A nice chat with Alison Madden about Pete's Harbor

More facts about Pete's Harbor and development

I had a conversation recently with Alison Madden, the leader of the Save Pete’s Harbor 2012 (SPH12).  It was a lively and civil discussion about my previous post regarding the development of the harbor and the requirement for all boat owners with slips there to vacate by January 1.  We disagreed on many points, but there were several that I could not respond to because I lacked direct knowledge.  I promised to do some research and do a followup post. So here goes.

Development alternatives

Madden and her group do not have any problem with development of the land, but they object to how this development is planned.  What they want is to be allowed to stay at Pete’s Harbor, as they are now, and be included in the overall development.  She stated that she was told by Paula Uccelli’s lawyer, Ted Hannig, that Paula actually received an offer from the Irvine Corporation that was for more money than from Paul Powers, who has had a long history with the Uccellis.  Irvine built The Villas, next to the Uccelli property and said they wanted to do something similar.

Madden assumes that “something similar” would be a plan that would allow the liveaboards to continue at the harbor indefinitely, but checking with Hannig I learned that that is not necessarily an informed assumption because unlike Powers, Irvine provided no indication of what kind of development they would do to Uccelli.  It was strictly a cash offer and her knowledge of what The Villas had to offer.

Unfortunately, Paula never like The Villas and thought the quality of the development was less than what her husband, Pete, wanted to see on their property (and having toured the sample units before the project went up, I have to agree with her).

Other than the Irvine offer, there have been no alternatives.

Insurance issues

The SPH12 group has requested the opportunity to stay by moving to the outer harbor slips while the project was under construction but were told insurance would not be available.  Madden firmly believes this is untrue because she has seen many residential properties being built elsewhere in the midst of construction.  What she apparently doesn’t know is that One Marina boat owners sued KB Homes over dust from their construction site, and the insurance company settled.  According to Hannig, because the boat owners in the area showed themselves to be litigious, no insurance company will insure any other  development project where boats may be involved.

Public access

The SPH12 group considers the marina to be an public access point to the bay.  Fair enough.  But it is an access point primarily for people who can afford to keep expensive personal watercraft moored at the site.  The plan for the development includes a kayak launch that will be, in fact, open to all the public.  So the site will continue to be an access point for bay access, and will be available for people with more affordable equipment.  There will also be slips available to residents of the development, but not for live-aboard boat owners.

Displacing residents

There has been a lot of talk about how many people are being evicted in this process.  Madden points out that if you add up the number of slips that were eliminated when One Marina was developed and the number of slips to be lost at Pete’s Harbor, you get around 500 slips.  But slips are not people.

As of the end of October, there are 43 liveaboard boats at Pete’s Harbor and 61 non-liveaboards.  We’re talking about 100 people who live on boats.  It’s a great lifestyle.  But it is not necessarily a permanent lifestyle, especially when you consider that all the leases at Pete’s Harbor are month to month.  No one is losing their home, just the place where they put their home.  It’s a bummer, but it is part of the consequences for living that lifestyle.  And since August more than half of the people who were living onboard at Pete’s Harbor have found other places to put their boats.  It isn’t easy, but it can be done.


This was another point of discussion.  Madden could not understand how a person committed to sustainability (me) could not be in favor of their lifestyle.  

In the first place, if I had the financial means to live on a yacht, I would.  So it’s not that I don’t think they have a cool life.  If I were in Madden’s place, thinking about sustaining my personal lifestyle, I would probably be doing the same thing.  If I were thinking about the sustainability of my particular neighborhood (other liveaboards), I’d probably be doing the same thing.  But my particular concern is about the sustainability of all of Redwood City.  We had a chance to deal with a lot of that with the Saltworks project, but that’s long gone.  We have to look at smaller opportunities.

Here are the numbers.  Right now, Pete’s Harbor brings in $16,500 annually in property taxes, employs a couple dozen people and houses 100 people.  The Powers project will bring in $10 million in immediate fees to local school districts and the city coffers, and provide $2.4 million in property taxes annually after that.  It will employ 2,000 construction workers during the course of the development, and it will house right around 1,000 people in reality.  That is a sustainable model for that site and for the entire community.

When you talk about sustainability you have to realize that what is sustainable for one person, is not necessarily sustainable for a community of 70,000.

The insults, ORWC and Peninsula Direct Action

This was a particularly sticky part of the conversation.  Madden said she does not endorse their character assassinations of city commissioners, council members, city staff, nor of the insults thrown at Paula Uccelli, her attorney Ted Hannig, and the developer Paul Powers by the members of those organizations. She does however, appreciate the support of James Lee of Occupy Redwood City and Aaron Castle of Peninsula Direct Action, but her organization is not aligned with them and she cannot control what they say and do.  As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows.

Going further, she pointed out that most of the people in her group are not low-income people.  They are, for the most part, professionals with good paying jobs.  She, herself is a corporate attorney for a high-tech firm, which makes many of them targets of groups like ORWC.  They just prefer not to own homes.

