Rural roads workshop, Saturday, Mar 6

Posted by
Mon, March 1, 2010

Is your road difficult to navigate during winter rains?  Are the pot holes and ruts taking a toll on your car? The San Mateo County Resource Conservation District (RCD) is offering a free workshop, a field tour (if weather permits), and information on funding assistance for rural road improvements. 

The workshop will help rural road residents understand the basics of erosion and drainage, recognize the early signs of road failure, find funding and technical assistance for improvements, and get tips on creating a road association and working with neighbors to improve private roads
Saturday, March 6: noon to 2
2pm Presentations
4pm Site visit
Gazos Grill,
5720 Cabrillo Highway/Rte. 1
(just south of Pigeon Point Lighthouse)
RSVPs: Ellen Gartside 650.712.7765 or [email protected]

Consultants’ plan for Hwy 1 lacks awareness of our environment and community


Posted by
Fri, February 26, 2010

"Essential Characteristics of Roundabouts" form the consultant's plan

NOTE: This was originally posted as a comment on an earlier story. We’ve republished it as a letter in order to spark some conversation about the proposal.

Absent from the recent “Traffic & Trails” outside consulting effort last year were:

  1. An awareness of the coastal environment in general—what it means to be “coastal”—and our local coastal environment in particular.
  2. An awareness of the California Coastal Act and our LCP.
  3. An awareness of the history and character of our local communities.
  4. An awareness of the numerous past considerations of vehicular and non-vehicular transportation in our area.
  5. An awareness of the essential natural and financial resources of our area, in concert with what development our area can absorb without being degraded.

What we saw was a set of “principles”, etc., for imposing the designs of landscape architects and community planners on, essentially, a blank slate.

In every example of their work elsewhere, we saw designs that resulted in greater development and the increased hardscaping that goes with it. These people are for increased building and pavement—at least that is what their designs show. They do not know the physical difference between a road and a trail. They don’t recognize huge energy and pollution costs of industries involved in implementing their designs—for example the cement industry.

Some of their ideas would come close to creating de facto transportation corridors and hubs that would exempt, via last year’s SB375, surrounding new development from vital environmental regulations and reviews. Such simple matters as their prolific use of tree “walls” in their designs would block coastal views in El Granada that some residents have rightfully fought to preserve for decades. (There were no native trees on our coastal terrace.)

Rather than restore the now-parking-blighted Burnham Strip to the community commons it was originally laid out to be, they would cut off edges of it for widened roads. The runoff from the additional paving in their designs would add to the problems we already have, further degrading some local creeks into the storm sewers they are becoming.

Now I’m well aware some locals, including our urban environmentalists, like the idea of turning the midcoast into a putatively-“upscale,” artificially-designed suburbia, not unlike some of the planned and paved-over coastal communities created or retrofitted in Southern California and Florida. But I’m hoping those who appreciate the remaining coastal character of our communities and who prefer to live more in harmony with our area rather than institute ever more expensive efforts to dominate it will push for genuine improvements to our roads and trails and not fall for this setup for further urbanization.

It is difficult to see this consultant’s work as anything more than justification and a step toward the overdevelopment our county supervisors are trying to foist on us in their (so far unapproved) revised LCP worded for the benefit of their developer and builder buddies.

Big Wave site visit cancelled

Breaking news

Posted by
Wed, February 24, 2010

The county Planning Commission has cancelled its planned visit to the site of the Big Wave development.

The cost of updating the project’s draft Environmental Impact Report has caused a cascade of delays. Because the consultant requires more money to complete the EIR, the release of the final report has been delayed. The Planning Commission has delayed its scheduled March 10 hearing until the final EIR is completed.  This led the developer has delay putting up story poles until the minimum 10 days before the hearing, and the Planning Commission has delayed its site visit until the story poles are erected.

Big Wave Planning Commission hearing canceled, EIR delayed


Posted by
Fri, February 12, 2010

The Planning Commission Hearing scheduled for March 10th, 2010 is being postponed for a second time; no new date has been set.

The EIR consultants will not release the Final EIR until they get more money. The EIR consultants have used up all their initial funding. The Board of Supervisors will have to approve a second supplement to the contract—and the Big Wave Project developers will have to pay.

