Pros & cons of the proposed Treasure Island marina

Developer tactics

Treasure Island Enterprises explaining why they should build a megayacht marina that puts kids lives at risk
  • Spent about twenty minutes rehashing agreements made in the 1990s and various marina plans from the past 20 years. I’m assuming they did this to underscore that they’ve been waiting decades to build, to emphasize their willingness to compromise, and to increase the likelihood that anyone opposed to the marina would have to leave the meeting to return to work.
  • Did not, in all this time, compare the current marina’s footprint to that of the proposed marina plan. This would have shown that the current marina is dramatically larger — over four times larger — than the marina currently in place.
  • Did not mention how much the use of Clipper Cove has changed in two decades to become more of a community watersports and education center with over 5000 students participating in the San Francisco Set, Sail & Learn program in Clipper Cove.
  • Did not mention that TIDA is the landlord of both Treasure Island Sailing Center (TISC) and the proposed marina. This meant that TISC can’t push too hard against the marina, for fear of antagonizing their landlord, losing their lease, and getting pushed out of the cove entirely.
  • Misrepresented that there was an agreement between TISC and TIE — there isn’t one. And that this meeting was merely a rubber stamp — not a public hearing. TIE used the word “friends” as in, “I’d like to congratulate our friends at TISC for coming to agreement with us on this development.”

Arguments in favor of the megayacht marina plan

The target market for the proposed marina, and will probably never enter San Francisco Bay
  • Long wait: Plans to develop Clipper Cove have already been in established for 20 years.
  • Scaled back: TIE has scaled back their plan, from taking over nearly all the cove (here’s the 2015 plan), to taking over “only” 32% of Clipper Cove.
  • Existing agreement: TISC has agreed to the marina plan.
  • Channel dredging: Treasure Island Enterprises will dredge the channel leading into the marina.
  • Constant use: People from Treasure Island Yacht Club use Clipper Cove “every day”.
  • They want building jobs, and this project would provide those.
  • The marina is falling apart and needs to be rebuilt.
  • The marina is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); a new harbor would be compliant.
  • There were no redevelopment funds to rebuild the private marina. So what is needed is a private/public partnership to put up funds.

Counterpoints to these arguments

  • Bad ideas don’t get better: Regarding the developers’ 20 year wait: bad ideas aren’t like wine; they don’t improve with age.
  • Still too large: Going from taking over an entire public space to “just” 32% of a public space is still ridiculous.
  • Agreement made under duress: TISC’s hands are tied. They cannot push back too hard against the marina because that could put their own lease at risk.
  • Cove becomes unusably shallow: Developers will not dredge the rest of Clipper Cove, despite the fact that the current marina plan calls for a wave attenuator that may dramatically silt in the cove, similar to the San Francisco Marina, near the Wave Organ, continually fills in with sand. This can happen to the point where the cove becomes a smelly mud flat that kids cannot sail on. Not exactly a nice way to treat your “friends”, as TIE calls TISC. More important, this poses serious — as in potentially fatal — risks to SF kids. More below.
  • Infrequent use: Nothing against Treasure Island Yacht Club, but they don’t use Clipper Cove every day. After probably 30 lunches and dinners at the former Treasure Island Bar and Grill, next door to TIYC, I’ve never once seen the yacht club open.
  • Construction is booming: I want San Francisco’s contractors to have jobs. But we are in one of the city’s biggest building booms ever. And we just had, tragically, thousands of buildings destroyed in the North Bay fires. They should have plenty of work for the foreseeable future.
  • Balanced stakeholder needs: Public/private partnerships need to be a balance of both public and private needs: how to build a profitable marina that sustains itself financially, without destroying a public resource? This feels like a land grab of a public resource.

Arguments against the megayacht marina plan

A few of the 5000 San Francisco kids participating in SFUSD’s Set, Sail and Learn
  • The marina gets built right in the spot where the cove has lighter winds, and flat water, which is currently used for beginning sailing classes. This would force kids into the stronger winds and bigger waves at the east end of the Cove.
  • The wave attenuator that’s part of the marina plan might silt the Cove, just as they have the San Francisco Marina, to the point where the Cove might be too shallow to sail. (Remember, TIE won’t dredge the Cove, and TISC won’t have funds to do so.) This would push the kids outside Clipper Cove, into the main portion of San Francisco Bay, where they would be exposed to high winds, large waves, and strong currents.
  • When kids lack control of their boats, there are a couple of likely scenarios they face. One is capsizing their boat, putting them into 55 degree water and exposing them to a risk of hypothermia.
  • A second issue is when a sailboat’s boom — a stiff aluminum pole hanging from the bottom of one of the sails — swings uncontrollably and hits a kid in the head, causing them to get a concussion, or even get knocked unconscious. This is a serious issue, since the boom can swing as fast as a baseball bat, and is much longer. Combine this with a capsize, and you have a very serious risk to a child.
  • Taking massive yachts through a small cove filled with kids sailing small dinghies is like letting semi trucks drive through a playground. These massive yachts, because they are so high off the water, cannot see anything within about 50 feet of them. And they have massive propellers. So you could very easily have a situation where a mega yacht doesn’t see a child in a dinghy, and runs them down. And, very tragically, there have been situations where motorboats have run over and killed young sailors as they have been cut up by the propeller; one such incident happened last summer. While there are many risks of this marina, this is the one I shudder to think about.
  • The closest hospitals to Clipper Cove are off-island and can take a long time to reach due to Bay Bridge traffic.
Not exactly the world’s greatest cruising grounds


Megayacht marina plan would push kids into the same waters that killed Olympic medalist Andrew Simpson in 2012.


  • Damage to the bow of the yacht as they crash into the dock.
  • Injury to a person walking down the dock, in case the bowsprit of the boat, or its anchor, hits them on the head.
  • Liability for damages related to the above.
  • Damage to dock cleats, as the crew attempts to stop the boat with a quick loop of a dock line around the cleat, similar to how a plane uses its tail hook to stop on an aircraft carrier. This puts a lot of force on the cleats, and may eventually pull the cleats out of the dock, leading to the need to replace the docks.
  • Lack of attractiveness of the Clipper Cove Marina to yacht owners and their captains.




Occasional thoughts on tech, sailing, and San Francisco

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Al Sargent

Al Sargent

Occasional thoughts on tech, sailing, and San Francisco

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