Former San Diego City Councilman Bob Martinet owns a home that would fulfill the fantasies of many urban dweller. Nestled at the end of a cul de sac in Pacific Beach, the two-story house features large picture windows and sliding glass doors that look out upon a patio which is perched above a virtually private beach with a magnificent view of Mission bay. Although it is not common knowledge, Martinet is aware that should a group of noisy children or a motley bunch of teenagers one day stroll up from the beach and set up chairs and spread out blankets on a portion of his scenic patio, he would have no choice but to allow them to stay.
Nearby residents of a bayfront condominium at 3810 Riviera Drive have paid a handsome sum for their homes. They have only to walk down a few steps to enjoy a leisurely walk along the sands of Mission Bay or to swim in their pool. But should they find strangers frolicking in part of the pool, like Martinet, would be powerless to do anything about it.
The condominium’s swimming pool, Martinet’s patio, and the seawalls, landscaping, and bulkheads established by numerous other residents living on part of Mission Bay called Sail or Crescent Bay, share a common predicament: portions of them are on public beach and may be used by the public. But for the benevolence of past San Diego City Councils, the beach encroachments could have — many say should have — been ordered removed by the city.
Sail Bay is on the northwest section of Mission Bay, extending from Verona Court past the Catamaran Hotel in a semicircle to the Ingraham Street bridge. Many beach-area residents are convinced the private encroachments on Sail Bay have been allowed to remain because of the wealth and political clout of persons living there. That clout also is responsible, they say, for the blatant and repeated delaying tactics of the city council — lead by former councilman Tom Gade — in implementing a plan for the development of Sail Bay for public use. It cannot be denied that some of San Diego’s richest and most influential citizens either now own, or used to own, condos or homes fronting Sail Bay. In addition to Martinet, an heir to the Purex Bleach fortune, and his brother Ronald, who lives a block away, other Sail Bay residents include former PSA Airlines president J. Floyd Andrews; former Sea World president George Millay; former congressman, Sentinel newspaper owner, and entrepreneur Clinton McKinnon ; his son Dan, owner of KSON radio station and a candidate for the congressional seat once held by his father; and Vernon Taylor, owner of a vast number of properties in Pacific Beach. One of the many bayfront condos in the area — a gray, fortresslike like structure called Bay Scene — has been, or is home to such political notables as Congressman Bob Wilson, City Councilman Fred Schnaubelt, and Sheriff John Duffy. Former County Supervisor Lou Conde lives nearby in another condo.
To understand how improvements to homes and condos were developed on what is now public beach, one must go back to 1926, when Mission Bay — then called False Bay was little more than a swamp and was owned by the state. At that time the state wanted to promote development of the area, but didn’t have the funds to do so. A three-member Board of State Harbor Commissioners was appointed, and in an effort to encourage development the commissioners granted two fifty-year leases on twenty-five acres of tidelands on what is now known as Sail Bay. One of the leases, of slightly less than seven acres, was granted to F.T. Scripps, the brother of the newspaper czar D.W. Scripps, for a monthly fee of $8.34. The other lease, of nearly eighteen acres, was awarded to Charles K. Johnson for $33.05 a month. The leases permitted the building of a wide range of private improvements by the lessees, with the stipulation that when they expired on May 31, 1976, the lessees would remove at their own expense “all improvements, buildings, and structures of whatsoever kind” with the exception of seawalls of bulkheading.
In 1929 the California state legislature declared the tidelands and waters of Mission Bay to be a state park. All Mission Bay tidelands, including those leased to private individuals came under the control of the State Park Division. In 1945 the state granted the tidelands and submerged lands of Mission Bay Park to the city, under the condition that they be used for maritime improvement, construction, education, and recreation. The same year San Diegans approved a two-million dollar bond issue for park development that included Mission Bay. The following year extensive dredging operations began.
Clinton McKinnon formed the Crescent Beach Development Association in 1950. It was a nonprofit organization composed of the successors in interest to the Johnson lease; its purpose was to ensure that the lease rent was paid and that the beach “would be used properly,” McKinnon says. Nine years later the Catamaran Hotel was completed by William Evans on a parcel of land owned by McKinnon and Vernon Taylor near the northwest corner of Sail Bay.
