Waterfront living goes as far back as the 1880s, when colonies of “arks” existed off Belvedere and on the creeks of Larkspur. Arched roofs, sliding doors and decks fore and aft were hallmarks of ark design. Used chiefly as warm weather recreational boats in various quiet waterways, they were called arks – as opposed to houseboats — because they were designed to float on the bay waters at high tide and to sit on the mud flats at low tide. They were also pulled ashore during the winter. After the earthquake and fire of 1906, many arks were adapted for full-time residential use by families left homeless.
Shortly after California achieved statehood in 1850, Richardson’s Bay had been subdivided into underwater lots to create a West Coast Venice with canals and city streets. When the idea failed to materialize, the state sold the tideland lots into private ownership, but retained title to a number of the “underwater streets.” If you see what looks like a vacant berth, it’s most likely one of those mythical streets, since the original zoning remains in effect as a means of controlling the size of our community. Today, land swaps are being negotiated to clear up this regulatory ambiguity.