June 8, 2023
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury

2001 Final Report:

Port of Redwood City

Summary | Background | Findings | Recommendations | Responses


The 2001-2002 Grand Jury reviewed operations of the Port of Redwood City (Port) and its relationship with the City of Redwood City (City).

The City Council should reassess the Port's functionality. Since the Port's creation, 66 years ago, major economic, technological, and environmental changes have occurred. The City Council should conduct a comprehensive study to determine the best utilization of Port land for the benefit of the City and its residents today. In addition, because the City owns the land, its potential liability exposure warrants a study with respect to the control and management of that land.

Issue: Should the City of Redwood City take a more active role to oversee and review the Port's operations? Should the City undertake a comprehensive study with respect to the role of the Port and alternative uses of the Port land to determine what would best serve the interests of Redwood City and its residents?


The Port was established as an autonomous body through an amendment to the City Charter approved by the voters in 1936 and ratified by the Legislature in 1937. Pursuant to the charter, day-to-day control and management of the Port is vested in the Board of Port Commissioners. The City Council appoints the five Board members, who serve five-year terms. There are no term limits. The average tenure is 14 years; one member has served 22 years, while the most recent appointee is in his second term. The City Council reviews the Port's annual budget, meets with the Commissioners on an annual basis, and receives the Port's annual report. Aside from this the City Council performs no formal oversight or review of the Port. The Charter appears to give the City Council the authority to adjust the Port budget during the annual review process.

The Port land encompasses approximately 120 acres. Recreational facilities include a 180-berth marina, a restaurant and a small park. The remaining acreage is devoted to maritime and industrial use. Port tenants import gypsum, cement and other building materials and export ferrous scrap metal. Tenants also lease land for storage, mostly building materials, scrap metal and petroleum products.

Members of the Grand Jury inspected the Port's facilities and operations, met with all senior staff and two Port Commissioners, and reviewed the Port's audited financial statements for the past three fiscal years. The Grand Jury also interviewed members of the City Council, staff, and city residents.


The Port receives no tax revenues. It is profitable and over the past ten years has transferred a total of $2 million to the City as the City's share of the net revenues. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2001, the Port contributed $359,055 to the City.

There is a significant toxic waste problem from a prior tenant's operations that the Port is in the process of cleaning up. It is doubtful, if not impossible, that the Port or the City will recover damages due to that tenant's insolvency. Although the Grand Jury did not critique the day-to-day operations of the Port, it questions whether the Port's current operations are the best use for the Port land. The Port's shallow channel limits maritime trade because it cannot accommodate container ships or other large vessels. The Port's waterfront property, which has dramatically increased in value in recent years, is currently leased for industrial uses. There has been no recent evaluation of whether these or other uses most benefit the citizens of Redwood City.

The Grand Jury is concerned because the City Council has a distant relationship with the Port. The City Charter vests "exclusive control and management" of the Port in the Board of Port Commissioners. The City owns the land and bears potential responsibility for any liabilities. The City Council has taken only a minimal interest in the Port's operations. It has failed to provide a vision for, and adequate oversight of, the Port; but must do so to ensure that the interests of City residents are best served. The City is reviewing current conditions and revising its General Plan. It would be prudent to include the Port in that review. The outcome of such study may lead to a determination that a charter amendment is appropriate.



  1. The City Council should begin active oversight and review of the Port of Redwood City.
  2. The City Council should expand the City's General Plan to include a comprehensive review of the Port's role and alternative uses of Port land that would best serve the City and its residents.
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