In 1960 the city and the successors in interest to the Scripps and Johnson leases signed an agreement whereby the city would pay for twenty-one percent of the cost of further dredging of the Sail bay waters, and the lessees would pay the balance. The lease amendment stated clearly that after May 31, 1976 any private structures built by the lessees would be removed by them so that the city could use the area for an aquatic park and recreation area. Following the dredging, which removed silt on the floor of the bay, making it deeper and more easily navigable; Sail Bay residents began constructing private piers and docks, enabling many of them to moor their craft virtually in their backyards.
In 1964 the builder of the condominium at 3810 Riviera Drive built a swimming pool beyond his property line and onto the beach. He was ordered by the city to post a bond to guarantee the removal once the beach reverted to public use in 1976. Jim Gutzmer, a superintendent with the park and recreation department, recalls the amount of the bond as being about $600 or $800, and he wryly expressed some concern that with the soaring rate of inflation since that time, the bond may not cover the cost of removing the pool.
In 1966 San Diego’s citizens passed a $7.5 million bond issue for Mission Bay Park’s development.
As the expiration date of the leases drew nearer, Sail Bay residents began to explore ways to preserve their private docks and beaches. In 1970 Clinton McKinnon sent a letter to members of his Crescent beach Development Association calling for a special meeting of the membership to discuss the possibility of cancelling their lease with the city, entering into a new thirty-five-year agreement. McKinnon even went so far as to draw up a new lease agreement himself. The attempt to renegotiate the lease failed when the city expressed no interest in the proposal.
A petition initiative circulated around San Diego in 1971 forever changed the complexion of Sail Bay. The initiative sought to impose a thirty-foot height limit on buildings in the beach area, and its supporters gathered enough signatures to qualify it for November, 1972 ballot. The measure was approved by San Diego voters, but prior to its passage, developers scurried to get their building permits approved by the city for the construction of condominiums in excess of thirty feet on the shores of Sail Bay. There is today an almost interrupted wall of condos at the edge of the bay from Everts Street to the South end of Riviera Drive, the structures are so massive that motorists driving on nearby streets are often unaware they are within several yards of the bay. The structures are so imposing that many residents refer to them as the “China Wall.”
In 1974 Sixth District City Councilman Bob Martinet, whose district included the entire Mission Bay area, announced he would not seek re-election. Ten hopefuls ran for the seat. The June, 1975 primary narrowed the field down to the two best financed candidates, and two of the most conservative; Ray Lussa and Tom Gade.
Lussa had name recognition—two years earlier the young businessman had narrowly missed in an attempt to unseat incumbent councilman Floyd Morrow in another district. Gade, on the other hand, was an unknown making his first try for public office. Then forty-three years old, Gade had begun law practice three years earlier, after several years’ employment as an engineer with the state division of highways. His most notable community activities, after living fourteen years in the district, were his involvement in Little League, the Mission Bay Youth Fields, and with the Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts.
Another of the candidates in that race, Don Harman, objected to the campaign contributions Lussa and Gade were receiving from property owners living near Sail bay. With the Sail Bay leases expiring in one year, Harman maintained the contributions could have some bearing on how either man might vote on the matter if elected. Gade received more Sail Bay money than Lussa, prompting Harman to charge that the lawyer accepted funds from Sail Bay interests with the understanding he would champion their cause if elected. Gade denied the charge, and Harman recently admitted, “I had nothing really to substantiate it.”
After the primary, Gade received Martinet’s endorsement. The outgoing councilman announced after meeting the candidate that Gade “. . .displayed a degree of integrity that was truly refreshing.” Subsequently, Gade received considerably more money from Sail Bay residents to finance his campaign in the general election. Between August and October of that year, Gade accepted donations totaling $700 from Catamaran owner William Evans and his wife; $650 from Dan McKinnon, his campaign chairman, and his wife; $500 from Bob Martinet; $350 from Clinton McKinnon; and $250 from Vernon Taylor.
In November Gade won election to the city council. In the next four years he would leave no doubt that, for whatever reasons, his sentiments regarding Sail Bay coincided with those of the wealthy property owners whose land abutted it.
From April, 1976 to November, 1977 the city council would pass no less than seventeen resolutions concerning Sail Bay. Gade himself would write on of the earliest of these, in which he assured all that after the expiration of the leases, the beaches would “become the public property of all the people to be used for public park purpose from that date forward.” And nine days after the expiration of the leases, the city council declared its intention to give high priority to the development of Sail Bay as a public beach. But largely through the efforts of Gade, the city council would in the next three years do everything in its power to delay development of the beach for public use.
