The anchor-outs are a old San Francisco community that lives on the Bay in defiance of impossible rent, unreasonable homeowner’s associations and, new for the 21st Century, the second-worst housing market in North America. It’s free to live in a boat anchored away from the harbor! Of course, there are details… such as drinking water and not sinking in winter storms… but it’s one of the last few ways to live cheap in the Gay Area.
And now, that community has been targeted for destruction because Gaia.
Complaining about the California housing market is becoming low-hanging fruit, I know. This case is worth studying because it coincides with Sacramento’s other efforts to exterminate single-family housing while forcing the destitute into, shall we say, institutional forms of State-controlled living.
The anchor-outs: San Francisco’s bohemian boat dwellers fight for their way of life
by Erin McCormick, 31 October 2021
For decades, a group known as the “anchor-outs” enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence in a corner of the San Francisco Bay. The mariners carved out an affordable, bohemian community on the water, in a county where the median home price recently hit $1.8m.
But their haven could be coming to an end – and with it, a rapidly disappearing way of life.
The anchor-outs live aboard semi-derelict boats abutting the town of Sausalito, an upscale enclave just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin county where mansions boast floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the water. Tourists arrive by ferry from the city on weekends, strolling the promenade of restaurants, wine bars, art galleries and boutiques.
Sooo, have the anchor-outs been causing problems that they haven’t before? Or are their junky homes interfering with the view from those megabucks mini-mansions? Let’s investigate but first, that is not a trivial question. The values of prime real estate can change dramatically with changes in the view. I’ve heard of a homeowner paying Pacific Gas & Electric over $75k to bury just a couple telephone poles’ worth of overhead lines in expectation that the increase in sale value of his property would increase by even more from the improved ocean view.
Another guy bought the mansion between him and the ocean, gave himself the perpetual right to trim trees on it and then resold the mansion the next day.
This is the kind of wealth we’re talking about. Exterminating a couple unsightly boats from the horizon might easily raise the value of half the homes in Sausalito… by more than your annual salary… each.
The agency that oversees the local waterway known as the Richardson Bay has in recent months begun a fervent crackdown on the boat dwellers, who they say are here illegally and pose a threat to safety and the marine environment. Determined to clear the waters, a hardline harbormaster has even begun confiscating and destroying boats that overstay their welcome.
Nonsense! There is no such thing as an illegal migrant! So says actual State law now! All of humanity is officially a legal resident of California so long as they’re standing on it.
Oh. I see the problem.
The anchor-outs, meanwhile, are fighting back, staging protests and clashing with authorities who they say are in effect rendering them homeless.
On a recent afternoon, the sounds of a tractor’s hydraulic arm crushing a fiberglass sailboat carried on the wind. The noise lingered over a homeless encampment that has grown near the waterfront. “Camp Cormorant”, as boaters nicknamed it, has become the political base of the anchor-outs’ protest movement.
For the 50 or so people camped in neat rows of tents, the frequent whir, crunch and crack of the crusher represents their way of life being torn to bits. Many say they were forced to decamp here after their vessels were destroyed.
“They want to take our homes and shut the anchorage down,” says Jeff Jacob Chase, a 20-year anchor-out with a trademark pirate swagger, a long, salt-and-pepper beard, spectacles and floppy hat. “They basically want to eradicate a culture.”
Rejoice, peasants! You used to own your own home! It was a crappy floating junkyard but it was yours! Now you own nothing and you will be happy any moment now! Praise Klaus Schwab who teaches the world to smile!
Meanwhile, the onshore millionaires made even more money in their sleep. Just a coincidence.
In a region dominated by water, boats have been used as a cheap source of housing since the Gold Rush, when miners lived aboard vessels. In the 1950s, a community of bohemians and artists grew along the Sausalito shoreline, with residents building wildly creative floating constructions that offered shelter and inspiration to Beat writers and artists such as Allen Ginsberg and Shel Silverstein. It transformed into a hippy music scene in the 1960s, but in the mid-1970s, residents of those houseboats were mostly pushed out in a series of local enforcement actions known as “the houseboat wars”.
