As they have long feared, the tenants of Pete's Harbor in Redwood City have finally received the eviction notices they have been dreading for months.
Tenants of Pete's Harbor told Patch this past week that they have all been issued notices to vacate their boat slips, storage sheds and RV/motorhome parking spots no later than Jan. 15, 2013.
This comes less than a month after Pete's Harbor owner Paula Uccelli and Colorado-based developer Pauls Corporation received approval of their proposal to close down the harbor and build a new 411-unit luxury waterfront housing community by the Redwood City Planning Commission.
However, members of the local action group Save Pete's Harbor 2012 - made up of both tenants and non-tenant supporters - are now upset that they will have to vacate their harbor homes a full two weeks before the appeal they filed with the City will have a chance to be heard, as the City has tentatively scheduled a hearing on the appeal for Jan. 28 with the City Council.
"We are not at all surprised that the date is after our January 15 move-out; actually, we would have been surprised if the meeting was scheduled prior to that time," said Leslie Webster, a member of Save Pete's Harbor 2012 and tenant who lives aboard her boat.
"We're all just taking it a day at a time, and exploring options," she added.
"I am in no way surprised at the City's untimely response to our appeal, as the organization has shown its overwhelming loyalty only toward [Paula Uccelli and Pauls Corporation's] objective," said Wendy Stone, another member of the group. "I remain disgusted at the collective attitude of an institution that should reflect and represent the wishes of all the voters, but instead has set itself up as a monarchy, answering to no one."
Malcolm Smith, public communications manager for the City, told Patch that Jan. 28 was the soonest the City could get the appeal hearing on the City Council's schedule because of other appeals filed sooner, and because the City needs time to prepare.
"The appeal was filed on Nov. 13, and staff needs sufficient time to prepare the necessary staff reports and any other documentation related to the appeal," Smith said. "Further, there are two other appeals on different issues filed prior to the Pete’s Harbor appeal which have shorter timelines and which staff must address first."
Smith also explained that the appeal has nothing to do with landowner-tenant issues or leases, and is only relevant to the question of whether the development of Pete's Harbor by the Pauls Corporation should move forward.
Legally, when such an appeal is filed, City staff has 90 days to schedule a public hearing.
"[City] staff was able to arrange for the appeal to be heard on Jan. 28, which is several weeks before the 90-day deadline," Smith said. "Lastly, it is important to point out that the appeal is based solely on the proposed project, not on the status of leases or eviction dates. That matter is between the property owner and the tenants."
Ted Hannig, Uccelli's attorney, told Patch that the matter of the appeal and the tenants' eviction notices have nothing to do with each other because "Paula plans to shut down the harbor regardless of whether this development project goes through, as part of her retirement plan."
Hannig said, after Jan. 15 when the harbor and marina are completely closed to all tenants, Uccelli plans to begin repair and remodel work on the site "in preparation to sell it."
"The workers [she has hired to do the repair and remodel work] have requested that no tenants be present in the harbor while they are performing their work," Hannig told Patch.
Hannig said a big part of the reasoning behind that request is because, with other recent remodeling work performed at nearby marinas, some boat owners have sued or filed insurance claims because paint or other substances used in the work has damaged their vessels. As that information is public, Hannig said the workers learned of the damage claims and therefore don't want to risk similar incidents happening at Pete's Harbor.
What about the outer harbor?
Alison Madden, an attorney and tenant of Pete's Harbor who lives in a GulfStream, says she believes the tenants should at least be allowed to stay in the outer harbor.
The outer harbor slips are managed by Paula Uccelli and her harbormaster, G. Giorgio, but are actually owned by the California State Lands Commission (CSLC).
"They were granted [by the CSLC to the Uccellis] as commercial leases, only for so long as a commercial harbor and marina were operated," said Madden. "The CSLC has not yet weighed in on the issue."
"[Paula Uccelli] does not have property rights at all in the outer harbor. It is therefore our position that asking a judge to stay in the outer harbor - so long as it is permitted by the CSLC - until resolution [of the appeal] is not a lease issue, and is therefore not a breach of lease, and cannot be acted upon with legal process," Madden continued.
"[Paula Uccelli] can certainly terminate the lease relationship vis-a-vis the tenant and Pete's Harbor, but the boaters would not be in violation of a lease or her property rights in any way for failure to leave [the outer harbor]."
Madden further said, it is also her legal understanding that boaters accessing the outer harbor by way of Pete's Harbor would not be in violation of the law.
"There is an easement in both the BCDC (the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission) and the CSLC to come on to the property to access the public trust lands, so traversing that to get to the docks is not a trespass, nor is it inconsistent with the use of the land property in any way," Madden told Patch.
When asked about Madden's position on the outer harbor, Ted Hannig said Paula Uccelli is completely within her rights to disallow boats or tenants in the outer harbor.
Hannig explained, the CSLC granted the Uccellis an iron-clad, 49-year lease, which has been renewed for a second 49-year term, that gives her complete rights over the outer harbor both in terms of tenant relationships and any repair or remodel work she wishes to perform.
"The lease was signed by the governor, by the State Lands Commission, and by the courts," he said, which is why Hannig does not believe Madden's idea of the Pete's Harbor tenants being granted permission to stay in the outer harbor will work out.
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