Pillar Point Harbor

District Wins Anti-SLAPP Motion in Hoist Lawsuit

Winning the anti-SLAPP motion and $38,000 in attorney’s fees is a win for the Harbor District, democracy and our First Amendment right to free speech.

SLAPP lawsuits stifle public debate, threaten news reporting and diminish civic engagement – principles fundamental to our democracy. 

SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) are filed against people or organizations because they have exercised their First Amendment right to free speech or to petition the government. A SLAPP lawsuit is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. These damaging suits chill free speech and healthy debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest.

The rights to speech and petition are enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Free speech and healthy debate are vital to the well-being of a democracy. In fact, the United States Supreme Court has said that the right to petition the government is the very foundation of our democracy.

Events & Documents

April 12, 2016 — General Manager Steve McGrath sent a hoist removal letter to Three Captains 

Feb 25, 2016 — Three Captains dropped their lawsuit against the Harbor District. They formally dismissed their writ petition against the Harbor District. This on top of winning the anti-SLAPP motion and $38,000 in attorney’s fees is great news for the Harbor District.

Dec 17, 2015 — San Mateo County Superior Judge George A. Miram ordered Three Captains to pay the Harbor District  $38,000 in legal fees for an Anti-SLAPP motion. This came after the District earlier prevailed in a motion to dismiss one of the Plaintiff’s two causes of action (the Anti-SLAPP motion).

Oct 22, 2015 — Three Captains Sea Products Opposition to Motion for Attorneys' Fees

Oct 5, 2015 — Harbor District Memo in Support of Motion for Attorneys' Fees

July 13, 2015 — Harbor District Special Motion to Strike under the Anti-SLAPP law

July 13, 2015 — Harbor District Declaration in Support of Special Motion to Strike

July 13, 2015 — Harbor District Notice of Motion to Strike

June 2, 2015 — Three Captains Sea Products Complaint (lawsuit)

May 21, 2015 — LAFCO Executive Director Martha Poyatos emails attachments to Three Captains attorney Mark Scheer.

March 13, 2015 — LAFCO Executive Director Martha Poyatos has email correspondence with to Three Captains attorney Mark Scheer.  Ms. Poyatos sends attachment/s, a link to a newspaper article about the Harbor District and requests Mr. Scheer provide information about campaign contributions for Harbor Commissioners.

May 6, 2015 — Item 12, Harbor Commission Resolution 11-15—Adopting and Affirming Factual Findings made During the Harbor District March 4,2015 Public Meeting Regarding Three Captains Sea Products' Request to Maintain a Second Hoist on Johnson Pier.  

Motion by David, second by Mattusch to adopt Resolution 11-15. The motion passed. Ayes: Brennan, David, Mattusch Nays: Bernardo, Parravano

March 5, 2015 — Email from LAFCO Executive Director Martha Poyatos requesting the Harbor District provide a letter from Three Captains attorney Mark Scheer.

MARCH 4, 2015 MEETING DOCUMENTS

March 3, 2015 — Young deNormandie Letter to Harbor Commission

Feb. 11, 2015 — Coastal Commission Letter to Three Captains

Jan. 8, 2015 — Young deNormandie Letter to SMCHD counsel

Dec. 12, 2014 — Coastal Commission Letter to Three Captains

Dec. 9, 2014 — HMB Seafood Marketing Association Letter to Coastal Commission

Nov. 7, 2014 — Coastal Commission Letter to Three Captains

Nov. 6, 2014 — HMB Seafood Marketing Association meets with Coastal Commission in San Francisco office.  Waiver recommendation is pulled and full permit is required.

Oct. 30, 2014 — Coastal Commission Proposed Permit Waiver

Sept. 24, 2014 — SMCHD Permit Letter to Three Captains

Sept. 23, 2014 — SMCHD Counsel Letter To Pillar Point Seafood Counsel

Aug. 24, 2014 — Video: Three Captains Hoist offloading Salmon

July 9, 2014 — Grand Jury Report Released: "What is the Price of Dysfunction?"

