10 reasons why the Clipper Cove Megayacht Marina is a bad idea

An open letter to the Supervisors of the City of San Francisco:

Dear San Francisco Supervisors,

Tomorrow, Monday, April 30, there is a hearing on the proposed marina at Clipper Cove on Treasure Island.

You’ve probably heard from a number of different constituents, each presenting their perspective on the proposed marina. I’d like to briefly sum up all the reasons I’ve heard about why this proposed marina expansion is a bad idea. I hope you find this helpful.

  • Child safety. The proposed marina will occupy the less-windy western portion of Clipper Cove. This presents a safety risk for the hundreds of SFUSD students participating in the Set, Sail, and Learn STEM program every year because they will have to sail in windier conditions that put them at risk of capsizes leading to hypothermia, and concussions from flogging sails and the poles they are attached to. They will also be at risk of being run over by massive yachts, with large propellers, that are leaving and entering the marina; this is like co-locating a playground and a semi-truck stop.
  • Ecological impact. The proposed marina will negatively impact the growth of eelgrass and all the species that depend on it, including fish. With 300+ large yachts, there is bound to be some fuel leakage into the cove that will hurt the Clipper Cove ecosystem.
  • Gentrification. The annual Dragon Boat Festival was evicted from Clipper Cove to help clear the way for the proposed marina. We gave up a major piece of our city’s cultural fabric to rent marina slips to 300 millionaires.
  • Marina business viability. The marina slips range from 40 to 80 feet, to accommodate yachts ranging in price from $1,000,000 to $7,000,000. People that can afford these kinds of yachts don’t dock them in cold San Francisco Bay. They dock them in warmer venues such southern California and the Caribbean and fly to their yachts. What Candlestick Park was to stadiums, this marina will be to yachts. There’s a real possibility that the marina will fail as a business and the city will be stuck holding the bill.
  • City budget impact. Despite the fact that Clipper Cove doesn’t have waves that impact a large yacht — it was originally built to land seaplanes — the marina proposal includes a floating dock called a “wave attenuator”. This is likely to lead to constant silting that requires constant dredging of the harbor that can cost millions of dollars. The marina developers have committed to dredging a narrow channel that takes up about 5% of the cove. The other 95% of the cove would need to be dredged by the city. That money could be spent in much better ways.
  • Retail impact. Small businesses will benefit from major events like the Dragon Boat Festival, which bring in roughly 50,000 people, and the continual flow of thousands of visitors for community sailing, STEM programs, and more. Studies show that yachts are only used about once a month; this means less revenue for small retailers, and lower retail tax revenues.
  • Olympic inspiration. Recently, US Sailing, the sports national governing body, set up FAST — Facility for Advanced Sailing Training — on Treasure Island as our nation’s premier Olympic training facility. The same high winds that make the bay a terrible place for yachting are excellent for preparing Olympic athletes. The vision of FAST is to have young San Franciscans be inspired by Olympians to accomplish their dreams. But that can’t happen if Set, Sail, and Learn can’t be run out of Clipper Cove.
  • Community recreation. Treasure Island residents will be better served by a cove they can actually use, whether kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, sailing, or swimming.
  • Potential evictions. The marina developers claim they’ll grandfather in existing liveaboards — marina residents who live on their boats — into staying in the new marina at the same rate they pay today. These liveaboards are on smaller boats, typically 25 to 35 feet, which cost a few tens of thousands of dollars to purchase, i.e., very affordable housing. If the marina does grandfather as promised, it will further hurt their business viability. If they don’t grandfather, it will lead to evictions from affordable housing.
  • On-demand economy. This one’s a bit esoteric, but bear with me. People, especially younger demographics, are moving away from big purchases to things they can rent on-demand. People are buying fewer cars and using other transportation options like Uber and Lyft. Given this, it’s likely that consumer behavior will drive people to buy fewer boats and instead rent them on an as-needed basis. Olympic Circle Sailing Club in Berkeley may well be the way of the future. For this reason, a megayacht marina is geared to the consumer behavior patterns of the 20th century, not that of the this century. Overall, this reduces long term business viability.
  • Integrity. I’d like to close by addressing the elephant in the room: one of the backers of this marina is Darius Anderson, a developer, lobbyist and fundraiser for many democratic party politicians. For this reason, it might be politically difficult for you to oppose this marina. But with such an array of factors against this marina, if you still vote in favor, as voters we will know that your alliances do not sit with the people of San Francisco — and we will not forget come election time.

Thank you for time and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Al Sargent

San Francisco

Occasional thoughts on tech, sailing, and San Francisco