Johnson Pier in Pillar Point Harbor

A survey found that some of the concrete columns and parts of the fueling station at Johnson Pier in Pillar Point Harbor are in poor or serious condition. Adam Pardee / Review

Last week, the San Mateo County Harbor District’s Revenue and Income Ad Hoc Committee recommended the board approve its recommendation to add $12 million to its five-year Capital Improvement Plan. Members say it’s a critical step in securing funds for Johnson Pier’s much-needed repairs.

If approved, the district would pay $10.6 million out of the $12 million existing working capital balance to fund 13 projects over the next five years. Seven of those projects involve Pillar Point Harbor and Johnson Pier, including $1.2 million for preliminary design and engineering to reconfigure the pier and replace the H-Dock and Fuel Dock, which is estimated to cost $18 million.

The total cost for “critical” projects between Oyster Point Marina and Pillar Point Harbor is $45.8 million. The committee and staff report is also recommending the board consider taking on debt to finance part of these projects. The district’s preliminary budget estimates that after five years, the available working capital would be $450,000 in fiscal year 2024-2025. If the district secures grants, that would decrease the amount it would have to borrow. Should the district opt to take out a loan, it will hire a financial consultant to make a recommendation to the board, Harbor District General Manager Jim Pruett said.

“It’s not a foregone conclusion in my mind, or the board’s,” Pruett said of selling bonds. “If we can find funding elsewhere, we won’t need that.”

The district’s staff report stated that if the district issued a 30-year bond of $27 million to pay for the two Johnson Pier projects — $18 million for the reconfiguration and fuel dock and $9 million to replace docks G, F and H — with a tax-exempt interest rate of 3.5 percent, the Harbor District would pay $1.4 million per year. But for the district to receive that $27 million in bonds, it would have to increase revenues, decrease costs or secure grant funding for another $1 million before the fiscal year 2024-2025 when the bond is due.

The committee also recommended the board approve Pruett’s decision in June to resume initial design and engineering on the pier to qualify it for grants to cover part of the environmental reviews and permitting costs.

The decision traces back to June 2020, when the board approved the district’s fiscal year 2020-2021 budget and the five-year capital program. In order to balance legal obligations with costs and public safety, the district prioritized the funded and unfunded capital improvements.

The second item on that list was the Johnson Pier Reconfiguration and H-dock and fuel dock replacement project. The district had a design and engineering contract underway, but because of the project’s anticipated $15 million price tag, the preliminary design and engineering work was postponed, despite being critical for the pier to qualify for grants.

“Even if we completed it at that time, we would be in no way ready to fund it or find funding for it because of the cost,” Pruett said.

The district’s approved but unfunded projects are estimated to cost $31 million. The district’s current budget for the next five years allocates $21 million for approved and funded projects, which will improve infrastructure and public access to Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina. Some of the notable developments include new public restrooms, RV park greenspace improvements, the Surfer’s Beach restoration and harbor dredge project and the West Trail shoreline protection.

In May, the consulting firm GHD identified several concrete beams at the end of Johnson Pier that were in “poor” condition due to overstressing caused by excessive loading. The consultant said they needed to be repaired within the next five to 10 years. Another beam under Fish Buyer Building was noted to also be in “poor” condition and in need of repair over the same time period.

That same month the district approved a temporary safety measure in the form of the Johnson Pier Operational and Safety Plan that limited parking on the pier and prohibits unauthorized personnel from accessing the pier when unloading operations are happening. To ensure there were no emergencies, Pruett in August authorized another contractor to investigate the pier and give weight limits and recommendations. That survey is still ongoing.

The decision to recommit funds to seven Pillar Point Harbor projects came after public feedback from the district’s Master Plan outreach. At a Sept. 9 virtual meeting, a presentation of the GHD survey flagged some of the district’s approved but unfunded projects as “very high priority,” meaning they should be done within five years. Both projects are now being recommended for the board’s approval.

August Howell is a staff writer for the Review covering city government and public safety. Previously, he was the Review’s community, arts and sports reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon.

(1) comment

John Charles Ullom

Virginia Chang Kiraly is the person primarily responsible for the unfolding failing infrastructure scandal at the Harbor District. Even though the district doesn't have a dime to spend on the primary reason for its existence, under her leadership the district has:

1) Spent Three Million in cash buying an administrative building

2) Committed to spending Six Million dollars of district cash replacing docks at another agencies failed Marina.

That's right folks, at her behest, the district has spend nine million dollars in cash but now finds they need to hope for the grant fairy go into debt to maintain their infrastructure. It gets worse.

3) Committed to spending Hundreds of thousands dollars figuring out how to spend millions more on another agencies property.

4) And did all of this while thinking the district had Seven Million Dollars in CASH ready to spend on Johnson Pier! Here is a bit of disinformation VCK was spreading prior to the last election:

"Fyi- The reason the current budget didn’t have anything in there about Johnson Pier is that in last year’s budget, $7 million was approved by a board majority for that project. The project is on, and the money is still available. The Finance Committee, along with staff, agreed that we had to increase our reserves because of COVID-19. Therefore, the projects that are in the current budget are those that we have been obligated to fund based on legalities. As a member of the Finance Committee, I know that this budget is solid and does not exclude projects but puts them on hold while those that the GM believes should be prioritized are prioritized." -- Virginia Chang Kiraly to TJ Glauthier. 8-29-2020

As she is a coward, she left it to Mr. Pruett to offer a mealy mouthed retraction. At a public meeting, Mr. Pruett confirmed that there was never any money set aside for the repair of Johnson Pier.

Either Chang Kiraly is a fool or she is a liar. There never ever has been Seven Million in cash ready to go. That is why the district needs either grants or debt to repair Johnson Pier. They simply cannot accumulate the capital needed fast enough because they have misspent and mis-committed what they have, so thoroughly. Fool? Liar? Ask her.

The good news here is that staff has forced Kiraly and the rest of the board majority to face reality. Example. Under Kiraly's leadership, and at her direction, the efforts required to do the preliminary work necessary, so that the district could qualify for the grants or debt needed to fix Johnson Pier before it it too late, were halted.

"The second item on that list was the Johnson Pier Reconfiguration and H-dock and fuel dock replacement project. The district had a design and engineering contract underway, but because of the project’s anticipated $15 million price tag, the preliminary design and engineering work was postponed, despite being critical for the pier to qualify for grants." -- From the story

Got that folks? The above reads like a Yogi Berra quote. "We can't get the money until we do the preliminary design but stopped paying for the preliminary design because we don't have the money!"

Like I said, staff forced this back onto the agenda. Kiraly didn't want it. Reyering seemed irritated. Men who make their living using Johnson Pier, and who pay for that private, are in danger of losing use of the very infrastructure that justified the creation of the Harbor District in the first place. I was impressed. Staff served us instead of Chang Kiraly's desire to on the Board of Supervisors.

The bad news? Well, watch this cringe inducer: --

Yep. She did it. Right after staff forced VCK to face the issues created by years of her type of thinking, VCK bestowed praise upon herself and her flunkies for having.....courage!! I kid you not.

Remember who she is when you see VCK's name on the ballot for anything.

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