his Gettysburg Address speech, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

We do not support appointed or elected advisory boards as a substitute for an elected Special District board.

The myth of America is that the country is one gigantic melting pot in which every citizen has a voice and a vote, and the government is a direct representation of the people. But there are signs of change. 

We support diversity on elected boards and the amount of diversity represented on the board of Harbor Commissioners is impressive. 

  • Commissioner Mattusch is the first Hispanic person to be elected to the Harbor Commission.
  • Commissioner David is the first openly bisexual candidate to run for a countywide elected office in San Mateo County, and highest-ranking openly bisexual elected official in San Mateo County.
  • Commissioner Brennan is the first openly lesbian candidate to run for a countywide elected office in San Mateo County and the highest-ranking openly lesbian official in San Mateo County.
  • Commissioner Bernardo is the highest-ranking Filipino and openly gay official in the US, and past Grand Marshal of the San Francisco Pride Parade.

Please include this letter as a comment on the LAFCo Municipal Service Review of the San Mateo County Harbor District. 


Jule Lynch and John Lynch

Half Moon Bay

James Lee Han's letter to LAFCo Executive Director

The following letter from James Lee Han is a comment on the LAFCo Municipal Service Review of the San Mateo County Harbor District.

Re: Municipal Service Review of San Mateo County Harbor District

Good afternoon Ms. Poyatos,

Please include this letter as a comment on the LAFCo Municipal Service Review of the San Mateo County Harbor District. My comments are wide-ranging and cover a number of topics, but please note my strong support for the current board of Harbor Commissioners and Harbor District staff and my strong opposition to the dissolution of this special district based on the board’s recent achievements and the key role the board plays in providing county taxpayers with direct representation and a much-needed diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.

Please also note my deep concerns with the partiality, or lack thereof, of elected officials in San Mateo County whose inconsistent positions in relation to the Harbor District and its board leaves me deeply worried that dissolution of this special district in favor of an appointed body will be a net loss in representation and transparency for the voters of San Mateo County.

Below are my comments.


I. Recent Achievements

Since the ousting of two long-time incumbent board members last November who were the most vocal in their resistance to attempts at reforming the Harbor District, the board has worked together smoothly on a wide variety of issues vital to the District. Below are examples of achievements in the last six months alone, most of them under the tenure of former board president Sabrina Brennan.

January 2015: The board hired an executive search firm to conduct a formal search for a new General Manager. The board also voted unanimously to terminate membership in the California Maritime Infrastructure Bank/Authority. The Commission formed standing committees for the first time in many years. Those committees include a Finance Committee, a Water Quality and Public Safety Committee, and a Communications and Marketing Committee.

February 2015: The board held a Board Dynamics Workshop, conducted a public site visit at Pillar Point Harbor and approved a Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan Letter from the Beach Replenishment Committee.

March 2015: The board voted to stop paying health insurance benefits to Commissioners upon expiration of current terms of office.

April 2015: The board adopted a list of Board Norms as a follow-up to the Board Dynamics Workshop. The board also voted unanimously to support relocating the District's headquarters near Pillar Point Harbor and the board appointed two commissioners to the Oyster Point Marina Liaison Committee.

May 2015: The board approved a letter to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission from the Beach Replenishment Committee expressing concerns over sand mining in San Francisco Bay and its effects on coastal areas under the Harbor District’s jurisdiction.

June 2015: The new district office in El Granada was opened for business. The board voted unanimously to designate the Harbor District as the lead agency in the sand replenishment effort at Surfer's Beach.

II. Importance of Elected Representation and Diversity

Supervisor Horsley expressed to media that the current board “is not truly representative of all county residents.”[1] He went on to suggest that by-district elections of board members or county-appointed board members would provide better representation.

Yet diversity on the five-member Harbor District board is currently at its all-time best with two women serving simultaneously, a Latino and a Filipino commissioner serving simultaneously for the first time in history, and three openly LGBT commissioners serving simultaneously for the first time in history. The Harbor District may in fact boast one of the few elected bodies in the Bay Area or even California that has a majority of LGBT representatives.

