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Pete’s Harbor sale stalled as parties wait for state decision

By Kate Abbott | 11 Mar 2013

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Only a handful of boats remain in the inner harbor at the Pete’s Harbor marina. The owner granted some liveaboards extra time to finalize moving arrangements. (Photo: Kate Abbott / Peninsula Press)

Police were called to Pete’s Harbor, a small public marina in Redwood City, in early February to settle a dispute between former tenants and construction workers. The incident was the latest in a series of escalating tensions since the city’s planning commission unanimously approved a plan to privatize the marina and construct new housing, displacing some 100 boater-residents.

Current owner of the harbor, Paula Uccelli, 71, is attempting the sell it to a Denver-based development group as she retires from running the Harbor. The group, the Pauls Corp., submitted plans to the city, to construct 411 luxury apartment units. So Uccelli terminated the leases of mobile home park tenants and boaters, known as “liveaboards,” most of whom were evicted on Jan. 15.

A group called “Save Pete’s Harbor” filed an appeal of the planning commission’s October decision, which the City Council agreed to hear on Jan. 28. However, the status of the sale and proceeding construction is in limbo after various parties raised questions of land ownership, and the city council has postponed the appeal after obtaining approval from both parties.

“This is a sort of chess game, where one thing has to happen before the other,” liveaboard tenant Leslie Webster said. “Really we’re all in limbo. The people who moved are not very happy they did so. We really shouldn’t have been evicted until everything was in place.”

The marina consists of two parts: the inner and outer harbor. Though Uccelli owns the inner harbor, the California State Lands Commission leased the outer portion decades ago. For the Pauls Corp. to assume control of the outer harbor, the lands commission would have to approve a transfer of at least one lease. If they rejected the transfer, and therefore the sale, that would halt the entire project.

“Neither Mrs. Uccelli, who is currently occupying the marina, nor the developer, who plans to buy the marina, has filed an application for transfer of the leases,” Sheri Pemberton, the State Lands Commission chief of external affairs said in early February.

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A community garden and parking lot are blocked off to make way for new construction. (Kate Abbott / Peninsula Press)

The Pauls Corp. did not return several phone calls or an email requesting comment.

Though boaters were expected to leave Pete’s Harbor last month, some were granted extensions due to mechanical problems with their boats. Other tenants were anchored in protest of the sale.

“It’s in our interest to resolve the issues sooner rather than later,” Adam Alberti, spokesman for Uccelli, said. “We were disappointed about the delay, but we understand these things happen.

“Ultimately what has been more relevant to us has been dealing with the fact that there are a number of former tenants who overstayed their leases,” he added. “We’re working diligently on how to resolve those issues to the extent that we can assist people in finding alternative locations to house their boats.”

Last month, construction workers attempted to perform maintenance work on some of the docks in the outer harbor but were met with resistance by some remaining boaters. Lawyers for Uccelli and leaders of Save Pete’s Harbor were called, and one resident reportedly threw the workers’ equipment into the water to halt further construction on the docks. Then the police were summoned.

“In the interim, the harbor is being upgraded; there’s a number of items that need to be addressed to make it an up-to-date facility,” Alberti said. “They are attempting to move forward with maintenance and a restoration plan.”

Pemberton would not comment on whether preemptive construction on state lands’ property would be subject to any penalties.

“We’re waiting to see what the state decides, or if the applicant revises its plan or the appeal is withdrawn,” City Planning Manager Blake Lyon said. The Planning Commission has prepared a report for the City Council to review when the appeal is eventually heard.

“The issues need to be resolved with the state before the city states it position,” Lyon said, adding the City Council has tentatively scheduled the appeal hearing for May 6. Uccelli hasn’t said whether she will take legal action against the remaining protesting tenants in the meantime.

“Are people going to be safe there until May? Should they pay rent? Who they should pay it to?” Webster asked. “It’s not one day at a time, it’s one hour at a time. Things do change every hour, and you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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