15 Sep 2014
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A Bridge to the Inner Harbor

A Bridge to the Inner Harbor A Bridge to the Inner Harbor A Bridge to the Inner Harbor

One of mored perplexing problems facing the Inner Harbor Task Force has been how to integrate Downtown with the Inner Harbor, which everyone agrees should be a destination site for residents and visitors alike. A gateway to enjoy the city’s waterways.. The foot of Docktown and neighboring BIAC provide kayak and canoe access to a vast world of creeks and sloughs many have yet to experience.

Nearly everyone on the Task Force agrees public access is paramount, and wants a greenbelt park along the creek with a promenade and bike trails connecting the area to downtown. Plans for a  walkway under the freeway next to the creek have been on hold since someone pointed out it would eventually flood as sea levels rise.

That’s why I was so excited to see this Dutch design for a round about that could rise up and over the freeway with grace and elegance, becoming an attraction in it's own right, and calling residents and visitors alike to wander across on foot or bicycle and explore the the waterfront.

Does the Netherlands has a corner on the most innovative designs today? Equally exciting concepts by architects like Waterstudio's Koen Olthius and +31 Architects are showing how building floating buildings and communities will allow us embrace the rising sea and not just wall it out with levees.  

We have an opportunity to build floating environments in the Inner Harbor to complement an already popular rowing club: stylish new environmentally-smart development that will bring visitors and accolades to our city.

An interesting challenge is how best to integrate what Mayor Aguirre described at a conference as "the quaint little floating village at Docktown." A blend of old and new is after all what gives a city character, and a rejuvenated Docktown fits wonderfully into the overall plan, providing an established Maritime base for the Harbor that honors it's maritime history.

After decades as a quiet little backwater the existing village is ready to take it’s place with new neighborhoods on land and afloat within the revitalized harbor.  One problem that needs to be resolved however, is a new position paper by the staff at the State Lands Commission that says because the creek and slough were part of a grant to the city governed by the public trust it cannot include residential use. After 50 years the presence of floating homes and houseboats at Docktown is hardly news to either the city or State so why is it now an issue? Apparently because the city invited State Lands to provide a delegate to the task force, brought staff here for tours and a working lunch, and probed them about the terms of the grant.

I don't question the actions by the city, which has a responsibility to it’s citizens, after all, to cross all the t’s and dot the i’s when approving a new plan. Nor the actions of the State Lands staff in providing a ruling consistent with a historic interpretation of the public trust.

What needs to be recognized, as I pointed out recently at city Council  and Task Force meetings, is that the California Supreme Court has said the public trust is an evolving doctrine that changes to meet the times, which is why it now allows oil wells, hotels and even timeshares, and already stretched in 2006 to accommodate the now very popular houseboats in Sausalito. There are also houseboat communities on grant lands in San Francisco, and Alameda.

Citizens attending public workshops and speaking at task force meetings have made clear they like floating communities in general and Docktown in particular, and want the City to petition the Commission via it’s elected officials and our legislators for a change in the grants or state codes to allow Docktown to stay.

We are not a detriment to the creek. Residents here are well known for cleaning the protecting the creek, cherishing birds and wildlife, providing tours, and encouraging water recreation. We love to kayak and sail. We don’t interfere with navigation, and we welcome the public to share our watery world. In short we add life and character of the Inner Harbor and make it more inviting to visitors.

To those city officials who see remnants of the years when the then landlord chose not to maintain the harbor and question the our value to Redwood City we say, take another look at what we are now and will become. We will work with you to create a new environment everyone is proud of that complements the newer components of the Inner Harbor including parks and other public spaces, condos, shops and coffee houses, and water sports facilities.

Working together we can create an amazing new water destination that the entire city will be proud of and enjoy.

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