Note: The City of Redwood City consulted with State Senator Jerry Hill, State Assemblymember Kevin Mullin and State Lands Commission staff to prepare this information, originally published August 15, 2016.
The City Council approved the Final Docktown Plan on December 12, 2016. The Final Docktown Plan considers approximately 70 comments submitted by the public in writing and at a community meeting held in November, and over two hours of public testimony during the December 12 Council meeting. The process of implementing the Final Docktown Plan will begin in early 2017, and community members are encouraged to continue to be a part of the implementation process.
Since 1945, the City of Redwood City has served as a trustee for the land on which the Docktown Marina is located. This only includes the land under the creek, not the land-based property adjacent to the creek. In this role, the City owns the creek area on behalf of the citizens of California. The City must ensure that the land is used in accordance with the statutes that granted the land to the City as well as with the California Constitution, applicable case law, and the common law Public Trust Doctrine.
The Docktown Marina has existed since the 1960s. City records of a private marina operator date back to 1983. In this year, the City issued a revocable permit with the marina operator, Fred Earnhardt, who also had a lease agreement with the landside property owners.
In December 2012, Mr. Earnhardt advised the City of his intention to terminate the permit. In order to improve health and safety conditions, as well as to avoid a situation that would have immediately forced members of the Docktown community to relocate, the City agreed to assume the operations and management of Docktown. This included entering into a license agreement with the landside property owners to ensure ongoing access to the marina. Since 2013, the City has operated Docktown Marina.
The critical difference between the Sausalito Marina and Docktown Marina is the underlying ownership of the land. In Sausalito, the land is held in private ownership whereas in Docktown the land is State land, held in trust by the City, which must be managed in accordance with its granting statutes. Because at Docktown the underlying ownership of land is held in trust by the City, residential use is not allowed.
Unlike all other neighborhoods in Redwood City, Docktown does not have legally defined lots. Members of the Docktown community have always rented slips from the marina operator and participated in short-term rental arrangements. Legally, the City could not have granted rights for vessels to be permanently located at the marina, nor is there any documentation that indicates that Docktown community members were granted rights to permanently live at the marina.
The State Legislature granted in trust to the City of Redwood City the lands on which the Docktown Marina is located. While the Legislature granted this land to the City, the land remains subject to state supervision and the City must manage the land in a manner consistent with not only the granting statutes, but also the Public Trust Doctrine. The Doctrine is rooted in the concept that all California citizens are entitled to access public trust lands granted to local jurisdictions. Private residential use, as is the case at Docktown, doesn’t provide sufficient access to the general public.
The City’s granting statutes limit use of these public trust lands to the establishment, improvement and conduct of a harbor and for the construction, maintenance and operation of wharves, docks, piers, slips, quays and other utilities, structures and facilities. These statutes do not authorize the City to lease the granted lands for residential houseboats or live-a-boards.
The Settlement Agreement required the City to undertake an environmental analysis of the sediment in Redwood Creek to determine if there are unhealthful levels of toxic chemicals present. The City hired the environmental consulting firm of Erler Kalinowski Inc. (EKI) to perform this analysis. Although not required under the Settlement Agreement, the City further contracted with EKI to test water quality in the water around Docktown in order to address statements made of poor water quality.
In considering potential human health impacts, the environmental assessment looked at recreational use, fish consumption and water quality in Redwood Creek and the adjacent slough, including areas upstream and downstream of Docktown Marina. Among the findings:
- Individuals who play or wade in water in the study area are not at significant health risk, and the less-than-significant risks in the study area are similar to those observed throughout San Francisco Bay.
- As in other areas of the Bay, the bioaccumulation of chemicals in fish caught by anglers in the study area is of potential concern. Fish consumption advisories issued by the State of California for San Francisco Bay should be followed for all fish caught in the Bay, including in the study area.
- Docktown Marina is not a likely source of bacterial or chemical contamination in Redwood Creek or the adjacent slough and public health is not at risk due to activities at Docktown.
- No additional environmental investigation or remediation of sediments/water associated with Docktown Marina is warranted.
The complete study results are available on the City’s website at www.redwoodcity.org/docktown
- When the City refers to its legal obligations from the State to cease residential use at Docktown, the City is referring to two separate laws. The first is the specific statutory language contained in the State Granting Statutes (Statutes of 1945, Chapter 1359, as amended) that granted Docktown, in trust to the City, for the benefit of the public. The second law is known as the common law Public Trust Doctrine (see Public Resources Code Sections 6009 and 6009.1). Both are separate legal obligations, or laws, which legally obligate the City to end residential use at Docktown. The statutes and common law public trust doctrine are referenced in the June 19, 2015 Attorney General letter released by the State Lands Commission and available here.
