Pillar Point closed
Citing social distancing hazards, the San Mateo County Harbor District closed Johnson Pier and other areas in April. Review file photo

Businesses are beginning to get the approval to reopen under the San Mateo County Health Office’s guidelines. In anticipation of Pillar Point Harbor welcoming back visitors and customers, the San Mateo County Harbor District released a plan setting its expectations on when activities can resume safely.

When the state issued its stay-at-home orders, the district followed suit by closing parking lots, restrooms, the boat launch ramp and prohibiting off-the-dock fish sales at Pillar Point Harbor. Now, as restrictions start to ease elsewhere, people who rely on the harbor for their livelihood are begging the question: when can business resume as normal?

At Wednesday's Harbor Commission meeting, staff outlined a “three-phase” approach to reopening the two harbors.

“We’ve established a plan, but it’s created with the assumption that face coverings and social distancing will continue,” Director of Operations John Moren said.

Oyster Point Marina, located in South San Francisco, is able to reopen some of its facilities beginning on Tuesday. However, since the county’s health orders restrict when people who do not live in the area can access beaches, trails and parks, Moren said it prohibits the district from reopening Pillar Point Harbor.

“It’s not feasible until the county and state open all parking lots,” Moren said.

Moren said the county’s health order does not specifically state that boat launch ramps must close, but it leaves it up to the discretion of the marina to make that decision. He said that while the county’s orders prohibit people from accessing beaches and recreation areas on the Coastside by means of a motor vehicle between the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. it’s impossible to monitor use of the launch ramp.

Only when the stay-home-orders are lifted and parking is allowed along Highway 1 and at other lots on the Coastside will the district consider opening Johnson Pier for public access. This includes access to the boat launch ramp, which right now is only open to commercial fishermen.

Moren said the district will be monitoring closely the opening of Oyster Point Marina and if there are challenges with ensuring social distancing, it may need to close again.

Commissioner Sabrina Brennan asked about the possibility of using a reservation system to encourage staggered-use of the launch ramp. Moren said it’s a good idea in theory, but not something the district could implement.

“To get people to show up on time and have others wait,” he said. “It’s just not realistic.”

As people become less patient waiting for things to restart, General Manager Jim Pruett seemed hopeful that Pillar Point Harbor could be open as soon as the last weekend in May or early June. He said once the parking lots open, the district would work to open the harbor and allow off-the-dock fish sales again.

Additional parts of the reopen plan include mandating all district staff and the Harbor Patrol wear face masks. A cleaning company has been hired to maintain all facilities and signage will be posted reminding people to stay six feet apart and wash their hands.

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