Fix Our Harbors

San Mateo County Harbor District

The Half Moon Bay fishing, boating and surfing community would like facilities modernized at Pillar Point Harbor. It's time to fix crumbling infurtructure, chronic water pollution, dangerous working conditions on Johnson Pier, unsafe docks, inadequate public restrooms, outdated visitor serving facilities, poor wifi connectivity and compromised trail access.

Filtering by Tag: San Mateo County

Why didn't South City notify the Harbor District that it was interested in becoming the successor agency?

Based on the email exchange below; we're wondering about a cozy relationship between SMC LAFCo and the City of South San Francsico.

Jim Steele South San Francisco City Manager

Our first impression is that South City clearly went behind the Harbor District's back in order to lobby Martha Poyatos, LAFCo Director to be the successor agency.

Whether SSF Assistant City Manager Jim Steele is acting on his own or representing the council is unclear, but knowing the South City Council we doubt he's doing this without the foreknowledge of at least some others on the council.

Based on the email exchange below it appears that South City was thinking, "If the Harbor District is dissolved then we want the property tax for ourselves, how do we get the money?" — that little bit about Martha researching different types of appointed boards is interesting. Apparently Martha thinks her job description includes doing research for Jim Steele and SSF Manager Mike Futrell.

Why didn't South City notify the Harbor District that it was inquiring into potentially becoming a successor agency, and if not South City, why didn't Martha/LAFCo let the Harbor District know?

This looks shady to us!

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission vs. Three Captains' Sea Products

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) filed a complaint against Three Captains' Sea Products on Feb. 10, 2010 in San Mateo County Superior Court. 

The claim for relief included $120,097.27 in damages.

PSMFC made an administrative error in 2008 and 2009 while issuing checks for the California Salmon Disaster Relief Programs. PSMFC inadvertently double paid Larry Fortado, owner of Three Captains' Sea Products.  The total amount of the overpayment was $120,097.27. 

PSMFC and their attorneys sent Larry Fortado letters seeking reimbursement on July 31, 2009, Sept. 30, 2009, November 18, 2009 and Dec. 29, 2009.

After a jury trial was demanded Larry Fortado paid back the federal disaster relief money he owed PSMFC. 

Read the Complaint — Case No. 491958  

Scott Grindy's creepy video surveillance of hillside residences

El Granada residents should beware of inappropriate use of "Homeland Security" video surveillance by Harbormaster Scott Grindy.

Everett port ends golf ball surveillance

Friday, May 22, 2009 at 3:41pm

EVERETT, Wash. —

When golf balls began pelting the Port of Everett's shipping terminal, security officers trained their anti-terrorism cameras on the nearby hillside neighbors, hoping to catch the mystery duffers.

But after residents complained of being spied on, port officials turned the surveillance cameras around. Nevertheless, the barrage of balls has ended.


"In hindsight, we realize the golf balls are a public safety issue, not a threat to the terminals in terms of somebody breaking in," port security director Scott Grindy told The Herald of Everett. "Aiming at the hillside probably wasn't an appropriate use."

Police reports were filed and the video cameras were trained on Rucker Hill after dozens of golf balls landed on the port property in recent weeks, which Grindy said endangered workers and equipment.

The cameras, obtained with some of the more than $2.3 million in federal Homeland Security money for the port, never spotted any balls being hit, and the effort will not be resumed, Grindy told The Associated Press on Friday.

"We've decided to keep our cameras on our perimeter and security fence," he said.

Residents who learned about the surveillance from an article published by The Herald newspaper on May 16 were upset they were being watched.

"If they have the ability to tape my house, there should be a written policy to determine who can see these tapes and how they are used," Dave Miller, whose bedroom window faces the port, told the Everett paper.

Charlene Rawson, chairwoman of the Port Gardner Neighborhood Association, which includes Rucker Hill and the port's terminals, arranged a meeting with port Executive Director John Mohr.

"We had a nice conversation about it," said Rawson, who initially said she believed the port's actions violated people's privacy. "The port said they don't have the cameras pointed at any particular house."

