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Clipper Cove marina boondoggle is back

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Clipper Cove is seen from above on Treasure Island on Aug. 17, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Over the holiday break the Mayor’s Office quietly submitted to the Board of Supervisors a proposed 66-year lease to build a controversial private luxury marina in Clipper Cove at Treasure Island. Currently the Cove hosts the sailing programs of the non-profit Treasure Island Sailing Center that put thousands onto the Bay each year, including over 1,500 4 th graders from San Francisco public schools.

Disturbingly, the Mayor’s proposal disregards a stakeholder agreement and Board resolution approved last year that established a set of development guidelines to protect both the public interest and the pocketbooks of City taxpayers.

SEE RELATED: Proposed Treasure Island marina faces hurdles

A feasibility study by the State of California has warned that the proposed private marina is a significant default risk. Under a default, the City could end up saddled with a half-built, money-losing luxury marina taking up public space on Clipper Cove – the largest, best protected open-water cove on the San Francisco shore line.

However, you won’t find any reference to the State study in the City staff report recommending that Supervisors sign the 66-year lease.

The State report also revealed that the developers intend to rent out part of the marina for luxury “live aboard” housing – charging tenants $3,315/month to park and live on their yachts in Clipper Cove. You won’t find any mention of that plan in the City staff report either.

The State found that the marina’s financial projections are wildly off-base.

Among other problems, the state discovered that the developers essentially ignore the cost of maintenance dredging. The State report noted that an early financial projection by the developers pegged the annual cost of maintenance dredging at $375,000/year, but the developers later dropped the figure to $25,000/year without explanation. In contrast, the State notes that that City of San Francisco currently spends $500,000/year on maintenance dredging in the wake of the recent re-development of the San Francisco Marina, without which the entrance to the Marina would fill-in.

SEE RELATED: As Treasure Island marina plans speed forward, sailing center reluctantly jumps aboard

And it gets worse from there. Under the proposed lease, the developers will not be held responsible if their project causes the rest of the Cove to fill in – as has occurredelsewhere around the Bay after construction of other marina projects. In that event the City would lose one of its premier natural resources, and City taxpayers would be on the hook for any dredging to remedy the loss.

New sedimentation also threatens to smother the protected sea grass beds on the south side of the Cove. In an inexplicable twist, City staff recommend that the Supervisors approve the 66-year lease now before the threat is evaluated, arguing that the analysis will be done later.

All of these issues were addressed by the Board resolution approved last year. So, it is surprising that the developers are now trying to work their way around the Board’s direction.

But perhaps it shouldn’t be. Last year, an arbitration panel of state judges ruled that the lead marina developer, Darius Anderson, committed fraud, engaged in double-dealing, and attempted to falsely claim $43 million from a Native American tribe in a North Bay real estate development project gone bad.

Right now, the community is using the public space in the Cove that would be given over to this private marina. Moreover, the dragon boat community, evicted from Clipper Cove to make way for the proposed private marina, would love to return. And a training center is being set up at Clipper Cove for the U.S. Olympic sailing team to prepare for the upcoming Olympic games in Los Angeles.

SEE RELATED: Redesigns surface for marina at Treasure Island’s Clipper Cove

In contrast, the marina would benefit a very narrow and wealthy group. It’s meant to be an amenity for the luxury condo development proposed for Treasure Island.

The sacrifice of public space for a private luxury real estate development sets a very high bar for protecting the public interest. The current proposal from the Mayor’s Office falls far short of that bar, putting the public interest and city taxpayers at risk. This project needs to go back to the drawing board.

Hunter Cutting lives in San Francisco, and his two sons learned to sail on Clipper Cove through the programs of the non-profit Treasure Island Sailing Center.

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