Mike McHenry: Reform Our Troubled Harbor Commission

[Note: This letter was received from local fisherman Mike McHenry. It appears here unedited.]

I’ve been an active Half Moon Bay commercial fisherman for 56 years and a leaseholder at Pillar Point Harbor for over 30 years.

Grand Jury Report

After reading the July 2014 Grand Jury recommendation to dissolve the Harbor District, and the arrogant response by Harbor Commissioners, hopefully voters will begin to understand the difficulties commercial fishermen, leaseholders, live aboard tenants, and sports fishing interests are up against. Grand Jury volunteers perform checks and balances and this oversight function helps keep local government on track.

DA Investigation & Grenell’s Retirement

On Sept. 3, 2014 the District Attorney mailed a letter to the law firm representing the Harbor District. The letter is part of a preliminary inquiry into the California Maritime Infrastructure Bank/Authority and followed recent interviews with senior members of the Harbor Commission. At the Sept. 3rd Harbor District meeting Commissioner Jim Tucker said a DA investigator interviewed him regarding Peter Grenell’s activates as the president and chair of the bank/authority. At the same meeting Peter Grenell announced his retirement after 17.5 years with the Harbor District. His last day will be January 3, 2015.

Cautious Optimism

A thorough executive search for a highly qualified General Manager has the potential to fix the Harbor District’s management problems. To insure the best candidate is hired we must elect new Harbor Commissioners.

Commission Out of Touch

In 2012 the Harbor Commission levied the highest fish unloading fees on the West Coast. The fees are passed onto fishermen and ultimately to consumers.
For the past several years I’ve attended countless Harbor District meetings to raise awareness about the harm these fees are having on small fishing businesses and the local economy. Commissioners Jim Tucker, Will Holsinger and Robert Bernardo stubbornly insist they are entitled to a percentage of the commercial fishing fleets catch without the risks involved with going to sea. Commissioners are aware that the fees they’re imposing are inconsistent with market conditions at other commercial fishing ports. Commissioners should understand that requiring arbitrarily high fees for unloading fish at Pillar Point Harbor isn’t a sustainable approach to generating revenue.

Fiscal Mismanagement

The Harbor District recently misplaced $40,000 in tenant checks for berthing, and $30,000 in fishing fees are missing. Over the past few years members of the public have asking numerous questions about accounting irregularities. When bank records were requested management made excuses and refused to provide useful information. When the missing fishing fees were brought to light, management slapped leaseholders with an audit handled by a consultant. The consultant was uninformed about which documents were needed to preform an audit and neglecting to include a due date on requests.

Culture of Favoritism

At Pillar Point Harbor three business owners lease three fish unloading stations. Oddly, preferential treatment was granted to the fish unloading business that came up $30,000 short paying fees in 2013. The Harbormaster approved installation of a new hoist outside the designated lease area. This windfall doubled the leaseholders’ dock space yet their rent did not go up. Currently each leaseholder pays an equal amount in rent regardless of this new special arrangement. Two of the three leaseholders were never offered a chance at expansion and the District’s Harbormaster was in such a rush get the new hoist installed that he completely forgot to apply for permits from the Coastal Commission and the County Planning Department.

Shredding & Videotaping

Recently we learned that Harbor management has a bad habit of shredding documents, which the District’s own document retention policy requires, be retained. Last year Commissioner Jim Tucker argued that public access television broadcasts of board meetings was like a “fungus.” In response to Tucker’s concerns the board majority voted to discontinue meeting videos.

Poor Performance

Complaints from tenants and fishermen have grown over the past few years, and in response the board majority has taken steps to stifle public comment and move it to the end of four-hour meetings. The General Manager and the board president intentionally schedule agenda items relevant to the commercial fishing fleet for meetings held in South San Francisco and they intentionally stack agendas in Half Moon Bay with items relevant to Oyster Point Marina. They block the public’s ability to participate at every opportunity. A few weeks ago Commissioners rewarded poor performance by voting 4-1 to give the General Manager a raise and a contract extension, now we learn he’s retiring under the dark cloud of the Grand Jury Report and a DA investigation.

November 2014 Election

Incumbent candidate Jim Tucker has a new campaign website that lists his endorsements. I was surprised and disappointed to see who’s on his list of supporters. I wonder if those endorsements were made prior to the June 2014 publication of the Grand Jury report.

Please don’t vote for incumbents.

Vote for Nicole David (4 year seat) and Tom Mattusch (2 year seat) and reform our troubled Harbor Commission.

Please contact me with any questions 650-703-5498.

