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Situation Heats Up Between Pete's Harbor Owner and the State

Attorney Ted Hannig confirms two checks for back rent and penalties 'have been sent in protest' to the state, and he accuses the state of coming between Paula Uccelli and her harbor tenants.

Ted Hannig, attorney for Pete's Harbor owner Paula Uccelli, sent Patch documentation Wednesday confirming that a large check has been sent to the State Lands Commission (SLC) in an attempt to resolve the issue of Uccelli's back rent owed on the outer harbor.

It was revealed last month that - as the SLC owns the outer harbor of Pete's Harbor and leases it to Uccelli for management - Uccelli has never paid the agreed-upon rent to the SLC during the 28 years the lease has been in effect.

However, Hannig sent a multiple-page letter to the state's public land manager, Grace Kato, along with a check, accusing the state of repeatedly acting inappropriately with regards to its practices for collecting rent on its leases, and of illegally trying to come between Paula Uccelli and her tenants at Pete's Harbor.

Hannig's letter indicated that the state recently demanded Uccelli pay a total of $409,253.24 in two separate checks ($229,896.21 and $179,357.03, respectively), and that two checks for those amounts were sent to the state by Hannig and Uccelli this past Monday, Jan. 7.

In his letter, Hannig indicated that the state has refused to send him and Uccelli a break-down of how the state calculated that amount - particularly since Hannig claims that it is illegal for a landlord to attempt to collect more than four years' worth of back rent from a tenant.

Hannig also reiterated that Uccelli has made countless efforts to pay her rent on time over the past 28 years of the lease, but the state has refused to accept payment or tell her who and where to send the payments to.

Because of that, Hannig stated during a Dec. 5 meeting with the State Lands Commission that Uccelli opened a separate bank account labeled "State Lands" long ago, and has been depositing all rent checks from tenants of the state-owned outer harbor ever since, just waiting to be told where to send it.

Hannig's letter also accuses the state of "engaging in conduct designed to coerce [Uccelli] into paying the sums that the [state] demands by improper pressure and duress," by threatening to take away her lease if she did not pay the non-itemized and "unjustly" large amounts.

He also said that, over the past couple of months that they have been trying to get this matter resolved, the state has sent representatives to talk with Uccelli that have been "verbally abusive" to her.

Has the SLC been talking with Pete's Harbor tenants on the side?

Hannig's letter also indicated that, on Dec. 28, the state contacted Uccelli and offered to extend Uccelli's allotted time to resolve her financial matters with the state if she agreed to let the tenants of Pete's Harbor remain on the property for a while longer, while she makes repairs she has long been planning to do this month once all tenants had moved out of the harbor.

Hannig implied that it was improper for the state to do that since remaining on the property while repairs are being conducted could put the tenants and their property at risk of "injury and damage."

Hannig also blatantly accused the state of talking to the tenants of Pete's Harbor privately, which he said constitutes "unlawful interference in [Uccelli's] contracts and business."

The letter implies that tenants have made attempts to contact the SLC - which, Hannig implies he thinks is in regards to the possibility of the tenants themselves taking over the lease on the outer harbor if it is taken away from Uccelli. The letter adds that the state has failed to tell the tenants such communication is inappropriate while a settlement had still not been reached, and that that constitutes the state's approval of such actions.

Pete's Harbor tenants have less than a week left

If Uccelli's issues with the state get resolved, Uccelli could be allowed to move forward with the sale of Pete's Harbor to Colorado-based developer Pauls Corporation - who is already hard at work building the nearby One Marina Homes - to build a 411-unit luxury waterfront housing community.

The proposed development has already received unanimous approval by the Redwood City Planning Commission.

Though members of the group Save Pete's Harbor 2012 - made up of both tenants and non-tenant supporters - have filed an official appeal of that approval decision, Uccelli already served all tenants and businesses of Pete's Harbor with eviction notices, asking them to move out no later than Jan. 15, next week.