On May 31, 1976 the tidelands leases expired. In theory, the Sail Bay beach was now open for public use. Despite this, some nearby property owners continued to post signs warning “No Trespassing” and “Private beach,” and to this day, nearly four years later, the Catamaran continues to exhort visitors, on its postcards and brochures, to “relax on private, sun drenched beaches on the shores of lovely Mission Bay.” The beach adjacent to the Catamaran, like the rest of Sail Bay, is public beach.
Nine days after the leases expired, the city council ordered thirteen of the twenty-eight piers built by Sail Bay property owners be removed within three months. Two docks—at the Catamaran and the ZLAC Rowing Club—were given permission to remain, contingent upon them being open to the public. The remaining structures were given a two-year extension before they, too, would have to be demolished. Some of the property owners refused to apply for the necessary permit from their regional coastal commission to remove piers, so the city was forced to do it for them. After months of haggling with both the regional and state coastal commissions, the city finally received the necessary permits in May of 1977 to force the removal of the piers. The property owners were told they could remove the piers themselves or the city would contract a firm to do the job and bill them. Many of the property owners chose the latter course, a scenario that would repeat itself the following year when it came time for those persons given a two-year extension to remove theirs.
Last March the city billed seventeen persons for whom the city had piers removed. Only two of them have reimbursed the city. The remaining fifteen still owe the city fees totaling almost $47,000. Sam Santillan of the city auditor’s office says some of the property owners who have refused to pay have asked for a breakdown of the charges. But, he adds, “The vast majority just ignored the bill.” Among those the city says owe money are J. Floyd Andrews, Clinton McKinnon, T. Claude Ryan, and George Millay. Spokesman in the city attorney’s office say they don’t know at this time if the city will file lawsuit against the fifteen individuals who have not paid their fees.
Although the forced removal of their private piers and docks was an inconvenience to them, Sail Bay residents faced problems of a more serious nature shortly after the tidelands leases expired. It was then that the Assistant City manager R.E. Graham issued a report to the city council listing beach encroachments of patios, landscaping, and other improvements to the homes and yards of property owners living on Sail bay. Even though the once legal encroachments were a matter of public record, few persons realized how extensive they were. While some were minor and didn’t interfere with public access to the beach, others were of such magnitude that they would require major revisions by some residents.
Among the latter are Martinet’s patio, which extends some twenty feet southward onto public beach. To make it legal would require the removal of about 2,299 square feet of the patio, including concrete paving, wood decking, planter boxes, and other landscaping.
The former city councilman’s brother, who lives one street away on West Briarfield, has an equally serious encroachment. Approximately 130 feet of Ronald Martinet’s wooden seawall and about 3,000 square feet of his patio are on public beach.
Across the street from Ronald Martinet is the home of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Bridge. Among their beach encroachments are 2,400 square feet of lawn landscaping and other patio-type improvements. A portion of their roof overhang may also be in violation.
George Millary’s condominium at 3726 Riviera Drive has beach encroachments that include about ninety feet of four-foot-high concrete block wall with a four-foot-high glass-and-metal window screen that encloses a patio area.
The most spectacular encroachment belongs to the condominium at 3810 Riviera Drive. Built on public land were from one-third to one-half of the swimming pool, a portion of the wooden deck, retaining walls, fences, planter boxes, and various types of landscaping.
The failure by property owners to remove private improvements on what is now public beach raises an interesting question: Can the public use those improvements that lie on public land? “As long as the improvements are there, they [the property owners] don’t have the exclusive right to use them,” said deputy City Attorney Hal Valderhaug. “The public can use them.” Anticipating such a question when the leases expired, Valderhaug says he telephoned the San Diego Police Department about that time and told them not to arrest anybody accused of trespassing on what has become public land. Valderhaug explained that although the public may use that portion of improvements which are on public land they may not destroy them. And should a citizen gain access to an improvement by entering private property, he would be guilty of trespassing. If, on the other hand, one were to gain entry from the beach to the Riviera Drive swimming pool, for example, and proceed to swim in the one-third to one-half of it on the public beach, no law would be broken. While admitting the public can use the pool or some portions of a few residents’ patios with impunity, Valderhaug added, “I don’t think the people should be encouraged to use the backyards of people. It’s not necessary. It would cause nothing but trouble.”
