Couple sues Sausalito, Calif., over seized boat

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As many as 175 boats are moored in Richardson Bay off Sausalito, Calif. Photo by Alan Dep, Marin Independent Journal

As many as 175 boats are moored in Richardson Bay off Sausalito, Calif. Photo by Alan Dep, Marin Independent Journal

A couple from Tiburon, Calif., sued the city of Sausalito, Calif., saying the municipality’s policy to seize and destroy derelict vessels on Richardson Bay unlawfully targeted their seaworthy boat.

James and Charlotte Gollub filed the suit, saying the Richardson Bay Regional Agency and the county unlawfully seized and destroyed their boat, Miss Fitz, without due process in January 2018.

The Gollubs are asking for $2 million in damages; a settlement conference is schedule for Jan. 14, according to the Marin Independent Journal.

“We are claiming a seizure of property in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which is an unlawful basis to seize property without a warrant,” Arnold Berschler, the couple’s attorney, told the newspaper. “We are also claiming a violation of the Fifth Amendment in two different ways: the government taking a piece of property without compensation and … the government taking property without due process.”

Berschler said city officials targeted Miss Fitz as part of Project Eyesore, Sausalito’s program to remove and destroy marine debris and derelict vessels from Richardson Bay. He added that the city didn’t give the couple a 30-day notice to move their boat or 15 days’ notice to “bail out after its seizure,” as required by the California Harbor and Navigation Code, according to the newspaper. Berschler said the boat did not meet the definition of derelict or marine debris.

City attorney Mary Wagner denied the allegations but didn’t comment further.

In 2015, the Gollubs hired Kevin Jacob, of Krew Inc., to refurbish their boat for an estimated cost of $97,000. Jacob didn’t have his own dock, so he moored the vessel on a buoy he rented just outside Clipper Yacht Harbor.

The boat was moved between the couple’s private dock and the buoy for about a year and a half. During the most recent round of repairs, there was a tarp over the boat while Jacob worked on the engines, plumbing and other equipment.

“Unfortunately for Jacob, the Gollubs and Miss Fitz, August 2017 is the month that Sausalito police began a program to geo-plot all the vessels in Richardson Bay’s waters,” Berschler said. “The city didn’t know what to make of Miss Fitz, and they became very interested in this mystery boat.”

The boat apparently became unmoored and washed up in Richmond Wharf on Jan. 10, 2018, just south of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the boat was seized, transported to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under police guard and ordered destroyed by city officials. It was reportedly one of 79 vessels that were destroyed.

“Consistently, once they took a vessel, it was destroyed very promptly, within days, way less than the 10-day tag required by section 551,” Berschler said. “That includes vessels that did not meet the definition of marine debris in 550.”

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