The City approached the State Lands Commission to grandfather all residential uses in both 2005 and 2016. This would have helped all tenants at Docktown. The City also attempted to swap land in order to provide a location for liveaboard uses, but the State Lands Commission did not support this option. Then the City attempted a 15-year extension to give tenants more time to relocate from Docktown. That effort was not successful. The City then developed a plan for a yearlong relocation process, that includes financial assistance in the form of moving expenses, incentive payments for tenants desiring to move more quickly, and vessel acquisition and payments for tenants desiring to sell their property to the City. The plan also includes financial aid for people with special needs, including seniors, veterans, and low-income individuals; and relocation advice and assistance in finding replacement housing.
The process of implementing the Plan will begin in early 2017. City officials expect that implementing the Plan will take some time, and the City’s goal is to provide community members with a reasonable timeframe to transition.
Why are the State Lands Commission and City concerned with subleases and transferring of ownership of boats at Docktown Marina?
The State Lands Commission and local legislators were supportive of revising the existing law (the City’s granting statute) to temporarily protect existing community members in their current homes. However, there was no support to extend this right to future members of the Docktown community. Given that residential uses are not allowed under existing law, activities that prolong residential uses, such as transferring ownership of boats and assigning leases to allow new people to live at Docktown, would perpetuate the current situation, and continue to be inconsistent with the granting statues and Public Trust Doctrine. Additionally, subleases allow an individual to make a personal profit off of public land, while perpetuating the current situation. Therefore, two restrictions were placed within the draft legislation: a requirement that any vessel sold or transferred would need to be moved to a new marina; and a requirement that vessels be owner-occupied and not rented to subtenants. The proposed legislation would have allowed transfer or sale of the existing homes at Docktown; however, those homes would have needed to move to another marina.
Why did the City hire a relocation expert? Shouldn’t the City efforts be focused on keeping Docktown where it is?
The City is charged with ensuring that all uses at Docktown are consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine and the law. This means that residential uses must be relocated. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Docktown Plan must be adopted by the end of the year and the City must begin to implement that Plan in 2017. The City has hired a relocation expert - Overland, Pacific and Cutler - to conduct appraisals and help evaluate relocation options with individual Docktown community members in order to prepare the Docktown Plan.
In February 2014, the State Lands Commission officially notified the City that private residential uses were not permitted at Docktown. Since then, City officials have sought to achieve a compromise with the State of California regarding residential uses in Docktown. However, a group called “Citizens for Public Trust” brought a lawsuit against the City in 2015 challenging residential uses at Docktown. In early 2016, the State Lands Commission released an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office confirming that residential use is incompatible with the public trust. The State Lands Commission has made clear that the City can no longer permit private residential uses. In January 2016, the City entered into a Settlement Agreement to resolve the Docktown litigation which, among other obligations, requires the City to develop a plan to comply with the granting statues and Public Trust Doctrine by December 2016, and to begin implementing that plan in 2017.
The City is focused on ensuring a smooth transition for all Docktown community members. The Final Docktown Plan includes information about relocation assistance options for Docktown Marina residents, including relocation advisory services such as information on marina and land-based housing options and financial assistance such as payment of moving and other associated relocation cost.
As of the January 2018 update to the City Council, 27 of the 70 tenants and sub-tenants at Docktown Marina have relocated, and another 31 tenants and sub-tenants have agreed to relocate by February 28, 2018 (or June 30, 2018 for families with school-age children). Under the Plan, Docktown tenants and sub-tenants are eligible to receive a variety of relocation benefits. The City will spend an estimated $1,000,000 to provide relocation benefits. Also under the Plan, Docktown tenants who are considering sale of their property to the City have completed independent appraisal process. The City will spend an estimated $15.1 million to acquire boats, barge based dwellings and personal property.
- Tenants are eligible to receive a number of benefits under the Docktown Plan, including assistance finding new housing, reimbursement of moving costs, reimbursement of costs to list the property for sale, and counseling services. Individuals who are disabled, seniors, or veterans are eligible to receive additional financial assistance. Tenants may also receive an incentive payment of up to $10,000 by signing an agreement to relocate in a timely manner. In order to take advantage of the relocation benefits under the Docktown Plan, tenants must enter into a relocation agreement. The agreement includes a waiver of all claims against the City.
Tenants who own their boat or dwelling can choose to sell their property to the City if they do not find another buyer who can move it to another location, or they can move it to another location on their own.
- Yes. The City has agreed to extend the relocation timeline through June 2018 for families with school-aged children, in order to allow them to complete the school year. A family does not need to accept relocation benefits in order to stay through June 2018.
