San Mateo County Harbor District Wins Trial to Ensure Safety on Johnson Pier in Princeton


A long-running dispute among three commercial fisheries about the use of Johnson Pier at Pillar Point Harbor concluded on Wednesday with a strong decision in favor of the San Mateo County Harbor District.  After an eleven-day trial, the judge ruled in favor of the District on all claims and ordered the fisheries to pay the District over $500,000 in attorney fees and costs for defending the lawsuit.

Three tenants lease units in the Fish Buyer’s Building on Johnson Pier: Pillar Point Seafood, Three Captains Sea Products, and Morning Star Fisheries. As stated in the 30-page ruling, the fisheries have squabbled for years over use of the Pier. The dispute exploded in 2019 when Three Captains erected a new hoist. To maintain safety, the District requested that the tenants move their plastic storage bins to make room for the hoist. The tenants refused, choosing to sue the District instead.

The law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy defended the District against the suits which sought millions of dollars in damages. At the end of the trial, the judge ruled that the District was within its rights to require the tenants to move their storage bins and it is the Harbor District, not the tenants, that controls the Pier.

According to Virginia Chang Kiraly, President of the Board of Harbor Commissioners:

The Harbor District would have preferred to work this out, but had to respond when it was sued.  The judge’s order confirms the District’s authority to regulate Johnson Pier.  The Harbor District looks forward to working with all stakeholders to improve safety and productivity on the Pier.

According to James Pruett, General Manager at San Mateo County Harbor District:

The District is committed to the safety of the public and the productivity of our commercial tenants.  With the benefit of this ruling, we are working cooperatively with the tenants to optimize the plan for Johnson Pier.

According to Brian Danitz, the lead trial lawyer for the District:

We are very pleased with the ruling which confirms the Harbor District’s important role as a public entity working in the public interest.  It was an honor to represent the Harbor District in this case.

The San Mateo County Harbor District was represented by Brian Danitz, Andrew Kirtley and Noorjahan Rahman of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP.

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