May 21, 2014 — HMB Seafood Marketing Association Letter to Harbor Commission

April 18, 2014 — Daily Journal article: New fish hoist raises concerns at Pillar Point

2014 — SMCHD Letter to the Coastal Commission (no date on this letter)

April 15-16, 2014 — New hoist was installed on Johnson Pier

March 28, 2014 — SMCHD Probationary Agreement with Three Captains (this letter not provided to the board until Jan 2015)

March 18, 2014 — SMCHD Letter to Fish Buyers

March 5, 2014 — Meeting Video: Report on Morning Star Fisheries fallen hoist

Feb. 21, 2014 — The Morning Star Fisheries hoist falls into the harbor

Feb. 5, 2014 — Three Captains Letter to Harbor Commissioners

Jan. 15, 2014 — HMB Seafood Marketing Association delivered Letter to Harbor Commission during regular board meeting.

Jan. 15, 2014 — Peter Grenell emphatically denied decisions on a hoist were being made confidentially during a Harbor District meeting. “I take the concerns that we’ve heard quite seriously,” Grenell said. “No one’s operating in a black box or a vacuum. That’s not how we do business.”

Jan. 7, 2014 — Agenda Item 12: Informational Report - Hoists on Johnson Pier

Dec. 16, 2013 — County Supervisor and LAFCO Commissioner Don Horsley emails LAFCO Executive Director Martha Poyatos and says that the Harbor District is on his “radar for potential dissolution in the future.”

Nov. 6, 2013 — Peter Grenell's email to Commissioner Brennan:  "Mr. Fortado does not have approval to install another hoist on Johnson Pier. As you will discover upon reading the pertinent lease language, the Harbor District must give prior approval; that means the Harbor Commission. Mr. Grindy and I have discussed another hoist for Mr. Fortado, and possibly for Mr. Mallory, or some shared arrangement. Alternative locations have been discussed with Mr. Fortado but nothing has been finalized. The idea of a public hoist has also arisen for consideration."

Oct. 30, 2013: Three Captains pulls County electrical permit #BLD2013-01869.

June 25, 2013 — Bettencourt Fisheries/Snyder Miller & Orton Letter publicly requesting Civil Grand Jury investigation

March 27, 2013 — Lease between SMCHD and Fish Buyers 

Three Captains Lease Agreement 9.0

Nov. 13, 2012 — Fourth buying/offloading lease email from Peter Grenell

Sept. 10, 2012 — Bettencourt Fisheries fourth buying/offloading location follow up letter

Aug. 22, 2012 — Bettencourt Fisheries proposal for a fourth buying/offloading location

Feb 10, 2010 — Pacific State Marine Fisheries Commission Complaint and Jury Trial Demand against Three Captains' Sea Products


Maps, Drawing & Photo

Maps provided by the Coastal Commission

  • Local Coastal Program (LCP) certified Map 1 and Map 2

Drawing Provided by Harbor District

Pillar Point Harbor 1972

Pillar Point Harbor photo from 1972

Grand Jury Report on Special District Websites

San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury report: 

Transparency of Independent Special Districts’ Websites →


San Mateo County Harbor District 2013/2014 website costs:

  • 2013:  $14,230.45
  • 2014 (1st quarter only):  $2,610.40

Invoices from Web Market Consulting →

SMC Harbor District website →

Harbor District Meeting: Nov. 20, 2013

Agenda Item 6: Commercial Activity Permits for non-lessee fish buyers

The following questions were asked at the Nov. 20, 2013 Harbor District meeting regarding the Commercial Activity Permits For Non-Lessee Fish Buyers policy approved by the board of Harbor Commissioners in 2012.  

How this relates to current business at the harbor in real terms:

