Contentious meeting
A particularly rancorous online San Mateo County Harbor District meeting in April caused San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley to question its ability to function.

UPDATED 2:55 p.m.: For the second time in five years, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley is looking into the idea of dissolving the San Mateo County Harbor District and folding its operations into county government. The discussion follows discordant Harbor District meetings that have become the norm.

Horsley is requesting that the Local Agency Formation Commission, an independent agency that deals with special districts, perform another analysis of the Harbor District.

This is not the first time the district has been called into question. In 2015, LAFCo looked into similar issues. That review, however, stopped just short of calling for dissolution of the Harbor District. The independent agency reaffirmed that the district overlaps with other government agencies and is therefore inefficient. At the time, LAFCo staff recommended dissolving the district and turning it over to San Mateo County. But due to the debt and millions of dollars in deferred maintenance, there was little incentive for the county to take over the two harbors managed by the district.

Instead, Horsley suggested the Harbor District commissioners spend the next 18 months working to demonstrate good governance.

Now Horsley said he was “distressed” after watching the commission’s April 15 regular board meeting in which one commissioner accused another of being a “sexual predator.” The meeting, while conducted remotely, devolved for several minutes when multiple commissioners argued with one another.

“… It’s distressing to see them falling back into that argumentative, dysfunctional board we’ve seen in the past,” Horsley said.

Horsley said he intends to ask for a refresher of the review done in 2015. He’s also considering offering to hire a consultant to help the district work out its differences.

“The county would be willing to pay half the cost of the consultant,” he said. “We’d have to make sure the county approves who the consultant is, of course.”

The five-member Harbor Commission is elected countywide to run two marinas, one on the coast and the other in South San Francisco. The current board has several commissioners who have been serving for multiple years.

“Personal vendettas should be dealt with in another place,” Horsley said. “Most of that is in the past anyways, and there are other ways to deal with it that do not disrupt the whole process of the board.”

Horsley acknowledged the special district is an “unusual arrangement” as it covers two marinas but doesn’t necessarily interest most bayside residents, despite relying on their property taxes.

He said he believes dissolving the district is something to consider again.

“I think it is worth looking at that again and to decide if this is something the board (of supervisors) could do better,” he said. “We’d of course also have to work with the city of South San Francisco.” Oyster Point Marina is in South San Francisco.

Horsley was expected to make the request for the review at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

LAFCo Executive Officer Martha Poyatos said she anticipates the review to be presented at a hearing in either September or November. She said as part of the review the agency will look at whether the lack of decorum at Harbor Commission meetings resulted in a failure to complete business. 

Updated to include comments from LAFCo Executive Officer Martha Poyatos.

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