Operators of a Redwood City harbor are battling a cease-and-desist order by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), along with more than $500,000 in proposed fines, despite operating in what the enforcing agency’s executive director described as “an environmentally sound manner.”
Redwood City resident Mark Sanders began the project to construct Westpoint Harbor LLC marina in 1993, believing the South Bay’s boating community was fading. Sanders sunk his energy and own money into constructing a marina that he says is now home to 500 boats, facilities for water sports, 27 acres of new bay surface and almost seven miles of public access that Westpoint Harbor developed.
That progress is now under threat, according to Sanders and his supporters in the boating community. On Thursday, Jan. 18, the BCDC is set to hold a public hearing and possible vote on whether to enforce civil penalties and a cease-and-desist order on the Redwood City marina.
In a letter to local elected officials, BCDC Executive Director Larry Goldzband said enforcement recommendations made last fall have “little to do” with how Westpoint Harbor is operated. Rather, the BCDC accuses Sanders of failing to provide more than 250,000 square feet of public access areas and improvements at the marina as required by a permit Sanders signed in 2003.
“He also has failed to comply with a number of permit conditions intended to prevent or minimize adverse impacts to wildlife, including endangered species found in the adjacent national wildlife refuge, which were imposed in response to comments by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Goldzband said.
Sanders “repeatedly refused” BCDC’s requests to comply with the permit, Goldzband added, leading to a recommendation of enforcement action last fall.
Sanders is fighting the BCDC’s claims, saying he’s been navigating the BCDC permitting process for nearly 30 years and has “consistently taken actions” to protect the Bay environment and promote boating safety.
In a website dedicated to battling the BCDC’s actions, Sanders called the original permit flawed and said BCDC has become dysfunctional and under-staffed in recent years. He charged the agency with stepping up enforcement in order to generate revenue, claiming that a public records request unearthed an internal document by BDCD identifying Westpoint Harbor as a “Big Juicy Case” for potential future enforcement.
Goldzband’s reasons for the enforcement differ. He says BCDC staff met with Sanders or his representatives at least nine times since documenting violations in 2011, as well as Sanders’ former landscape architect, in attempts to encourage permit compliance.
“During this period, BCDC attempted to help Mr. Sanders secure BCDC approval of plans for pathways, signage, landscaping, site furnishings, etc….and offered five separate versions of an amended permit that included deferred deadlines for required access improvements,” Goldzband said.
Sanders “found fault with different aspects of each revision of the amended permit and refused to sign each version,” Goldzband added.
A petition is currently circulating urging the BCDC to stop enforcement.