Unofficial Harbor District committee tackles complex issue of beach erosion at Princeton Harbor

An unofficial subcommittee of the Harbor District, called PIllar Point Shoreline Erosion Committee and chaired by Commissioner Sabrina Brennan, met recently in its inaugural meeting to look at the problems of erosion of Surfer’s Beach and other parts of  the Princeton harbor area. It’s a big topic with many competing interests.

We have the meeting on video for you–thank you to Neil Merrilees for manning the camera at this important event.

Commissioner Brennan released a report out of the meeting–if only all local governments would do this–that summarizes the discussion and suggests action items for the future. Here is the original agenda.


Pillar Point Harbor Shoreline Erosion Committee


Date: Wed. May 29, 2013
Time: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Location: Half Moon Bay Yacht Club

Goals of the PPH Shoreline Erosion Committee:

  • Education
  • Public Access
  • Emergency Access
  • Government Transparency

Meeting was attended by:

  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • SMC Surfrider Foundation
  • SMC County Parks and Recreation Commissioner
  • Coastside Business owners from Princeton, El Granada, Moss Beach, Montara, Pacifica,and Half Moon Bay
  • Boat owners with slips at Oyster Point Marina and Pillar Point Harbor
  • Midcoast Community Council members
  • Granada Sanitary District member
  • Half Moon Bay Yacht Club members
  • San Mateo Association of Realtors (SAMCAR) member
  • Sierra Club members
  • Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce members
  • Redwood City business ownersAnnouncement about upcoming Resource Conservation District meeting:

• Resource Conservation District will hold a meeting to present results of the Pillar Point Harbor Fecal Contamination study on Sat. June 8th 10:00am at the HMB Yacht Club


  • Surfer’s Beach Erosion
  • Boat Launch Ramp Dredging/Perched Beach
  • West Shoreline Access Erosion

o Link to West Shoreline Access presentation:

• Princeton Shoreline Erosion


Surfer’s Beach has eroded away due to the outer breakwater configuration and past Highway 1 emergency riprap armoring.

Mark Bierman of the Army Corps of Engineers commented that reconfiguring the breakwater would be over the $5 million dollar budget that Congress has authorized for the Corps. The Corps is looking for a smaller scale solution.

• The Army Corps of Engineers has not yet set a date to present the public with the shoreline erosion study results or an update on the study.

Public comment: Install a culvert through the outer breakwater and pump sand through a dreg pipe placed in the culvert. This would cost under $5 million dollars.

Discussion about dredged sand being placed on Perched Beach and applying for a permit to place boat launch ramp dredged sand elsewhere.

Public comment: Engage the Harbor District’s board of commissioners and request that they apply for a permit to place the dredged sand on beaches that need replenishment along West Shoreline Access and the Princeton shoreline.

Public comment: The Harbor District should be encouraged to use the dredged sand where it’s needed, instead of where it won’t be of use.

The committee agreed unanimously to request that the SMC Harbor District make this Citizens Advisory Committee for Pillar Point Harbor Shoreline Erosion an official committee of the SMC Harbor District

The committee agreed unanimously that the Harbor District should identify and gain approvals of new dredge disposal sites with priority given to beach nourishment where it is urgently needed.

The committee agreed unanimously that the Harbor District bring 2012 West Shoreline Access Erosion Study forward for discussion of alternatives and a plan for action.


  1. Request Harbor District board approval to form an official Harbor District Shoreline Erosion Committee
  2. Identify and gain approvals of new dredge disposal sites with priority given to beach nourishment where it is urgently needed.
  3. Bring the 2012 PPH West Shoreline Access Trail erosion study forward for discussion of alternatives and plan for action.

Holsinger wins appointment to Harbor District board in secret vote

As predicted, Will Holsinger, a lawyer based in the City of San Mateo, was selected by a majority of the Harbor District’s sitting commissioners to serve until the next general election, in 2014.

The vote was by a controversial written ballot system, a form of which was declared illegal last year.

According to the Half Moon Bay Review, Commissioner Sabrina Brennan revealed that she had voted for Nicole David, a local marine scientist with a strong interest in recreation but David was up against strong odds. Many political observers on the coast predicted Holsinger’s victory well before Holsinger applied for the position.

According to Harbor District election rules, Holsinger’s term began today, immediately after the vote and will run until the November election is 2014. Then, if he chooses to run again and wins, he will continue to serve another two years until the fall 2016 elections, the end of the term of Leo Padreddi, the commissioner’s seat he is filling. Padreddi passed away earlier this year, shortly after winning the 2012 election. Commissioners normally only face election every four years.

The Half Moon Bay Review has more of the story.

Questions for the Harbor Commissioner Candidates (Revised)

The following seven questions will be posed to the five candidates for appointment to the San Mateo County Harbor District governing board. These questions were developed by commissioners Jim Tucker and Robert Benardo. All commissioners will be able to ask follow up questions. Each candidate will have a total of fifteen minutes to answer the questions, including follow ups.

