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Harbor Equity Group

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FAQ

A non-profit corporation formed in 1990 for the purpose of representing Waldo Point Harbor  residents

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

​We hope that you will find the answer to many of your questions about the WPH permit process and various reconfiguration plans here. If you have additional questions please send them to us at ...

For general information about Floating Homes visit the FHA web site. What is the latest news on the Reconfiguration Plan?
 
The plans
 
In September 1999 Waldo Point Harbor re-submitted a reconfiguration plan to the county by which they intended to address the permit violations which have been cited by BCDC, and which are the subject of the litigation and are part of the litigation settlement agreement.

The WPH plan was reviewed by the residents and by HEG and FHA and was found to be extremely harmful to the residents of the five authorized Waldo Point Harbor docks. Also, as with other plans, it was drafted and submitted without consulting the affected residents.

For details of both plans see the WPH Reconfiguration Plan pages of this site. BCDC and other agencies have responded with their reaction to the WPH proposal. A joint FHA and HEG committee worked with the residents of all the WPH docks and the CoOp's representatives to create a new proposal for an alternative plan that would lessen the negative impact of the WPH plan. This became the Community Development Plan, which was submitted to the county as an alternative to the WPH proposal. The CDP was found in the EIR to be the preferred Alternative and was accepted by WPH, the County and BCDC.
 
When did Waldo Point Harbor get  new BCDC and County permits?
 
2004

Why was this web site developed?
 
Why this site: Because of the complex and often unique nature of some of the problems faced by WPH residents, and because WPH has not done a satisfactory job of informing it's berth holders, we felt that a web site such as this one would be the best way to keep WPH residents promptly and accurately informed of developments specific to our community. Residents without Internet access at home can access it at the nearest public library branch.
 
FACT SHEET

HARBOR EQUITY GROUP was formed in 1989 by a group of homeowners residing in Waldo Point Harbor, a floating home marina within the Richardson Bay area of San Francisco Bay, near Sausalito. The organization, a non-profit, tax-exempt mutual benefit corporation, was formed because of the many regulatory problems caused by the failure of the harbor owners to meet the conditions of their state and county permits to operate the marina, failures that seriously threaten the health and safety of residents, reduced home values and ultimately put the very existence of these homes at risk.

DEFINITIONS
A "FLOATING HOME" is a legally-permitted residence that has no means of self-propulsion, is permanently moored in a legal marina, is connected to shoreside utilities and services and is subject to all applicable building and safety codes. Floating homes can range from as small as an 800 square-foot studio to the 4,000 square-foot wonder built by craftsmen flown from Japan to complete the authentic tatami rooms. Between these extremes lie a wide variety of craft, both simple and grand, either very nautical or more typical of land-locked structures.

A “HOUSEBOAT” or “ANCHOR-OUT” is not the same as a “FLOATING HOME.” Houseboats are self-propelled vessels that have no permanent mooring. The “anchor-outs” in Richardson Bay are a variety of houseboats anchored out from shore that are not legally-permitted. They do not have occupancy permits from Marin County, they are in violation of state “public-trust” requirements and most do not comply with building codes or sewage disposal requirements (most, in fact, deposit their raw sewage directly into the bay and the tidelands).

THE GATES COOPERATIVE, which is located within the Waldo Point Harbor marina property, is intended to be included within the upcoming reconfiguration of the marina. They are to be managed by the Ecumenical Association for Housing and maintained by them for a minimum of 20 years as affordable housing.

THE FLOATING HOMES ASSOCIATION was founded in the mid-1980s to represent the residents of all floating homes marinas in San Francisco Bay. It has been the main force in enacting state laws to protect all floating home residents. It has members in four floating home marinas in Richardson Bay. When it became clear in 1988 that the problems in Waldo Point Harbor, of serious magnitude and growing, were confined to that harbor (no other floating home marina had been charged with being in violation of its permits). It appeared that the owners of Waldo Point intended to resist permit compliance, mainly through multiple legal actions. The Floating Homes Association decided that its limited resources, along with its responsibility to members in other marinas, meant that it could not deal with complex and potentially-litigious problems confined to one marina. Therefore, it encouraged the residents of Waldo Point Harbor to form a marina-specific residents’ group to deal with these problems. Harbor Equity Group was then formed, to address this need.

HARBOR EQUITY GROUP was formed as a nonprofit community association to assure the long-term availability of safe, legal, affordable berths and shoreside services for all the residents of the community at Waldo Point Harbor. It was incorporated on August 20, 1990, as a nonprofit organization, and was granted federal tax-exempt status. It is staffed by member-volunteers.

Membership is open to ALL Waldo Point Harbor residents. The corporation’s accounts are open to all members and its charter and bylaws are available to the public.

WALDO POINT HARBOR

The ownership is a California Limited Liability Company

Lewis E. Cook, Jr., is the CEO and is also a principal of Sequoia Land Investment, which manages other real estate investments. He was also a partner of B and C Management, which is listed as an asset of Pacific Union.

