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 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.
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.
Havel, in a text message on Tuesday, said that Malcolm was “well-prepared and qualified to provide continuous service while the RBRA finds a replacement.”
He 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.
“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.
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.”
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.
Stephen McGrath, a consultant affiliated with the Regional Government Services Authority who is experienced in marina management and has worked with live-aboard communities, is set to be hired as the agency’s interim executive director Thursday, Moulton-Peters said.
McGrath will be in charge of recruiting a new harbormaster, as well as a permanent executive director who will oversee the agency’s goals for the next five years. The part-time contract for $80,600 extends through April.