OAKLEY — A neglected marina that once hosted pro bass fishing tournaments and formerly served as a busy hive of entertainment and sport is waiting for a second wind under new owners.
San Rafael-based Sequoia Mortgage Co. assumed ownership of the Big Break Marina in February after its previous owner, David Biron, filed for bankruptcy two years ago and then lost the property in foreclosure.
The 32-acre facility adjacent to the Big Break Regional Shoreline is undergoing a complete face-lift under the mortgage company, which hopes to revive it to its previous glory, Sequoia CEO Jason Freskos said.
The marina is one of far East County’s few public gateways to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and is home port to pleasure craft, restaurants, bait shops and residences. It once even served as a backdrop in an episode of the “Mythbusters” television show.
Freskos is optimistic about bringing new business and revitalizing what was once considered Oakley’s “gem.” He looks forward to the return of bass fishing derbies and other activities that were common before the marina’s decline.
“We want to rent to tenants who will bring in viable businesses. The most happening bar and restaurant in Oakley used to be at this marina. It’s not there anymore. Neither is a clubhouse that once was here,” he said.
Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery is enthusiastic about the new plans for Big Break Marina. He said the facility under the previous ownership had fewer connections to the river whereas the new owners plan to provide more access to the shoreline.
This facility “used to be such a gem,” Montgomery said. “But it was not as much of an amenity as we wish it had been for the last 10 years.” He said he looks forward to greater opportunities for boat owners to launch from the marina.
Under state law, the city is prohibited from funding private businesses. But Montgomery endorsed the new project and said that from time to time should the marina sponsor public events, “we would be supportive.”
Freskos was not ready to speculate on when new construction would begin or what a new facility might look like. He is also leaving the door open for new opportunities for ownership or redevelopment, including a possible new subdivision.
Over the past decade, the marina has fallen into disrepair. Today, visitors will see derelict buildings, rotting docks and dilapidated residences awaiting salvage and renovation. A Dumpster is currently on the site removing tons of garbage, according to the marina’s new general manager, Sean Ferguson.
Freskos describes the facility as being “in an incredible state of disrepair. We took over the property on Feb. 23 and on May 1 we got a citation from the city that one of the buildings was a public nuisance.” Freskos says the facility’s problems are almost overwhelming, but the new management is attending to them.
“We are currently plugging up holes in a sinking ship. Once we do that, there will be more method to our reconstruction,” he said.
Both Freskos and Ferguson bemoaned the state of docks that are falling down and dangerous.
“Some launches are sinking,” Freskos said. “One of the major covered sheds for boats is under such bad repair that some of the boats have broken loose and are floating away. We’re going to dismantle it.”
Even the residential buildings are falling apart. Freskos said tenants have had to plug up their broken windows with duct tape and say they received no response from their previous landlord to their appeals for any other repairs.
When Sequoia Mortgage took over the property this winter, they retained Biron as its interim manager for the three weeks it took to find a replacement. Freskos says Biron continued to bill tenants under his previous management through the last week of May.
Calls to Biron for comment were not returned.
Freskos acknowledged that some of the marina’s tenants had complained about past issues, and that his company is trying to make it up to them by offering reduced rent for several months.
In the meantime, Sequoia Mortgage created a new corporate name, Big Break Marina LLC, to manage the operation and to distinguish it from its former owner.
They intend to haul away derelict vessels and buildings. Freskos reported that 15 trailer loads of yard waste have been taken away so far. Several commercial buildings need to be renovated and one of them has been red-tagged for removal.
But firm plans to sell are on hold until the cost of revitalizing the property and the prospects for selling it become clear.
“We are trying to determine the highest and best use for this property,” Freskos said. “Our immediate goal is to stabilize the income while exploring the feasibility and cost of creating a large-scale subdivision. Firm plans to sell are temporarily on hold while we make these determinations.”