There's no way for the public to determine exactly what the cameras recorded. Port officials said they cannot share video footage because of Homeland Security rules, not can they disclose the location of cameras or answer whether they can pan or zoom.

Grindy said port officials are now working on a surveillance policy.

The only reported damage from the wayward balls was a broken window in a vacant pickup truck two weeks ago. But Grindy said near misses were reported by crews on Amtrak passenger trains, Sounder commuter rail and Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight trains.

Golfers apparently were practicing at the top of the hill in an area where the port terminals, railroad tracks and a public footpath cannot be seen, he said.

"I think the whole issue is that an avid golfer is not realizing that there's all this stuff below," he said.

Will Holsinger is the man on the tarmac tossing grenades

Commissioner Will Holsinger's verbal attacks on women and bullying of women must stop.  Vote him out of office in November 2014. 

Daily Post . July 10, 2014

          Click to see fullscreen newspaper clipping.

Daily Post article published on July 10, 2014

Grand Jury gives Harbor Commission a shellacking

The Civil Grand Jury ripped into the San Mateo County Harbor Commission in a new report titled, "What is the Price of Dysfunction?" The report was released to the public on July 9, 2014.

The report says, "It is impossible for the Grand Jury to ignore the negative public comments that the District’s general manager frequently receives. He is most often the public face of the Harbor District. However, it should be noted that the general manager serves at the pleasure of the Harbor Commission with whom final oversight resides."

Make your voice heard: Thursday, July 10 at 6:30pm Oceano Hotel


Lisa Wise Consulting is facilitating the Pillar Point Harbor planning workshop.


  • Thursday, July 10th - 6:30pm 
  • Oceano Hotel, Princeton by-the-sea
  • Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 6:30pm

Ladies and Gentleman we give you President Pietro Parravano

At the June 18, 2014 Harbor District meeting Pietro Parravano was elected president of the board of Harbor Commissioners.

Pier Pressure

This cartoon from the Half Moon Bay Review pretty much sums it up.



Harbor District will be broke & screwed by 2018

From:     John Ullom 

Subject:     The best evidence yet that the San Mateo County Harbor District will be broke and screwed by 2018

Date:     May 25, 2014 6:41:04 AM 

To:     Mark Noack 

Cc:     Robert Bernardo <>,,, Sabrina Brennan <>,, Dave Pine <>,,,,,,, Peter Grenell <>, M. Harris <>,,,,, O',,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Hi Mark,

I hope you are enjoying this fine weekend.

Here is the TOTAL reserves projection from the Districts 2014-2015 budget presentation:

April 16, 2014 Harbor District FY 14/15 budget meeting slide

Notice that by 2016, they project only 6.5 million, (at most) in TOTAL RESERVES. But that 6. 5 million needs two adjustments.

1)  Subtract 1.8 million that they are spending on the building in El Granada.

2)  Subtract 1.7 million for the DBW loan collateral. This is the only restricted fund that they admit is restricted.

I come up with only 3 million dollars in TOTAL available reserves by 2016.

That means by 2016, the SMCHD plans to spend all of its Emergency Reserves, all of its Capital Projects Reserves, all of its Customer Deposits, and have only 3 million left which is supposed to be reserved for the payment of post termination benefit liabilities, that the district expects it will accrue. I am unclear how the Unions and Employees at the SMCHD will feel about the plan to raid their post employment benefits when there is no plan to pay them back.

Here is a link to a four minute video clip where Peter Grenell describes his plan to finance operations out of formerly restricted reserves:

So that leaves the district pretty much out of money by the end of the 2016-2017 budget cycle. The district will be broke and in debt to its employees  for the 3 million dollars plus any increase in liability that occurs between then and now. Here is the chart that Debra Galarza used to show the projected increase in liability the district expects to incur.

April 16, 2014 Harbor District FY 14/15 budget meeting slide

Notice that by 2018, when the district projects it will run out of money, it will have a liability of at least 3.8 million dollars and will have spent most if not all of its reserves.