A hearing for the appeal is scheduled with the Planning Commission on Jan. 28, nearly two weeks after the tenants have to have vacated the harbor.

Already, a significant number of Pete's Harbor tenants have moved out in anticipation of being evicted so the property can be sold. In addition, though Uccelli gave the owners until Jan. 15, the Waterfront Restaurant at Pete's Harbor closed before the holidays.

Patch has attempted to contact tenants of Pete's Harbor and a representative of the State Lands Commission for comment, and will update this story if and when our calls are returned.

 

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Enquiring Mind January 09, 2013 at 08:28 PM
You call this a "Breaking Nes Alert"? It's nothing but an update to one of your previous articles. Save yor "Breaking News Alerts" for mountain lion sightings, highway closures, and similar important events.
Jennifer van der Kleut (Editor) January 09, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Enquiring Mind - thanks for the feedback. Sorry you didn't feel this warranted a breaking news alert. My thinking was, we have been getting so many e-mails from readers wanting an update to this situation, so we wanted to get the news out to everyone as quickly as possible.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive January 09, 2013 at 11:40 PM
EM, the payment was made known just this morning. It was buried in the San Mateo Daily Journal, which missed several points that Jennifer uncovered. I think that making sure she got the facts right before putting it out is commendable. It's "breaking" because it wasn't in the morning digest.
Aaron January 10, 2013 at 01:12 AM
Yes, excellent choice! Also ... breaking news comes with "Update" feature on patch and we are waiting to hear comment from the SLC and Save Pete's Harbor. Thanks for well-written in depth coverage Jennifer. You pwnd the SMDJ
Michael Craig January 11, 2013 at 07:07 PM
Thanks for the update! I am surprised but not that surprised in the "PC" world of local politics that the tenants were allowed to communicate directly with the SLC which is "unlawful interference in [Uccelli's] contracts and business." In CA we seem to bend backward for tenants rights to a fault and don't consider the legal rights of a landowner. I don't know all the legal ramifications of this case but I would not put it past a State Agency to harrass a landowner in CA. The reason always comes back to money. As much as the state seems to want everyone to think they have the tenants best interest at heart-if a legal battle is going on-they cannot "take sides" and it seems suspiciously like the state wants to take back control of the outer harbor. If the contract is valid from many years ago-then it still should be valid today. The bill has been paid and even much higher penalty fees than anyone else has paid. The SLC does seem to be holding Ucelli over a barrel and it should be able to collect normal late fees but I thought I read 5% and they were getting charged 18%. What is the reason? I think the SLC was hoping they did not have the money so they could take it back. I could be wrong but it seems strange the way the SLC is acting.
Alan January 14, 2013 at 11:38 AM
I'm sorry but isn't the SLC a state agency? Are citizens and tax payers not allowed now to talk to state agencies and express their concerns?
Lou Covey, The Local Motive January 14, 2013 at 03:10 PM
That's what public hearings are for. What the SPH group is doing is behind closed doors.
PoliticalJunkie January 15, 2013 at 07:11 AM
The only thing behind closed doors is your real relationship to Uccelli. I sincerely doubt all your defense of her is entirely altruistic. I'd caution you about casting aspersions on the Lt. Governor's, State Controller's and State Director of Finance's offices. The SLC's mission statement: The staff of the California State Lands Commission serves the people of California by providing stewardship of the lands, waterways, and resources entrusted to its care through economic development, protection, preservation, and restoration. The liveaboards at Pete's Harbor are definitely people in California. The SLC has always controlled the Outer Harbor, they just leased it to Pete Uccelli who never paid for it and then Paula continued with that tradition until last week. Now, it seems Paula might not even be the proper/current leaseholder.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive January 15, 2013 at 07:55 PM
"I'd caution you about casting aspersions" You're one to talk. It's hard to figure out someone's motivation when they hide behind an alias. OK, I'll play. What are you threatening? Are you part of the state police? You going to rough me up in the middle of the night? Are you the one throwing feces at Paula's house?

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