The community’s history dates back to the late 19th century, when fishermen’s wooden shacks in Sausalito were converted to vacation homes by some San Franciscans. Others built houseboats and moored them in the cove, says Larry Clinton, a Sausalito Historical Society member and expert on floating homes. Some were quite inventive: One houseboat was made from four horse-drawn streetcars nailed to a raft.
These “Venetians of the West,” as they dubbed themselves, held a spectacular “Night in Venice” festival every summer. The celebration included fireworks, concerts, a torch-lit boat parade, festive decorations, and open houses. In 1899, a writer for the British magazine The Strand praised the “indescribable charm about the life.” Butchers, bakers, and other suppliers took orders from their own boats each morning, delivering them for dinner.
After the 1906 earthquake, many San Franciscans’ homes were destroyed, so some moved full-time to the waterside dwellings. While Sausalito’s tidal flats had long been a fertile dump heap for derelict barges and sailing ships that were abandoned or sold for scrap, it was World War II that really jump started the floating home community.
Despite its beatnik origins, today the Richardson Bay hosts a unique waterfront class system.
At the top are the authorized houseboat marinas where floating, luxury homes with shingle siding, plumbing and electricity can sell for more than $1m. Other boaters, known as live-aboards, can pay a monthly fee to dwell on their sailboats and cabin cruisers in a marina slip, but the number of spots is tightly controlled and authorities say there is a long waiting list. Finally there are the anchor-outs, whom some see as the last of a dying breed of free spirits who eschew the world of rent deposits, credit checks and bills.
After the war, the Marinship shipyard, where 20,000 people built military ships 24 hours a day, closed down. According to Annie Butler, author of The History of Issaquah Dock, a veritable gold mine of unfinished boats, lumber, metal, machinery, and parts was left behind.
Jonah Owen Lamb had a freewheeling childhood on a houseboat tied to a barge named the Isle of Contempt…
…with his carpenter father and artist mother in the late 1970s and ‘80s. “Our neighbors were bearded pirate men like my father, with high boots and long knives, beautiful, half-naked women, and children as feral as the dogs,” he wrote in SF Weekly.
Good times, good times.
People short on cash, but long on ingenuity, eagerly built living quarters atop maritime vessels. The homes were made from barges, Chinese junks, or even logs lashed together, using materials salvaged from cars, packing crates, railroad cars, and motor homes. Their creations were then linked to the piers by ramshackle wooden walkways. A tolerant landlord—a boatyard owner who liked to acquire old boats, including decommissioned ferries—charged little or no rent and often hired houseboaters. This helped the community grow, entirely unregulated.
The bane of every government upon the Earth!
Marin County government and real estate developers, eyeing the valuable waterfront property, often attempted to evict the houseboaters over the decades, sometimes in armed confrontations with sheriff’s deputies. In 1995, a state environmental agency attempted to evict about 30 houseboats in Galilee Harbor, fining them $5,000 each day they remained on the water. Lamb, then 17, testified passionately at a hearing about the “unique place” where he grew up. Two films chronicle this 40-year struggle, The Last Free Ride, about the 1960s and ‘70s, and Houseboat Wars, about the 1990s.
The 1995 effort failed. But eventually, the community was brought up to code and safety standards with proper power and sewage hookups, and brand-new piers were built. New floating homes, some quite palatial, were constructed with the help of architects.
One might be tempted to look upon the anchor-outs as seabound homeless, complete with the trash, drug abuse and insanity that that implies. That would not be entirely uncalled for. But this is legit local history and these people have a long-established tradition and presence in the area.
Way, way back in the day, that meant you belonged there. Even if you were literally too poor to own dirt.
The anchor-outs get by with minimal resources, hauling their own water and generating power from tiny solar panels. They brave the bay’s famous winds to travel to and from the shore in rowboats or motorized dinghies.
Housing advocates say the battle over their way of life is just the latest chapter in a crisis that has seen living options for low-income residents all but vanish.
Chase still has his sailboat, a sloop named the Jubilee, but he also spends time in Camp Cormorant, organizing his fellow boaters to protest against the evictions as an officer of the local chapter of the California Homeless Union.