Here is the slide that the Fiscal Director presented to the Board of Directors that makes it abundantly clear what the problems are:

April 16, 2014 Harbor District FY 14/15 budget meeting slide

The middle reason is babble but the other two are undeniable facts. The facilities at the harbor are getting old and showing the signs of years of deferred maintenance due to more than a decade of structural budget deficits. The district has historically, since at least 2004, spent 20% to 30% more than it takes in. 

There is no denying the above data. It comes directly from the SMCHD Budget Presentation that can be found on the SMCHD website:

I can not explain to you why Peter Grenell, Robert Bernardo, and Jim Tucker deny there is a problem with the fiscal situation at the SMCHD. No organization can sustain a budget deficit of over 20% forever. The District's own Fiscal Director has done her level best to make it clear to the Commissioners yet except for Commissioner Brennan, they either do not get it or choose not to. 

As you can see from their own charts, it does not matter how they define or redefine what they mean by restricted reserves. Even if they spend every last dime, they still can't make it past 2018.

Do what you will with this information.

Enjoy your weekend!

John Charles Ullom

Irate fisherman wait four hours to speak

At the May 21, 2014 Harbor District meeting Commercial Fisherman Steve Fitz waited 4 hours to speak to the board of Harbor Commissioners for 3 minutes.

At 10:00pm when President Robert Bernardo called Captain Fitz for public comment Commissioners Jim Tucker and Will Holsinger responded by ordering an immediate end to the meeting. This was after Captain Fitz waited 4 hours while the board dilly dallied in closed session for 3 hour, leaving only 1 hour to cover a 21 item agenda.

It was at the point that members of the public began yelling at the board to let Captain Fitz speak. Commissioner Brennan urged President Bernardo to extend the meeting by five minutes. Commissioner Tucker got out of his chair and was about to walk out when President Bernardo agreed to allow one last public speaker.  

Captain Fitz read aloud a letter to the US Department of Transportation from the Half Moon Bay Seafood Marketing Association. The letter requested the Harbor District be denied a federal Tiger Grant.

Highlights from the letter include a lack of faith in harbor management's ability to administer the federal grant appropriately and a vote of no confidence in the board of Harbor Commissioners.

Excerpt from the HMBSMA letter:

"We have made numerous attempts to participate in the public process with SMC Harbor District to no avail, therefore, due to the current climate within the SMCHD and because our lives depend on the changes made to our harbor, we cannot support the SMCHD Tiger Grant application at this time. We are simply not comfortable with public grant funds being provided for further changes to our port, that the local commercial fishing industry will not have a voice in."

Political Payback at Pillar Point Harbor

Commercial fishermen at Pillar Point Harbor believe a new hoist location at Pillar Point Harbor/Johnson Pier is a quid pro quo gift from Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell that favors one commercial fish buying company.

Jim Tucker discovers his true nature

“I feel like a horse’s patootie.” —Jim Tucker, San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner

Pillar Point Harbor comments on DJ Op-ed

Response to Daily Journal Op-ed

Dear John Mc Dowell,

Thanks for writing about a few of the problems with the San Mateo County Harbor District. 

We have a couple corrections for you. You said, "A former harbor commissioner received $18,348 in benefits, and she’s dead. Lifetime benefits for commissioners require payment to her son, who is on her health insurance policy until he is 26". Deceased Harbor Commissioner Sally Campbell's grandson (not her son) receives those benefits. Commissioner Campbell adopted her grandson so he would be eligible for generous benefits from the Harbor District. 

Also, in your editorial you did not make it clear that both Commissioner Will Holsinger and Commissioner Pietro Parravano are taking advantage of extravagant benefits offered by the Harbor District. Commissioner Jim Tucker takes a cash payout instead of the benefits. We assume the extra cash covers Commissioner Tucker's monthly Mercedes payments. 

Will Holsinger has been a candidate for the Harbor District twice and lost twice, he also applied for appointment twice and was appointed by the board majority twice. 