As any follower of San Mateo County politics understands, this level of representation of people with different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations in county where countywide elected positions continue to skew in favor of white, middle-aged men is rare, positive, and important. As a gay person, an Asian person, and a native of San Mateo County, I am concerned that any long-time countywide elected official who is familiar with San Mateo County politics would choose to unfairly target one of the most diverse elected bodies on the Peninsula for not being “truly representative” of all county residents. If I had to choose between electing a Harbor District commissioner or handing over the power to appoint commissioners to elected officials who see “representative” in such skewed terms, I would definitely choose the former.

Appointed governance also triggers memories of the $761,663 embezzlement scandal at the county’s Mosquito and Vector Control District. Despite being a body with more than four times the number of representatives than the Harbor District’s five-member board, apparently none of the Mosquito District’s 21 appointed trustees required that their General Manager perform a background check before hiring a Finance Director with a criminal record. Unfortunately, our county’s past history with appointed boards does not suggest that such boards provide residents with a better governance and management of taxpayer funds.

It should be noted that the diversity of the current board is not limited to ethnic background and sexual orientation. This five-member board very clearly has a diversity of opinions, and yet they do not exhibit the open animosity of previous boards in years past, such when former commissioners Will Holsinger and Jim Tucker were consistently raising their voices towards a new commissioner elected in 2012, who also happened to be the sole female Commissioner on the board at the time. Since the removal of Commissioners Holsinger and Tucker in the 2014 election, board dynamics have significantly improved. It is unreasonable to expect the current board to correct decades of mismanagement and poor board dynamics in a span of six months.

III. At-Large vs. By-District Elections

Supervisor Horsley’s claims that by-district elections of board members might better represent county residents ignore a key fact about the Harbor District:

While the special district does collect property taxes countywide, its jurisdiction is limited to two sites: Pillar Point Harbor on the coast, and the city of South San Francisco. Both these sites are covered by only two of the five supervisorial districts in San Mateo County.

While by-district elections make sense for elections to the board of supervisors, they do not make sense for a special district whose jurisdiction is limited to two out the five districts. While Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina are public resources that are paid for by the entire county, they also directly impact and are a part of two distinct communities that deserve the opportunity to have a greater level of of representation and input on matters of importance. By-district elections would mean that three of the five representatives on the District’s board, a full majority, would not be directly accountable to any of the communities directly impacted by their decisions on Pillar Point Harbor or Oyster Point Marina.

There are other aspects of the current Commissioners’ backgrounds besides ethnicity and sexual orientation that provide much needed perspective and direction to the functioning of the Harbor District. Commissioner Brennan is a local resident near Pillar Point Harbor with a long track record of advocating for the environment, coastside issues, and open government. Commissioner Bernardo works for the Port of Oakland, while Commission David is a marine biologist who lives on the coastside. Commissioners Mattusch and Parravano are both involved in the fishing industry.

All of these different perspectives have high relevance to a special district like the Harbor District and only serve to enrich the district’s functioning. Through their ties to their own communities and to the culture of harbors, marinas, and ports, the commissioners offer a special benefit to the public they represent. By-district elections would have the effect of drastically limiting opportunities for these relevant perspectives and impacted communities to have representation on the board.

IV. Water Quality

The Harbor District should not charge boaters to use pump-out stations as suggested in the Municipal Service Review. It is important to protect water quality and removing any potential disincentive to use pump-out stations is vital to protecting coastal and bay waters.

V. Infrastructure and Facilities

The 2014 Infrastructure and Facilities Assessment reports for Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina make it clear that past Harbor Commission boards have a pattern of deferring capital improvement projects and maintenance projects in part due to a lack of available funds resulting from debt service, termination benefits, and employment liabilities.