Four months after the tidelands leases expired, the city commissioned an architectural firm, the Reynolds Environmental Group, to develop a master plan for developing the Sail Bay beach for public use. The cost of the study was $59,000. Several weeks later an ad hoc committee was established by the city council to work with the Reynolds Group on the project. The committee was composed of five Pacific Beach residents considered knowledgeable about Sail Bay, five abutting property owners, and five citizens selected from the city at large in the hope they would provide regional perspective to the planning.
Through the first four months of 1977, Reynolds Group representatives and the ad hoc committee at several times to exchange ideas on how Sail bay should be developed. The meetings were sometimes heated and emotional; with the Sail bay residents repeatedly opposing plans to build a boardwalk on the beach. The city’s consultant eventually presented three pans for the development of Sail Bay. Called the basic, community, and regional concepts, they ranged in scope from minimal beach facilities and limited parking, to a sweeping proposal for many beach amenities and the construction of a large parking lot at the south end of the beach. The plan proposed widening the narrow beach in some areas and installing a pedestrian-bicycle walkway that would connect the boardwalk on Bayside Lane with Crown Point. The plans also called for the boardwalk taking the form of a small bridge in the area around Briarfield Cove, where the Martinets live. This would be necessary because the beach is still underwater there except at low tide. Still another provision was to establish a neighborhood park and parking spaces on a one-acre lot at the foot of Fanuel Street, purchased only a few months earlier by the city for $605,000.
By the time the proposals went before the city council’s public facilities and recreation committee in October of 1977,a fourth alternative suggested by city staff had been added. Called the Roadway plan, it called for forty-foot-wide roadway to be built on the beach, which would have required extensive widening of the beach.
At the committee meeting several Sail Bay residents attended to protest the proposed inclusion of a bikeway. Gade suggested it be eliminated. Eve Smull, then president of the Pacific Beach Town Council, told the committee that her group had no recommendation to make regarding the four proposals, but that it did favor the installation of a bicycle path. It should be noted too, that an environmental quality report released a month prior to the meeting stated the pedestrian bicycle path “is an integral part of any proposed development of Sail Bay and this concept is considered to be a positive contribution to this unique portion of Mission Bay Park.”
But Sail Bay residents were determined to get the path deleted from the proposals. They packed the next meeting of the Pacific Beach Town Council is an attempt to force a change in the organization’s position on the path. Many of those attending were not town council members and proceeded to pay the five-dollar membership fee on the assumption that if they could call for another vote on the path, they would now have a majority opposing its construction. What they did not realize is that the town council bylaws prevent such tactics by prohibiting members from voting until thirty days after joining. When that ploy failed, Vernon Taylor, whose numerous properties in the beach community include the office rented by the town council, announced he should be given two votes—one as a businessman and one as a resident of Pacific Beach. His suggestion was denied. Another vote on the bikeway was taken and a majority again supported its construction. Of the individuals who became town council members that night, “very few ever came back,” says long-time member Bern Swarts.
The public facilities and recreation committee discussed Sail Bay twice in October and finally sent it to the full city council with no recommendation. By this time a fifth proposal had been added for consideration. Called the recommended plan, it was similar to the basic plan, but provided more parking spaces, restrooms and lifeguard stations, and would have required the city to purchase another lot on Fanuel Street.
At the full council meeting Sail Bay residents again turned out in considerable members to argue against developing the beach, especially the proposed bikeway this despite the fact the extension of the boardwalk had been endorsed by not only the Pacific beach Town Council, but also the Mission Beach Community Plan adopted by the city council in 1970, by the Mission Beach Precise Plan, adopted by the city council in 1974 by the Mission Bay Land and Water Use, the park and recreation board, and the planning commission, in addition to the meeting the coastal commission guidelines for Mission Bay adopted in 1977.
In an attempt to expedite the council hearing, Mayor Pete Wilson set time limits for persons speaking in favor of each of the five proposals. Gade then asked that persons opposed to all the plans be given time to speak. As might be expected, Sail Bay residents were virtually the only persons in this category. Wilson granted them equal time—thirty minutes—with proponents of the various plans.