  1. How are these "buyers" defined? Do fishermen who are berth holders count? Are they exempt as suggested by memo from Commissioner Hollsinger? Are these companies with multiple trucks? Single people with a private vehicle? Anyone with a Fish & Game book? Is there a threshold for volume? A permit if you buy one time? 100 lbs or more? only semis full?
  2. How are buyers identified? Assuming that a definition is determined, how are buyers identified? How is a truck owned by Three Captains or Morning Star and a truck owned by a non-lessee buyer differentiated? What about unmarked vehicles?  Is this for private vehicles? Semi trucks? When one buyer has multiple trucks how is that handled? What about fish walking off of the pier on a hand truck or driving off on a fork lift etc? Does that count?
  3. How will fees be assessed? Assuming buyers can be identified (which is a big leap) how will the quantity/volume purchased be reported and verified? How will the buyers pay fees? Who will calculate the fees due? Is there a minimum volume? Are "buyers" supposed to pay for purchasing 100 lbs? Stop by the office and pay $1.00? Will they receive a bill in the mail? Is it the leaseholder at the end of Johnson Pier's job to invoice their non-lessee partners?
  4. How will this be enforced? Assuming buyers can be identified and volume can be verified (which is hard to fathom) how will this be enforced? Is there a penalty if the three leaseholders allow people to buy fish without a permit? Is there going to be additional harbor staff hired to inspect and enforce? Is there going to be a gate at the end of the pier, video camera at each hoist? Is every vehicle leaving the pier going to be inspected? What happens if someone is unaware of the system? What if someone knows about the system, but doesn't have 30 days notice to get a permit? Will harbor staff impound the truck full of fish? 
  5. Will this hurt commercial fishermen and small buyers?  Who will pay for the enforcement? The fishermenWill the District start enforcement with "non-lessee" buyers with large scale businesses that have partnered officially or unofficially with existing leaseholders, and installed equipment on Johnson Pier? When CAP permits be required for non-lessee fish buyers?  When will non-lessee fish buyers be required to pay fees include in the policy approved by Harbor Commissioners in 2012?

GM's Compensation Increase: Sept. 18, 2013

Agenda Item 11: District General Manager's Compensation Increase

Recommendation:

Approve a 2.5% pay raise for the General Manager, commencing with the pay period starting Sept. 27, 2013

Background:

During the Sept. 4, 2013 Harbor District meeting, Treasurer Jim Tucker moved to place an item on the Commission's Sept. 18, 2013 meeting agenda regarding the General Manager's compensation. He called for a 2.5% increase in the General Manager's pay. Parravano seconded the motion. The motion passed 5-0 to place the item on the agenda.

At the Sept. 18th 2013 Harbor District Meeting Commissioner Brennan voted NO to a 2.5% pay raise for the General Manager for the following reason:

"I don't support a raise for the General Manager because I have reasons to be concerned about his ability to do his job. 

He has demonstrated a history of bias against women and this continues to this day. Currently I have a pending complaint involving bias against women and an investigation is in progress."

Harbor District Meeting: Aug 20, 2013

Agenda Item 4

Evaluation of Possible Alternatives to Current Audio/Visual Recordings of Harbor Commission Meetings

Commissioner Brennan's comments: 

As an elected representative, serving a four-year term on the San Mateo County Board of Harbor Commissioners, it’s my goal to improve transparency, accountability and inclusiveness at every opportunity.

The Harbor Districts is a countywide special district. Over 50% of the Harbor Districts revenue comes from property tax.  The Board has an obligation to provide San Mateo County citizens with governance that is truly transparent, effective and accountable.

In recent decades, civil society and governments around the world have made great advances in increasing transparency at both the local and national levels. Yet there is still a need for greater and more meaningful participation and accountability, particularly when it comes to how public resources are allocated.

As good stewards of Oyster Point Marina and Pillar Point Harbor we should always strive to increase transparency and access to government data and public information.

Please support Transparency and Accountability by voting NO on terminating videotaping and voting NO on terminating public access television broadcasting on Pacific Coast TV. 

 

Fishing Fees—Harbor District Meeting: Aug. 7, 2013

Agenda Item 5

Review of Fish Buying Lease, Fish Buying Fees and Fee Enforcement

Commissioner Brennan's comments: 

During the July 17th 2013 Harbor District meeting in South San Francisco the board reviewed and discussed current Fish Buying Fees, Fish Offloading Fees, Fee Enforcement and Fish Buying Activity Permits.

The General Manager made it clear at the July meeting that the fish buying fees and fish offloading fees required in the leases held by Morningstar, Pillar Point Seafood and Three Captains don’t reflect market conditions of Northern California commercial fishing ports.