Here are the questions (deleted questions indicated by strikethrough, new question in italics):

Why do you want to be a Harbor Commissioner?

1. If appointed to the Commission, you must by law run in county-wide election campaigns in November 2014 and 2016. If you are selected, do you intend to run in BOTH elections?

2. Describe your knowledge of the Harbor District, Oyster Point Marina, and Pillar Point Harbor. What main challenges and opportunities do you forsee?

3. What proposals or projects would you suggest for expanding the District’s revenue base?

4.  Do you think the Harbor District should develop a strategic plan? If so, why?

5. Summarize your knowledge and understanding of the District’s current (FY 2012-13) budget and debt obligations to the Department of Boating and Waterways.

6. How will your specific knowledge and abilities make you the ideal candidate for Harbor Commissioner?

7. What do you see as your primary role as Harbor Commissioner?

8.  Do you support switching to District wide elections? If so, why? If not, why?

The meeting will be held this Wednesday, June 5, starting at at 5:00 pm at the Comfort Inn on Cabrillo Highway.

Three women–all Coastsiders–apply for seat on Harbor District board, two others apply, decision to be made this Wednesday

Five people–three of them women–have submitted letters of interest to join the governing board of the San Mateo County Harbor District. They will be interviewed this coming Wednesday, June 5th. One of these candidates will be appointed to fill the space formerly held by Leo Padreddii, who died this past April shortly after his re-election.

The odds on favorite to win the appointment is attorney Will Hoslinger, a former member of the Harbor District’s board. Holsinger, who came in fifth place in the 2004 Harbor District election, was appointed last May to sit on the Harbor Commission, filling a seat left open by the death of commissioner Sally Campbell. He then ran but lost in the 2012 election in November. A resident of the city of San Mateo, Holsinger is generally given competent marks during his brief tenure as commissioner but he is seen as a “comfortable fit” for the majority of current commissioners, often described as an “old boys club” focused more on the harbor’s past than on a vision for the future.

The Harbor Commission has a history of apparent back-room dealings and other questionable actions. Until recently its meeting were not videotaped–the last local government body to make it’s meetings available on video and despite the efforts of harbor manager Peter Grenell to prevent the meetings from being videotaped.

A candidate providing a stark contrast to Holsinger is Nicole David, a resident of Half Moon Bay and marine biologist who describes herself as an “avid open water swimmer, kayaker, paddle boarder, and naturalist.” If selected she would be the only marine ecologist on the board and the only commissioner with a strong, personal involvement in harbor-related recreation–a valuable perspective for the District’s leadership as it faces its changing role in the community.

Other people–including two other Coastsiders–who have expressed an interest in serving are Lauryn Agnew of Moss Beach, a financial investment executive, Dorothy Baughman, also from Half Moon Bay, who has experience in accounting and who served as Deputy Secretary to the Harbor District’s Board for five years, as well as Charles Ivan King, a Brisbane resident who has worked closely with the District in the past on issues related to hovercraft.

The current commissioners have decided to use their “scorecard” method of selecting the winning applicant despite the fact that this method was largely discredited last year when it was revealed that the cards were filled out in such a way to give the impression that Holsinger was “wired” for the appointment. The scorecards were only made public at the insistence of Sabrina Brennan (prior to her election to the board) and resulted in negative press and a critical op-ed by Half Moon Bay Review editor Clay Lambert.

At Wednesday’s session, which will begin at 5:00 pm, each of the five candidates will be interviewed for fifteen minutes and asked seven questions. Their answers will then be ranked on a scorecard by each of the sitting commissioners. The winning applicant will be sworn in and seated prior to the regular meeting of the Board, which will begin at 7:00 pm that same day.

The letters of interest from the applicants and related materials are linked below:

Lauryn Agnew

Dorothy Baughman

Nicole David

William Holsinger

Charles Ivan King

[Updated to include information on the 2004 election.]

San Mateo County Harbor District, Commissioners Meeting, May 15, 2013

Video provided courtesy of the San Mateo Harbor District and Pacifica Community Television, with special thanks to Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan.

You can find the meeting agenda by clicking here.

[I’m having technical problems with the video player–for this video just click on the image below to play in the video in a new browser window.]

San Mateo County Harbor District, Commissioners Meeting, May 1, 2013

Video provided courtesy of the San Mateo Harbor District and Pacifica Community Television, with special thanks to Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan.

You can find the meeting agenda by clicking here.

[I’m having technical problems with the video player–for this video just click on the image below to play in the video in a new browser window.]

Harbor District videos now on Montara Fog

What’s the most secretive government body on the Coastside? I used to think it was the school board. When I first moved here no one seemed to attend their meetings–despite having the largest budget of any local agency–and no one seemed to know what was going on.

