With a transformative development proposal plus an expiring Oyster Point marina operations deal both looming on the horizon, an official claims a detailed financial forecast of South San Francisco’s waterfront is in order.
Pursuing an economic analysis of the Bayfront area east of Highway 101 is slated for discussion during a San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday, May 16.
Considering the magnitude of the issues looming over the area, Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan said she would prefer a deep dive into the books of the marina owned by South San Francisco and operated by the district.
“We have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to make sure that we do a proper economic analysis, so I’m hoping it moves in that direction,” she said.
Commissioners may approve moving ahead with a proposal to hire a consultant to perform a fiscal analysis of the marina, or the issue may be passed back to the district’s Oyster Point Liaison Committee for further analysis.
Further compounding the issue is a recommendation from the district’s Finance Committee to pause any further discussions with South San Francisco officials regarding marina operations until the fiscal analysis is completed.
District and city officials are locked in a bout of negotiations regarding terms of the marina joint powers agreement, which is slated to expire in 10 years. Central to the talks are a laundry list of capital improvements needed to revitalize the site.
City officials have said they favor allowing the district to continue operating the site, but are not interested in paying for refurbishing it. City Manager Mike Futrell has said he too believes a marina economic analysis is necessary.
The Harbor District operates the waterfront site offering a 455-boat slip marina, yacht club, boutique hotel, 33-acre park and terminal for a commuter ferry, while the city oversees the surrounding area.
Terms of the agreement stand to take on an additional degree of importance moving forward as officials prepare for ground to be broken this summer on a biotechnology development expected to offer more than 2 million square feet of research and development space, plus an additional 1,200 proposed housing units.
The development was initially entitled years ago but fell fallow after years of inaction from the original applicant. Last year, a Chinese development firm purchased building rights and immediately began pushing the project ahead more aggressively. South San Francisco will take the lead on judging the merits of the housing application, and the issue is slated to go before the City Council later this summer.
Brennan said she feels terms of the existing joint agreement do not serve the district well, and would not favor replicating the deal by extending it for another 50 years.
“I can’t really make an argument in favor of the current situation but I’m hoping someone with economic expertise, someone with a lot more training in this, will help us see what our options are,” she said.
Integral to a proper economic examination are understanding more development proposal details, such as timeline for breaking ground on the commercial and residential components of the projects as well as schematics for the site plan, said Brennan.
“If we don’t know what is going on with this project, how can we decide on whether we want a new management agreement with the city? Or to develop a new JPA? Or to allow the current JPA to expire? That information is really critical,” she said.
She said more financial analysis will also help the district manage a budget already spread thin through the obligation to also operate Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay.
“We need to be thoughtful about how we spend our funds. The district is small and we don’t have a ton of money and we have a facility that we own at Pillar Point that is substandard and needs a ton of work,” she said.
District officials have crafted a $26 million capital spending plan to revitalize its southern coastal access point heavily used by fishermen and the public.
Considering the variety of initiatives facing the Bayshore in South San Francisco, Brennan said she favors collecting more information about the marina’s fiscal future in short order.
“We need facts and what I’m hoping is that our district will move ahead with an economic cost-benefit analysis,” she said.
The San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Commissioners meets 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at the South San Francisco Municipal Services Building, 33 Arroyo Drive.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105