All three Harbor District leases currently require fish buyers pay $10.00 per ton for wet-fish, $.01 per pound for finfish and shellfish, and five percent (5%) for all retail fish sold on-top of $.01 per pound. Additionally the leases require fish off-loaders pay $10.00 per ton for wet-fish and $.01 per pound for finfish and shellfish.  That means that if a leaseholder offloads fish and buys fish they would be required to pay a total of $20.00 per ton for wet-fish and $.02 per pound for shellfish and finfish.

Fishermen that sell finfish and shellfish/crab from fishing vessels at Pillar Point Harbor are not required to pay the District five percent (5%) for retail sales, and for this reason it’s inconsistent to require Morning Star Fisheries, Pillar Point Seafood and Three Captains to pay a 5% retail sales fee.

Based on data included in the General Managers July 10, 2013 Memo it’s apparent that other Northern California commercial fishing ports charge no fees or much lower fees for fish offloading and fish buying.

At the July 17th meeting it was noted that the wet-fish offloading fee included in the General Managers July 10, 2013 memo was incorrect.  The City of Monterey charges $1.74 per ton NOT $1.74 per lb. for squid offloading.  The General Manager should correct the misinformation included in his Memo, as he was aware of the correct fee on May 17, 2013 9:33 am via an email from staff.

After reviewing the fee data provided at the July 17 meeting it's clear that SMC Harbor District wetfish, shellfish and finfish fees are not competitive with other commercial fishing ports in the area.  

Fish Purchasing Fees and Fish Buying Fees trickle down to commercial fishermen.  When the Harbor District attempts to extract fees from commercial fishing businesses, without accurate data and sound reasons for comparatively high fees the District runs the risk of harming small business and weakening the local economy.   

The fees and fee enforcement included in the current leases are structured in a way that is counterproductive to the goals and priorities of the Harbor District.

The Coastal Commission adopted SMC Harbor District Appeal No. 133-79 that specified Condition (1B), "one-half of all slips for the exclusive use of active commercial fishing boats."  Local Coastal Program (LCP) section 12.5.A states, "commercial fishing and recreational boating are on an equal basis, and to accommodate those needs accordingly." This applies specifically to Pillar Point Harbor with regards to space and resources.

The Harbor District has a vested interest in the success of the commercial fishing fleet.  Requiring arbitrarily high fees for offloading and fish buying at Pillar Point Harbor isn't a sustainable approach to generating revenue and it's not in keeping with the goals and priorities of the Harbor District or the Midcoast LCP.  

Commissioner Brennan's Motion:

For these reasons I move to amend all three leases, discontinue all fees and raise the minimum base rent to $3000.00 per month, to be effective as of July 1, 2013. 

The motion failed for lack of a second. 

  • It should be noted that the Harbor District currently does not have a way audit or enforce the fish offloading and buying fees at Pillar Point Harbor. Johnson Pier does not have a scale, a gate, video cameras or a staff person dedicated to counting fish.
  • Read the Dec. 2014 Dornbusch Report

Harbor District Meeting—Video & Articles: June 19, 2013

VIDEO—Information requests blocked by the General Manager
Video Start Time: 2:22:00 — End: 2:30:05

Public record costs draw scorn at harbor: Commissioner argues staff ignores queries
Half Moon Bay Review - July 3, 2013

Asked by the Review, Brennan forwarded more than 80 email requests sent by her to harbor staff, seeking information on issues such as a harbor dredging project, a shoreline access report, a fee schedule for harbor tenants and other items. Saying she wanted all the information in order to do the job she was elected to do, she complained that her requests were routinely ignored by harbor administration. She said that filing formal public records requests with the district's attorney became her only alternative. She saved special criticism for district General Manager Peter Grenell, alleging he was deliberately withholding information and acting unprofessionally.

"When I ask for an item that comes before the board, and I ask the general manager, he doesn't respond and doesn't provide information,” she said.“I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place.”

She also reminded her colleagues that she was saving the district money by not signing up for the harbor commission's provided health care.

