In spite of many challenges in 2020, the San Mateo County Harbor District has kept on course. Indeed, the Harbor District may be one of the most productive public agencies you’ve never heard of. But even though much of our work flies below the radar, the district provides essential services that support local economic activity, protect our coastlines, and provide access to our county’s harbors for every San Mateo County resident.
As always, the district supported San Mateo County’s commercial fishing industry at Pillar Point Harbor, operated Oyster Point Marina and the ferry terminal in South San Francisco, and funded infrastructure improvements at these facilities in 2020. District leadership also championed clean water efforts, provided ongoing water rescue operations, and facilitated environmental protections along much of San Mateo County’s coasts.
We were extremely fortunate to begin this challenging year with our new general manager, Jim Pruett, at the helm. His experience and professionalism guided the district at all times and helped us ensure that our productivity, responsiveness to the public, and safety were assured for San Mateo County residents and visitors to our beautiful marinas.
Working during COVID caused the Harbor District to call upon every resource at our disposal. Employees at our marinas meet daily with the public. Keeping visitors, tenants and waterborne folks and crafts safe took extra effort in 2020. Thankfully, the policies that Mr. Pruett presented to the Harbor District board assured safe and effective operations, and I thank him, all of our harbor personnel, and district staff working from home for challenges navigated so well. And to our rescue personnel, a special shout out as always to thank them for their dedication and bravery.
The district understands the complexities of supporting economic development while maintaining environmental sustainability along our precious, delicate coastlines. Responsibility to San Mateo County taxpayers is a critical component of our work, as nearly 65% of our operating revenue comes from property taxes. Because of the strong financial health of the Harbor District, the board approved a new reserve policy and made other changes to the budget to ensure had funds available for emergency use. These policy changes were a significant accomplishment in a year when public agencies have faced budget shortfalls due to the increased costs and decreased revenues related to the pandemic.
Actions we instituted during COVID included leave policies, rent forbearance for marina tenants, specialized restroom cleaning and operation restrictions when shelter-in-place orders were instituted for the county. When the CZU Lightning fires brought evacuees into our area, we allowed them to park RVs in our parking lot and ensured COVID-19 protocol could be followed while providing a safe place for victims displaced from their homes during this frightening time.
Key initiatives completed or moved forward this year include the Living Shoreline project and renovations at the Harbor Masters’ Office and the public fishing pier at Pillar Point, significant electrical upgrades at Oyster Point Marina, improving green spaces, adding bathrooms and dredging at Surfer’s Beach, and water quality mitigation efforts through San Mateo Resource Conservation District. We have kept other capital improvement projects and environmental restoration projects moving forward.
Staff has been instrumental in ensuring that our remote Harbor District board meetings are open and transparent so that the public’s business can be done effectively and efficiently, once again earning us the Certificate of Transparency from the California Special District Association.
We are currently working to ensure funding for infrastructure projects at both Pillar Point and Oyster Point marinas, including dock replacements and guarding against sea level rise. As a member of the District’s Oyster Point Liaison Committee, I appreciate the collaborative partnership we have with the City of South San Francisco, and the fact that we share concerns about these issues.
Many thanks to the public for your support as we navigated unprecedented crises in 2020. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as president of the Harbor District this past year.
Nancy Reyering is the president of the San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Commissioners.