The big ideas began to unfold: attached housing, a community center, restaurants, hotels and a scaled-down harbor allowing small sail boats, rowboats and houseboats. More big ideas would follow.
Those ideas never materialized. The plan was never adopted. Other plans have remained stagnant because the city hasn't been able to attract the right funding to complement the hefty price tag.
Even as the developers attempted to help the city realize the marina's full potential, they projected that the cost to dredge and maintain the yacht harbor someday would become too costly.
That day has come. But now that the council has formed a standing committee and opened its meetings on the marina to the public, they have been determined to find a way to keep the marina as the "crown jewel" of the city even though the jewel has long since lost its glimmer.
"We can see that the problems are complex," Mayor Tony Santos said Monday night at a work session studying the marina shoreline and
45-year-old yacht harbor. "But I'm not sure they're insoluble."
The City Council heard more details Monday about the marina's problems.
The city doesn't have any immediate plans to dredge the two-mile channel and harbor, which have been silted up for the last several months. But closing the harbor also would carry a debt that would haunt the city for years, city staff said.
Developing a "master development" plan that would examine all of the environmental, financial and regulatory constraints associated with operating the marina without a yacht harbor is the council's best option, city staff said.
Council members also got a glimpse of how that plan might look compared with other Bay Area marinas, which all in some way are struggling to stay afloat.
But while other marinas operate at a loss mainly because of high dredging costs most have something San Leandro lacks: a residential component and other types of development that generate a steady stream of revenue.
City officials have intentionally kept that option and, consequently, most developers at bay, citing the city's general plan policies and residents' objections as the reason.
The dilemma council members now face, Santos said, is whether the city isprepared to put down its guard and accept mixed-use development at the marina as well a multi-million dollar liability.
"How can we put all these things together to make the marina as financially viable as possible?" Santos asked in reference to the hypothetical situation.
Although council members were divided over which direction they should take the marina, residents were adamant in their responses: Past mistakes never can be made again.
Paul Nahm, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce's Marina Task Force, thanked the council for including the public in their discussions of the marina but challenged council members to get their priorities in order.
City officials have tried twice before to develop the marina, "but we should keep the opportunities open if we want to put the necessary development into the marina," he said. "We should keep the marina alive until we have somebody to put the millions into it."
John Manuel, president of the Marina Action Committee, said the council's efforts seemed too little too late, but he didn't want to see another development move forward without politicians and residents being on the same page.
"Let us all work together toward a conclusion that leaves no doubt as to how we feel about the marina being compromised, and that involvement in the decision making process be all inclusive," Manuel read from a statement before submitting it to the council.
In the end, council members agreed they didn't want to get burned again with another set of stalled plans and they vowed the marina dilemma will be solved under their watch.
"We're going to have to make a decision," Santos said. "It's tough sometimes to make a choice, but I believe we will do the right thing."