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Feb 5, 2023

Sausalito Housing Element Adopted. What that means to our Working Waterfront.

Over one thousand citizens who signed petitions calling on the City Council to respect Sausalito’s working waterfront scored an important victory on January 30 when both Council members and Planning Commissioners voted unanimously to site new housing safely away from the heart of the Marinship District’s Working Waterfront.


The decision was reached during a marathon 6.5 hour joint Council and Planning Commission meeting where representatives raced against a state-imposed deadline of January 31 to adopt a new Housing Element for Sausalito. Failure to meet that deadline would have empowered developers to strip citizens of key controls over housing development.


Action was also needed to correct decisions made by a slim majority of previous City Councilmembers and their appointees to a Housing Element Advisory Committee who backed developer plans to site housing next to Sausalito’s industrial working waterfront-zoned boatyard. Inevitable conflicts caused by placing new residents next to the boatyard would have been a death sentence not only for the boatyard, but also for the surrounding industrial innovators and artists. Council members corrected that threat by removing Marina Plaza from a list of housing sites, favoring instead sites along Bridgeway north of Harbor Drive where small businesses will benefit from new housing units, a strategy called “mixed use residential.” Had the Council failed to act, future conflicts between industrial and new residents would have destroyed our boatyard, just as it has in so many towns and cities in the U.S.


Fortunately, elections matter! Our newly-elected Council members tipped the balance of power in favor of protecting the waterfront maritime and industrial businesses and artists. During their campaigns, Joan Cox and incumbent Jill Hoffman made it clear that they were not in favor of locating housing near the industrial waterfront. Citizens responded to that message with overwhelming support for Hoffman and Cox.

Last weekend, the newly-formed housing working group led by former Mayor Janelle Kellman and Joan Cox were tasked with responding to a 12-page letter with questions from state housing officials and suggesting options to relocate some of the housing sites. After dozens of hours of work (and a helpful 5-0 vote from the Planning Commission whose housing working group members also advocated for changes) the City Council voted 5-0 to adopt the reforms.


The Council and Planning Commission votes were important, but they wouldn’t have happened without the involvement by nearly 1300 supporters of the Sausalito Working Waterfront Coalition who signed one of the Open Letter petitions in person or virtually on our website. At the January 30 City Council meeting, heavy stacks of petitions were presented at the live meeting while another board member forwarded the website signatures.  This kind of citizen action, combined with a community education effort that reached 2100 people who attended one of the 24 screenings of the documentary, “Sausalito’s Marinship: A Working Waterfront at Risk,” made a decisive difference.

During the last 2 years, protecting our working waterfront fell on the shoulders of former Mayors Jill Hoffman and Janelle Kellman, who fought a good fight for the Working Waterfront, but were blocked by three city council members who opposed their efforts. The re-election of Jill Hoffman and election of Joan Cox last November turned the tide because they agreed that the working waterfront needs to be saved and has a bright future. Hoffman’s support has been consistent over many years. The same is true for Cox Who made this video more than a decade ago when she first ran for the Council and spoke out in this video


It was also good to see Council members who previously voted against the working waterfront last year, shift toward helping the working waterfront survive and thrive in a new future that welcomes Blue Economy companies and zoning protections that will also help Sausalito’s legacy maritime and industrial businesses and artists.

The takeaway from January is that a significant and growing number of Sausalito residents are recognizing the value of their working waterfront and are ready to take action to help it survive and thrive. Sausalito has something special that we can’t afford to lose due to misguided development schemes and the pursuit of short-term profits that would harm our community in so many ways.- not just economically but spiritually as well.


Thanks to everyone who helped make the January victory possible, and for your ongoing support.  Many challenges remain, but all can be overcome by working together with your help.



June 14, 2022

The crippling of Sausalito’s working waterfront came a step closer to reality following votes by three City Council members at the June 14th meeting.   

Despite warnings from hundreds of citizens who signed petitions against locating homes immediately adjacent to the Arques Shipyard, the Council majority did exactly that.  They advanced to the EIR stage, two large parcels for residential development, at the  office complex known as Marina Plaza. 


The motion to move forward was made by Council member Susan Cleveland-Knowles and seconded by Council member Melissa Blaustein.  Councilmember Ian Sobieski provided the third vote.  Opposition to housing next to the shipyard came from Mayor Janelle Kellman, along with former Mayor Jill Hoffman who offered a compromise motion that was rejected by her pro-waterfront development colleagues.      


Supporters of the shipyard with its creative small industries, good jobs and artist spaces were baffled by claims from Cleveland-Knowles and Blaustein, who insisted that they supported the shipyard and working waterfront - while voting to doom it with adjacent housing developments. Mr. Sobieski’s vote was even more puzzling, after claiming he was opposed to putting housing on the Marina Plaza site - then voting to approve the same location for residential development. 


This step forward was made despite the legacy toxic contamination at other sites in the Marinship from seventy-five-plus years of ship building and industrial activity.  The risks of rising groundwater and rising sea-levels are concerns that are dismissed by advocates of any potential project.  Any similarities to Hunters Point or Treasure Island are dismissed because Marinship only has documented PCBs at this point, not nuclear waste contamination.  On the other side of Marina Plaza is the Army Corp debris and boat crushing operation...also willing to be overlooked. 


This drastic action follows more than 30 years of lax zoning enforcement in the Marinship, an industrial zone now filled with hedge funds, marketing and advertising agencies, law firms and real estate companies.  Despite an outcry from the Sausalito Working Watefront Coalition Sausalito, residents, and business owners, Marinship is following in the footsteps of Alameda Marina, Oakland's Waterfront Stadium development and other working waterfronts along the coast.

May 26 2022

Watch the Sausalito City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 14 at 7pm:

Will three Council members vote to sacrifice our working waterfront?


What you may hear…

  • “We love the working waterfront!”, “We would never do anything to harm it”, “We want to save the water zone!”

  • “We just need to give up some of the industrial zone in order to save the remainder.”

  • “We can make “deals” with the property owners and save most of the working waterfront.”


What we know…

  • The working waterfront is not only where the boats are serviced.  It is an integrated area where fabricators, craftsmen, artists & educators work together to maintain an ecosystem of innovation drive economic activity.

  • Saving only the water zone means you want to save about 7% of the working waterfront area.

  • For 30+ years we have heard, “ just give up a little more of the working waterfront and the rest will be safe.”


What you can do…

The Council is scheduled to vote on a disastrous plan to surround the heart of Sausalito’s working waterfront with housing development. Wealthy out-of-town developers will reap windfall profits but need three Council votes to move forward. Watch the meeting on Zoom at   Speak up & ask the Council:

  • Why are you backing a plan to surround our valuable shipyards with housing?

  • Don’t you realize this will cause inevitable conflicts that will shut-down our shipyards?

  • Why are you catering to land developers instead of favoring better sites nearby?

  • To see better sites for housing, see the ideas at 

  • Please respect the industrial innovators, artists and maritime service providers to diversify Sausalito’s economy away from tourism.

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