Docktown Residents Respond to City Takeover

Could Docktown's best days be ahead?


For the first time in her 23 years as a resident of Docktown Marina, Brenda Peterson says she has reason to be optimistic about the future when it comes to relations with Redwood City officials.

When Docktown’s former landlord hastily closed up shop on Feb. 28, the company left behind a legal and managerial vacuum that the City of Redwood City had to step in to fill on March 1.

Since then, Peterson and more than 100 others who call Docktown home have been living under a cloud of uncertainty, scrambling to make their voices heard as the city decides what to do next.

Peterson said that, in the past, she’s been skeptical of the City’s intentions with regard to Docktown after mandated consolidations in the 1990s and early 2000s left the marina with fewer slips and shorter docks.

So, when she first heard the news that the City was temporarily taking over, she said her first thoughts were, “Here we go again - we’ve been fighting them for 20-some years, and now they’re in control.”

But this time appears to be different.

Though Redwood City Community Development Coordinator Bill Ekern has said that he hopes the marina will eventually be turned back over to a private entity or management company after many loose ends are tidied up, Peterson and other Docktown residents feel that, while they’re still grappling with the fear of the unknown, lines of communication between the marina and the City have never been stronger.

“The City appears to be trying to bend over backwards and help us turn this into a floating home marina, and we want to give them the benefit of the doubt,” Peterson said. "Instead of taking everybody out like Pete’s Harbor did…they’re trying to do something different here, and I think people ought to be aware of it.”

Formally declaring Docktown as a floating home community would afford it a number of privileges that it doesn’t currently enjoy. For example, up until now, residents pay their rents on a month-to-month basis without the assurances that long-term leases can provide.  

Whether or not Docktown will achieve that sort of classification is unclear, but the marina’s situation has put a spotlight on a number of persisting issues that many residents say they haven’t been able to address while under the supervision of the former management.

One of the biggest lingering issues as yet unresolved is what will become of the privately owned land that sits adjacent to Docktown’s waterway. If the land is sold off for development, many residents would be effectively cut off from walkways leading to their floating homes.

So far, a liaison from the City has been meeting with Docktown residents each week to listen to their concerns, and to help organize talks between interested parties to collaborate on how best to move forward.

When Redwood City took over Docktown on March 1, officials instituted a temporary 90-day lease for everyone currently living at the marina as a way to alleviate concerns while moving ahead with negotiations.

Lee Callister is the vice president of Docktown’s unofficial floating home association, and he’s been at the center of the marina’s organizing efforts. He and other marina residents are currently working to draw up a draft lease agreement to present to Redwood City officials.

Callister said that, while the City may not have fully understood Docktown’s concerns at first, he sees the potential to create a sense of long-term stability for the marina and its inhabitants.

“We both have a vested interested in trying to come up with a solution that works for everyone. So far, I’m reasonably happy with the way that’s working," he said. "We do want to work with them, and we’re getting to understand each other better and establish some mechanisms to collaborate and coordinate.”

Bob Chartain has lived at Docktown since 2009. Because the majority of the privately-owned land area surrounding Docktown is zoned for industrial use, Chartain and others believe that working with the City is the only way to ensure that the marina’s inhabitants are fairly represented in any future negotiations.

Chartain believes that Docktown may very well have its best days ahead of it.

“The only real ally we have is the city, so it’s to our benefit to work closely with them and cooperate," he said. "My feeling is that, maybe this is a chance to up-scale the entire area."

What do you think of Docktown and its current status with the City? Tell us in the comments.


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Lee Callister March 28, 2013 at 01:15 AM
Thanks for the article and photos, Dominic. For the record we are a Floating COMMUNITY Association. (It's an important distinction as we represent people who live in boats as well as big homes). And the 90 day lease is between the city and landowners, covering only the land along the creek. We are negotiating a lease with the City (which controls the water rights) for our floating residences. I also want to be clear that many people are working very hard for Docktown, among them Association President Tania Sole; James and Lynn Jonas, who have promoted our cause at City Hall for many years; Orlene Chartain; and Creekmaster Dave McCallum, whose efforts to keep the creek clean for everyone is a source of pride to us all. We are also home to the Peninsula Yacht Club.
Lee Callister May 23, 2013 at 11:14 PM
The gloves come off. Come interview the tenants again, and you will get a very different story. Question: when is a 2500 square foot Floating Home a "watercraft?" Answer: when it is docked at Docktown, and subject to being moved or removed on 30 days notice without cause and at the owners expense.


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