Pillar Point Harbor

Pillar Point Harbor facilities are in dilapidated condition: Dredging is required to prevent boats from running aground, Johnson Pier is near the end of its useful life, and Romeo Pier is in hazardous condition and requires removal. Pillar Point Harbor also lacks required ADA access as well as many other repairs and public safety improvements included in the PPH Infrastructure and Facilities Assessment report. It should be noted that Harbor Patrol staff at Pillar Point Harbor provide a majority of the District’s non-enterprise functions, including search and rescue services.

Oyster Point Marina

Oyster Point Marina’s infrastructure is at significant risk from flooding during high tide events. Oyster Point Marina is owned by the City of South San Francisco and the marina’s facilities are built on a landfill that is sinking into the San Francisco Bay. Significant funding will be required to address the unfortunate combination of a sinking landfill and a rising sea. Already the Harbormaster’s office becomes an island and the parking lot floods during high tide events, making access to the building very challenging.

Sea level rise will increasingly become a challenge along the San Mateo County bayfront, and any future development at Oyster Point Marina will require a tremendous amount of fill to mitigate landfill subsidence and sea level rise. Currently the roads are uneven because of subsidence, and as a result the Genentech bus regularly “bottoms out” on Marina Boulevard when shuttling commuters to and from the WETA ferry terminal.

VI. Joint Powers Authority

The Harbor District’s 49-year Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) with South San Francisco ends in 2026. The JPA has been in place for decades and the agreement has 11 years remaining.

Oyster Point Marina, operated under the JPA, is a greater burden on the District’s resources due to an average 60% slip occupancy rate. Two docks with tenant slips were removed to make room for the WETA Ferry Terminal and resulted in reduced opportunity for revenue. Opportunities for developing additional commercial lease space at OPM are limited because the District does not own the land.

Oyster Point Marina requires a much larger subsidy of its enterprise functions than does Pillar point Harbor. Harbor District property tax revenues currently generated within the City of South San Francisco are inadequate to fund marina operations, overhead and an allocation of debt service. Property taxes generated within South San Francisco that currently accrue to the SMCHD represent only about 10 percent of SMCHD’s current property tax revenues.

The City of South San Francisco should consider assuming full management responsibility for their marina and build additional commercial lease space to generate revenue, begin needed infrastructure improvements, and expand recreational opportunities.

Page 33 of the Municipal Service Review helps to clarify why Oyster Point Marina is not a fiscally prudent management opportunity for the either the Harbor District or the County of San Mateo.

VII. Past Leadership and Management

Starting with Commissioner Brennan’s election in 2012, the newer board members are a breath of fresh air when compared with prior leadership and management issues:

In 1998, Harbor Commissioner Don Shearer plead guilty to embezzlement of at least $115,000 from the Half Moon Bay Fishermen's Marketing Association. The theft was enabled in part by Pietro Parravano who signed a stack of blank checks that the embezzler used to steal the money.

In 1999, Brown Act violations were alleged after a Harbor Commission election of officers.

In 2001, Harbor Commissioners Ken Lundie and Sally Campbell called for the termination of General Manager Peter Grenell. They were in the minority.

In 2007 the General Manager terminated an employee for cause and the employee sued the District for wrongful termination. After the employee lost in court, the Harbor Commission voted to rehire the terminated employee.

In 2012 the Bay Area Air Quality Management District discovered that Harbor Commissioner Pietro Parravano had attempted grant fraud. In the spring of 2011, Commissioner Parravano was approved for an $83,221 Carl Moyer Air Quality Grant from the state that would have replaced his existing boat engine with a reduced-emission 2010 Volvo Penta D5a TA Diesel engine. The grant was designed to aid commercial fishermen who wanted to retrofit their vessels with clean burning engines. The problem was that Parravano was not an active commercial fisherman at the time, yet he represented that he was. The Air Quality District performed an investigation, and based on the findings of the investigation the state agency decided to rescind the grant for a new diesel engine for Parravano’s personal boat the Anna B. In response to the decision, Parravano said, “When you have a 65-year-old fishing boat, you don’t need any bad karma.”