Its unclear when this will be on the Supervisors agenda.

Blogged live: Big Wave DEIR Study Session at Planning Commission


Posted by
Thu, January 28, 2010

Blogged live from the Supervisors’ Chambers in Redwood City

The Pelican Eye: Jan. 27, 2010

Gail Slocum, Commissioner, Fourth District had questions for County Counsel regarding the sale of the four proposed office buildings.

She is attempting to better understand what will happen to the office buildings, the storage building and parking lot once they are sold.

Project Phasing

Camille Leung, County Planner said the Wellness Center and Office Park construction will be based on demand.

The developers plan to rough grade the whole site and put up one building at a time. The parking lot would also be phased to provide parking for the building constructed.

Phase One of Construction

Building A would be built first (building closest to Pillar Ridge) and parking lot to the north of building A (closest to Pillar Ridge).

Scott Holmes, Engineer for the Big Wave development said building A is for mixed use, light industrial so it might need less parking? He also said agricultural farming would continue while construction is in progress.

- Hard to imagine how all this multitasking would work for the farm.

Holmes said they plan to switch to organic farming and plan to continue farming during construction.

Camille Leung said, “The agriculture is proposed for the Wellness Center site.” Holmes said, “The farming would continue on both the Wellness Center and Office Park site.”

Dave Byers of McCracken, Byers and Richardson said, “A banker will decide how the sites will be used. The construction loan will decide how the land is farmed during construction. We intend to keep farming the land during construction.”

Leung said that if the office park was a flop the Wellness Center would still be built but would not serve low income developmentally challenged people. Leung then went on to say, “Those living on just SSI payments are below the poverty line.”

Holmes said, “The cost to lease office park space would be $3.00 per sq. ft. and the purchase cost would be 1.5 times higher.”

Holmes, “A tenant will be secured before the structure (Building A) is built. The building would be customized to fit the tenant/customer. Each building permit would shift depending on the needs of the tenant.”

Story Poles

Leung said, “The developer will start construction of the story poles next week.”

Pacifica apartment owners running out of time, and space

Posted by
Wed, January 27, 2010

With the cliffs eroding daily, federal money is not likely for the blufftop apartment buildings on Pacifica’s Esplanade, reports Julia Scott in the County Times.

It remains to be seen whether it’s too late to save 330 Esplanade, which was red-tagged last month, or 320 Esplanade, which was partially evacuated last week. But with the ocean starting to creep up on adjacent homes on Esplanade, Speier is calling for a comprehensive solution rather than a piecemeal approach to protecting one building at a time. [...]

Another option would be to form a neighborhood improvement district that would tax locals to pay for construction work.

While Esplanade Apartments has begun a $6 million engineering “fix” that will hopefully halt bluff retreat before it can undermine the buildings’ foundations, their neighbors to the north at Lands End Apartments ?are preparing for an emergency fix of their own. Previously, the complex has been relatively unaffected by erosion, which explains why its cliff has no shore protection whatsoever. But Lands End has lost 50 to 60 feet of bluff since the summer. The edge of the bluff is now within 55 feet of one of the buildings and 50 feet from their parking lot, according to Rob Anderson, a project engineer with RJR Engineering Group.

Lands End is about to request an emergency permit from the California Coastal Commission to place large protective boulders, also known as riprap, at the bottom of their cliff as a temporary measure. In the long term, Anderson says a whole two-mile stretch of beach along Esplanade and Palmetto Avenues could benefit from a major collaborative engineering effort, like an artificial reef.

Monday, Scott gave us a good description of the $6 million in desperate measures employed by the owners of 330 Esplanade.

Workers will drill more than 200 nails 50 feet into the cliff behind 330 Esplanade, which was evacuated in December, and secure them in the sandy cliff with several layers of concrete. Next, a wire mesh with steel plates will form a smooth shield against rain and wind erosion. A final stage will involve erecting a sea wall in back of 330, 320 and 310 Esplanade to deflect the pounding current, which undermines the bluff from below.