Yes. The appraiser determined that it was not feasible to move barge-based dwellings substantial distances to marinas with available berths, and so they would need to be demolished. If the property owner does not move the dwelling out of the marina and instead opts to sell it to the City, the appraiser judged that the costs associated with removing and demolishing the property would affect the fair market value of the property.
The City remains committed to helping people who need to move from Docktown Marina. Some tenants are exploring moves to the Municipal Marina, which began accepting applications in February 2018, and some tenants are still working with the City’s relocation consultants, Overland, Pacific and Cutler (OPC), to find new housing.
As of February 27, liveaboard agreements for most tenants will be valid for another 60 days. In addition, specific tenants are being allowed to stay through June 30 to allow school-age children to complete the school year.
Yes. Tenants who agreed to have their property appraised have received appraisals from a licensed appraiser hired on behalf of the City. Appraisals were conducted using a methodology set by the appraiser, and are the basis of offers from the City to purchase a property if the owner agrees to sell. The appraiser, not the City, determined the property value based on independent professional judgment and established industry appraisal standards.
To be eligible for benefits under the Docktown Plan, a person must be able to confirm that in 2016 they were a liveaboard tenant or subtenant at Docktown Marina.
The City may offer to buy a property based on a fair market value appraisal conducted by a third-party appraiser. The Docktown Plan requires that an appraisal be conducted and that an offer be made that is consistent with the appraisal. All appraisals are being conducted by a licensed appraiser.
A licensed appraiser conducted all appraisals of boats and barge-based dwellings at Docktown Marina using a methodology based on independent professional judgment and established industry appraisal standards. For boats, the appraiser considered sales of comparable boats to determine the value. For barge-based dwellings, the appraiser considered comparable sales and cost of construction to arrive at a value. Then, the appraiser reconciled the two values to calculate an adjusted net value in order to determine the property’s final fair market value. In determining the fair market value of barge-based dwellings, the appraiser considered the fact that the dwellings will need to be removed from Docktown, which is different from other marinas in the area, such as Sausalito, where individuals own private lots. It is important to note that tenants do not own the land on which their property is located, and do not have an ongoing legal right to live there.
The Port Commission has approved policies to allow liveaboards at the Marina and Port staff are working to obtain the necessary permits from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which has jurisdiction over liveaboard uses at marinas. At this time, it appears fewer than 10 tenants may move to the Port. Relatively few tenants at Docktown owned boats that could be accommodated at the Municipal Marina; many were too large to fit the berths there or not navigable. Some tenants may choose to sell their boats to the City and buy boats to live at the Municipal Marina but tenants have not made final decisions. The Port anticipates taking applications for liveaboard tenants in early February.
Tenants are eligible to receive a number of benefits under the Docktown Plan, including assistance finding new housing (either on land or at marinas), reimbursement of moving costs, reimbursement of costs to list the property for sale, and counseling services. Individuals who are disabled, seniors, or veterans are eligible to receive additional financial assistance. Tenants may also receive an incentive payment of up to $10,000 by signing an agreement to relocate in a timely manner; the final date to relocate is February 28, 2018.
What can tenants do if they believe they are not receiving the benefits due to them under the Docktown Plan?
At the request of tenants, the City incorporated an independent appeal process into the final Docktown Plan. The process provides tenants the right to appeal benefits determinations, including whether they are eligible for benefits and the level of benefits being offered. Once a tenant receives notice of benefits eligibility, they have 15 days to initiate the appeals process. An appeal is heard by an independent hearing officer, an attorney with over 30 years of experience advising California cities with marinas. In the appeal hearing, tenants may offer information about why they believe they should receive benefits under the Docktown Plan. The hearing officer will issue a determination on each case. Several tenants are already going through this administrative appeal process.
The Final Docktown Plan includes flexibility to allow owners of berthed property at Docktown to seek out their own property appraisals if desired. Following receipt of the City’s offer of acquisition, an owner has 45 days to submit his/her own appraisal to the City for consideration. If the owner’s appraisal is within 10 percent of the City’s appraisal, the City will pay the owner the amount submitted by the owner’s appraiser. If an owner-procured appraisal is higher than 10 percent of the City’s offer, the City will pay for a third appraisal to render a final appraisal value based on his/her review of the two previous appraisals. The owner will get to choose from a list of City-approved appraisers for the third appraisal. This third appraisal will determine the final appraisal value.
The Docktown Plan is flexible in that it allows Docktown community members to determine how to move their property from Docktown Marina. For instance, some vessels may be navigable and may be moved to new marinas under their own power or by being towed. Owners may also be able to sell their property to new owners who will then move the vessels from Docktown, or have the option of selling their property to the City. Properties cannot be moved to land, as they were not built to land-based construction standards.
