Coastal Post Online


November 2001


Anchor-Outs Standing Firm Against Government Intrusion

By David Swinney

From the Richardson Bay Anchorage

For over 150 years, there has been a community of boat dwellers on the Richardson Bay Federal Anchorage, the peaceful but foggy waters off of Sausalito. Since the early 1980s, political decisions have forced many off their boats. At this point in time, as new political decisions add to burdens already imposed against those living upon the Anchorage, a careful examination of the primary policies is needed.

In the August 6th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, Will Travis, Executive Director of Bay Conservation Development Commission (BCDC), wrote to Letters to the Editor. In this letter, he tried to clarify those positions adopted by BCDC's long-standing policies. I would like to add a little more clarity as viewed from the Anchorage.

In a recent video-taped interview of Senator Nicolas Petris, the retired statesman spoke out. As Petris was the co-author of the oft-cited McAteer-Petris Act of 1965, he is the leading authority on the meaning of this bill. Petris reiterated that it was never his bill's intent to have boats categorized as "bayfill", nor was it ever his intent for "BCDC to have activity over vessels."

In an attempt to enlighten the BCDC, a few of us on the Anchorage sent Will Travis and the other Commissioners a copy of the interview. We also sent one to Sen. John Burton-President Pro-Tem of the State Senate. Immediately Senator Burton was able to see that the BCDC's position infringed upon the waterfront culture. He quickly sent off a letter urging BCDC to postpone any action on this issue until next year.

Many of us who live on the Anchorage believe that Commissioner Travis' position will remain the same as it has for the past decades. He chooses to ignore the intent of the law; he chooses to ignore the fact that the BCDC has no authority over boats and should not be calling them "bayfill." It is clear from the intent of the law that what is the BCDC's jurisdiction pertains only to those areas 100 feet inland from the water's shoreline and extends to only 100 feet offshore on open water. The law does not give BCDC jurisdiction extended across all the open waters of the bay, from shore to shore.

For the past twenty-five years, nothing seems to deter the BCDC, (especially Commissioner Travis), from holding to the false jurisdiction that does exist only because they have assigned it to themselves. This gross misinterpretation of law has brought the Commission down a one-way road, always against anyone continuing to live on the Anchorage. It seems that nothing will change this course. However, Travis, mindful of his position, did at least see the wisdom of postponing any action on the enforcement strategy devised against the boats on the Anchorage. Burton had sought this delay.

Let's quote Will Travis' opinion of the status quo. "Under current policies, people who choose to use boats as their primary residences will still be able to do so in houseboat marinas that have facilities to accommodate residents. Sailors who live on their recreational boats overnight, for a weekend or a month during an around the world cruise can continue to do so.

"The long-standing practice of encouraging anchor-out boats to move into marinas as space becomes available will continue. And the Commission will continue to work with local governments to get rid of abandoned boats and anchor-out vessels that are polluting the bay, posing navigational hazards to other boaters or trespassing on someone else's property."

In other words, even though Senator Burton and Senator Petris have inveighed the BCDC's misrepresentation of the McAteer-Petris Act, the BCDC still sees its infringement upon the waterfront culture as its rightful mission. They will continue to redefine the English language and to redefine and mangle state law whenever it justifies their unconstitutional policies and action. To define boats as bayfill-just whom are they kidding?

I think that the point here is that BCDC knows that they do not have the authority or jurisdiction over the Federal Anchorage of Richardson Bay. But they are willing to go to any absurd lengths to gain the authority that they so badly desire.

The "local governments" that Travis refers to in this case are the County of Marin, together with the Cities of Sausalito, Mill Valley, Belvedere, and Tiburon, in their governing body of the Joint Powers of Richardson Bay.

Formed in part to provide an overall policy framework for dealing with the anchor-out situation, the Richardson Bay Special Area Plan (RBSAP) was adopted jointly by the Commission and the Joint Powers. The RBSAP is the outcome of five technical reports titled 1) Water Quality 2) Aquatic and Wildlife Resources 3) Status of Shoreline and Water Uses 4) Sediment Hydraulics 5) Regulations Report; all prepared by BCDC and staff. There was a Steering Committee composed of one Marin County Supervisor, one Councilmember from each of the four cities, three members of BCDC and an Advisory Committee of over fifty individuals who supposedly represented local residents, groups, organizations, and public agencies. (I can only wonder how these individuals were chosen to represent the public's input.)

A Negative Declaration and Initial Study was done by Marin County with Mr. Blanchfield of BCDC. From all this BCDC contrivance and self-created information arose the RBSAP, the findings and policies that guide the BCDC, the County and the cities in authorizing the uses and development of Richardson Bay.

So in 1985, the RBRA was created by the Joint Power agreements, thus providing the RBRA's governing body with the authority to "maintain and implement the provisions of the RBSAP including the regulations of and the undertaking of enforcement actions."

That's how the RBRA's governing body became the Joint Powers the Joint Powers created the RBSAP, which was based upon that Ersatz study, and information provided by BCDC. (Yeah, right, how does this picture look to you?) The BCDC fails to recognize that no matter how much time or money that they put into their efforts, The Richardson Bay Anchorage remains a Federal Anchorage. No matter what, the BCDC cannot supersede the Federal Government.