One thing can be said of Gade at the November city council meeting, he made it clear who he sided with. Shortly into the hearing he moved for a continuance of the issue, arguing that a decision shouldn’t be made on Sail Bay until the city council voted on a master plan for all of Mission Bay, a matter that wasn’t scheduled to be aired for another three or four months. Dave Roberts, development division superintendent of the park and recreation department assured the council that there would be no problem, in first adopting a Sail Bay precise plan. But Gade persisted in his attempts to delay the matter to the point where a woman in the audience finally approached the microphone and complained of him “Stalling off,” to which Mayor Wilson retorted, “he’s had some help ma’am.” Gade made a motion to continue Sail Bay to a later date, but it was defeated.
Next Dan McKinnon, Gade’s former campaign chairman, asked that proponents of Sail Bay development be given only fifteen minutes to speak, and those persons against all development plans be allowed to speak for forty-five minutes. McKinnon claimed that the arrangement would better represent the ratio of audience sentiment. Gade immediately made a motion to extend the opponents’ time, but could not even muster a second to the motion, and it died. Each side still was permitted thirty minutes to speak.
One of the more popular arguments presented at the hearing by Sail Bay residents was that it would be foolish to approve a bikeway, restrooms, or parking facilities on Sail Bay because the public seldom used the beach there. That argument was, and is, true on the face of it. But as proponents of development are quick to point out, it is scarcely used because access to it is poor and there are no facilities such as restrooms on the beach.
As the hearing continued, Gade frequently interrupted to voice his concerns about the proposed addition of a bikeway through Sail Bay, he said he worried there might be massive congestion, as is the case on the Mission Beach Boardwalk. “A 200-hundred pound man on a fifteen-mile-per-hour bicycle hitting a three-year-old coming out of one of those walks can be a hazard and I’ve seen it,” he declared solemnly. The sixth district councilman also said he was concerned about “the proliferation of mopeds” that he alleged were being ridden on bikeways elsewhere in the city.
The city council eliminated from consideration all but two of the proposed plans—the basic and the more expensive recommended plans. A motion was made to approve the recommended plan, but before it could be voted on, Gade proposed some amendments to it. They were to delete to the parking provision beneath the bluffs at Moorland Drive, and thus eliminate almost all parking; and to delete the bicycle-pedestrian path, which would reduce access to the area. The amendments died, and when the city council voted on the recommended plan, it was defeated five to four.
Councilman Jess Haro then made a motion, seconded by Councilman Maureen O’Connor, that the basic plan be adopted. Again Gade went to work. Again he proposed an amendment that would eliminate the parking spaces near Mooreland Drive. Councilman Lee Hubbard seconded Gade’s amendment, prompting councilman Floyd Morrow to comment, “If you want to preclude people from having their public beach, then go ahead, but I don’t want to be any part of it,” Neither did his colleagues—the Gade amendment was defeated.
Next, Mae Strobl, appointed to fill the vacancy created by the election of Jim Ellis to the state of assembly, made a motion to direct city staff to implement a walkway that would be a pedestrian-orientated path, banning all vehicular traffic (including bicycles) as a condition of adopting the basic plan concept. But even with a diluted version of the plan calling for the least development of the five presented, Gade was not satisfied. Again, to the applause of the Sail Bay residents, he unsuccessful argued for a continuance. The city council then voted approval of the basic plan concept—minus—bicycles—with only Gade voting against it. City staff was directed to return with specific plans on implementing the project. Proponents of public access to Sail Bay left the council chambers believing the city would be improving the beach and providing easier entrance—however minimal—in the near future. But Tom Gade was not through trying to quash the project.
Those who favored the development of Sail Bay had reason for optimism in 1978. More than a million dollars from the capital improvement program for the fiscal years 1978 t o1983 were earmarked for construction of Sail Bay improvements; with 1983 the scheduled start date. (Capital improvements programs are funded in six-year increments, with the city council every year adding or dropping projects, or changing their priorities.) Also in 1978, the Reynolds Environmental Group and city staff submitted the final master plan for Sail Bay—the basic plan concept with a pedestrian-only walkway around the beach. Estimated cost for construction of the entire plan was almost $1.5 million; the walkway and additional sand alone came to $800,000. Another environmental quality report concluded that master plan would have “no significant impact on the environment,” and the park and recreation board approved the plan. Development of Sail Bay appeared a certainty.