Problems with the Harbor District are deep and require replacing the board majority and hiring new management. Commissioner Robert Bernardo, Port of Oakland PR manager/public employee does his best to put a smily face on the Harbor Districts problems. Unfortunately he's in over his head. Commissioner Sabrina Brennan, small business owner/community advocate may be tough as nails but she's outgunned by Commissioner Tucker, Commissioner Holsinger, Commissioner Parravano and management.

We hope the County Board of Supervisors and other elected reps will think carefully about endorsements for Harbor District this Nov. This election will be the first time in two decades that real change is possible for the hardworking men and women who risk their lives making a living fishing off the coast of San Mateo County. The commercial fishing families of Pillar Point Harbor want and need change. 

We hope voters will take action this November and vote out the incumbents.

Pillar Point Harbor, San Mateo County

Sewage leak coverup at Pillar Point Harbor

December 19, 2012 email from Harbor Patrol staff to Scott Grindy, Harbormaster informing him about a sewage leak under Johnson Pier. The email said, "I believe this whole system needs to be replaced as it is rotten."  Peter Grenell, General Manager was copied on the email.  

Why didn't the General Manager or the Harbormaster report the leaking pipe?

Johnson Pier  |  Pillar Point Harbor

For more info read this email thread, click the email to enlarge:

Robert Bernardo brags about screwing fishermen

President Bernardo's response to John Ullom. Later General Manager Peter Grenell confirmed that the "2006 market study" Commissioner Bernardo referenced in his email below was never produced.

From: Robert Bernardo

Subject: Echos of Mosquito and Vector Control District Mismanagement and Harbor District Manager Peter Grenell Obfuscation

Date: Dec. 16, 2013 

To: John Ullom

Cc:  Don Horsley, Dave Pine, Carole Groom, Warren Slocum, Adrienne Tissier, Peter Grenell, James Tucker, William Holsinger, Pietro Parravano, Sabrina Brennan, Jean B. Savaree, Mark Noack, Aaron Kinney, Thomas Peele, Jon Mays, Samantha Weigel, Michelle Durand

Hello Mr. Ullom,

Thanks for writing the San Mateo County Harbor District.

I know that the District's General Manager, Peter Grenell has already been working with you on your Public Records Act (PRA) requests. Please continue to work with him directly.

With all due respect, I find it deeply offensive that you have compared our San Mateo County Harbor District to the Mosquito and Vector Control District because it implies that my fellow Commissioners (Sabrina Brennan, Jim Tucker, Pietro Parravano, Will Holsinger) and I have done something improper or illegal.

Since you have raised the issue of finances, let's talk about numbers:

In 2000, the SMC Harbor District borrowed $19.7 million from the State Department of Boating and Waterways (now a division of CA State Parks) for key infrastructure projects. By 2013, we have reduced that debt amount to $7.1 million.  Additionally, we are on track to pay off the remaining debt amount one year early (in 2018). 

How did we accomplish this?

In 2006, there was a market study that showed how our leases were undervalued and that the District was providing generous long-term leases to our tenants. Basically, we weren’t charging enough consistent with the San Francisco Bay Area's very high cost of living.

So, when tenant leases came up for renewal, we modified each of them to maximize District revenues. For example, we've raised monthly ground rents for our Pillar Point fish buyer tenants and we have added a new revenue stream by collecting unloading fees from fish buyers--which had not been done previously. That translates into $50,000 of new revenues from the just the period between April – October 2013!

When the South San Francisco Commuter Ferry terminal was created, General Manager Grenell got the Water Emergency Transit Authority to give $3.6 million to the Dept. of Boating and Waterways to cover a projected loss of revenue for the removal of 2 docks. This $3.6 million went to help retire our debt principle even further. Plus,San Mateo County benefitted by receiving another commute option: a regular ferry service to the East Bay.

Additionally, we have set aside a restricted fund of $1.5 million--which cannot be touched by the District--toward paying off our debt principle.

These are just some examples of how the San Mateo County Harbor District has shown effective leadership and strong fiscal management over the years. I have not even mentioned the superior search and rescue work that our harbor patrol does on a daily basis (On October 30, 2013, the California Association of Harbor Masters and Port Captains recently bestowed their 2013 Distinguished Service Award to three of our deputies for rescuing 2 people trapped by incoming tides in a coastal cave).