In a July 2001 article from Marin Scope about the Commission's removal plans, Travis stated "If the Commission doesn't approve it, things will continue; if they do approve it, things will continue the course that has been underway for decades."

In all of the above discussion, I have focused mainly upon the effect of BCDC upon the Anchorage. However, my ongoing focus will be not only that situation, but also the many deals that BCDC has made with developers, and with the County and the four cities that go to them for their permits.

Why is it that the same agency that is so concerned with several handfuls of boats has almost never denied a developer anything sought to build and develop upon the Bay's shoreline? Strawberry Spit, once a haul-out for seals, has become a Realtor's dream. Currently, construction at Galilee Harbor has allowed that harbor to "mitigate" oil and diesel seepage into the Bay. The new construction at Galilee also involves lowering that site because of the removal of the drydocks (which were actually only partially removed from the County, as an expression of support for Galilee).

Consider the fact that Galilee Harbor's Marine Service facility will be used to supposedly "remedy" the effects of the harbor's past maintenance and/or replacement of unauthorized fill in the Bay. Furthermore, it will allow for the construction and use of facilities that will form part of a comprehensive program to address the problem of the "illegal" long-term mooring of residential vessels in Richardson Bay. (I need to mention here that Marin County Supervisor, Annette Rose, is a resident of Galilee Harbor as well as a BCDC Commissioner.)

Often those affected by the BCDC wonder if the time will ever come for the Joint Powers to rewrite the RBSAP, doing so with the input of the Anchorage as well as all facets of the Public. Especially those of us who desire to preserve Richardson Bay for the scenic, natural and aesthetic values that were supposedly the original values of the RBSAP.

The State Lands Commission acting jointly with the Resource Agency, the Office of Planning and Research and local agencies that are involved with unconveyed school and tide and submerged lands and which has identified such lands possessing unique environmental values, scenic, historical, natural and aesthetic concerns of statewide interest, and upon identification of such lands shall adopt regulations necessary to assure permanent protection (see Public Resource Code: Section 6370). Also note Section 6371 Public Prohibition against sale or lease of lands concerning exceptions.

Until submission of the report required in Sec. 6370 the State Land's Commission shall not sell any lands under their jurisdiction unless they have made a finding at a public meeting. This finding must indicate that such a sale be necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state; or a finding that such land would not meet the environmentally unique lands indicated in Sec. 6370. It is also stated that the sale of such lands shall not be applicable to settlements of title or boundary provisions, problems by the commission and it prohibits exchanges therewith.

I contend that Richardson Bay definitely meets the unique lands' criteria. However, a huge boundary problem exists because right in the middle of all this unique state land lies the Federal Anchorage. This Anchorage has always been a safe haven for vessels from anywhere in the world, with no time limits on navigation. Examining the history of Maritime Law, one realizes that anchor-outs are completely legal and are just doing what mariners have been doing since almost the beginning of recorded history. Only the absurdity of the BCDC has reduced this Anchorage to being "bayfill."

Propaganda spouted by BCDC portrays anchor-outs as thieves, drug addicts, and illegal unauthorized polluters of the Bay. This is a direct attempt to dehumanize anchor-outs and show how we must be removed for the health, welfare, and safety of all the people statewide. Never mind that the average anchor-out is careful to bring their waste onto shore and dispose of it properly. Never mind that the sewage lines in many areas of two of the four cities empty directly into an offshore disposal where the local authorities hope outgoing tides will remove the human waste. Is BCDC concerned with this questionable disposal of a fifty-thousand-person sewage problem, or with the human waste output of some several dozens of anchor-outs?

If we were "illegal", "unauthorized", or any of the above accusations, we would no longer exist. It would not have taken BCDC decades to attempt its elimination and removal of members of this community. At a recent BCDC hearing, Annette Rose stated words to the effect that it has been at least four years since any anchor-out caused a problem for anyone else.

BCDC's budget intended for this summer's hoped-for removal of anchor-outs was $163,000. When one examines the extremely marginal lifestyle of this community, the thought does occur that this money, if given to the anchor-outs directly, could make each of them feel like a king or a queen. What if BCDC been successful in forcing this community back onto shore? Then perhaps some of these self-sustaining people would be totally homeless. Such action would cause further huge budget deficits locally, as local police and social workers would then be applying significant resources to resolving those problems that occur when even one person is homeless and on the streets.

The fact that the anchor-out community is still viable, that we haven't been eliminated or removed, in itself proves that we are not breaking any laws. That leaves me wondering, what does BCDC and the Joint Powers really want? What is their ultimate agenda? How can they justify spending so much money and time trying to rid the Bay of a small group of people? Is this because they have their minds set on something much, much bigger? What precedence of jurisdiction and authority are they hoping to mold? And is their intent to perhaps extend their authority into something like The Golden Gate National Recreational Area?

It is time that We the People stop this agency from its abuse of power. Remember, it is everyone's constitutional duty to fight corrupt government. Not just corrupt government overseas-but wherever we may witness it, including within the boundaries of these United States.

Those of us on the Federal Anchorage will continue to do everything possible to expose and stop the greed-driven, development-oriented government agencies that are abusing their elected and appointed positions to manipulate the Public Trust for the personal gain of the inner circle. It is now time for everyone to take a stand against the negative force that steals our Freedom, Our Right to Choose, and Our Peace of Mind.


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