Staff provided the City Council with an update on the implementation of the Docktown Plan, and obtained direction on next steps. Council direction included the following:
- Approving the process for selling, donating, or removing boats and barge based dwellings sold to the City
- Entering into contract with an auctioneer, broker and/or disposal companies, as needed
- Extending the agreement with the relocation services consultant to provide relocation services to tenants
Costs associated with the Docktown Plan grew from $10.2 million to $20.8 million since 2016 because several costs were not known in February 2016. These increased costs include: providing comprehensive assistance to tenants; providing multiple appraisals; administering an independent appeal process; providing security services; handling property which cannot be sold, donated or moved; providing relocation benefits and acquiring property; and defending legal claims against the City.
Will the hearing officer determine whether tenants should receive benefits outside of the Docktown Plan?
No. The City Council, by approving the Docktown Plan, has set the policy and direction for the relocation of Docktown community members, consistent with the granting statutes and Public Trust Doctrine (see State Lands Commission and Attorney General Opinion Letters). The plan includes an appropriate mechanism for providing relocation assistance benefits to Docktown community members. The hearing officer does not have authority to change this policy but will determine whether the policy has been properly implemented.
Some community members have asked the City to designate 10% of Docktown Marina berths for residential uses for marina security. This approach is common in marinas overseen by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), however, BCDC does not have jurisdiction over Docktown Marina. The City is responsible for ensuring that the public trust lands on which Docktown Marina is located are used for purposes that are consistent with State law.
No. Docktown Marina is located on lands granted in trust to the City of Redwood City by the State of California. In this role, the City owns the tidelands under the creek on behalf of the citizens of California. The City must ensure that the land is used in accordance with the statutes that granted the land to the City as well as with the California Constitution, applicable case law, and the common law Public Trust Doctrine. The State Lands Commission oversees the use of legislatively granted State public trust lands. Private residential use of houseboats and liveaboards at Docktown are inconsistent with the terms of the statutes by which the Legislature granted these tidelands in trust to the City and the common law Public Trust Doctrine.
Recently, some community members have asked the City to consider allowing certain types of ongoing residential uses at the Docktown Marina. Community members asked that affordable housing be allowed at the Marina, in either privately or City-owned dwellings, and that live/work housing arrangements be allowed in dwellings acquired by the City.
City staff has discussed these suggestions with State Lands Commission staff. Together and pursuant to advice from the California Attorney General’s Office, they have determined that ongoing residential uses of any kind at Docktown Marina are not allowed under State law.
Several lawsuits are pending against the City of Redwood City regarding the Docktown Marina. The City is required to end residential uses at Docktown, in order for the City to meet its legal obligation to allow full public access to the land on which the marina is located. On February 22, 2018, the Court ruled in favor of the City in a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenge, determining that the City complied with CEQA in its adoption of the Docktown Plan. City officials continue to believe the City is in full compliance with the adopted Docktown Plan and all applicable laws, and will continue to implement the Plan to assist the few remaining Docktown community members as they relocate.
The City of Redwood City situation is different from Petaluma. The State granted Redwood City the land on which Docktown Marina is located. Petaluma is leasing the land on which the Marina is located directly from the State Lands Commission.
The circumstances in Petaluma are different from the ones we face: the Petaluma marina is on land owned by the State Lands Commission and leased to the City of Petaluma, not land granted to the City for public access, as is our situation. The State Lands Commission, in managing its lease, became aware of the fact that Petaluma was allowing 12 or 13 liveaboards. State Lands initially wanted to terminate all liveaboard uses at the Petaluma Marina, but in negotiating the terms of a new lease agreed to allow up to six liveaboards only for security purposes.
The Redwood City General Plan allows commercial or residential development to occur on the Landside Parcel. The 7-acre Landside Parcel adjacent to Docktown Marina is owned by a private party, and leased to the City on a month-to-month basis, with no commitment to long-term access by either the City or by members of the Docktown community.
The property owner and a developer have submitted a proposal to construct approximately 130 homes on this site. City staff is reviewing the project and more information is available here. The proposed development would not displace the Docktown Marina; however, it would impact parking and storage uses that are currently occurring on this property. Even when the proposed legislation with a 15-year transition period was under consideration, City officials believed that parking and marina access for Docktown could be accommodated during the project-planning and development process.
The City does not intend to pursue future legislation that would extend Docktown residential use. The City has extended considerable effort and resources as part of previous attempts at similar legislation that ultimately did not see broad support.