“What they’re doing is criminalizing this entire community,” said Chase.
It’s not an accident when it’s a trend. The wealthy want expensive land and cheap labor; the middle class wants cheap land and expensive labor. One look at how Commiefornia has been hollowed out into unjustifiably expensive property serviced by multiple and growing slave classes says everything:
We the People have lost control of our government and slavery is back on the menu.
Curtis Havel, the harbormaster, would be the first to call himself the villain of this story.
“For a long time, people regarded Richardson’s Bay as this sort of bohemian live-and-let-live situation and the vessel count continued to increase,” he says. “Now it’s time for us to enforce our rules.”
The state agency that oversees the San Francisco Bay had been building pressure on local authorities to act, and Havel says clearing the harbor of illegal anchoring was the primary mission he was given when he was hired two years ago.
Citing a long-unenforced rule that says boats can anchor for no more than 72 hours, Havel has been confiscating boats, dragging them into a shipyard and crushing them into chunks. Of the 190 boats out here when he took over, Havel says he has gotten rid of all but 86 vessels – about 70 of which are now occupied by full-time residents.
Those are peoples’ homes that he’s targeting. What was their crime?
Havel argues boats and their occupants can cause a laundry list of problems and environmental concerns. Their anchors drag along the bottom and destroy the eelgrass, an important habitat for marine life. Boats break loose from their anchors during storms, endangering those aboard and others along the shore. The residents dump sewage and leave abandoned boats and parts polluting the bay. And there have been complaints about drug use and crime.
1. Their anchors have been dragging the bay’s bottom for well over a century. No ecological disaster.
2. Fuck you, Curtis. You aren’t helping them, taking away their homes because they might lose control in a storm someday. By all means, clear the derelicts, but not peoples’ inhabited homes.
4. Drug use and crime is a problem? Welcome to California. Come for the victimhood, stay for the legalization!
3. Untreated sewage is a problem, yes, but I don’t want to hear it in the context of Sodom Frankie-sicko. Take a shit in the water where it’ll break down and be naturally recycled as nutrients? You lose your home. Take a shit on the sidewalk where the turds flow into the convention center? Your newest civil right!
WHICH IS IT, GAY AREA?! INDOOR PLUMBING OR OUTDOOR PLUMBING?!
Anarcho-tyranny, I tell ye.
Havel says his enforcement has made him unpopular, but he’s willing to take some flak in order to get the job done.
Spoiler: he’s already quit to spend more time with his family and pursue other opportunities.
But around the anchorage, signs of rebellion abound. Some boats fly upside down American flags, the maritime signal for distress. Occupants of a boat named Evolution have taped up a big, hand-stenciled “R”, rebranding it the “REvolution”.
As Havel patrols, a metal dinghy motors up behind him. The driver, a boat-dweller with a white megaphone, starts shouting at Havel, peppering his taunts with expletives. “Tell them how you’ve been crushing people’s homes, sir,” yells the man.
I like these people. They have grit. The scallywag swagger didn’t die out in the Seventies!
Havel, however, appears unflustered. “It’s always been politically charged; it’s just getting heightened because we’re doing something.”
Had he not already given up, I would also have credited Curtis with courage.
Sigh. If it was courage that won wars then the ‘Murican Empire would have been crushed in its crib by Robert E. Lee. I fear the anchor-outs will suffer the South’s fate of too much courage and not enough disposable hirelings.
Authorities say they have been seizing only abandoned and derelict boats, but around Camp Cormorant, numerous residents claim to have lost their homes to the crusher.
Michael Adams and his wife lived in the anchorage for decades, raising two kids. The couple had recently become afraid to leave their boat, a historic 1928 pleasure cruiser named the Marlin, for fear it would get destroyed.
“I went off one morning and he crushed it,” says Adams as he paints a mural on the plywood patio he built in front of the tent he and his wife now call home.
Overwealthy swine call that Progress.
Robyn Kelly, a former skincare technician, moved into the anchorage after giving up her apartment and job to care for her sick mother, and ended up living on a 28ft power boat for a decade. She says it made an excellent home, until one day in 2019 she found it had been confiscated by the harbormaster.
