County to decide if extensive Montara/Moss Beach property will be open space or houses

Posted by on Tue, March 22, 2005

Committee for Green Foothills
The bypass runs through the back of Montara and Moss Beach and merges with Highway 1 at the Half Moon Bay Airport. Click on the map for a larger version.

UPDATE:  The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors did not make a decision about this important issue at the hearing on March 28.  It’s not too late to send your comments to the address at the end of this article.

When the Devil’s Slide tunnel is finally built, CalTrans will be left with a big chunk of Montara’s and Moss Beach’s back yard. And the fate of that space is the subject of a struggle.

If you live in Montara, you’re probably familiar with the bypass, a strip of empty land, some of it cultivated, running east of Elm Street.  The original plan was to run a freeway through the back end of Montara and Moss Beach and down to the Half Moon Bay Airport.  Even after that plan was abandoned for a bypass a little further north, and the second plan was dropped for the tunnel, Caltrans has hung on to the land for these routes until the road is built.

One condition of building the tunnel was that the northern portion of the original Right of Way be sold to the California State Parks system. But now it’s time to decide what to do with the part that runs through Montara and Moss Beach. Will it be kept open, or developed for more houses?

In its recommendations for the update to the County’s Local Coastal Plan (LCP), the Midcoast Community Council (MCC) recommended that the CalTrans Right of Way be rezoned from residential to open space. Other Local Coastal Plan recommendations urge Caltrans to voluntarily merge existing subdivided lots within the ROW and then sell the resulting single parcel to a public agency at a price not to exceed its original cost. This would promote the use of the property for trails and other open space uses.

The San Mateo County Association of Realtors (SAMCAR) has a different vision. In a letter to the County Board of Supervisors, SAMCAR said that it opposes designating the old Caltrans freeway bypass in Montara as open space because "being adjacent to the new tunnel, these properties would be ideal sites [for homes] given their proximity to transit."

People already use this land for recreation. I walk my dogs there and see a lot of my neighbors there as well. It could be used for a recreational trail, inland away from Highway 1, stretching all the way from the Half Moon Bay airport to Pacifica.

"A lot of people already thought this land was protected," says Montara resident Jonathan Garfield. Garfield has been working getting Montarans interested in this issue.

What you can do: The Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on the LCP revisions on March 29. The hearing will be at Board of Supervisors Chambers, 400 County Center in Redwood City at 10:00 am. At the previous meeting of the Board, nearly all the speakers were Realtors pushing for their vision of an LCP. This is a good opportunity for Montara and Moss Beach residents to make it clear that they have another vision.

If you can’t attend the hearing, you can mail a letter to the supervisors:

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors

Board President Rich Gordon

Members Mark Church, Jerry Hill, Rose Jacobs Gibson and Adrienne Tissier

400 County Center

Redwood City, 94063

This is an extremely important issue, if you live in Montara I urge you to make your voice heard. More houses? Or protect the land untouched for our future generations to enjoy? We need more housing, that’s a fact. But if we continue to chip away at our open space, there will no more open space left one day. Our community here in Montara is unique, it’s small size is part of it’s charm. If we build and build we will just become part of the urban sprawl. Take a look at Daly City, that’s what happens when developers are allowed free rein. Don’t let it happen here on the coast.

84 people signed up to speak today at the Board of Supervisors meeting.  Builders/realtors almost universally wanted no limits and wanted the opportunity for all the homes in the Caltrans right-of-way.

There were, however, a LOT of Montarans who spoke in favor of rezoning to open space, and keeping publicly owned space as publicly owned space.

My wife and I attended the LCP Update meeting this morning in Redwood City. There was a large turn out on both sides, over 80 people registered to speak. I had to leave at Midday but I believe the session lasted well into the afternoon. There was a very large local Montara turn out in support of the move to re zone the Caltrans land back to open space. We even had some construction and realtor support! A lot of attention was focused on the 1% issue, many points of view were heard across the board. Very passionate pleas were made to add more pedestrian safety/crossing areas on Highway 1. I heard this morning on descission has been made yet. The fight continues…

The Supervisors took no action on the possible rezoning.

I was at the hearing as well and want to stress that there appeared to be no opposition to the re-zoning of this land to Open Space.  The coverage in the HMB Review on March 30th was really dissappointing.  It characterized this issue as Developers vs. Environmentalists.  This is a community use issue.  This land has been in continuous recreational use by the community for more than 100 years. We witness hundreds of visits per week by people hiking, biking, horseback riding, dog-walking, children playing, etc.  It has historical value and was a destination of the annual 4th of July parade in Montara.  My neighbor has stated that Joaquin Miller , an early resident of the area deeded this land to the people of Montara.  Caltrans is a state agency, it should not be up to Caltrans to sell this land for development when it has always been in use by the community. The land was purchased for an emergency plan to serve this community, when the plan was abandoned, it does not follow that the land be developed as a result.

Furthermore, Harte and Date St. has the worst drainage in all of Montara.  It is constantly flooding there and more development will exacerbate this issue. 

If you feel strongly about this land, please consider writing to the Review this week to make your opinions heard. 

Paul Godwin, Date St. Montara.

You bring up some very good points Paul. I feel confident this land will remain as it was intended to be used, open space for Montarans. But we need to be vigilant and make our community voice heard to the ‘Supervisors’ who seem to have taken it upon themselves to decide the fate of this land. I have heard ‘rumors’ of 200-400 houses being built on this land, imagine that, that’s 800-1000 additions to the 2000 exisiting Montara population and the same addition in vechicles. You do the math, that’s almost a 50% increase in the size of our town. There is no way that the infastructure could even come close to supporting those figures.

Lots of good ideas - but keep in mind the big picture.

Use the leverage you have as a community, work with CalTrans and the County instead of fighting them. Get a plan in place to not only protect the area but to also lay out a plan for the future transit needs of the coast. The existing state of Highway 1 is not up to the job of managing the current traffic use - let alone even a modest increase for the coming years.

Get together on a proposal for upgrading and widening the highway where needed to make it able to support the existing use in a safe manner - then tie it in to an agreement to preserve the coastal areas in question.

There is a wild comment further down about 80-1000 new residents that would somehow lead to the same number of vehicles - a nice scare tactic but totally unrealistic. Sure, no one wants to move out to the coast and then have it become another Daly City - but there is no reason that some advanced planning can’t sort out some of the existing problems that face coastsiders and still keep intact the beauty, the peace and the other reasons that keep us here…

Kim, I agree with you on all your comments.

But like I said, do the math, this slot of land would support at a minimum 200 houses (you know the realtors and developers are going to push for maximum numbers of new builds which could be much higher) this would mean even if each house has an average of two people (again, a higher figure is probably more likely) and that means the same amount of vehicles.

How many house-holds in Montara, or anywhere in the Bay Area have no vechiles at all, come on! So I don’t think my comment is that ‘wild’ really.

I whole-heartedly agree with you, work as a community, this land should be open space. Sign the petition, email <email>[email protected]</email> for details. The Montara Post Office has more details posted on the wall.

If we all pull together it will not be an issue, let’s make it so.

Comment 9
Tue, April 19, 2005 9:18pm
All my comments

Caffe Lucca also has a petition at the counter.

Fighting for open space for the Caltrans bypass isn’t working against the county. That’s the recommendation on the table from MCC.

The plans are already in place to upgrade the highway with a tunnel. This is something the communities of Montara and Moss Beach put on the table a long time ago.

The goal of keeping the bypass as open space is to make sure that the tunnel improves transportation without altering the character of the community.