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Winds of change at Clipper Cove

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Clipper Cove is seen from above on Treasure Island on Aug. 17, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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The ascendancy of President Donald Trump has validated and normalized the politics of greed in Washington, D.C., while turning the White House into a strategic asset in the Trump business empire. And the effects appear to be rippling across the country, all the way to San Francisco. While San Francisco is no stranger to greed-driven political deals, the latest entrant to the political arena, a luxury mega-marina proposal by local political powerhouse Darius Anderson, is a stunningly audacious asset grab, one worthy of President Trump himself.

For his scheme, Anderson has targeted San Francisco’s largest and most-valuable open water cove. Clipper Cove lies next to the Bay Bridge, cradled between the arms of Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island. Widely regarded as one of the most well-protected and scenic small-boat harbors on the West Coast, Clipper Cove is a San Francisco gem.

The cove is also home to San Francisco’s only community sailing center, as well as a sailing/science STEM program that each year puts 1,500 fourth graders from San Francisco public schools onto the Bay. For most of these students, these classes are their first time on the Bay; for many, these classes are their first time being on water.

Unfortunately, the very qualities that make Clipper Cove a stellar attraction for small boat recreation also make it a prime location for a luxury marina. Clipper Cove is fully protected from the intense chop of the Central Bay and lies tucked away from the push and pull of the Bay’s notorious tidal currents. It also opens up to a stunning view of the new Bay Bridge that already beckons tourists by the busload every day.

Late last month, the Treasure Island Development Authority heard Anderson’s plan to demolish the existing small-boat marina in Clipper Cove and replace it with a sprawling luxury marina dedicated exclusively to very large yachts running 40 to 80 feet in length. If you happen to have been in the market for a boat recently, you may realize that this is million-dollar yacht territory.

As if to add insult to injury, a feasibility study released in April by the California Division of Boating and Waterways revealed that Anderson intends to rent out slips for tenants who wish to live on their boats for the princely sum of $3,300 a month, a rate three-times the highest live-aboard rate of any nearby marina and so exorbitant that the state noted it may be illegal under state law.

The footprint of Anderson’s marina would take over one third of the cove area and would lie across the heart of the cove in the calm waters, where youth learn to sail and recreational boaters anchor-out to spend the weekend.

The Treasure Island Sailing Center, which hosts the STEM classes for the San Francisco Unified District, has repeatedly spelled out the negative impacts of this plan, including blocking beginning sailors from the inner cove entirely and reducing the depth and range of the STEM program. The SFUSD science department has spoken out against the plan, as have 23 fourth-grade teachers, the Sierra Club, Bay Keeper and the U.S. Sailing Association, the governing body for the sport. Giving away a third of the cove to a private luxury marina has been likened to giving away a third of Golden Gate Park to a private luxury resort.

Nevertheless, Anderson’s plan was endorsed by the TIDA board of directors — which also voted to give $6 million in rent credits to the developers — and the plan is now is on its way to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where it may find a more critical reception.

In normal times, one might expect such a plan to hit a speed bump, if not a brick wall, at the Board of Supervisors. But these are no longer normal times. And how this plan fares at the board may tell us how much the times have changed, even here in San Francisco.

Hunter Cutting lives in San Francisco and is a parent volunteer with Save Clipper Cove. His two sons learned to sail at the Treasure Island Sailing Center in Clipper Cove, and his oldest son recently graduated from Mission High and now sails for his college team.

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