“I went away for 24 hours and I came back and it was gone,” said Kelly, who has since filed a lawsuit against the authorities for destroying her boat and possessions.
Kelly and her two pups, Hank and Nacho, are currently staying on a friend’s boat; she’d like to move back to shore but her small income isn’t enough to make the deposit for an apartment, and her arthritis is starting to give her trouble. “I couldn’t afford an apartment now,” she said. “I’d love one.”
Kelly’s friend, Billy McClean, is a fourth-generation Marin county resident. He can look across the water from where his Dutch cruiser is anchored and see stately houses constructed nearly a century ago by his grandfather, a local builder.
He recalls growing up seeing people living freely on the water. “When I was a teenager I used to come down here to the boats and buy pot from what I called ‘the hippies’,” he says. “Now I live here.”
McClean says people like him have been priced out of the region by an influx of tech workers making six-figure salaries. McClean couldn’t afford a decent apartment at his previous job working for a fencing company – so he bought a cheap motorboat and moved into the anchorage in 2009.
More marks against these people being homeless bums. They’re willing to work; they simply can’t pay the rent. And where in the world are low-skilled white people welcome?
His vessel has a TV, DVD player and a small refrigerator, all powered by a generator. He doesn’t have much space inside, but from his white decks he can see green waters and California hillsides all around him.
“It’s nice out here – and then it’s not,” he said. “It’s a lot of work – and in the winter, it can be downright life threatening.”
A short skiff ride across the anchorage from McClean, Brian Doris is fixing up an old pleasure yacht named Marlia that he bought for $1 after it was abandoned. The outside of his boat is still cluttered with toolboxes and boat repair supplies, but he’s transformed the interior with sumptuous Turkish rugs and plants.
“I’m not homeless, I’m houseless,” says Doris, who says he can no longer sleep on land because he misses the rocking of the waves.
Like many anchorage residents, Doris scoffs at the idea of being placed into shelter housing. “This is my home,” he says, adding if they want to take his boat, they should “bring a body bag”.
May the God of Courage and Underdogs guide you hand, Mr. Doris, and the hand of every man protecting his home and way of life from those who would make him afraid.
Jennifer Friedenbach, the executive director of the San Francisco-based Coalition on Homelessness, says living on a boat was one of many “very-low-income housing options” that used to exist in California along with residential hotels and live-work spaces in warehouses. But these types of marginal housing have vanished.
“Once gentrification came, those options disappeared, and that puts pressure on homelessness,” says Friedenbach.
My read also but I didn’t find any proof of it. What I did find, suggests that this particular effort is being waged by the environmentalists not the millionaires. Assuming there’s a difference in the Gay Area.
Timothy Logan, a boat owner descended from three generations of California travelers, bought his houseboat cruiser the SS Patio nine years ago to serve as his primary residence. But since then, he has been kicked out of one harbor after another.
He started as a resident of a marina in Sacramento, living along river waters that feed into the San Francisco Bay. That marina closed for development, so he moved his boat to other harbors, including ones in Antioch and Oakland, only to see boaters kicked out of those places too.
“Out of the blue, the whole state of California was like: ‘You can’t live on the water,’”he says.
While the SS Patio is still anchored out in Richardson Bay, Logan fears his boat will eventually end up being crushed like many of his friends’.
Havel, the harbormaster, and authorities governing both Richardson Bay and the state of California say they are determined that within five years, the last of the anchor-outs will be gone. For their part, the anchor-outs don’t intend to go quietly.
“We are a community; we’re trying to stick together,” says Logan.
That bold-faced statement intrigued me. Cleaning up the harbor is one thing; the government having a deadline to meet is quite something else. Who is REALLY calling the shots?
San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission: Its Failure to Perform Key Responsibilities Has Allowed Ongoing Harm to the San Francisco Bay
By the Auditor Of the State Of California, 14 May 2019
The following is reformatted for readability.
