Jet-Ski and Personal Watercraft Restrictions – San Francisco

In 1998 San Francisco County adopted an ordinance aimed at reducing conflicts and adverse impacts in coastal waters. Central to the ordinance is the restriction of the use of personal watercraft, more commonly known as jet-skis. Under the law jet skis are banned within 1200 feet of the entire shoreline of San Francisco County – known as a "special use area"- including the east part of Angel Island and all of Alcatraz and Treasure Islands. An "access corridor" allows jet skis to launch from the public boat ramp and travel out to Bay waters beyond the special use area. The ordinance also includes a provision which allows citizens to file a private nuisance suit if harassed by jet ski activity.

More Information:

Ordinance to Reduce Conflicts and Adverse Impacts in Coastal Waters

SEC. 4700.1. PURPOSE.

Thepurpose of this ordinance is to reduce existing conflicts and limit potential conflicts between uses of the coastal waters of San Francisco, eliminate adverse impacts to the diverse and unusual species found in the San Francisco Bay, promote overall public safety, and decrease hydrocarbon pollution that is disproportionately caused by personal watercraft.

Conflicts between uses have the potential to increase in the future because of increasing development of shoreline areas. Examples of conflicts that currently occur are those between personal watercraft and individuals engaged in water sports such as kayaking, windsurfing, swimming, and canoeing, due to the nature and design of personal watercraft: high maneuverability, high speed, ability to travel in shallow areas, and noise patterns that are unique and annoying.

Conflicts also occur between shoreline uses in areas zoned for commercial and open space activities and personal watercraft because of the nature and design of these vessels.


(a)"Landmarks" shall include, but not be limited to, the farthest extension of piers, beaches, seawalls, jetties, breakwaters and docks.

(b)"Personal watercraft" means a highly maneuverable vessel which uses a waterjet pump to propel one or more persons and is capable of operating at planing speeds. "Personal watercraft" includes, but is not limited to, vessels referred to as Jetskis®, Sea Doos®, and Waverunners®."Personal watercraft" shall include any vessel less than 12 feet, propelled by machinery, that is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing or kneeling on the vessel, rather than the conventional manner of sitting or standing inside the vessel.

(c) "Operator" means the person on board who is steering the vessel while underway.

(d)"Special-use area" means all or a portion of a waterway that is set aside for specified uses or activities to the exclusion of other incompatible uses or activities.

(e) "Vessel" includes every description of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water, except either a seaplane on the water or a watercraft specifically designed to operate on a permanently fixed course.


(a)Use and operation of personal watercraft in the area designated in Subsection (b) as a special use area is incompatible with competing uses and is therefore prohibited.

(b) For purposes of this Article, the special use area shall consist of the area within 1,200 feet of the shoreline or the farthest extension of the shoreline of San Francisco, as defined by its landmarks. The San Francisco shoreline shall include, but not be limited to, all of Yerba Buena Island, all of Treasure Island, the east shore of Angel Island, all of Alcatraz Island, between Point Bonita and Yellow Bluff in Marin, and from Candlestick Park around the San Francisco Peninsula down to the extension of the County line below Harding Park.

Inthe event that another regulatory authority has exclusive jurisdiction over any of this shoreline area, the special use area shall begin at the boundary of the shoreline under the jurisdiction of the City and County of San Francisco and extend out 1,200 feet.

(c)There shall be a 200-foot wide access corridor for personal watercraft along the shortest route possible from Pier 52 through the special use area. There shall be a second access corridor, not to exceed 200 feet in width, for personal watercraft along the shortest route possible from the Gas House Cove marina fueling station through the special use area. The Gas House Cove corridor is designated solely for access to the fueling facility; personal watercraft shall not be allowed to launch from or land at Gas House Cove. The access corridors shall be marked by buoys or designated by other means chosen by the Police Department, and the speed limit in the corridors shall be five miles per hour.

(d) The restrictions imposed by this Section shall not apply to the use of personal watercraft by Fire Department, Police Department, or Coast Guard personnel in the performance of search and rescue missions or other emergency or law enforcement operations.

(e) Signs summarizing the relevant provisions of this Article shall be erected where personal watercraft have the ability to launch. These signs shall also provide a telephone number designated to accept calls by the public reporting violations of this Article.


Ifthe Port of San Francisco or any other officer, department or agency of the City constructs a recreational boat launch facility with funds provided pursuant to 26 U.S.C. Section 9504(b)(2), the Port Director or the responsible officer, department or agency shall designate, and the Board of Supervisors shall confirm by motion, an additional access corridor for personal watercraft from the facility and through the special use area. In addition, the Port Director or the responsible officer, department or agency shall notify the Commission on the Environment prior to constructing any facility covered by this Section.


(a)A violation of the provisions of Section 4700.3 shall be an infraction. Any person found guilty of such an infraction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $50 for the first offense; for the second offense committed within a one-year period by a fine not to exceed $100; for third and each additional offense committed within a one-year period by a fine not to exceed $250.

(b) Any person who commits, or proposes to commit, an act in violation of this Article may be enjoined therefrom by any court of competent jurisdiction. Action for injunction under this Section may be brought by any aggrieved person, by the District Attorney, by the City Attorney, or by any person or entity which will fairly and adequately represent the interests of the public.


(a)Any citizen may commence a civil action on his or her own behalf against any person who is alleged to have violated, or to be in violation of the provisions of this Article. For purposes of this Section, "citizen" shall mean either an individual who resides in the City; or a corporation, partnership or association that maintains its principal office in the City, and which has an interest which is, or may be, adversely affected.

(b) In any action brought under this Section where the City is not a party, the City may intervene as a matter of right. Whenever an action is brought under this Section, the plaintiff shall serve a copy of the complaint on the City Attorney upon filing. No consent judgment or settlement shall be entered in an action in which the City is not a party prior to 30 days following receipt of the proposed consent judgment or settlement by the City Attorney.

(c) The court in issuing any final order brought pursuant to this Section shall award costs of litigation(including reasonable attorney and expert witness fees) to any prevailing or substantially prevailing party who brought the underlying action, when the court determines such an award is appropriate. The court may, if a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction is sought by the citizen, require a filing of a bond or undertaking in accordance with State law and local court rules.

(d)Nothing in this Section shall restrict any right which any person may have under any statute, ordinance, or common law to seek enforcement of any requirement prescribed by or under this Article, or to seek any other relief. Nothing in this Section shall be construed to prohibit or restrict the City from bringing any administrative, civil or criminal action or obtaining any remedy or sanction against any person to enforce any requirement set forth in this Article.


Ifany provision, section, paragraph, clause, sentence or phrase of this ordinance, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, shall be held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect the other provisions or applications of this ordinance which can be given effect without the invalid provisions or application and, to this end, the provisions of this ordinance are hereby declared to be severable. (Added by Ord. 285-98, App. 9/18/98)