MARTINEZ -- With the fate of the Martinez Marina at stake, city leaders are watching the progress of SB 1424 by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, the same way homeowners wait for a loan modification approval.
The marina needs dredging and work. According to Mayor Rob Schroder, Martinez owes the state about $4.1 million, and passage of the bill would restructure the marina-related debt, allowing the city the "breathing room" to create enough revenue to fulfill its financial obligation.
Martinez does not have the resources to pay off the loans without some sort of temporary debt relief. Development of the area is necessary to make it a first-rate destination for boaters and visitors of all kinds. That is a way also make it financially self-sufficient.
The bill is not just to benefit Martinez, it is for the region and the state, according to Wolk. The significance of the Italian fishing industry heritage and being the closest Central Contra Costa access to recreational boating and waterways gives the marina situation a broader context.
"(It) also plays a key role in public safety, smart growth, economic development, as well as education and research," Wolk said. "My office has worked for over a year to bring all involved parties to the table to find a solution that
Wolk was referring to rescue boats in the vicinity of several oil refineries and near major highway and rail connections, plus the availability of water transport in the event of emergency bridge closures.
Co-authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, SB 1424 was modified, and referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is expected to review it May 5.
The bill is cost-neutral and land grant statutes have traditionally received bipartisan support, according to Melissa Jones-Ferguson, Wolk's press secretary.
In addition, the State Lands Commission is voting in the coming weeks to support the measure, and will voice that support to the Brown Administration, she said.
The Lands Commission originally granted three parcels of tidelands property, and since 1973, five loans to Martinez to maintain the marina.
SB 1424 rescinds previous agreements and makes a new, similar contract, which includes a fourth parcel near the rail area. A new grant of trust lands and payment contract will be agreed upon.
If the bill passes, Martinez will hold the property as trustee for "all the people of the state," essentially for maritime, fishing and recreational purposes.
As trustee, the city could make leases and improvement expenditures, but with some conditions of state approval.
Martinez must also submit a "trust land use plan" for state approval by Jan. 1, 2020, and a detailed report of marina finances and uses is due by Sept. 30, 2025, and every five years thereafter.
The requirement of a new plan may dovetail with the Northern Waterfront Development Initiative established in 2013 by the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors as suggested by Supervisor Federal Glover.
Initiative stakeholders and planners looked at marinas from Oakley to Hercules as one component in a larger effort to make the most efficient use of industrially zoned waterfront properties while minimizing the impact on residents, according to Patrick Roche, Contra Costa County conservation and development principal planner.
Roche said that their work group discovered that marinas are not as economically viable as in the past, noting that large boat owners, as well as their boats, are older.
Public and private marina owners, East Bay Regional Park District (largest waterfront land owner) and industrial businesses are expected to form a task force soon to consider ideas that would rejuvenate the waterfront economically without losing the quality of life there.
"The Quality of Life task force will include the issue of marinas, and dredging often needed.
Maybe a cooperative could be formed for maintaining marinas," Roche said.
If there are cost savings, it could help with the SB 1424 plan for Martinez to repay the state beginning June 30, 2015.
That is when the state Parks and Recreation Department initiates an annual review of the loan status.
If the debt is not paid, the state would be entitled to 20 percent of marina gross revenue until the city's debt is cleared.
Contact Dana Guzzetti at email@example.com or call 925-202-9292.