Police were called to Pete's Harbor in Redwood City yesterday morning after tenants and protesters prevented crews hired by the property owner from doing work on the premises.
The incident marks the latest confrontation between an owner hoping to sell the land to make way for a new residential development and longtime tenants refusing to leave their boat slips.
Armed with electric saws, two workers began dismantling dock cleats in the outer harbor near Redwood Creek and Smith Slough yesterday morning, according to James Lee, spokesman for Occupy Redwood City, which is supporting the tenants.
Work began around 9 a.m. to remove the cleats, which are instruments that hold a line to secure a boat to a dock.
"By taking out the cleats, they are just making the dock unusable,” Lee said. "In order to put new cleats in you'd have to rip off the entire dock.”
Lee claims the work is part of a larger effort to evict the 20 or so remaining tenants who have refused to leave the harbor following a Jan. 15 lease expiration.
Adam Alberti, spokesman for Pete's Harbor owner Paula Uccelli, said yesterday morning's work is part of an overall property maintenance plan required by the owner's lease.
Pete's Harbor, which lies west of Highway 101 on a San Francisco Bay inlet, has 263 boat slips, about 60 of which had been occupied by "live-aboards,” or people who permanently resided on their boats.
The marina is situated on private property owned by Uccelli, who wants to sell the 13-acre site to developer Pauls Corp.
Her right to do so and evict the boat owners was upheld by the Redwood City Planning Commission on Oct. 30. The tenants have appealed the decision, and the appeal was scheduled to be heard by the City Council last Monday, but was postponed.
The developer intends to create a residential community and marina at Pete's Harbor that would include 411 units of family housing, public space and the creation of approximately 2,000 jobs, according to Alberti.
Alberti said that in the past couple of weeks, "the property owner has demonstrated a great deal of cooperation and resolve to try and peacefully work with these tenants.”
Police were called yesterday morning, he said, when maintenance crews were not able to conduct the work they were scheduled to do because tenants declined to move.
"They have some maintenance issues they need to perform on the land,” Alberti said. "Part of the lease obligation is to maintain the environment to appropriate standards, and we need a vacated marina to do so. We can't work on docks and piling when people are living there.”
Yesterday morning, workers asked one of the tenants to move to another boat slip so that they could remove a portion of the dock that was unsafe, Alberti said.
When the tenant refused, police were called and a secondary plan to remove the cleats was put in motion, Alberti said.
"Instead of creating further issues, crews went to removing the cleats of the sections that weren't being utilized,” he said.
However, protesters told the crews they did not have the right to be there, blocked them from doing work and threw their equipment into the water, Alberti said.
Occupy Redwood City is standing in solidarity with the tenants who are being forced to relocate, Lee said.
"We just want a more humane timeline,” Lee said.
"Truth is, (the property owners) are backpedaling,” he said. "What happened today was that they were going to take out the docks and now are just removing cleats so that people cannot tie a dock-line here.”
Members of Occupy Redwood City came in yesterday morning to aid the tenants, according to Lee.
"As a group, we are supporting Save Pete's Harbor