Cost of moving Docktown residents soars to $20.8 million

Daily Post Staff Writer

Redwood City has spent $20.8 million on removing the 100 or so residents of the Docktown Marina, which includes various other costs — more than double the amount officials had planned.

On Dec. 12, 2016, the City Council approved a $10.4 million plan to buy Docktown residents’ barges or houseboats for $8.7 million and to spend the remaining $1.7 million on legal fees and other costs.

But the city has spent $16.9 million to buy the houses, according to a report from City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz. The remaining $3.9 million has been spent on fees.

The city expected some residents to sell their boats to someone else. None did, the main reason the amount the city has spent on the homes doubled.

Furthermore, if residents felt that they did not get a fair offer from the city, they could contest the city’s appraisal of their home. Diaz’s report says that the number of Docktown residents who contested their appraisals were greater than expected.

The city originally planned to spend $1.8 million on fees for creating and executing the Docktown plan, but has spent $3.9 million.

However, $2.4 million was spent on creating the relocation plan to begin with, according to Diaz’s report.

An added cost is the $1.1 million spent on defending the city from the five lawsuits brought against the city regarding the Docktown plan. This cost will surely rise as the litigation winds through the courts.

Two suits filed by residents of Docktown say that the city ought to pay more for their relocation from state property. The lawsuits list problems residents have with their relocation package or appraisal of their homes.

The appeals claim that the city still has the right to follow the state Relocation Assistance Law, even though Docktown is on public land and the city ought to be offering residents the option of paying the fair market value of a “home on land” or rent for 42 months.

Under the Docktown relocation plan, residents will be given three months of rent, determined by the average rent in the city of a comparably sized apartment.

A similar lawsuit was filed by resident Tania Sole, saying that her home was not property appraised.

Other suits

The other two lawsuits were filed in January 2017. The first says the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not performing an environmental impact report prior to the approval of a Docktown relocation plan.

The second suit filed last year says that the City Council is not the entity in charge of Docktown, but that the Port of Redwood City is.

According to Diaz’s report, 31 of the 43 remaining residents have told the city they will move out by the end of the next month. About four families have set up an agreement with the city to stay at Docktown until June 30 to finish the school year.

The city and officials at the Redwood City Port are currently working on a plan so that 10 boats can move about a mile and a half down the creek to the city’s port.

The city’s port commission on Sept. 27 approved a change to provisions within the port to allow up to 19 live-aboard boats in the marina’s “C dock.” That dock was chosen for live-aboards because it is the closest to bathroom and laundry facilities at the marina.

However, because many of the boats at Docktown are either immovable or too large for the port, less than 10 will be able to relocate to the port, according to Diaz’s report.

The Docktown saga began in 2015 when attorney Ted Hannig and a mostly anonymous group sued the city for allowing houseboats to remain in the Docktown marina, which is state property. The city paid $1.5 million to Hannig and his group to settle the suit.

The settlement also required the city to put at least $3 million into a fund to clean pollution at Docktown and provide relocation assistance to residents.