Redwood City officials lauded visions for a revitalized port with additional waterfront amenities after a diversified revenue stream of public entertainment and fresh eats helped leadership absorb pandemic-related revenue hits.   

“Despite the lower tonnage, our revenues have remained strong allowing us to offer new recreational amenities and uses to our community later this year,” Port of Redwood City Executive Director Kristine Zortman said in a press release. 

Port leadership touted a revenue increase of 3%, or $270,000, enabling the port to close its fiscal year with $9 million in gross revenue compared to last year’s gross earnings of $8.7 million, in a press release. Property rentals, leases and new business activities in the area helped buffer the financial hit, officials told the Redwood City Council during its meeting Monday. 

Total cargo tonnage shipped in and out of the port fell by 291,000 metric tons compared to last year’s shipping levels, still amounting to 1.8 million metric tons. The decrease was largely caused by uncertainty in the construction industry during the pandemic, officials have routinely said, ending the port’s short, record-breaking stint of annual shipping growth. 

But the pandemic has also been credited with revitalizing the port, bringing Pioneer Seafood, a commercial fishing company, into the area. Since the company’s move from San Francisco into the Peninsula, it’s drawn crowds to the port, looking to purchase fresh seafood and enjoy local entertainment. 

Commissioner Lorianna Kastrop, who recently passed on the title of commission chair to Richard Claire, presented an overview of the port’s budget and vision to the Redwood City Council on Monday. In her presentation, she noted port leadership is only eyeing more growth and envisions mingling the port’s current use as an industrial shipping hub with more community amenities. 

By November, the public will have access to a new fishing pier and public art installations are also being considered. When indoor gatherings were substantially restricted to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the site was also used for large drive-thru events like movie shows, circus viewings and performances by the Dragon Theatre. 

“We have a gem here within Silicon Valley and its underutilized in its current configuration for visitor serving as well as destination type uses along the waterfront,” Zortman said to councilmembers during their meeting Monday. “We’re early to the process but we hope the outcome is going to be something that really energizes and reactivates the waterfront area for us.” 

A new multimillion dollar ferry terminal is also in the planning stages. The partnership between the organization and the Water Emergency Transportation Authority seeks to add two routes connecting the Peninsula to San Francisco and Oakland from the Westpoint Slough.  

The port was recently named as the only federal staging area in case of a catastrophe in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mayor Diane Howard noted. The designation and a new multiagency operation center currently in the works will allow local first responders to work collaboratively with federal personnel while responding to crises like earthquakes when roads can be unsafe to travel on, Kastrop said.

Councilmembers praised port leadership’s vision for the port, with Councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica sharing their excitement in seeing the area “lively again” and Councilmember Diana Reddy expressing pride in the city’s claim to the port. 

Howard offered similar credits to the port, noting she’s seen the public’s excitement for the amenities firsthand. 

“I think Pioneer Seafoods opened the door,” Howard said. “It’s fabulous that you’re stretching and looking outside the box to see what else you can do.” 

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