Tensions ran high at the San Mateo County Harbor Commission meeting in Half Moon Bay Wednesday as Mavericks surf break founder Jeff Clark spoke out strongly against ex-wife Katherine Kelly Clark's bid for control of the next annual surf contest.
On the agenda was a recommendation by Harbor Commission General Manager Peter Grenell to approve a permit application (contingent upon submission of additional information on the contest plan) submitted by Kelly Clark's new group, a of the Half Moon Bay Surf Group. The Half Moon Bay Surf Group took over the right to run last year's Mavericks contest but disbanded after sponsor Barracuda Networks announced it had pulled out of the contest in mid-April.
According to the meeting agenda, Mavericks Community, LLC -- the new name of the group after its reorganization -- had applied for the contest permit. But before the item was opened for discussion, Grenell clarified that somehow the group's legal name was mistakenly incorporated as Mavericks Family, LLC -- a mismatch with the Mavericks Community, LLC name listed in the contest permit application.
Harbor Commissioners , Leo Padreddii and expressed interest in reviewing more information about the group's plan to run the contest before voting. "I'd like to see how this all fits in the context of special events policy...crowd control, safety and how it will affect the local community, how businesses will be involved, and how people will be impacted," Bernardo said.
"Originally I did provide a complete breakdown and full report and security and safety," Kelly Clark said in response to the commissioners' concerns. "This plan was developed with all public safety agencies," she said, referring to a plan presented at a for the Dec. 2010- Feb. 2011 season.
Kelly Clark went on to say that the plan was "approved by the public" as members of the community were invited to attend the meeting, ask questions of organizers and discuss their concerns.
But she was challenged on her assertions by ex-husband Clark, who read a statement to harbor commissioners as to why they should "deny or delay consideration" of the permit to Kelly Clark and her organization.
"I'm here to voice my concerns...the applicant has no safety or security plans," he said. "You cannot approve a permit without this important information," Clark continued.
Clark went on to say that Kelly Clark's organization did not involve the community in its planning when it was preparing for running the Dec. 2010- Feb. 2011 contest, that the reorganized group was not registered with the Secretary of State in Calif. and did not have the ability to carry liability insurance, and that the commissioners were being asked to make a decision without due diligence.
Kelly Clark interjected that her organization was registered, in the state of Delaware.
"I would like to propose another choice," Clark said to the commission. "I would like the opportunity to present another event plan for consideration, one that doesn't leave the District and other agencies at risk," he said.
Commissioner Tucker asked Clark to give some details about his proposed alternative.
"A different type of event which has much less impact on beaches, overcrowding," Clark said, adding that the event would involve surfing in a "natural" way. Clark told commissioners that his event had secured funding.
Because the group's contest permit application was submitted under Mavericks Community, LLC, the Harbor Commissioners voted not to grant the permit to Kelly Clark and her group and reopen the process.
The decision provides an opportunity for Clark to contend with an application of his own. He told commissioners that he could produce a complete proposal for the contest by July 7.
Commissioners set Aug. 1 as the date when both Clark and Kelly Clark's permit applications will be reviewed.
After the meeting Kelly Clark said that Clark's comments to the harbor commissioners were "fabricated."
"We have a highly developed safety and security plan that was co-developed with safety agencies," she said. "The public was invited to review the plan," she said, referring to the meeting held on Jan. 13 where Supervisor Don Horsley and an array of public safety agencies including the county Sheriff, Coastside Fire District/Cal Fire, the Harbor District, Pillar Point Air Force Station, California Highway Patrol and the San Mateo County Parks District each spoke to details in the safety plan.
After the meeting, Clark said that Kelly Clark and her organization did not know how to organize a safe contest, and that it was unclear to local businesses in Princeton what the contest viewing plans were during the time of the Dec. 2010 - Feb. 2011 contest window. Clark cited Ketch Joanne as one such business. "There was no communication with the community about what was happening...we were excluded from the event," he concluded, adding that he found out about Kelly Clark's bid for the upcoming year's contest permit two days before the the meeting.
In January, surfer and Princeton business owner Brian Overfelt told Half Moon Bay Patch that he felt there had been a between the contest organizations, the community and law enforcement. "I had the Sheriff and Harbor District asking me about what’s going on with the contest’s viewing sites. I’m the community rep but I couldn’t give them an answer because no one has an answer," Overfelt said in January.
Half Moon Bay Mavericks surfer Tim West said he did not want to take sides, and simply wanted to support the surfing community by attending the meeting.
But Mavericks surfer Ion Banner and Half Moon Bay resident spoke out against the surfing icon. "Jeff's comments were aloof and not based on facts," he said. "They were said to convince the commissioners that the Mavericks Family LLC is not going to hold a safe event," he said. "He has a personal agenda and wants the contest under his own power," Banner said.
Despite the conflict that appears to have only just begun, West was positive. "I have confidence that in the long run, this year we'll move forward and that there will be a positive contest," he said.