In fact, she pointed out, twice, that she has never actually spoke to Paula and bears her no ill will.  She made a point of going to Hannig and apologizing for the individual that called him a liar.

The future of Pete’s Harbor

It comes down to this.  The membership of SPH12 has a lifestyle that they want to continue exactly as is and they expect the city government to step up and protect that way of life.  Fair enough.  Government should be considered a protector of all the people and even a few people if necessary.

What they may have not yet realized is Paula Uccelli wants to retire. She has no one to take over management of the marina, even if there is no development.  No one has come forward with a plan to take over the marina that doesn’t hurt her, or the vision she and Pete have had for it for a long time.

So let’s put it in very clear terms.  Development or not, Pete’s Harbor Marina will close on January 1.  The continued existence of the marina is a non starter.

That brings me to the point of the current leases.  I called Hannig and asked a few questions about the eviction process and learned, in fact, that no notices have yet gone out but that for every lease signed since 2002 there is a clause that reads, “Since the marina is up for sale and no more liveaboards are being admitted, the live-aboard status was granted to you as a favor.”  Tenants signed an agreement with Paula that said “I … agree to leave the slip when this will be required by the marina (with notice from the owner).”

And from my point of view, that’s really what we are talking about.  There are agreements in place.  There has been no lack of notice.  It’s particularly crappy to understand that some people may have entered into those agreements believing that something might happen that would make it all go away. But living in a community means sometimes, you have to make a sacrifice.  Redwood City needs housing development and it needs it now.  Losing some boat slips to make that happen is the price.

The problem is, no one is going to accept that.  SPH12 is already preparing an initiative to stop the development, even after the the marina is long gone.  There will not be a reasoned argument about the issue because politics in this day and age is not about reason.  It’s about name calling and emotion.  I do feel for the people that have to move their boats, but I really feel for Paula Uccelli who has given a lot to this community and will become the target of a lot of unreasoned hatred from some very nasty people in the coming months.

That’s the really sad thing.


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Lou Covey, The Local Motive December 13, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Lee, from back to front. 3. The boaters have filed an appeal against the project, due to be heard mid January. That is an attempt to block the development. 2. I agree that Paul Powers may have to change his plans and negotiate separately with the state. Negotiating with the boaters is an entirely different issue. The current lease holder has decided to shutter her business. The lease agreements signed for the past decade have indicated the property was for sale and tenancy was month to month. More than legally adequate time has been given for the boaters to vacate the facilities. By the time the appeal is heard, the marina will be closed. Now, the state may decide to take over the marina and run it themselves, but there will be no Pete's Harbor. it might be possible that the current residents could apply to take over the lease themselves. Lots might happen. 1. There is a $20,000 check floating around out there with the state's name on it, according to Hannig. I have had no reason to doubt what he says. Based on my experience with the state, I can fully believe that the bureaucracy let the whole thing slip through the cracks. What stood out to me that the state, in the three decades this relationship has existed, only recently sent a demand letter for the full amount. That is all they could say they have done in an attempt to collect the money. Would that my creditors would wait 28 years to send a bill. I've asked to see Hannig's records
Sarah Adams March 12, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Why didn't the tenant apply to take over the lease? The marina is now closed even though the owner paid the back rent to the state. Why pay for something you are closing down?
Lou Covey, The Local Motive March 12, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Sarah, the previous owner has applied to transfer the state lease to the new owner of the property. Before that can be done, the lease had to be current.
Lee Callister March 12, 2013 at 04:44 PM
The latest news is that on 2/18 Paul Powers filed a single page document with the city which says the plan is now to keep the big lease portion of the outer harbor a commercial/public marina. Not surprising, as it was clear the State Lands Commission was not going to allow them to take it private.
Alison Madden March 12, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Lee, yes, indeed, they do know after several communications from SLC (including the attorney in court at the TRO and the later Kato letter) that the SLC desires the outer harbor to be public &commercial for recreational boating. What we need is two things: the consent lease (former Leslie Salt lease that didn't have to be given to Pete, it was not in his cloudy title to my understanding); and 2. a commitment to liveaboards. There is an app on file at SLC by Pauls re: the consent/Leslie Salt (aka the "small lease" that requires consent to transfer) and my understanding is that docks would be destroyed to allow for public kayak use. But public kayak use now exists alongside the docks and I hope the SLC does NOT allow destruction, DOES transfer and DOES require that liveaboards remain. Although residence on public trust isn't typical for inland properties, a floating community serves 4 public trust uses: commercial, recreational, fishing and navigation, when it is a dynamic and fluid community, which can happen. We hope RWC does the right thing, and honors its General Plan, to have condos and liveaboards. And we hope SLC recognizes that a BMR community (which all liveaboard boating basically is, even with nice boats) at a historic site that is allegedly protected by the General Plan, is the right way to go. I have asked SLC to transfer the small lease only on the condition that it contain at least 26 liveabords (10% of the EIR permitted 263 slips that were once at Pete's).


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