After the San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Commissioners eagerly made an offer to purchase a property in El Granada to relocate its headquarters back on the coast, but withdrew it last week after finding out the $1.8 million property needed about $194,000 in repairs.
The district was created to oversee Pillar Point Harbor and was stationed in Half Moon Bay for nearly 40 years. But the small coastside office wasn’t big enough for the growing district which now oversees Oyster Point Marina in South San Francisco. In 2004, it relocated its administrative offices to South San Francisco where it has since been paying rent. Wanting to return to the coast, the commission unanimously approved a purchase agreement in April for a three-story building at 501 Alhambra Ave.
Yet the district’s momentum was stopped in its tracks when multiple inspectors returned with a list of repairs to address dry rot, leaks, walls that were starting to buckle and other deficiencies, Commissioner Jim Tucker said. The building also had code violations from a window and closet that were put in illegally, Tucker said. On top of bringing the building up to par, the district would have still needed to renovate the bottom floor to serve its needs, Tucker said
“There was more work than the naked eye could see, that’s why you do this due diligence,” Tucker said. “I just felt that the further we got into this deal, the less attractive it was. … I really wanted us to move back to the coast and I for sure thought we’d found the property. But that’s real estate sense, that’s construction sense, you’ve got to know when to stop.”
The commission mulled over the bad news at two special meetings May 27 and 28, Tucker said.
The commission tried to negotiate with the property owner who initially said they would pay $47,000 toward the extra costs, yet the four commissioners who attended the meeting weren’t swayed and voted to negate the deal, Tucker said.
“We’d already soured to the whole deal at that point,” said Robert Bernardo, president of the Board of Commissioners. “Which was really sad because we started out at the very beginning unilaterally saying we just wanted to move forward so it’s really sad for me because basically we’re sort of back where we started.”
Shortly after the meeting ended, Tucker said he received an email indicating the seller was willing to bite the $194,000 and wanted to proceed with the sale. A meeting was scheduled the following day, however, Bernardo and Commissioner Sabrina Brennan weren’t able to attend. Making a vote worth $1.8 million wasn’t something the three commissioners felt comfortable with so the deal remained off the table, Tucker said.
As far as Tucker and Bernardo are concerned, the deal is completely off the table.
The district has sought to find a suitable location for a few years, however, options are scarce, Bernardo said.
“The coastside really doesn’t have a lot of buildings large enough to accommodate for what we need. Ideally, we want to have a meeting hall so we can have community meetings and storage space and there just aren’t a lot of buildings on the coast that fit that profile. So that’s the challenge that we face and that’s why it’s taken so long,” Bernardo said.
Tucker said now that the word is out, he’s been contacted about a vacant lot that may be for sale near the harbor, where the district belongs.
Bernardo and Tucker said the district is set on relocating and will continue to search for its new home.
“The true Harbor District started at Pillar Point Harbor,” Tucker said. “Pillar Point is the harbor of refuge, a lot of things have happened, but that’s the anchor. That’s where the district is.”
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