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Hidden boating community in Sausalito battles ever-changing tides

Hidden boating community in Sausalito battles ever-changing tides
Hidden boating community in Sausalito battles ever-changing tides 04:03

SAUSALITO -- Residents in the tiny floating community of Galilee Harbor in Sausalito are facing real-world challenges to its cherished way of life.

It's a place that time seems to have forgotten, where neighbors still wave at each other as they pass by and doors are never locked. 

For more than 40 years, Heather Wilcoxon has lived on the Delta Queen, a small fishing boat that once used to serve meals to maritime workers. Now it serves as her refuge.  

"I love being here," she said. "This is my magic world." 

Galilee Harbor in Sausalito
Galilee Harbor in Sausalito. CBS

That magic world is a place called Galilee Harbor, a tiny floating community in Sausalito.  

"The sun comes in and I get to see the marsh. What can I say? I'm so lucky," she said.  

If you've never heard of Galilee, that's by design. The quaint harbor overlooking Richardson Bay can be hard to find. That's part of its charm.  

It's believed to be the only wholly owned and operated low-income floating cooperative in the country where people live on boats full time. Residents are either artists or maritime workers and must be voted in.    

"It's so unique and so special and we worked very hard to make this happen here," Wilcoxon said. 

The community started in 1980, when the City of Sausalito brought in bulldozers to clear the harbor from hippies, artists and maritime workers who settled here. Residents fought back and, after a huge legal battle, were allowed to stay provided they maintain the harbor and remain a low-income community. 

A painter, Wilcoxon spends most of her time in a small sunlit studio a block from the harbor.   

"I need that place of calmness and it gives me that," she said.  

But that calm has recently been shaken as her little slice of paradise faces real-world challenges.  

Inflation and cost of living have made it harder to maintain the harbor. Galilee is also surrounded by prime real estate, making it attractive to developers.  

These days, Wilcoxon and her neighbors are fighting a proposed 50,000-square-foot construction development at the Schoonmaker Point Marina next door. Galilee residents worry it will not just block their views, but also harm the sensitive marsh around them. 

"Construction of this site would affect the habitat and the wildlife here forever, really," Wilcoxon said.  

Galilee's harbor manager Brad Cornelius says he understands their neighbors are entitled to expand, but he hopes they do so in a way that's good for everyone. 

"They want to build on land that is currently outdoor storage, and they want to make it three stories of indoor storage. We would like them to scale that back," he said. 

Schoonmaker Point told KPIX they've met with Galilee Residents and are considering appropriate changes. The City of Sausalito said it's "committed to making sure any potential deal is done correctly and protects the public's interest and the public's access to the site." 

As for Wilcoxon, she says whatever the outcome, the Galilee will continue to do what its always done: preserve their harbor and its wildlife.  

"I'm very protective of it," she said. "I want to see it open and in for all of us not just me. People come here from all over Marin County every day to see what we have here." 

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