Also in 2012, the appointment of Will Holsinger to replace Harbor Commissioner Sally Campbell used a secret numbering system to make their decision, a process the media described as fraudulent. Counsel ultimately determined that system was illegal, forcing the commission to vote on the issue in public.[2]

In 2013 the Mercury News published the article, “$1,100 an hour? Part-time service at little agencies means big bucks and benefits for politicians.” Parravano, 64 at the time, said he never questioned receiving full benefits for the part-time office he’d held for nearly two decades. The newspaper reported that Parravano received $25,757 in cash and benefits in 2012 for attending 21 meetings that lasted on average 77 minutes each. The analysis showed he was paid $1,094 an hour.[3]

In July of 2014, a commercial fisherman reported to a board member that General Manager Peter Grenell was operating an infrastructure bank out of the Harbor District’s South San Francisco administrative office. As a result of the report the District Attorney’s office conducted an investigation. What came to light was that the California Maritime Infrastructure Bank/Authority was not paying rent for use of the District’s office space, nor was it covering the cost of staff time and other District resources spent on Bank/Authority business. (In 2011 the Humboldt Bay Harbor Commission voted to end CEO David Hull’s contract. David Hull then became San Mateo County Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell’s business partner in the California Maritime Infrastructure Bank/Authority.)

Again, in light of all these issues, it is unreasonable to expect the current board to correct decades of mismanagement and poor board dynamics in six months.

VIII. Inconsistent Positions and Actions Taken by County Elected Officials

I am concerned that county Supervisors are speaking out about “governance problems” at this point in time after having distanced themselves for years from past District leadership problems as outlined in the previous item, including repeatedly endorsing Harbor Commissioner Jim Tucker, who was appointed to the Harbor District in 1998 and was only voted off the board in November 2014.

Supervisor Horsley, who was against by-district elections for years,[4] is now positioning himself as a possible advocate for this type of election format for the Harbor District, despite the fact that, as outlined in item III, it would actually disempower the communities closest to Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina as well as narrow opportunities for the specific perspectives relevant to harbors and marinas to have a representative voice on the board.

It is also only since the election of reform-oriented candidates to the Harbor District board, starting with Commissioner Brennan in 2012, and the election of the most diverse board in county history that objections have been raised about the board’s performance and “representative” qualities and that serious threats of dissolution have been made.

This context raises serious concerns about a lack of partiality on the part of key decision-makers who have a say in the future of the Harbor District, and underlines the need for an independently elected board of commissioners to represent the county in the unique concerns and issues that affect Pillar Point and Oyster Point.

IX. Permanent General Manager

Unfortunately the timing of the Municipal Service Review makes it very difficult for the District to hire a permanent General Manager. I am concerned that the District may be required to offer costly employment contract incentives as a way to offset the black cloud of potential dissolution. In January, the District hired an executive search consultant and initiated a national search for a General Manager. Applicants for this critically important position are scheduled for interviews in August 2015.

The new permanent General Manager will be tasked with completing the District’s Strategic Business Plan, implementing capital projects, building additional commercial lease space to generate revenue, developing a dredging plan that prevents boats from running aground, combating beach erosion by moving sand trapped inside the breakwater to Surfer’s Beach and the Princeton shoreline, repairing trail erosion near Pillar Point Marsh, replacing floating docks that pose a safety hazard, renovating Johnson Pier, expanding the sidewalk in front of Pillar Point Harbor’s tenant restaurants and businesses to meet ADA requirements, providing storage for kayaks and other human-powered vessels, improving Coastal Trail access, continuing to monitor water quality, updating outdated policies, developing commissioner and staff handbooks, and improving transparency and fiscal accountability.

Given the District’s past issues with governance and the many tasks that require completion, it makes sense to support the newly elected leadership on the board of Harbor Commissioners, and to encourage the board to hire an excellent permanent General Manager.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

James Lee Han

Redwood City, CA



[1] http://bit.ly/1SjRDaU

[2] http://bit.ly/1IWHIHE

[3] http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_24344700

[4] http://bit.ly/1M2GoDT