But then I realized I was wrong. The most secretive government body on the coast isn’t the school board, it’s the harbor Commission. Why? Because most citizens don’t know it exists. Their meeting agendas must have been posted only at the harbor office because I never saw one in my daily routine. Their meetings weren’t televised or videotaped. The web page was archaic. Few of the board members were local.

They were, to all but a few activists and stakeholders, invisible.

That’s changing, in large part to the efforts of newly elected commissioner Sabrina Brennan. Even before her election she pushed for having the meetings televised and for making more information available to the public in a timely way. As part of that effort she has arranged for Montara Fog to have access to the videos filmed by Pacifica Community Television so they can be published here, to widen the audience for these important documents.

There are many issues now before and coming before the Harbor District commissioners that impact our lives. These videos will help to provide the foundation for greater public awareness of and participation in the decision-making on these issues.

Below is the first “catch-up” post for the videos, with nine videos covering the period from January to April of this year. Future videos will be published as they become available.

Harbor District Board Meeting Videos, January—April 2013

Montara Fog is publishing the Harbor District videos as a public service. You can find the agendas to these meetings by clicking here. Future meetings will be published as they are made available. Video filmed by Pacifica Community Television.









Harbor District pays commissioners far above what directors at other local governing bodies receive

Local Government Compensationv3

A review of compensation practices among nine governing bodies that serve the Coastside shows that the San Mateo County Harbor District, which is responsible for both Oyster Point Marina and PIllar Point Harbor, offers its commissioners pay and benefits that dwarf those of any other district.

Typically, local government boards pay their governing members a token stipend of one hundred dollars per meeting with no other benefits beyond limited expense reimbursement (in the cases where members are required to travel on government business).

For example, the Coastside Fire Protection District, a local government agency with a multi-million dollar budget and several dozen emergency personnel under its contract with Cal Fire, pays directors one hundred dollars a meeting with a maximum payment of $400 a month–a maximum that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been reached in at least five years, if ever. In 2011, a time period with an unusually high number of meetings, the total annual expense per director was $1600.

The Midcoast Community Council ranks as the least compensated local governing body. MCC directors receive “zero zip nada–not even gas mileage reimbursement” according to council member Lisa Ketchum. According to Ketchum, however, the county does offer members the courtesy of free parking in the county parking structure in Redwood City if they are visiting on official MCC business.

The Half Moon Bay City Council pays its members three hundred dollars on a monthly basis with no health or retirement benefits.

In what is perhaps the most innovative compensation arrangement on the coast, the Cabrillo Unified School Board doesn’t pay its board members or offer them paid benefits. But it does allow them, at the full cost of the premiums, to buy health insurance in the school employee health and welfare program. This appears to offer members a significant benefit (if they have no other coverage) while not incurring any costs for the school district.

Dwarfing all other agencies serving the Coastside, the San Mateo County Harbor District offers its commissioners generous and extensive pay, health and retirement plans. Each commissioner receives an automatic stipend of six hundred dollars per month, whether they attend meetings or not. Total cost this fiscal year? $36,000.

The members of the commission enjoy the benefits of the $42,801 allotted to health insurance this fiscal year, covering the five members. Commissioners are also covered by workers compensation insurance ($2400 in the current year) and receive the benefits of an “Employment Assistance Program,” budgeted at $542.

Retirees from the commission can rely on financial support from the commission. Although it is not clear whether the insurance offered by the Harbor District is available to new members or just to the two longest serving members and their families (who are grandfathered in) and the retirees, the District has set aside nearly $20,000 a year to cover these expenses.

And it goes on and on. Meetings, travel, and training run $8300. Mileage reimbursement? $400. Employee appreciation dinner? $3750.

All told, the compensation of the commissioners at the Harbor District appears to not only be larger than the costs of the other eight governing bodies combined, it appears to cost twice as much as all eight other districts combined–even before you add in the nearly $20,000 for the retired commissioners.

The Harbor District commissioners will be meeting to discuss their budget on Wednesday, May 1st and again on June 5th, both meetings at 7:00 pm at the Comfort Inn on Highway One. They will also soon be appointing a new member to replace to the late Leo Padreddii, who passed away two weeks ago.


packet05012013 copy


Chart from “San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Harbor Commissioners Meeting Minutes, April 3, 2013,” page 53.


(Article sources–From interviews plus these online resources, where you can read about some of the details of reimbursement and the like):

Coastside County Water District Code of Conduct

Coastside Fire Protection District Board Policies and Bylaws

Cabrillo Unified School District Board Bylaws

Granada Sanitary District 2012-2013 Budget

Half Moon Bay City Council Municipal Code

Midcoast Community Council draft Bylaws

Montara Water and Sewer District MWSD Code

San Mateo County Harbor District: No information published online.

Sewer Authority Midcoast: No information published online.