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Sausalito Working Waterfront Coalition

The Sausalito Working Waterfront Coalition was born five years ago in 2019 during the General Plan process when a group of concerned business and property owners joined forces with local workers and residents. Soon after, the new group announced their vision and plans to Sausalito’s City Council and the broader community, declaring:

“The Sausalito Working Waterfront Coalition (SWWC) represents and advocates for the interests of those whose livelihoods are linked to the Marinship and its multifaceted evolution.  Our constituency includes an interdependent network of maritime workers, business owners, property owners, employees, artists, craftspeople, inventors, artisans, educators, and many Sausalito residents who are concerned for the future of this unique community and its historic legacy.”

The SWWC then analyzed recent Marinship history, reviewing the past four decades, and concluded: 

  1. A steadily growing number of high-end users including law firms, investment funds, real estate companies, PR/media firms and similar entities have been locating in the Marinship.  These businesses do not need waterfront access to operate but they displace some of those that do.

  2. These new users have raised overall rental and lease rates paid by maritime and industrial businesses and artists.

  3. The higher rates are forcing many industrial, maritime businesses and users to relocate, leading to a net decline of these firms.

  4. Some landowners continue pushing a myth that high rents for non-industrial and maritime users allow them to subsidize true maritime, industrial and art tenants.  In practice, the number of maritime, industrial and arts users have consistently fallen over time as lease rates remain highest in southern Marin.  Sausalito industrial and water zone lease rates are consistently more than double the average for southern Marin.

The Waterfront Coalition has spent the past five years raising concerns - and proposing constructive solutions - at dozens of public meetings that have sparked a community-wide discussion and debate over the best approach saving and improving the Marinship’s diverse economic, cultural and historic resources.

 

 

Early Days

The first phase of outreach was accompanied by the production of a 45-page booklet, “It Happens in Marinship,” The book features dozens of successful Marinship businesses, explaining the important work performed there to local residents.  Copies of the book were distributed at no cost to the City Council, the Sausalito Library, Drivers Market, coffee shops, hardware store and other public places.  

Shortly after this first outreach effort, a public website was created and made available at sausalitoworkingwaterfront.org  The goal was to daylight current activities along the City’s working waterfront.  Since August of 2020, an average of eight newsletters have been published per year.  These newsletters cover a broad range of issues and activities, and always include our request to, “Please forward to friends who care about our working waterfront.” More recently, the website and newsletter has been augmented with social media (Instagram, etc.)

In early 2020, a joint City Council/Planning Commission Meeting explored the concept of making the Marinship an innovation zone for new technologies related to ocean health, climate tech and the maritime “blue” economy. The concept took hold and became a theme that defined the future of the Marinship. The Working Waterfront Coalition embraced and advocated for this new “ethos,” as it was termed at the Planning meeting.

COVID

When the COVID pandemic hit Sausalito, the Waterfront Coalition helped organize an emergency effort that tapped Marinship talent to scramble production of face shields and hand sanitizer - both in critically short supply to local citizens, first responders and frontline medical staff. The emergency effort mobilized Marinship shops and donated talent that quickly produced nearly 15,000 face shields and  55 gallons of hand sanitizer - both distributed to our community and beyond at no charge. A simultaneous effort by Waterfront Coalition volunteers helped deliver meals to seniors who were home-bound during the height of the pandemic.  Throughout all these encounters, members of the Coalition introduced themselves to residents, explained the resilience of the Marinship during emergencies and economic downturns, while answering questions and concerns.

Throughout the darkest days of the pandemic, Sausalito’s waterfront remained extremely active and economically vital.  Businesses provided urgently needed tax revenues as tourist and sales taxes collapsed. Boat sales spiked and with those sales future boatyard customers were created.  The power of economic diversification was proven to be a vital asset in both good times and bad.

