April 14, 2024
Embattled Point Buckler Island was once a Seeno getaway for duck hunting, formerly a top kiteboarding recreational spot.

A tiny private island in Grizzly Bay at the edge of Suisun Marsh – once a playground for Bay Area billionaire water sports enthusiasts – is up for sale for a cool $75 million.

Reachable only by air or water, Point Buckler Island hit the real estate market only days ago and already has attracted several interested buyers, although agents would not disclose any names. It boasts two helipads and a 400-foot deepwater dock, which the listing says is “ready to accommodate your favorite weekend recreational watercraft or mega yacht.”

In its heyday as an exclusive kiteboarding club – from 2014 to about 2019 – Point Buckler reportedly saw the likes of Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and other Silicon Valley billionaires visit, according to the island’s owner. Water-sports lovers enjoyed the consistently windy weather and navigating tight sloughs of the uninhabited island just east of the Carquinez Strait and at the mouth of the San Joaquin/Sacramento rivers Delta. The astroturf fields, outdoor lounge, bar and bathrooms are still there.

“Friends would fly in or come up by boat, and we had a lounge, art gallery, big outdoor fireplace,” said owner John Sweeney of Suisun City. “It was sort of like a Burning Man base camp and so it was pretty cool.”

Point Buckler Island, a former kiteboarding destination and duck hunting club, near southern Grizzly Bay and across the San Joaquin/Sacramento rivers from Pittsburg, is now up for sale. The private Solano County island was listed for $75 million in September 2023. (John Sweeney) 

But the island has also been mired in land use lawsuits and appeals for nearly a decade. Sweeney says he has been unable to maintain the property or operate a business on the island since 2020 after a federal court ruled that he had violated the Clean Water Act by building back the broken levee. Earlier courts also had ordered him to restore the tidal marshland and some appeals are still pending.

Before that, the then-50-acre Solano County island located at the western tip of Simmons Island and just across the river from Bay Point was a duck-hunting getaway for the Gaetano Seeno family of Pittsburg. It was called the 801 Club or the Annie Mason Duck Club and dates back to  the mid- 1920s.

Sweeney, a professional America’s Cup sailor and advertising businessman, bought Point Buckler in 2011 for $150,000, and later set about to prepare it as a kiteboarding destination. For six months in 2014, he repaired several collapsed levees using an excavator, shoring up berms as others have done in the past, he said.

But state regulators accused Sweeney of building the levees and dumping debris into the water and ordered him to stop shortly afterward. They said that because the levees had eroded years earlier, the island had reverted to a natural tidal wetland and provided critical habitat for endangered fish like juvenile steelhead and Chinook salmon, which needed to be protected. The Regional Water Board also claimed “unlawful activities” adversely affected the waters of the state and fish and wildlife habitat and resulted in the loss of 30 acres of tidal marsh, which they are committed to seeing restored.

In 2016, Sweeney was fined $2.8 million by local authorities. He appealed the fines and won in 2017 but the state’s higher court later sided with the earlier ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court  denied review of the case.

Seven years of court battles later with the Regional Water Board, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency and Sweeney is now facing some $10 million in liens on his islands. Fines and lawyers’ fees had taken their toll and he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March. Sweeney tried to give the island to state Attorney General Rob Bonta in April, but by May, Bonta had given it back, he said.

“I can’t maintain the property now because I ran out of money to keep fighting these guys,” he said referring to the state regulators. “So basically, it’s just a situation where someone needs to come in and finish the project, and I think the state would be very happy to have someone come in and do something out there.”

Any potential buyer would likely have to first figure out the cost of restoring the damaged wetlands and factor that into the offered price, according to a state Water Resources Control Board spokesman.

The island is now being marketed as a “great escape for sports gatherings or corporate events.” It’s also being touted as being “near the future Flannery Utopian city,” referring to Flannery Associates’ plans to build a city on the waterfront of Solano County near Collinsville where the tech investors have bought up a lot of undeveloped land.

For Sweeney, Buckler Island is still “a peaceful place,” green with vegetation and home to wildlife. From one side of the island, visitors look west to the Mothball Fleet in Suisun Bay, in the other direction to the Napa hills, Sweeney said of the views.

Real estate agent Marianne Bordogna called the island “a pretty special place” and said the listing was unusual as private islands rarely come up for sale.

“You see a lot of wildlife out there,” she said. “The views are beautiful – Grizzly Bay, Suisun Bay and it leads out to San Francisco Bay. There are wildflowers… It’s private, secluded and beautiful, and the views of the water are outstanding.”

The parcel is zoned as MP1 or marsh preserve 1, Bordogna said, while noting any potential buyer could build one home there if the levee issues were fixed, or apply for zoning changes if so desired.

When questioned about the price, Sweeney said because of its location, the island is actually “priceless.”

“I put it up for sale because I think someone — an investor in Flannery — might want the only island out there for their house, or their own projects, and there’s no other island they can buy,” Sweeney said.

Point Buckler Island, a former kiteboarding destination and duck hunting club, near southern Grizzly Bay and across the San Joaquin/Sacramento rivers from Pittsburg, is now up for sale. The private Solano County island was listed for $75 million in September 2023. (John Sweeney) 
Point Buckler Island, a former kiteboarding destination and duck hunting club, near southern Grizzly Bay and across the San Joaquin/Sacramento rivers from Pittsburg, is now up for sale. The private Solano County island was listed for $75 million in September 2023. (John Sweeney) 
Point Buckler Island, a former kiteboarding destination and duck hunting club, near southern Grizzly Bay and across the San Joaquin/Sacramento rivers from Pittsburg, is now up for sale. The private Solano County island was listed for $75 million in September 2023. (John Sweeney) 

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