Michael D. McHenry
Fishing Vessel Merva W
Half Moon Bay Fishermen’s Association Leaseholder, Pillar Point Harbor
Berth Holder, Pillar Point Harbor

Comments { 3 }

Video: Senator Jerry Hill, standing outside the locked gates of Martins Beach, calls on Governor Brown to sign legislation to try to regain public access

Reader Leonard Woren attended the Martins Beach event hosted by Senator Jerry Hill on September 12 and provided this video. The event, which took place outside the locked gates was aimed at raising awareness of the efforts to regain public access to the beach and to encourage Governor Brown to sign the legislation, sponsored by Hill, which aims to push the property’s secretive owner, Vinod Khosla, to negotiate.

Comments { 0 }

Pet photos and adoption fundraiser in Half Moon Bay, September 21st


Comments { 0 }

Senator Jerry Hill to lead demonstration at Martins Beach gate, hopes governor will sign bill to help restore public access


Senator Jerry Hill, Other Elected Officials, Surfers and Environmental Groups Gather at Martins Beach Gate to Urge Governor to Sign Bill That Would Start Negotiations to Restore Public Access to the Beach Near Half Moon Bay

Governor has Until End of Month to Act on Hill’s Bill; Families Deprived of Beach Access Will Recount Fond Memories of Martins Beach That Span Generations

WHAT: State Senator Jerry Hill – joined by San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and members of the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club – will hold a news conference outside the closed gate to Martins Beach to urge Governor Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 968Hill’s bill would require the State Lands Commission to enter into negotiations with Silicon Valley billionaire and Martins Beach property owner Vinod Khosla for one year, in an effort to re-open the beach near Half Moon Bay to the public.

Bay Area residents will recount fond memories of family gatherings on the beach, which was closed four years ago this month after Khosla bought the property. The battle to restore public access to Martins Beach has become the focus of a nationally watched legal battle, pitting the rights of Californians to open beaches against the rights of property owners. The governor has until the end of the month to sign or veto SB 968.

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Friday, September 12, 2014

WHERE: 25 Martin’s Beach Road, Half Moon Bay, CA
Outside the closed gate to Martin’s Beach, south of Half Moon Bay
At the intersection of Martin’s Beach Road and Highway 1/Cabrillo Highway

Note: Martin’s Beach Road intersects Highway 1 twice. The gate is at the southern intersection of Martin’s Beach Road and Highway 1. If you’re using a GPS, plug in the address: 25 Martin’s Beach Road, Half Moon Bay, CA

BACKGROUND: If signed by the governor, SB 968 by Hill, D-San Mateo/Santa Clara Counties, would require the State Lands Commission to enter into negotiations with Khosla for one year, in an effort to re-open the beach near Half Moon Bay to the public.

The property was previously owned for more than a century by the Denney family, which charged visitors a small fee for access and parking at the beach. Khosla bought the property in 2008. Two years later, his property manager closed the gate to the only road leading to Martins Beach and put up a sign reading, “Beach closed, keep out.” Since then, Californians have been unable to access a beach they’ve enjoyed for generations.

SB 968 does not call for seizing the road to the beach by eminent domain. Nor does it interfere with pending court battles to bring down the gate that could take years to resolve. Instead, the legislation was crafted to provide an avenue to end the stalemate and restore public access to the beach.

It wasn’t until September 12, 2011 that the attorneys for Martins Beach LLC revealed in a letter to the Surfrider Foundation that Khosla owned the land. Until then the public didn’t know who was to blame for the beach closure.

After the gate was closed, a group of protesters known as the Martins 5 was arrested for bypassing the gate after they walked down the road to the beach and went surfing. Charges were dropped by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit to restore public access was filed by a group called the Friends of Martin’s Beach. The plaintiffs based their claim on the public trust doctrine and Article 10, Section 4, of the state constitution, which prevents property owners from excluding access to public bodies of water.

Last October, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled that the constitution’s provisions do not apply to the beach because ownership of the beach was decreed by a document that predated the California constitution. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War and guaranteed that the United States would uphold the property rights of Mexican citizens, had granted 200 acres to Santa Clara Valley settler Jose Antonio Alviso, including the Martins Beach parcels. Judge Buchwald ruled that the land grant took precedence over the public trust doctrine in the state constitution.

Buchwald’s decision – which is being appealed – didn’t outlaw public access to the beach, but because the only way for the public to get there now is from the ocean, it had the same practical effect.

Meanwhile, the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans and beaches, has been pressing its own lawsuit against Khosla based primarily on the California Coastal Act

Comments { 0 }

Jennifer Walters of HMB chosen for county LGBTQ commission, first in the state

Jennifer Walters of Half Moon Bay has been chosen as one of the eleven inaugural members of San Mateo County’s new LGBTQ Commission. Richard Faust and Lynn Schuette of Pacifica were also chosen along with eight others throughout the county, including one youth representative.