In 1979 the design plan for Sail Bay had only to be presented to and approved by the city council’s public facilities and recreation committee—Gade was one of five councilmen on the committee—and the full city council to ensure its success. But the plan—discussed ad nauseum in the past—was on the committee’s agenda no less than seven times in the first seven months, and never did receive a hearing before the full city council. This was accompanied by postponing discussion several times on the flimsiest of pretenses. On one such occasion, Gade received a phone call from Pacific Beach Town Council President Eve Smull saying she would be late to the hearing, and promptly continued the issue to a later date. Not only was Smull’s presence not crucial to the hearing, but the matter could have been trailed to a later time in the hearing (Smull did appear later) had Gade chosen to.
Perhaps the councilman’s most obvious attempt to delay the project occurred in April, 1979. At that time he sent a letter to beach-area community groups asking them to indicate which project—the redevelopment of Ocean Boulevard as a pedestrian area, or the improvements to Sail Bay—would they prefer to see city funds spent on, based on the assumption that only one of the projects could obtain capital improvement program funds in the next six-year period. Park Development Superintendent Jim Gutzmer fired off a letter of his own, asking the community groups for their impute on the Gade letter. Apparently the only group to reply was the Pacific Town Council, which in the scathing letter, said it, “emphatically rejects Councilman Gade’s assumption that only one of the two improvements can be funded during the next six-year CIP.” City council districts are not limited to a given number of capital improvement projects. Says Gade’s successor as sixth district city councilman, Mike Gotch, “I think he felt he could transfer the pressure off Sail Bay. Don’t let anyone tell you that one has to go and the other has to fail. I don’t believe that at all.”
What Gade did not mention in his letter is that the Ocean Boulevard project may qualify for State and federal funds or that those improvements could be financed by creating an assessment district. Despite the Pacific Beach Town Council’s empathic plea for retention of the Sail Bay project, one month later Gade sent a memo to the city manager’s office in which he said he intended to push for a capital improvement program to be called “Ocean Boulevard Improvements.” Gade wrote that the new project might be awarded a higher funding priority than the Sail Bay plan. “In light of this,” he wrote, “is there any specific reason why Sail Bay Master Plan should not be deferred until the Ocean Boulevard project is ready for council consideration?” Deputy City Manager Sue Williams replied that the project could indeed be deferred, but warned, “There would still be community expectation about the project’s accomplishment.” Williams added that by deferring the Sail Bay project, “that issue of the private encroachments will not have been addressed.”
The public facilities and recreation committee never did make a decision about Sail Bay last year, nor did they send on to the full council for a vote. Today the master plan for its development, despite hundreds of hours of work devoted to it by the Reynolds Environmental Group is still in limbo.
Opinion differs as to how Gade obtained the support of, and in the opinion of many, became the obedient servant of the Sail Bay interests, “They [Sail Bay lessees’] picked him, “area residents Barbara Shafer stated matter-of-factly. “He hadn’t been active in community. He had no connection with beach politics or San Diego politics,” said Shafer, whose husband, Phil, was an administrative assistant to former city councilman Floyd Morrow, and an aspirant for the council seat won by Gade. Shafer is resigned to the delays in the Sail Bay project. “He [Gade] didn’t do anything illegal,” she sighed, “he just did what he was put in there to do. That’s the way politics is.”
But others, including Gade’s detractors, believe Gade’s decision to run for office was his own, and that it was only after he did so that he sought the support of the Sail Bay people. Clinton McKinnon scoffs at the notion that he and some of his neighbors had undue influence with Gade because of their campaign contributions to his campaign,” he said recently, “I would be very disappointed if a city councilmen could be influenced by a $200 contribution.”
Gade himself says allegations that he voted against Sail Bay development as a concession to his backers living in the area are, “absolutely and unequivocally false.” He reiterated his previously stated objections to the project, including the undesirability of installing a parking lot on the beach below Mooreland and Riviera drives. “The question becomes; do we want to pave over the beach,” he said ‘If so, we can let them sunbathe at the May Company parking lot.” The former councilman said he disagrees that the beach at Sail Bay is still virtually a private one. “That is an absolute public beach,” he asserted. “The reason nobody uses it is that nobody can find a parking space down there.” Yet he finds no inconsistency in his opposition to the Mooreland Drive parking lot. “It’s simply a matter of choice, not restraint” that the public doesn’t use the beach, he said. “With limited use and great cost, we cold much better use the dollars on Ocean Boulevard. There has been no evidence I’ve seen that would alter my point of view.”