We continue to be both fiscal and environmental stewards (NOTE: We were recently bestowed the status of "2013 Clean Marina" by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

We’ve accomplished all of the above through strong adherence to governmental accounting standards and best practices. Last month, an independent auditors’ report (JJACPA, Inc.) stated that our finances are in “accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America” (see page 2 of the auditor’s report).

I am proud to serve as the Harbor District’s president this year, and therefore, I do take strong offense at any attempt to discredit the great work that Harbor staff has been doing over the years—and continues to do.

As always, thanks for your continued interest in our Harbor finances and operations. Happy holidays to you and yours.

Warmest regards,

Robert Bernardo

President, San Mateo County Harbor Commission 

On Sunday, December 15, 2013 9:27 PM, John Ullom wrote:

Hello All,

I hope this one finds you all well. Now some facts that to me indicate a huge mess. The following numbers are derived from the San Mateo County Harbor District Audits.

In fiscal year 2008-2009 Harbor District Revenue Operating Revenue were 3,461,953 and Receivables were 12,408.

In fiscal year 2009-20010 Harbor District Revenue Operating Revenue were 3,286,209 and Receivables were 19,582. 

In fiscal year 2010-2011 Harbor District Revenue Operating Revenue were 3,406,534 and Receivables were 64,259.

In fiscal year 2011-2012 Harbor District Revenue Operating Revenue were 3,524,119 and Receivables were 104,174.

In fiscal year 2012-2013 Harbor District Revenue Operating Revenue were 3,428.764 and Receivables were 175,665.

As can easily seen, even though revenue has been static over that 5 year period, Receivables are up by a factor 14 and some change.

So I asked for the AR Reports. What I got didn't make sense. There are tens of thousands of dollars in negative balances on the AR Reports that represent liabilities to the Harbor District. When I first asked about them at a District meeting, I was told that those negative balances represented deposits. I was told that when people leave the Marinas, they often leave their deposits behind. I pointed out that some of the those negative balances were for 5000 and 10,000 dollars. "Who," I asked, "Would leave a 10,000 dollar deposit behind as they sailed off into the sunset?"

Their story changed. Now they are asserting that those large negative balances represent "Prepayments". I figured if that was the case, I'd be able to track the prepayments and see the balances reduced from month to month. But, that does not appear to be the case.

Here is the problem. I can't definitively say what is going on because Grenell has ordered staff to redact both the customer names and customer ID's from the report. Thus I can't compare totals from month to month.

Next I asked Mr. Grenell to supply the AR Reports with Account ID's unredacted. First he said this:

Re: your #1: You were previously provided with the unredacted AR Reports from Jan. 2012 to present to inspect at the District Administration office. When you were in the Admin office you chose not to look at these reports. -- Peter Grenell

I never got the chance to see any of the data that day as two staff members berated me, accused me of slander, and threatened to file harassment charges against me. And that was in the first five minutes! Here is how staff reacts to questions: -- LINK

The thing to notice is that Mr. Grenell told me that his staff had given me access to unredacted AR Reports.

Now compare what I was told by Mr. Grenell a couple of days later:

For your information and understanding, Government Code Section 6254 (c) of the Public Records Act provides that disclosure of certain personnel information would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. The AR reports you request contain individuals’ names and account numbers which can link to their tenant information which can include social security numbers and driver license numbers which are confidential. Hence the requested reports are again redacted.

Got that folks? First Grenell says I blew my chance to see the unredacted AR Reports then he cites a California law that per his logic, proves that his staff violated personal privacy laws.

So here is where I am at. The accounts receivable have increased 14 fold even though revenue has remained flat. There are tens of thousands of dollars in negative balances on the AR Reports. The story has changed as to what those balances represent. I can't verify the new story with the redacted data I have been supplied. Grenell's excuse for not providing unredacted reports keeps changing and appears to be contradictory.

