Mariners Island View from Roberta Before Shoal & Today

History of the San Mateo Marina Lagoon 02-27-2014

Many know that the Marina Lagoon did not always exist as it is. Few know how it came to become our Venetian paradise that it is today. I have done my best to gather enough information about the Lagoon from neighbors, County records and a little folk lore. Please feel free to correct or append any accounts and I will be sure to publish them in future issues of Lagoon Living.


Marina Lagoon is a remnant of a tidal slough (named Seal Slough) that was diked and dredged to form an enclosed estuary. The lagoon serves the City as a flood control basin, recreation area, aesthetic amenity, and ecological resource, and is managed to optimize these benefits. The homes toward the Western Mainland side of the Lagoon were built in the late 1950’s. The building continued south along the western side of the Lagoon into the Los Prados and easterly into Mariner’s Isle. Originally the Parkside homes backed up next to a tidal estuary similar to that of Redwood Shores when looking East while driving down 101. Due to the expansive building up the hill, City of San Mateo first dredged and diked Seal Slough to channel runoff water from flowing from the hill to quickly evacuate the waters during torrential winter downpours. Anchored by
a pump station at the Northern end and powered with 6 diesel engines, it has the capacity to quickly evacuate water into the Bay drawing down the Lagoon to proper levels. The Southernmost gates draw water in from the Bay at high tide and help keep the water and sea life flowing through.
Mike, a long time Lagoon resident and neighbor told me that the homes along Roberta, Lake, Kelly and Clipper all had tall wooden fences across the backyards and extended along the lovely telephone pole
line we see today. Opposite the fence was a dirt access road bordering the waterline.  Beyond that it was estuary, no Mariners Isle, just grazing land, wetlands and tidal slew. Mike said that one could hear the sea lions at night feasting on the oysters in the estuary. One neighbor decided to cut a hole in the fence so that he could enjoy sitting at the edge of the estuary. This stirred some controversy and after some wrangling with City, the City deeded over land 20 feet back from the waterline to the adjacent landowners for their right to use the waterfront and to maintain it going forward. The City used the proceeds to perform the last major dredge which occurred in 1965. So began the transformation of our waterfront paradise. History of Marina Lagoon to be continued.

Mariner's Island Grand Opening

In October of 1966 the San Mateo Water Ski Club hosted a Grand Opening of the first of the Mariner’s Isle properties. It featured a Ski Show and boat rides in addition to the chance to own from just $33,500. More about Mariner’s Isle in next month’s issue.

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© Andrew Lomano