Harbor District resists proposed county takeover

REDWOOD CITY — County Harbor District personnel shot back Thursday, questioning a report by an independent committee that suggests the county might run the district more efficiently.

The report by the county Local Agency Formation Committee, which has oversight of city boundaries and special districts, found that harbor services could be provided in a more cost-effective manner by the county. The report went on to say that only a limited number of taxpayers benefit from the harbor district, which receives an estimated $2.5 to $3 million in county property taxes annually.

Whether, in fact, harbor services could be provided at a cost savings to taxpayers isn’t borne out in the report, however, county Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell said.

“We think the public is being well served and cost effectively served by what we do,” Grenell said.

He worries that if the county takes on the responsibility of running Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay and Oyster Point in South San Francisco, capital improvements and regular maintenance might suffer, as has happened in San Francisco and Sonoma County.

Tens of thousands of people in and out of the county visit and do business at the piers each year. From residents who come to buy fresh fish off the boats, to windsurfers, to charter boaters and commercial fishermen, the county’s harbors serve the entire Bay Area and beyond, Grenell said.

While he wouldn’t rule out a county takeover, President of the Board of Supervisors and LAFCo board member Jerry Hill said he would have to see a detailed analysis of the economic benefits before he’d support such a plan.

“I think it is something we should think about and if others can provide the services better and cheaper, then we should seriously look at that option,” Hill said.

Julian McCurrach, chairman of the Princeton Citizens Advisory Committee and Princeton-by-the-Sea resident, called a county takeover an “incredibly bad idea,” saying the county is poorly run as is.

“I guess I kind of agree with the folks who think this is a power grab where the county is looking for a revenue stream,” said Tom Mattusch, a charter boat owner at Pillar Point and founding member of the Coast Side Fishing Club.

The County Local Agency Formation Committee will take up the contentious issue on Wednesday in the county supervisors’ chambers at 2:30 p.m. at the Hall of Justice.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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