None of the owners reside within the harbor. The relationship is one of absentee landlord, as it relates to the approximately 245 individual homes within the harbor.

THE CREATION OF WALDO POINT HARBOR began in the early 1970s when Donlan Arques, then the owner of property that begins on shore and includes the underwater tidelands, was told by the county that the disorderly, unsewered, unsafe collection of houseboats informally moored on his property was no longer acceptable. He proposed to the county and the recently-formed San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) that he be allowed to develop the area into a legal floating home marina. He applied for and was granted the needed permits, began construction, and, as was required, offered berths on the new docks to the houseboats moored on his property.

The construction of the harbor led to the “houseboat wars” of 1977, where extensive media coverage was provided of the conflict between harbor ownership and squatters. The Marin County Sheriff’s Department, embarrassed by daily headlines, ultimately refused to physically remove anyone from the property.

Many of the houseboat owners moved onto the new, legal docks. Some accepted legal berths and then sold them for tens of thousands of dollars. Those who refused the legal berths formed the nucleus of what is now the Gates Cooperative.

Lewis Cook and William Harlan first leased the property from Arques, taking over the permits and the in-progress construction, and in 1983 bought the property for $1.6 million from Arques.

The then-owners of Waldo Point Harbor, who also owned a majority interest in Pacific Union, one of the largest real estate development and management firms in California, failed to properly and fully complete construction of the harbor as promised when they were granted the state and county permits. In the nearly 20 years since the permits were first granted, no owners have provided for the public trust requirements inherent in all BCDC permits. These requirements encompass open public access to the bay and such shoreline improvements as bike paths and landscaping, sufficient parking and open water with views of the bay from the shore.

BCDC repeatedly gave formal notices to the harbor owners of their failure to comply with the permit. Waldo Point Harbor asked for, and was granted, 10 consecutive annual time extensions to comply with the permit; in that time it made no serious effort to do so. When, after 10 years of inaction, BCDC refused to grant further extensions and demanded that the harbor meet permit requirements, the owners filed suit against the BCDC, Marin County and State Lands Commission, asking for declaratory relief from the terms of their permit. BCDC, finding its lengthy administrative efforts unsuccessful in gaining compliance, filed a cross complaint against the harbor, listing 21 major violations of its permit.

The litigation was the subject of decades of negotiation. In the meantime, the 20-year BCDC permit expired on February 3, 1992. Those suits were eventually settled over time, WPH applied for and received the required State, County and Federal permits, and the harbor is now scheduled for construction designed to remedy all the old, existing problems and violations.

HARBOR EQUITY GROUP PURPOSE

Harbor Equity’s members wish to purchase the marina and operate it for the benefit of the residents, on a non-profit basis. A second, equally-important purpose is to see that the entire harbor is fully code and permit compliant and to preserve 38 units of affordable housing, for perpetuity, if possible. The organization has been incorporated as a non-profit, tax-exempt, mutual benefit legal entity for that purpose.

The association conducted studies in 1990 of the feasibility of making a substantive offer to purchase the harbor from the present owners. This included an assessment of the condition and value of the physical plant, the required short- and long-term maintenance, engineering considerations, financial planning, and so forth. Outside surveyors, appraisers, contractors and other experts have been employed and consulted as needed, but the administration and conduct of the studies are under the control of the members.

If successful in concluding the purchase, the association would secure professional management of the harbor and ensure that it would be operated for the benefit of the residents, in a manner consistent with the terms of its permits and the public trust provisions of the state, including all requirements for public access.

The operation of the harbor and the providing of services to residents would be done on a non-profit basis, with fees limited to the amounts required to perform maintenance, repair and replacement. We have determined that the harbor can be brought up to code and into permit compliance while holding rents stable.

Financial calculations and discussions with lenders found the purchase project was feasible. In October 1991, Harbor Equity offered the owners $8.5 million for the harbor.

Harbor owners, through their attorney, rejected this good-faith offer outright, stating that they had absolutely no interest in selling. Unfortunately, it is difficult to create an incentive for the current owners to sell, as the harbor, as it has been run, is hugely profitable, with its major expense being legal fees.

Harbor Equity is, and will continue, representing the interests of all the members of the community in discussions and negotiations with the BCDC, the office of the Attorney General, and Marin County agencies.

HEG also represents the interests of all members of the community in discussions and negotiations with harbor owners. These discussions will include, but not be limited to: terms of leases, berth rentals, maintenance, health and safety problems, BCDC and Marin County permits and regulations and harbor rules and regulations, in accordance with the provisions of the California Floating Home Residency Law (Chapter 2.7 of Title 2 of Part 2 of Division 2 of the Civil Code). These activities will continue to be conducted by the members, with the employment of outside legal services.

This floating home residential area is internationally-known, and visitors from across the U.S., and from many other countries, including France, Germany and Australia come to enjoy the area year-round. The unique, water-oriented lifestyle of the residents of this community is a continuing source of interest. It is the goal of this organization that this, and all public trust uses of the area shall continue unabated, and be improved where possible, with open access provided via safe, secure, well-maintained docks and other areas.

 

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