Results in Brief
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (commission) has neglected its responsibility to protect the San Francisco Bay (Bay) and the Suisun Marsh. The Legislature created the commission in 1965 to regulate development in and around the Bay in order to protect the Bay’s health and ensure public access. To this end, state law authorizes the commission—which consists of 27 commissioners and 48 staff members—to issue permits for certain actions, including placing material in the Bay or removing material from it.
Created in 1965… about the time of those Houseboat Wars. Sounds like David beat Gov-liath in Round 1 and there’s been a truce ever since.
The commission is also responsible for ensuring that permit holders comply with the terms of their permits and with state law, and it has the ability to enforce compliance through a system of fines and penalties.
However, as we discuss throughout the report, the commission has consistently struggled to perform key responsibilities related to enforcement and has therefore allowed ongoing harm to the Bay. Although enforcing state law and the terms of its permits is critical to the commission’s ability to protect the Bay, it has a backlog of 230 enforcement cases, some of which are more than a decade old. Moreover, its annual reports suggest that the backlog will continue to expand, as staff opened 14 more cases on average than they closed annually from 2012 through 2017. Some of the potential violations of state law and permit requirements contained in the backlog may represent ongoing harm to the Bay or its shoreline.
For example, one case opened in 2010 involves 200 vessels anchored illegally in Richardson Bay, a shallow, ecologically rich arm of the San Francisco Bay.
Aha, there’s Curtis’ “190 boats” in need of destruction… whether inhabited or not.
Commission staff have indicated that many of these boats are in a state of disrepair and that they frequently sink,
resulting in the release of harmful chemicals into the Bay.
No actual incidents of this were cited in the report.
Although the illegally moored boats in Richardson Bay have harmed a delicate ecosystem, the commission has done little to resolve the situation. Further, to address its backlog, the commissioners are currently considering proposals to grant amnesty to certain categories of enforcement cases, which could lead to the commission dismissing the cases without the violators taking corrective actions.
That DEFINITELY sounds like a truce being observed.
This approach could allow the activities that caused the violations to continue, potentially indefinitely…
…as well as create future litigation risks from both environmental groups and alleged violators who do not receive amnesty.
Oh, such pure motives. “We must protect the delicate environment, tee hee, but on a serious you’re ruining our ability to sue them for cash and prizes. Worse, you might set a precedent that these people deserve to live inside our view of the Bay!”
The commission essentially allowed the harm resulting from the violations to continue unresolved.
Because those ecological violations don’t exist. None were documented in this bureaucrat’s report, ergo, they do not exist. That’s how the game is played. This auditor report is full of false accusations.
Commission regulations do not authorize staff to process enforcement cases representing significant harm to the Bay without formal enforcement, which includes an enforcement hearing before the commissioners, referral from the commissioners to the Office of the Attorney General, or a temporary cease‑and‑desist order issued by the executive director. However, the regulations lack a specific definition of significant harm that would guide staff in knowing when to forward such cases. As a result, the commissioners have improperly delegated their enforcement authority by allowing staff to decide which cases represent significant harm.
Translation, due process of law interfered with eradication efforts of the invasive species–humans–and should be discarded for the next effort. Those anchor-outs reporting that their boats were destroyed the moment their back was turned are coming into focus. As they teach in law schools, if you don’t get caught then you’ve done nothing wrong.
You wouldn’t believe how many layers of government encumber California’s shorelines. Suffice to say, in another context I’d be thrilled at new tools with which to cut the red tape. But this report is a call for new tools for the State.
[One of many recommendations:] To ensure that the commission performs its duties under state law related to the Suisun Marsh, the Legislature should require a report from the commission upon completion of its comprehensive review of the marsh program every five years, beginning with a review in fiscal year 2020–21.
There’s where that mysterious five-year deadline came from: the California legislature has taken a direct interest in the extermination of one of California’s last, unique communities.
Because climate change or whatever… and totally not because all those limousine liberals hate to see the poor living free.
One last article:
Embattled Richardson Bay harbormaster to exit post
By Giuseppe Ricapito and Natalie Hanson, 12 October 2021
Curtis Havel, the Richardson Bay harbormaster who has long clashed with mariners over illegally anchored vessels, will leave his position at the end of the month.