The LGBTQ Commission was established in June of this year with the purpose, according to San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine, of furthering the “cause of inclusiveness, create a resource to help inform future policy decisions affecting the LGBTQ community, and serve as a model for counties and cities in the State.”

The Commission is thought to be the first such government body anywhere in California.

Jason Galisatus, a community activist who help to establish the commission says that LGBTQ citizens currently lack a voice in San Mateo County: “A perception exists that the LGBTQ folks in the Bay Area only flock to major urban cities like San Francisco or San Jose. But in reality, San Mateo County is home to a large number of LGBTQ citizens who currently lack a centralized body to express their needs to their local government….I advocated to create this commission as it will provide a forum for developing collaborative solutions to the problems LGBTQ people face.”

According to a county press release possible goals of the commission are:

•     Bringing greater recognition and visibility to the LGBTQ community in San Mateo County by supporting such events as the County’s Pride celebration.

•     Reducing harassment and bullying of LGBTQ youth in local middle schools and high schools.

•     Developing policy recommendations to improve outcomes for underserved and at-risk segments of the LGBTQ population, including youth, communities of color, non-English speakers, seniors, and immigrants.

•     Promoting transgender inclusion among private and public entities in San Mateo County including access to health care and to gendered spaces such as bathrooms and shelters.

•     Recommending initiatives to support LGBTQ families with children.

•     Taking positions pertaining to federal, state and local policies, programs, and procedures, and any legislation affecting LGBTQ individuals.

Comments { 0 }

Harbor Commissioner Holsinger blames Brennan for everything

It’s all Sabrina’s fault, according to Will Holsinger.

Writing in the Daily Journal, Holsinger, appointed to the San Mateo Harbor Commission last year and running for election this year, says all was well on the Commission until Sabrina Brennan won a seat. Then the trouble began.

He writes:

The so-called dysfunction has occurred because Brennan finds it difficult to transition from being a citizen activist and protester….to make this transition, she needs to learn how to work collaboratively with others….While her abrasive approach may have been effective in getting her elected, it is unworkable as a style of governance….If, and when, Sabrina Brennan learns to work with others in a more appropriate way, the dysfunctional label that followed her to the Harbor District will fade away.

Holsinger, long considered a lap dog for long-serving Commissioner Jim Tucker, was described on this blog just prior to his appointment 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.”

Holsinger, a lawyer, commonly grills staff in Perry Mason style, and repeatedly brings up points of order in an effort to derail questions asked by Commissioner Brennan. He ran in the election for the seat he now holds by appointment in 2012 but lost, coming in sixth out of seven candidates with only 8.7% of the vote. His appointment was made a few months later by a controversial secret ballot process.

In his op-ed he does not mention the long string of controversies engulfing the Harbor District including tens of thousand of dollars in uncashed checks found in a desk drawer, harbor finances that appear to be headed for disaster, a general manager (who announced his resignation yesterday, after the op-ed was published) who was recently discovered to be running a secretive bank from his office, and on and on. The San Mateo Country Grand Jury published a report this year citing the many issues, saying that the problems went too deep and were too complex to solve, and recommending the extreme and unprecedented step of dissolving the district outright.

All of these problem came to light only because of Brennan’s questions. No one really paid any attention to the Harbor District until Brennan joined the commission. But the more light that shines on the District the more horrified the citizens have become. And rightly so.

Comments { 0 }

Peter Grenell, Harbor District manager, announces retirement, effective January 3, 2015

Harbor District general manager Peter Grenell announced his retirement tonight at the Harbor Commission’s general meeting.

Grenell has been the Harbor District manager for the past seventeen years, starting in May of 1997. In the past few years he has come under fire for various controversies at the Harbor District—-everything from harassment suits brought by a sitting commissioner, the discovery of thousands of dollars in uncashed checks in a desk drawer, to the odd revelation that Grennel has been running a secretive bank out of the offices of the district’s offices. A particular source of friction has been the relationship between Commissioner Sabrina Brennan and Grenell where mutual hostility sometimes broke out into the open during meetings.

Grenell’s contract had recently been extended until 2016.

In reviewing his tenure with the District Grenell noted the past complaints made against him which, according to Grenell, “turned out not be valid, sustained, and didn’t prevent me from continuing my work.” In addition to recent harassment complaints Grenell also was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint and investigation in 2001.

Grenell praised the staff at the harbor district and thanked the board for their support.

He will continue to work at the Harbor District until January 3th, 2015 and has promised to assist in the transition to the new manager.

See video from PCT starting at 34:00.

