A New Seawall and Landscape Transform Waldo Point Harbor

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Perennial planting on newly paved path

The new landscape – plantings along a newly paved path

A Rebirth for Waldo Point’s Houseboat Community

Still standing after over one hundred years, Sausalito’s Waldo Point Harbor sits proudly on the San Francisco Bay.  It is located off Bridgeway at the north end of Sausalito.

Yesterday’s exposed electrical wires and other safety hazards is being replaced with beauty and order.  Waldo Point’s Houseboat Community now boasts a new sea wall. The land was raised upwards of 4 feet! 

There is fresh new paving. Brand new landscaping with grass, well-mulched planter beds and robust perennials. 

Gardeners’ Guild has been involved in the landscape installation portion of the project over the last few years.  Being a part of Waldo Point’s transformation has been immensely gratifying for us. Because of its historic significance we wanted to pass along the story of Waldo Point.  Its colorful history and the events leading to its renewal.

As of the posting of this blog, the project is in its final phase of completion. The photos below show it in progress. Future updates will include final photos.

Key Project Players

Dan Hughes, DVC Group
Civil Engineer, project management
Betsy Clark, Landscape Architect
Designed landscape
Cats 4 U
Site construction work
Gardeners’ Guild Installed landscape

A Storied Past
The houseboat community’s history has been well chronicled Look Magazine, Smithsonian, The New York Times and San Francisco’s local media.

Known as a haven for artists and bohemians, Waldo Point’s popularity surged after the WWII and peaked in the 60’s. It was colorful if chaotic.  Homes constructed from abandoned boats and shared electricity offered hippie squatters a place to indulge in creative self expression without the constraints of societal norms. 
Parties were notoriously loud, and the drugs psychedelic.

Example of shared and dangerous electrical wiring

Shared electrical wires

The 1970’s –  A Turning Point
Reality in the form of City Hall – came knocking.
Building code violations, sewage, shared electrical wires and other safety hazards signaled a turning point in the community’s fortunes.

City officials ordered the community to invest in repairs.  Indignant, the residents were defiant.  Bitter clashes ensued.  Two long decades would pass before urgently needed remedial work would be approved. 

And, as time passed Waldo Point’s demographics were quietly changing.
By the year 2000, it was a different community that soberly acknowledged their dangerous infrastructure and took action.

Flooded Parking Lot

Before Photo – A flooded parking lot

The Floating Home Association is Born
The newly formed resident’s organization began meeting with local officials and professionals to plan for badly needed improvements.
At this point their project was guided by stringent requirements laid out by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

Rising Sea Level and Sinking Land
Flooded parking lot at least once a year.  See photo above.
At times flooding could sometimes flow toward Bridgeway, a main Sausalito artery.
Drainage problems resulted from salt water leakage into storm drains, corroding underground utility lines
Causing unsanitary conditions

Dangerous Infrastructure
Many houseboats were not up to code
Numerous safety hazards
Exposed electrical wires along the decks made walking hazardous
Ramshackle docks were in danger of falling

No Landscaping
The residents wanted trees, plants and grass to soften the look of asphalt.
An attractive landscape would provide needed visual interest for both residents and visitors. 

4 Foot Seawall was Constructed
Elevated the parking lot mitigating the threat of flooding

Raised the Grade Level of the Land
Requiring an enormous quantity of soil. And, a special blend of soil. There were weight restrictions so that soil wouldn’t become dislodged from bay mud underneath
Bottom layer – crushed lava rock over bay mud
Second layer – custom blended lightweight soil that had to be trucked in
Decomposed granite for pathways

Landscape Installation Included
Soil amending
Trees and shrubs
Lawn that was a special blend of native grasses
Site furnishings
Trellises and fencing

Birds-eye view of the Waldo project in progress
Crushed lava rock - bottom layer above bay mud

Shows crushed lava rock trucked in as first layer


No flooding after a recent King tide 
Much happy feedback from residents who enjoy the new landscaping
One quote from houseboat owner: “I can’t believe we have this beautiful garden!”
Brand new paved parking lot which easily accommodates residents
Photo below illustrates new lawn installation in Waldo Point Park

New turgrass installed in the Waldo Point Park

Waldo Point Park New Turfgrass

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