After paying rent for nearly a decade in South San Francisco, the San Mateo County Harbor District Commission voted Wednesday to return its headquarters to Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay.
The commission unanimously approved a purchase agreement for property in El Granada with the intent of moving its administrative offices back to the coast.
It owns Pillar Point Harbor and had shared a small 2,400-square-foot building with the Harbor Patrol for nearly 40 years before deciding in 2004 it was too cramped for staff to coexist, said Commissioner Sabrina Brennan.
Through a joint powers agreement with South San Francisco, the district has a role at Oyster Point Marina; but she’s thrilled the commissioners opted to focus on the financial longevity of the district, Brennan said.
“I’m very pleased with the unanimous decision to return [the] Harbor District management back to the coastside,” Brennan wrote in an email. “The Harbor District owns Pillar Point Harbor and the city of South San Francisco owns Oyster Point Marina. It makes sense for the Harbor District to invest in a facility it owns and buy an office building near that primary facility.”
In October 2013, the district’s multi-year lease in South San Francisco was due for renewal so the board felt it was an appropriate time to consider other options, General Manager Peter Grenell said.
After months of discussion, the district will purchase the 8,050-square-foot, three-story building at 504 Alhambra Ave. in El Granada for $1.8 million, which it will pay in cash, Grenell said.
Since the day it moved from Pillar Point Harbor, the goal had always been to find another location on the coast, said Robert Bernardo, president of the Harbor District Board of Commissioners.
“The move to the South San Francisco Office, the Oyster Point Business Park, that was supposed to be a temporary move that ended up being about a decade. The original intent was to always have a headquarters on the coastside,” Bernardo said. “There’s two primary reasons why this is significant, the first reason is major cost savings; right now the Harbor District pays over $7,000 a month on rent there … number two, while yes we do have a harbor at Oyster Point, or we have Oyster Point Marina, really the bulk of our operations are at Pillar Point. So it makes perfect sense for the headquarters to be located at the heart of the coastside.”
Pillar Point Harbor was the catalyst for the district’s creation decades ago and it’s appropriate for the headquarters to return to the coast, Commissioner Jim Tucker said.
“I’m very excited. We’ve been trying to get back over to the coastside for years,” Tucker said. “It’s more of a psychological feeling. Pillar Point is the harbor of refuge; it’s the harbor that was decided to be the district for San Mateo County so it’s appropriate for us to be there for that.”
Once the district relocates to El Granada, it will be able to host its own meetings instead of having to use South San Francisco City Hall or Sea Crest School in Half Moon Bay, Brennan said. It will also be more accessible to the bulk of the district’s customers, Brennan said.
“Pillar Point Harbor is the Harbor District’s primary facility because it’s the only commercial fishing port in San Mateo County, it’s a Bay Area tourism and recreation destination, it has high slip occupancy, it’s next to [the] world-class surf spot Mavericks, and it provides excellent access to the California Coastal Trail,” Brennan wrote.
Tucker said he and Brennan have both been very eager to secure this new site, which is now under a 30-day due diligence period.
The building will undergo further inspections and the district must retain approval from the state’s Department of Boating and Waterways, which stems from its debt, Tucker said. The district took out a more than $19 million loan in 1997 from the department to help fund construction of its harbor and marina, Grenell said. It will be able to pay off the approximate $7 million remaining earlier than expected, however, it needs approval from the department before it can purchase the El Granada site, Grenell said.
There is no set date for when the district will move its headquarters, but the commission did try to retain some flexibility when it renewed its lease for the South San Francisco offices last year, Grenell said.
If it moves within a year of the renewal, it will owe a $3,000 vacancy fee; if it moves before two years it will owe $1,500, Grenell said.
It may take some time for everything to be finalized and Tucker said he thinks the property may require some construction for it to become more suitable to the district’s needs. The El Granada Sanitary District, another government entity, currently leases a portion of the property for $3,000 and he hopes it will stay after the deed changes hands, Tucker said.
Moving back to the coast has been a long time coming and it’s a relief to see the district making positive changes, Tucker said.
“We’re going to save $100,000 a year in rent. I mean that’s just phenomenal for a district our size,” Tucker said. “It’s an exciting time for the district, we’ve had some rough times as of late, but now this is a very very positive thing and we’re excited about it.”
In other business, the commission voted to hire Brett Ives to serve as its facilitator and help the commission work better with each other. Staff was also directed to list the district’s Post Office Lot in El Granada for lease or possibly sale.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106