Authorities are cracking down on a community of small boats floating off Sausalito, where the number of vessels that sit motionless away from shore has doubled over the last year amid the Bay Area's acute housing crisis.
Over the weekend, Sausalito police began placing bright orange warning stickers on the decks of dozens of small "anchor-out" vessels bobbing in Richardson Bay. They warn that police may remove any vessel left in city water for 72 hours, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Watch a KQED News video from 2017 about life on an anchor-out:
It costs $1,000 or more per month to tie up at a marina berth, the newspaper reported. There are about 250 vessels anchored off the Sausalito waterfront, and some of them serve as homes for the area's homeless. According to the 2015 biennial Marin County homeless count, 14 percent of the county’s homeless population lives on boats.
Longtime anchor-outer Alden Bevington says he was evicted from his 33-foot yawl, Sanctuary, about a month ago, and the vessel was hauled off by the city and destroyed.
"This is a social issue, not a law enforcement issue," Bevington said. "This is a problem of the economy. Richardson Bay is one of the last places where people can drop an anchor and stay."
Bevington said that while some of his fellow boaters are broke, being down and out isn't a crime on land or on the water.
"The boats just sit there, like a giant parking lot," said Sausalito police officer Brian Mather. "More like a giant junkyard."
Lt. William Fraass said reports of thefts and other problems have increased along with the number of vessels.
Sausalito Mayor Joan Cox said the city did "not want to go out and seize boats, (but) this is a public health and safety issue."
Boaters who rent slips at high-end Sausalito marinas complain that many squatters paddle ashore in kayaks and rowboats to use the marina restrooms. But not everyone.
"The main problem is the lack of toilets," said Harbormaster Mike Rainey.
"In theory, they're supposed to have their toilets pumped out," he added. "I've never seen a pump-out boat going out to service the vessels."
Kirk Morrison and his friend Nick Masturzo pay about $700 a month to berth their 21-foot motorboat at Schoonmaker Point. They wave at their fellow sailors on the anchor-outs, but they're not particularly happy about subsidizing them.
"It's a free-for-all out there," Morrison said. "It's a problem. It's like trying to solve the homeless problem in San Francisco. I don't know what the solution is."