 

 

 

The Documentary

During these difficult times, the Waterfront Coalition launched a new outreach program using a locally-produced a documentary film that has reached thousands of residents. This 15-month mostly volunteer effort by professional videographers and editors working in the Marinship was titled, “Sausalito’s Marinship:  A Working Waterfront at Risk”.  The hour-long documentary tells the stories of the actual business owners and workers who make Marinship such a unique ecosystem - based on Blue Economy fabricators, maritime craftsmen and artists - many of whom are being pushed out of their shops due to higher rents associated with gentrification and lax zoning enforcement. 

The documentary has screened 26 times in and around Sausalito including at the library, Bay Model, Spaulding Boat Center, Sausalito Yacht Club, The Pines, Cruising Club, Poggio Restaurant, Township, Presidio Yacht Club, Corinthian Yacht Club, Marin Made and others.  Discussions after each showing were rich and deep.  Through it all, passion and concern for the plight of Sausalito’s working waterfront has remained overwhelming by viewers of the film.  

Also, during the Housing Element process SWWC gathered over 1300 signatures advocating to exclude incompatible uses next to our industrial waterfront area. These signatures were presented to city council in early 2023.

Outreach Meetings

The Working Waterfront Coalition has consistently engaged with property and business owners, to advocate for projects, introduce potential tenants and provide other community information with the goal of fostering Sausalito’s Blue Economy / Climate Tech Innovation Zone.  The outreach included conversations with property owner regarding available spaces, potential tenant introductions, project advocacy, Marinship news, etc.

  • Varda Landing

  • Morgan Properties

  • Schoonmaker Marina

  • Machine Shop

  • Sausalito Shipyard/Marina (Arques)

  • Whitco-Murphy Bldg

  • Marina Plaza

  • Clipper Marina

  • Spaulding Boatworks

  • Berkell Plumbing property

  • 3000 Bridgeway

  • Seagate Properties

  • USM 245 Gate 5 Rd

  • 90 Gate 5 Road

 

 

The Ballot Measure

This large body of information, opinions, constructive criticism and feedback collected over the last 5 years, served as the foundation for the ballot measure recently presented to the City Council for their consideration and ultimate approval or rejection by the residents of Sausalito in November, 2024.  

If approved, the ballot measure will create a stronger, more diverse and resilient local economy - providing urgently needed contributions to Sausalito’s growing budget deficit. The key to this effort is to support and stabilize - at no cost to taxpayers - an industrial-maritime community where fabrication, marine services and new innovation and blue economy and climate tech companies are tied to growing public and private investments in ocean heath, clean energy, climate tech, shoreline adaptation and climate technologies.  Sausalito, with its existing working waterfront and successful eco-system of maritime and industrial innovators, is ideally situated to take advantage of these investment opportunities.   

The ballot measure reflects a balanced approach, formulated to address concerns of residents, artists, maritime and industrial workers, property and business owners.

The measure will not address an 18 acre portion of the current Marinship north of Harbor Drive along Bridgeway that as the city already plans for a mixed-use residential zone in that area.

In the remainder of the Marinship, the ballot measure will secure those programs and policies found in the General Plan that are sound and supportive of the Marinship. It will also provide stability and predictability sought by investors and businesses, replacing political swings every two years on the City Council - with a steady and consistent policy that can only be changed by a majority of voters in the future.

Additional policies will be included to clarify and retain the Marinship character as specified in the General Plan. The measure is moderate in that it accepts and allows most non-conforming uses that are already in the Marinship to remain.  No use currently in the Marinship as of June 1 2024 will be displaced.

Going forward, new development and significant remodeling will be restricted to maritime, blue economy, light industrial, art or apprenticeship/trade certification programs.  These uses are found in the current General Plan and included in the ballot measure.  

There are no significant land use changes in this initiative.

The Marinship District today sits on the cusp of a positive transformation by combining existing assets with new Blue Economy / Climate Tech investment. The path to this point was made thanks to over one thousand Sausalito residents, artists, apprentices, workers, landowners, businesses and concerned citizens who contributed their valuable time in the form of shared ideas, helpful feedback and constructive criticism. Everyone who contributed deserves thanks and appreciation for their efforts that shaped this measure.

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