Today the future of Sail Bay would seem to be in the hands of the man who succeeded Gade to office, Mike Gotch. The thirty-two-year-old newcomer to City Hall says he does not believe the Ocean Boulevard project or development of Fiesta Island should have a higher priority than Sail Bay, as has been suggested by some persons. And he believes he can persuade his colleagues to include both Sail Bay and Ocean Boulevard as capital improvement projects. “That project has been masterfully delayed for years,” he says of Sail Bay, “I intend to pursue it with all due speed.”
But can Gotch, a neophyte and a liberal on a conservative council, swing his colleagues’ support on an issue several of them helped stall in the past? One proponent of Sail Bay development, when asked that question, replied, “I don’t think Mike is strong enough. There’s political pressure that can be brought upon him. I think it’s a dead issue.” But a veteran of the political wars at City Hall, who did not wish to be identified, disagreed, “I think with a lot of finesse over a long period of time, any pervious decision could be reversed,” he said. “It would take some very, very, careful and diplomatic work, first with staff, and then going back to council,” he continued. “A lot has to do with the ability of the councilman to finesse it.”
“I don’t think he’s being naïve,” he said of Gotch, “The question is what every new council member faces—can you do it? The question is just how powerful is the Briarfield Cove group? Can they make the whole council quake in their boots, or was their influence only with one council man.”
Gotch says he is confident of seeing the project through to its conclusion, and even talks of getting it moved up to 1982. He plans to win the support of the other council members, he said, by presenting “an intelligent, well-reasoned argument. I think I’ll get their support.” He added he may revive the issue this spring.
Clinton McKinnon hopes not “If I were a city councilman,” he says, ‘I would consider the cost effectiveness. To develop that beach is going to require a lot of dredging and a lot of expense” Fiesta Island, he maintains, would be “much more cost effective. I think any reasonable man will see that.”
Besides a recalcitrant city council, there is one other potential obstacle to Sail Bay development. The Martinet brothers have hired a lawyer, Larry Marshall, to assist them in fighting the removal of their encroachments. Neither Marshall nor Deputy City Attorney Hal Valderhaag will speculate how long legal maneuvering may take, but Marshall says some of the other Sail Bay lessees also have indicated an interest in retaining legal counsel. “The public servants in the name of the public feel compelled to do private injury in the name of the public,” Marshall said. “What they’re [the city] proposed is shocking to me personally. All the proposals I’ve heard kind of kill the area with kindness.”
The issue of encroachment is expected to stir again soon. Last November, Park Development Superintendent Jim Gutzmer issued a report to the public facilities and recreation committee listing thirty-two private encroachments on the Sail Bay beach. He recommended that those which most seriously impeded public access on the beach be removed. Sixteen encroachments were grouped in this category, including those of the Martinets and the swimming pool on Riviera Drive. Gutzmer also suggested that in ten other cases city grant a temporary permit to the property owners, which would be valid until the beach is developed; and in six others, grant the permit, but require partial removal of the encroachment.
Gutzmer and Valderhaug were instructed to begin negotiations with the property owners to work out details of the encroachment program. Those negotiations are scheduled to commence any day now, Gutzmer estimates they will take three months to complete. The he will report back to the facilities and recreation committee, and eventually to the full council for its approval.
One park and recreation department staffer estimated that even with city approval and the necessary financing, it would take as long as two years to develop working plans, obtain appropriate permits from the coast commission and the Army Corps of Engineer, placate the state fish and game department, and complete construction on the Sail Bay master plan. With a current projected start date in 1983; that would mean another five years before beach improvements become a reality.
Possibly delaying the project even further is the Jarvis II initiative (called Jaws II by many city officials and journalists) which will appear on the June ballot and which would reduce state income taxes. Most of Sail Bay is slated to be financed with capital outlay funds. Predicts one city official, ‘If Jaws II passes, capital outlay funds will practically disappear,” If that happens, it’s anybody’s guess what will become of Sail Bay development plans, for the immediate future at least. Sail Bay will remain, in the words of the consultant who developed the master plan, “. . .the ocean backyard of numerous separate property owners—exactly what it has been for fifty years.”