Comments { 0 }

Notice: Tsunami siren test, full volume for three minutes, Wednesday at 10:00, September 3


SMC NON-EMERGENCY Alert: The Monthly Emergency All-Hazards Coastside Siren Test at 10:00 AM Wednesday, Septmeber 3, 2014 will be THREE MINUTES in duration instead of the usual 30 seconds. This is only a test. The siren system is designed to alert coastside residents of any potential dangerous incident, such as a Tsunami or flooding. In the event of a real emergency, you would receive additional information through SMC Alert.

Habra una PRUEBA de las Sirenas de Emergencia en la costa el miercoles, el 3 de Septiembre a las 10:00 de la manana y durara TRES MINUTOS en vez del tiempo normal de 30 segundos. Esto es solamente una prueba. El sistema de sirenas emergencias existe para notificar los residentes de la costa de qualquiera emergencia peligrosa, como un Tsunami o inundaciion. En el caso de una emergencia verdadera, recibiran mas informacion de SMC Alert.

Sent by Nicholas Gottuso to South Coast CERT, Princeton, Miramar, Half Moon Bay High All Call, Sheriff’s Office Command Staff, Coastal Communities, Half Moon Bay, Montara, Coastside Fire CERT (HMB), HMB ARES (Ham Radio), San Gregorio, Moss Beach, Half Moon Bay High School, El Granada, Pescadero, Pacifica, Half Moon Bay High Staff (E-mail accounts) through SMC Alert

You are receiving this alert because you are registered on the SMC Alert System

Comments { 0 }

Coastside Fire Protection District, Board of Directors meeting, August 27, 2014

The full agenda can be found by clicking here.

The Board of Directors of the Coastside Fire Protection District met this past Wednesday–Montara Fog videotaped the meeting on behalf on the Board.

CFPD holds the copyright to this video but desires that it be widely disseminated. Therefore, they are granting permission for its use (including use by the news media) as long as proper attribution is given. Attribution can take the form of, for example, the text “Video courtesy of CFPD” located next to the video or at a visible place within an article. That’s it. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Montara Fog.

Comments { 0 }

San Mateo County Poet Laureate launches poetry awareness campaign

Caroline Goodwin, San Mateo’s Poet Laureate and resident of Montara, is launching a poetry awareness campaign. The text of the press release follows the graphic.




San Mateo County Poet Laureate Caroline Goodwin

to launch “Poetry Is” Campaign with a Poetry Contest

(Redwood City, CA)  - As part of her official duties, San Mateo County’s first Poet Laureate Caroline Goodwin will launch “Poetry Is”, a campaign to increase awareness of San Mateo County cities, towns and neighborhoods through the power of the spoken word. “Poetry Is” will kick-off with a poetry contest, open to poets of all ages who live in San Mateo County, and culminate in a celebration of poetry on the evening of October 30 at the Belmont Library.  The San Mateo County Library is a partner in this campaign.

“Our Poet Laureate Caroline Goodwin is hard at work in our community – elevating interest in poetry and the literary arts into the fabric of San Mateo County.  The “Poetry Is” campaign is a unique way to celebrate the beauty of our County through the eyes of our residents – young and old alike!” said San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum, Co-Chair of the Poet Laureate Advisory Committee.

“A poem can show life lived in a particular environment, bringing the reader into the physical space surrounding the poet through imagery and illuminating the poet’s vision through both sound and sense,” noted Poet Laureate Caroline Goodwin.  “I am interested in experiencing the many individual voices that are living and writing throughout our beautiful County. My hope is that the Poetry Is campaign will be a way to showcase our poetry of place and allow for many different voices to come together and be heard.”

Poems can be submitted during the month of September to Poet Laureate Caroline Goodwin – instructions are on the San Mateo County Poet Laureate website at http://sanmateocountypoet.org/poetry-is/.  Poems may be in any form, in any language or combination of languages and up to 40 lines in length using the name of the city or town in which the poet resides in the title of the poem – giving readers a sense of “place” and its uniqueness.  A selection committee of poets will judge the poetry and invite several poets to participate in readings at the “Poetry Is” celebration to be held on the evening October 30th at the Belmont Library.  “Poetry Is” flyers (attached) will be posted in libraries and in schools throughout the County.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors created the honorary post of Poet Laureate in April 2013. The San Mateo County Poet Laureate Advisory Committee was formed and co-chaired by San Mateo County Supervisors Warren Slocum and Carole Groom.

Caroline Goodwin began her two-year post as Poet Laureate on January 1, 2014.  Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, Goodwin, apoet, writer and professor, moved to San Mateo County in 1999 to attend Stanford as a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry. She is a professor at the California College of the Arts and teaches in both the MFA Writing and undergraduate Writing and Literature programs; she also teaches workshops through the Stanford Writer’s Studio. Goodwin earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She is an avid poet with a variety of published poems as well as her recent collection of poems, Trapline.  Caroline Goodwin resides in Montara with her husband Nick and two daughters.

Comments { 1 }