Havel, a former county planner, said in a letter to the Richardson’s Bay Regional Agency board that is he leaving “to pursue other career opportunities.”
“It’s been my great pleasure to work with such a dedicated team during my tenure as RBRA’s Harbormaster,” he wrote.
Jim Malcolm, the assistant harbormaster, will assume Havel’s responsibilities while the agency finds a replacement.
Havel’s annual salary was $120,640, said Dan Eilerman, assistant county administrator.
Havel was hired in August 2019, replacing former harbormaster Bill Price, who held the job [GQ: and the truce] for 24 years. Havel joined the agency as it was under mounting state pressure to crack down on “anchor-outs,” the vessels anchored in Richardson Bay in violation of state law that forbids them from staying there for longer than 72 hours.
The agency’s board approved a settlement agreement in August that will require the removal of illegal vessels anchored in the bay within five years amid threats of enforcement action by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
What is it with Communists and Five Year Plans, anyway?
During his tenure, Havel was responsible for removing derelict and unseaworthy boats from the bay. The efforts prompted lawsuits and protests from boat residents and activists who said the policies exacerbated homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
[Curtis] said his departure was “solely related to the pursuit of a new career opportunity” and not related to public pressure or the anchor-out community.
In an age of institutional deceit, there’s no proof like an official denial…
Supervisor Stephanie Moulton-Peters, chair of the RBRA board of directors, commended Havel’s efforts over the last two years.
“Curtis has done a very good job in the last two years of decongesting the anchorage and removing marine debris from the water and working to create some stability out there,” said Moulton-Peters, whose district is in the southern part of the county.
Moulton-Peters said Havel was not seeking a new job, but decided to leave because he was offered a position that seemed like a “good fit” for him. She added that there was “no basis” to the suggestion that the anchor-outs or housing advocacy on Richardson Bay influenced his decision.
…that gets repeated!
Another scalp for the anchor-outs! See what happens when you forget history in order to break a long-standing truce? You learn once again why that truce was made.
“The RBRA’s ongoing mission is vital to the ongoing health of the Richardson Bay ecosystem and critical to the public’s overall health and safety (particularly with respect to the use and enjoyment of a public commons),” he said.
Robbie Powelson, a Marin County housing activist who has repeatedly battled with authorities over the anchorages in Richardson Bay, celebrated Havel’s departure.
“Curtis Havel leaves behind a trail of lies, trauma and dispossessed victims,” Powelson said Tuesday. “I think what has happened is a significant disruption of a ring of deviant public officials enabled by the absurd policies of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.”
Powelson was arrested in March during conflict over a houseboat owned by an artist anchored in Richardson Bay. The charges have since been dismissed.
Ooh, this article sneaked in a hit piece on Powelson! Take your scallywag swagger victory lap, Robbie!
Powelson said he considered the authority of the agency and BCDC “unconstitutional and fraudulent” and did not want to lend credence to Havel’s replacement by speculating as to how a successor could improve relations with the anchor-outs.
“It’s still the same bureaucracy that’s enabled these people,” Powelson said. “But the new harbormaster needs to have, there needs to be some kind of way people can go to doctor’s appointments, get food, get water, without living in fear.”
Arthur Bruce, who lives on a boat in the bay, said the battle with agency and the anchor-out community is “not over yet.” He said Havel’s treatment of him and other boaters was “so far beneath him, it was embarrassing.”
“We’re all delighted he’s resigning, but he’s left a wake of terror and havoc,” Bruce said. “The title of harbormaster is way too dignified for him.”
Bruce said he had a great relationship with the previous harbormaster and called Havel’s policies “just beyond abhorrent.” He said he hopes boaters’ relationship with Malcolm can be “more professional.”
Alas, it’s Powelson that will be proven right. The truce might return for a time but the disposable hirelings will soon be back, and in greater number. It’s how the Yankees won wars before the Jews taught them banking. The anchor-outs don’t care if their credit cards get yanked so it’s back to basics for the limousine liberal with a view to a kill.