The owners of 320 Esplanade will almost certainly decide to extend the concrete wall onto their property as well, which would mean two construction rigs working side by side by the end of the week, said Tony Fortunato of Engineered Soil Repairs. “The longer you wait, the more you lose,” he warned. [...]

Even if the owners of all three apartment buildings chip in together, $6 million could be a lot of money to spend for 50 years of habitation. Millard Tong, owner of 310 and 320 Esplanade, spent a total of $6 million to purchase both buildings back in 2002. And Farshid Samsami and Delfarib Fanaie spent $1.45 million to purchase 330 Esplanade in 2004, records show.

Esplanade Apartments representative Bart Willoughby wants to get money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the project, but those funds are generally used to protect public property.

Could a strategic retreat have saved SF’s Great Highway—and its beach?

Posted by
Wed, January 27, 2010


In 2003, San Francisco’s Ocean Beach Task Force recommended several proposed long-term solutions to erosion at Ocean Beach. One option was a strategic retreat from the coastline, moving a nearby sewage tunnel and the highway inland, reports the Examiner.

Now, the city may have to shore up the bluff with a rock wall that will likely only compound its problems.

In recent weeks, the bluffs along Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard have yielded to powerful waves stirred up by this year’s El Niño weather system in the Pacific Ocean. In the most-extreme areas, the bluffs have retreated more than 70 feet from where they were in a 2007 assessment. In one area, the guardrail of Great Highway has crumbled off the road.

Worse, the waves are now within 20 feet of a mammoth sewage tunnel that lies deep under Great Highway, Department of Public Works project manager Frank Filice said. He said if left untended, and if waves through the rest of winter are anything like they were the past few weeks, that 14-foot-wide tunnel could be breached, spilling as much as 10 million gallons of raw sewage onto the beach. [...]

But advocate Dean LaTourrette, director of coastal advocate organization Save the Waves, said the rock wall could cause further erosion in the long run, and the bad erosion now being seen could partly be caused by the rock walls installed in the 1990s just to the north. The walls also can create a safety hazard and impact wildlife habitat, he said.

The Chron says the Army Corp of Engineers had a plan also:

In 1994, storms erased 30 to 40 feet of the coastline in the same area south of Sloat. A 1996 report from the Army Corps of Engineers recommended building a permanent seawall in the area.


Video: Pacifica developer redefines “elegance”... as “hugeness”

Posted by
Wed, January 27, 2010

This video for the Connemara blufftop development in Pacifica features “inspiring natural surroundings”, “the promise of this seaside community’s [i.e. Pacifica’s] unique lifestyle”, “whitewater” ocean views, and “unmistakable elegance”. And whatever these homes reveal, it’s not “a commitment to architectural excellence”. Thanks to Pacifica Riptide for the tip.

Documents:  Attachments to Big Wave Draft EIR comments

Posted by
Tue, January 26, 2010

Those 243 comments on the Big Wave Draft Environmental Impact Report also came with a stack of attachments, including presentations from previous planning commission hearings and technical appendices. You can download the appendices to the comments from Coastsider [64mb].

The presentations from November 18 Planning Commission hearing (Appendix B) are particularly interesting, and contain some excellent feedback about the development from community members.

Click below for the detailed list.

Document:  Staff report for Big Wave study session, Weds

Posted by
Sun, January 24, 2010

You can now download a copy of the the county planning staff’s report on the Big Wave development from Coastsider. We don’t yet have the attachments, but wanted to get this piece into the public’s hands as soon as possible.

On Wednesday, Jan 27, at 8am, the San Mateo County Planning Commission will hold a study session on the proposed development.  The attached document covers some areas of the project, such as: the project description, the business plan, subdivision of the property, why no story poles have been put up, what utilities and districts are involved, tsunami hazards, effect on population and housing, and the need for police support.

The staff document doesn’t address zoning, effects on local biology, traffic impacts, or other issues that have been raised in more than 200 comments filed with the county.

The Planning Commission has also apparently not been sent copies of the public comment on this project [Download or read individually on Coastsider].

We’ll have more on this document and the upcoming study session, but this will get you started.  Post your comments and questions here.

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