RICHMOND -- A private water taxi may soon transport workers from the Marina Bay shoreline to San Francisco daily.
Richard Poe, who owns and operates 25 acres of land and about 250,000 square feet of office space on the Richmond waterfront, says a plan is in the works to start service this year.
"We want to pay for daily water taxi service linking us with San Francisco," Poe said. "We think it will increase demand for commercial space here overnight."
Poe, who owns Virtual Development Corp., is in talks with Tideline Marine Group of Sausalito, a water taxi company founded in 2012 that haspermission to use docks in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and Marin.While he wouldn't divulge the financial terms of the pending deal, Poe said he will pay for twice-daily service linking employees in his buildings to San Francisco, an added perk to leasing space in his buildings. Poe says many employees who work in his buildings live in San Francisco.
On Thursday, Taylor Lewis, chief executive officer of Tideline Marine, docked a 55-foot, 40-passenger catamaran that the company chartered for the day at the Richmond Harbor Master dock for a visit with Poe to iron out details.
Tideline Marine received San Francisco Port Commission approval in 2012 to drop and pick up customers at Hyde Street fishing harbor, Pier 1.5 and the South Beach marina near AT&T Park. Lewis said his boats can cross the bay in 25 minutes.
Tideline Marine Group currently operates as an on-call service, like a conventional taxicab company, taking customers across the bay.
"I see the Richmond waterfront as an area where tremendous growth is possible," Lewis said.
Poe said his buildings are less than half full, with about 300 employees for businesses including Chevron and Comcast. With the new water taxi service, he hopes to drive demand for his office space.
"With the prices per square foot of leasing space in San Francisco, we offer great amenities at less than half the price, so I'm hoping more demand spills over here," Poe said.
Ferry service has a spotty history in Richmond, including a brief daily run in 1999 and 2000. The San Francisco Bay Water Emergency Transportation Authority held meetings last year outlining plans for a commuter ferry that would take riders from Richmond's Craneway Pavilion to the San Francisco Ferry Building in about 35 minutes.
That service, which could come to fruition in the next few years, would be subsidized by about $22.5 million from Measure J, a Contra Costa County sales tax measure aimed at improving transportation.
But Poe said he hopes his private venture will begin service this year.
"We are close to a deal," Poe said.
Councilman Tom Butt said he has been skeptical of ferry service to Richmond's waterfront because of lack of population and commercial space density, but conditions are changing.
"San Francisco technology economy and rental markets are going bonkers," Butt said. "And young professionals tend to be receptive to alternative transportation."