Exclusive video: HMB City Council prepares to kill Pilarcitos Creek park site
At a meeting called on 24 hours notice Wednesday, the Half Moon Bay City Council majority telegraphed its intention to kill the park site on Pilarcitos Creek that the city bought in October 2004 for a community park. Coastsider had the only camera at this city council meeting, so you can only see the video here.
The meeting was described as a "workshop" to discuss a matrix of park sites, both developed and potential, owned by the city. However, the elephant in the room was the fate of the 21 acres Half Moon Bay purchased from Nurserymen’s Exchange in 2004. At the time current City Council members Marina Fraser and Naomi Patridge spoke out against the plan. (Fraser was on the council in 2004, Patridge was not.) During Wednesday’s meeting, council member McClung made it clear she had misgivings about the site.
Full Disclosure: When Fraser and Patridge came out against the purchase in 2005 with the support of the Review, I editorialized in favor of the purchase. I also wrote a series of articles correcting some of the Review’s coverage of the decisive meeting.
What is bizarre is that in the nearly three years that the city has owned the site, after months of community planning workshops and after a peculiar unitemized estimate from the city’s park consultant, the city has never produced an itemized budget or a plan for developing the parcel. Meanwhile, the site is clearly reverting to a state of nature—which could limit the city’s ability to use or sell it.
And the clock is ticking. The city bought the park site with an interest-free loan from the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). It was estimated at the meeting that the city had saved $750,000 in interest so far, and POST has indicated its willingness to extend the loan if the city agrees to develop it as a park. The loan expires in October, but POST is asking the city to declare its intentions in June. Nurserymen’s has the $3.1 million, the city has the land, and POST is holding the city’s IOU. So, it’s not clear what "walking away" would mean.
Retreating from the site could cost the city a great deal of money. It is using part of the site as a corporation yard (which it would have to replace), the city could wind up owing interest to POST with nothing to show for it, and the site may not be developable by anyone else.
And there are reasons for the city to use the site for a park. The city could save money now by developing the site in stages, as it grows and its needs become more clear. And there is still no other site for a park within walking distance of downtown, the high school, and the middle school. Everyone at the meeting bemoaned the shortsightedness of a long-ago city council that failed to buy an earlier park site when it became available. Future Half Moon Bay City Councils may regret the loss of this unique site.
Regardless of your feelings about the park, you should watch the discussion of the site, the oral communications from the public, and the city council discussion. There is plenty of good information about the city’s parks in the rest of the video as well. Be sure to download the map and matrix of park sites so you can follow the discussion.
The city council will next take up the parks budget at its meeting on Tuesday, June 5.
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