The chance of a public marina remaining at Pete’s Harbor after its conversion into 411 waterfront high-rises — a demand by opponents and a concession by the developer — is now lost because the state forced owner Paula Uccelli to terminate leases of the outer waterway, according to her spokesman.
As of June 21, Uccelli gave notice to end her 28-year lease with the State Lands Commission for the outer harbor, an area developer Paul Powers had agreed to keep as public slips if Redwood City officials approve the application. Uccelli said she had little choice because the commission issued a breach of contract, ordered her to make millions of dollars in capital improvements within 60 days and claimed she had not provided timely notice of her husband’s 2005 death.
“At this junction, the State Lands Commission has made it literally impossible to maintain the outer harbor and has in all likelihood needlessly ruined any prospect of a future public marina at Pete’s Harbor,” Uccelli said in a prepared statement.
Pete Uccelli opened the 21-acre harbor in 1958 and the quirky boat-dwelling community became a Peninsula landmark. Uccelli planned to sell her land and transfer the outer harbor lease to Powers for his planned development. However, as news of the pending sale broke and Uccelli evicted tenants, opponents fought back against the proposal and questioned the State Lands Commission about her right to do so under the existing lease terms which called for a commercial marina. Powers attempted to split the difference by agreeing to public slips and even financial compensation to move remaining tenants in return for the opposing groups to drop their efforts. No agreement was reached on that matter.
The irony now, said Uccelli spokesman Adam Alberti, is that by their efforts to stave off the proposal they actually killed the possibility of protecting the public marina they really wanted.
“They are essentially complicit with the state and ultimately that results in no marina,” Alberti said.
With a public marina near certainly off the table, Adam Alberti said Uccelli is still pursuing sale of the property.
The unknown is how the loss will affect the pending development proposal. The City Council sent the original plan back to the Planning Commission in May because the inclusion of the public marina and added amenities like parking constituted a significant enough amendment to warrant reconsideration of the approved permit.
The office of developer Paul Powers of the Pauls Corporation declined comment on anything concerning Pete’s Harbor.
A spokeswoman for opposition group Save Pete’s Harbor did not return an inquiry for comment on the lease termination. However, Alison Madden who represents a different faction and filed the lawsuit attempting to halt the evictions, said there is no certainty the state would not lease the land to another bidder, especially when the new development will provide public access.
If the lease is legally terminated, the commission could theoretically consider a new application, said Sheri Pemberton, chief of external affairs for the State Lands Commission.
Pemberton said the commission had just received the termination notice Monday and legal staff is currently reviewing it. She could not speculate on whether there is still flexibility to reach a different resolution to continue the lease with Uccelli.
“What I know is that the commission did issue a letter two months ago of default and that letter followed a lot of efforts and items outlined as a default of the lease that have not been cured,” she said.
The release of the leases is the culmination of three acrimonious decades between the Uccellis and the state over Pete’s Harbor, according to her attorney Ted Hannig. In 1981, the state tried seizing the property, including that owned by the Uccellis, but a countersuit and grassroots effort prevailed. The land, short of the outer waterway, was deeded to Uccelli and the outer harbor was placed on a 49-year renewable lease.
Uccelli said the couple never received invoices but deposited 28 years of rent in a bank account until last September when she went to Sacramento to personally settle the rent dispute. Months later, she was threatened with termination of the lease unless she paid $406,253.24 in rent and interest. Uccelli paid, despite disputing the amount, to protect the lease but more complications with the state arose in March when it learned of her plan to transfer it to Powers, according to Alberti.
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