Some of you may be aware of what happened at the Mosquito Control and Vector District. The parallels between the Harbor District and the Bug and Rat District become more obvious each day: --  LINK

Notice that in the above story, the District Trustees and Manager were blamed for enabling the embezzlement. A contention bolstered by the fact that the Board's Insurance Company declined to pay for the fraud. The Board Members themselves may very well end up paying restitution.

Here is more background on the scandal that was exposed only after a board member asked some questions of staff and then the attorney for the board: --  LINK

Is there anything any of you can do to help me get that unredacted AR Reports without having to resort to a Public Records Act lawsuit?


John Charles Ullom


"Destruction of Records" letter from Harvey Rarback

Jan. 20, 2014

Re: SMCHD Record Destruction

President Bernardo,

I'm a Director of the Coastside Fire Protection District, but I am writing to you as a private citizen.

I am very concerned about the imminent destruction of some Harbor District documents and records.  I was unable to attend the January 15 meeting where the item was on the agenda, but thanks to the private group CitizenAccess.TV I was able to see a video of the meeting.  As I have mentioned in public comment, the decision of the HD to stop the video taping of your meetings was another step in reducing the transparency of your agency and causing the public to wonder what you have to hide.  The public needs to trust in the integrity and transparency of its agencies.  An expensive and divisive recall election was the result of the public's lack of trust in the Fire Protection District.

The decision to destroy some of your records is suspicious, especially in light of the ongoing Civil Grand Jury investigation and the large number of outstanding PRA requests.  I urge you to refrain from destroying any non-duplicated records or documents until the Grand Jury issues its reports and the PRA requests are fulfilled.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

Harvey Rarback
Half Moon Bay

"Always tell the truth that way you don't have to keep track."  -Pogo

"Destruction of Records" letter from Dr. Mary Larenas

San Mateo County board of Harbor Commissioners

January 15, 2014

RE: Item 6 of the 01-15-2014 Harbor District Board meeting - Records Management: Destruction of Records

Dear President Bernardo, Harbor Commissioners, Board of Supervisors, members of the public and other elected officials,

I respectfully request that the following email content be read into the public record.

I am Dr. Mary Larenas and unfortunately, as a working professional, I will not be able to attend the Harbor Commission meeting tonight in South San Francisco. Therefore I would like to use this correspondence as a means to express my deep concerns with a pattern of behavior by certain Harbor Commissioners and staff.

Throughout 2013, there has been a progressive attempt to limit and restrict public comment, curtail the efforts of certain Harbor Commissioners who attempt reform, access to Harbor Commission meetings and information about the inner workings of the harbor management. To date there have been motions adopted by particular Harbor Commissioners and staff which curtail public comment, restrict Commissioner questions and actions, end video recordings of meetings (critical to those of us who cannot attend all of the meetings), hide financial records, and now an attempt to destroy records (Item 6) that may shed light on harbor activities. One only needs to review past videos of meetings to view the progress of these behaviors and restrictive actions - unless these are among the records to be destroyed.

These actions to limit, curtail, restrict, hide, serve to only deepen my concern with the direction the Harbor Commission and harbor staff is heading, which is towards a total lack of transparency.

Therefore I am asking that Item 6, on the 01-15-2014 Harbor District (HD) Agenda; Destruction of Records be pulled and no action taken on this matter until further investigation.

Respectfully submitted,

Dr. Mary Larenas

Moss Beach, CA

Email Response from Robert Bernardo to Dr. Mary Larenas 1-15-14:

Dear Dr. Larenas,

On behalf of the San Mateo County Harbor District, thank you for your email and for sharing your concerns. 

This serves as an acknowledgement that I have received your message and intend to read your letter at tonight's meeting for the public record.

Please note that with regards to agenda item #6 related to records disposal, Harbor staff have reviewed each of the file boxes again have found that two items are in fact, duplicates.  They are copies of originals, so they may be disposed of.  The original items remain in the District’s archives for permanent retention.  One other item has been removed from the list for disposal. All other items on the list remain eligible for disposal.

Thank you, 

Robert Bernardo


San Mateo County Harbor Commission

Tel. 650-794-1810

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