By Patsy Fergusson
Dear Stakeholders in the Marina "Improvement" Project, I was at the public meeting in the Marina District of San Francisco on August 23 where close to 130 angry people showed up, almost all of them protesting the plan to build a new boat harbor in front of Marina Green. So I was surprised and chagrined when I got a follow-up email from the Rec & Parks Department asking me to fill out a survey that didn't even mention the harbor. The harbor and cleaning up the toxins in Gashouse Cove are the issues that people care about, not whether there is a volleyball court on the triangle of land nearby. It is wrong and deceptive to create a multiple choice survey that ignores the most important issues while asking silly questions about shrubbery. That's why I abandoned my survey halfway through. Some try to frame this as an issue that matters only to the people who own mansions on Marina Blvd. but that's not so. I myself live with my husband in a one-bedroom apartment in the neighborhood. And when we walk along the path beside the water in front of Marina Green, we meet people from around the city and across the world who come to enjoy the open water vista and world class views. I have a friend who drives over from Russian Hill to exercise her hurt leg on the flat walkway, and I often see people in wheelchairs, pushing walkers, or carrying canes on the path. My estimate is that 300 family groups a day use that path (plus hundreds more on the one next to Marina Blvd.) Some park beside the water and never even leave their cars. All want to see the fresh and lively open water, marine traffic, wildlife, and activity on the Bay. No one is trying to get closer to locked gates and "keep out" signs and "parking for boat owners only" signs and stagnant water and the tangle of masts and mess of pumping equipment that you see when you walk beside St. Francis Yacht Harbor, which the proposed harbor would extend until it completely encloses and strangles Marina Green, cutting it off from the Bay. That open water promenade was designed by the best architects in the country for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition and World Fair. It was designed to provide respite from the bustle of the fair, and it's been doing just that for more than 100 years. Talk about an excellent design! The riprap and water beside the walkway is home to all manner of wildlife. I've personally seen a red octopus, eels, seals, otters, crabs, a variety of diving ducks and birds, and human swimmers in that space. This irreplaceable resource should be historically preserved so it can never be taken away from the public and wildlife inhabitants to be turned over to private boat owners in order to provide a revenue source for Rec & Park. The RPD needs to find another way to make money that doesn't involve destroying an historic, beloved, and much used public walkway and ecologically delicate and thriving waterfront space. Those are my views. The people who spoke at the meeting brought up many more points and questions. Here are several I wrote down. • Why doesn't the new harbor honor East Harbor's original promise to serve small and working class boat owners?• The walkway serves disabled people. The proposed shallow water basin plan and kayak launch (the RPD plan for Gashouse Cove) does not. How do you justify that? • Will the free parking be taken away from the public and given to boat owners? • Why is the boat harbor being presented as a done deal? Is it a done deal? • Why were only homes within 1,000 feet of Gashouse Cove notified of public hearings when the entire city is affected and the most affected area is in front of Marina Green? • Why have I never heard of this plan until I got a flyer from Keep the Waterfront Open? Why is the RPD steamrolling this plan? • Where did you get the idea there's a demand for big boat slips? I have a boat in East Harbor and don't approve. • How do we voice our disagreement? • How can our district be represented when our supervisor is recusing herself? • Why is a public good being traded off to private boat owners? • Why is a public good being traded off for financial income? • If a boat dock was part of the settlement, were other locations considered? If so, where were they? Why were they discarded? • Why do you think the public will want to hang out in the shallow basin when 85% of the toxins will not be removed? •The marina you're replacing (East Harbor in Gashouse Cove) has no boats in it. Why do you portray it as a loss of income if you don't build a new boat harbor? What is your current income from East Harbor? •Moving the fuel dock and its tanks is a terrible idea that puts the whole community at risk. Putting the fuel dock in the middle of West Harbor puts it in the middle of the chaos, tidal action, wind action, etc., endangering the police, fire, and every other boat owner who needs fuel. Why wasn't I, the fuel dock owner for 50 years, asked my opinion of this plan? •I'm a longtime tenant in East Harbor and I like the protected cove there. It's windy where R&P wants to put the new harbor--it's not a nice place to have a boat. Is putting the boats back in East Harbor an option? •Two options were originally presented--move or rebuild. Why was the rebuild never presented to the public? Why has it suddenly changed? •Is there a connection between the new project and the closure of the outfall at Pierce St.? (RPD answers no.) Why is this project even being considered when the sewage problem hasn't been fixed? With Pierce closed even more sewage will come out of Laguna into the proposed public rec area. •Had to find out from a neighbor about the toxins. Why hasn't there been more transparency? It's hard to connect the dots. •Have you shared the pro forma of your project? How much do you expect to make on the new boat harbor? I can't imagine the net operating margin is fantastic. There are other ways you can invest that money to make more of a return without taking away this world class view from the public. •If it was in the settlement agreement that you must have boats, why can't the city attorney and PG&E amend that agreement? •Why isn't PG&E cleaning out the residue? Who agreed to this? Who are the 10-20 magical dealmakers who made this settlement? Why not make a new settlement? Don't monetize every square inch of the city! •How much of the budget is being spent on the breakwater and marina? Isn't the whole point of the settlement money to clean the cove? •How will the wave organ be protected? Why do you have to build so many slips when half of East Harbor is vacant? If you need more money to fund dredging, I heard the wait list is ineffectively managed. There are other ways to make money. •Why fill the triangle with amenities? It's not big enough for all you have planned. •Why not improve the current kayak launching space which is never used? Why build a new one? •Why not create an online mechanism for people to vote? •Why have you let everything go to seed? Why the lack of maintenance in East Harbor? Why not use the money to remediate the problem? Why is the focus on everything else except the actual problem (toxins in the cove)? Please do as much remediation as you can and then put back as many boat slips as you can. This is a bad design with moving the gas docks, creating congestion and making a mess. •This looks more like an engineering project than a design project. This spot is very much a focal point and attraction for tourists. Where are the design elements? We should treat our waterfront like they do in Denmark and other world class cities. •Why isn't the 1000-foot open water promenade historically preserved, since it was built in 1915 for the world fair? Who owns the waterfront? What gives RPD the right to take it away from the public and hand it over to private boat owners to finance RPD? Why is the settlement money not being spent on what it was meant for--cleaning out Gashouse Cove? •Why wasn't India Basin considered for a new boat harbor? Why shouldn't they share the revenue sharing burden? The burden should not all be on north harbor which is the crown jewel. •I heard for years that they were going to clean out Gashouse Cove but never heard about the new boat harbor until two months ago. You say it's baked into the settlement agreement? Why didn't we hear this sooner? •Why aren't there visitor docks? As you can see, a lot of people have a lot of passion about this plan--all of it negative. I hope and pray you will be able to stop RPD from ruining the waterfront in front of Marina Green.