Harbor commission cuts off colleague, tightens rules: Board approves limits on public complaints
Half Moon Bay Review - Aug. 15, 2013

Over the first six months of 2013 those record requests cost the district $50,000 in legal fees, according to Commissioner Will Holsinger, an attorney who was appointed to the board earlier this year. He indicated those costs were inappropriate, reading into the record how the state defines the misuse of public funds.

"I'm not prepared to say whether (Brennan's costs) were for the business of the district or whether they were for her personal interest,” he said. “I do know they were not authorized by the district.”

Brennan countered that her legal costs were being overstated. A June expense report found her 2013 requests resulted in 55.8 hours of legal time — the most of any commissioner — but at a cost closer to $10,000. She described herself as a scapegoat even though larger legal expenses had been accrued by redundant staff requests.

Holsinger admitted his figure was inaccurate, but he re-emphasized the legal protocols should be tightened. His colleagues sided with him, mandating that any requests made to the district legal counsel needed majority approval.

Harbor board at odds over manager: Grenell may get raise despite complaint
Half Moon Bay Review - September 19, 2013

About two months ago, Brennan filed a harassment complaint with the district against Grenell, which is now being investigated by an independent law firm. She said could not provide details on the complaint because it was a district personnel matter, but she noted that Grenell “has demonstrated a history of bias against women.”

At a June harbor commission meeting, Brennan lashed out publicly at Grenell for allegedly ignoring a series of her requests for information. Her complaint was filed soon afterward.

"He is demeaning, demoralizing, rude, condescending, arrogant, and it ends in an unpleasant experience for me," she said to other board members at the time. "The general manager is capable of providing answers and he chooses not to do it.”

In recent meetings, Brennan has pointed out that district policy designates the general manager as the person in charge of judging all harassment complaints and determining whether to investigate. She asked her colleagues to consider revising the policy. It was not immediately clear how her complaint ended up with an independent arbiter.

"It appears by reading this policy that commissioners would need to make a complaint potentially to the person they’re making the complaint about," she said.

Tucker said he did not know details about Brennan's complaint, but to his knowledge she was the lone critic on the board of the general manager.

"Four out of the five commissioners are very supportive of Grenell's work and his accomplishments," he said.“The only one who's said anything verbally is Brennan.”

Harbor District Meeting SSF: June 19, 2013

Itemized invoices from - Aaronson, Dickerson, Cohn & Lanzone  (ADCL)

  • No fee is charged for providing ADCL invoices to District
  • Monthly invoices by task should be made available to the entire board on request
  • Brennan requested ADCL invoices

General Managers lack of response to board members requests for information

  • Results in running up ADCL fees

General Managers slow response to public records requests

  • Results in running up ADCL fees

President Tucker threatens to discontinue videotaping Harbor District meetings 

  • Transparency

General Managers slow response to Commercial Fish Buyers request for information regarding fish buying fees

  • It's been over 4 months since Mike Mc Henry first requested fish buying fee info from Commissioner Bernardo
  • To-date information has not been provided by General Manager

Board majorities confusion over committee meetings vs. special meetings

  • Commissioner Holsinger appears confused over committee meetings, who should attend and how committee meetings should be noticed. 
  • Commissioner Brennan comments on General Managers refusal to notice the Harbor District Marketing/Promotions committee meeting held on May 29, 2013.

Boards majority votes (3/2) not to adopt the Pillar Point Harbor Shoreline Erosion Committee as an official committee of the Harbor District

  • Committee will continue to meet as a citizens advisory group
  • Agendas and Reports will be posted on Commissioner Brennan's website
  • Meetings are open to all

 

Spring Committee Meetings: May 29, 2013

The following two committee meetings were organized by Sabrina Brennan and held at the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club. 

SMC Harbor District Marketing and Promotions Committee

Pillar Point Harbor Shoreline Erosion Committee (AKA Coastside Beach Coalition, renamed July 2013)

 

Pillar Point Harbor needs a new Master Plan!

Commissioner Brennan's 94 page presentation regarding the 1991 Pillar Point Harbor Master Plan was presented to the San Mateo County Board of Harbor Commissioners at the March 6, 2013 Harbor District Strategic Planning, Finance and Priorities Workshop.

March 6, 2013 Meeting Agenda and meeting videos (part 1 & 2).

Part 1

Part 2