Half Moon Bay negotiating its surrender in Sacramento

Posted by on Thu, June 26, 2008

The fate of AB1991’s successor now hinges on the cooperation of the bill’s opponents in the environmental community, reports Julia Scott in the County Times.  This article does a great job of clarifying the arcane procedures of the state legislature that have made it so confusing to follow the bill’s progress and prospects. This is a must-read.

An amended bill would change the terms of the settlement agreement, which is tantamount to forfeiting the $18 million. It would likely also involve sending the amended language back to the Assembly for another floor vote, and possibly a new hearing by a committee. Before that can happen, however, the bill would need to be heard in a Senate Policy Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee by Aug. 15, followed by a floor vote in the Senate. (The bill has no Senate co-author, but could still be heard if a member volunteers to introduce it).

The last day both chambers can vote on any legislation is Aug. 31.

Paul Mason, legislative director for the Sierra Club in Sacramento, said the city had become much more receptive to negotiating an agreement in recent days when it became clear the bill was not likely to garner enough support in the Senate. AB 1991 is so controversial that every state Senator already knew about it by the time it passed in the Assembly, he said.

"Up until last week, they’ve been pushing forward with a kind of land, air and sea war to put their lobbyists on this — they were thinking, ‘If I ram hard enough, I’ll get what I want.’ And now it’s clear that’s not going to happen," said Mason. He would not describe the nature of the options under discussion, but said the talks were "initial and well-intentioned."

Mason suggested that an amended bill could still pass by the end of August.

"Extraordinary things can happen. A lot to this will come down to the city being realistic about what they’re entitled to," he said. "It should be clear by now that they’re not going to waive all environmental laws."

Remind me who recently wrote:

I initially thought this bill was going to be easily defeated by the onslaught from all the environmental groups because they have historically been so creative/aggressive in pushing their agenda.

But it was really a stroke of genius by the City to take the tact they did with HIGH priced lobbyists.  Not only did they create a winning coalition but made sure everybody had to lay out their positions early so they couldn’t flip-flop later.

This may set a new standard in how to do things here by aggressively throwing a lot of money and influence peddling at a problem.  This is a time tested method that works in Washington and it seems to be working in Sacramento too.

These developments seem promising. Whatever the final outcome, I hope that the Coastal Commission gets an opportunity to demonstrate the good that can result from cooperating with them. This project has the potential to be a win for HMB, a win for the Coastal Commission and a win for our coast.

I am pleased to re-read what I wrote and I stand by my words today.  Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t.  It would be a shame for all the residents in HMB if this bill is defeated.

The alternative of paying $18 million plus attorney fees and other City costs for this overpriced parcel will be a travesty.  It will end up as a lasting memorial to incompetent government and how failed policies from previous administrations can nearly bankrupt a little town.

And since we may end up paying for this mess for a long time,  we will be constantly reminded of these failed policies.

Yes, indeed, HMB will be reminded of a truly stupid and weakly negotiated settlement with their favorite developer from over the hill.

But the language in the settlement is what Mullin copied into AB 1991. Any altered bill will not conform to the settlement. So Keenan would have to agree to the terms of the altered bill, or the bill will mean nothing as far as he is concerned.

More likely, an altered or new bill will grant some specific relief to HMB from the consequences of mistakes it made without flushing state laws. Such specific legislation might even include financial aid, though that is tough to come by at the moment in budget-conscious Sacramento. The specific relief/financial aid might whittle the $18M to be paid to Keenan down to an acceptable size, considering the value of the property and any cash and loans involved.

Anything like that could have been had without going through the idiocy of AB 1991 and throwing money away on the spin doctors and lobbyists. Yee would have helped, and that would have gone a long way toward getting a bill through the State Senate. He may help yet on a revised or new bill that does not contain all the negative settlement language. That would be a saintly act considering some of the petulant, arrogant slander aimed his way from HMB when he decided not to throw his integrity and principles away by becoming a co-author of AB 1991.

No matter how this comes out, the bottom line is as it has been with the City of HMB in the past. A petulant, myopic, arrogant, sold-out city decided its neighbors on the coastside and the rest of the state were unimportant next to its desire to foster overdevelopment. Since its incorporation, there have only been short interludes when the city was not like this. Something to be remembered every time annexation of the unincorporated communities to the north is brought up.

By the way, the deadline dates in Julia Scott’s column are straight out of the Legislature’s calendar for 2008.

The HMB folks who backed AB 1991 tried to stick it to the Coastal Commission. Their current comments all start off with the same mis-leading phrase. It is always something like “Won’t it be a shame if we’re stuck with an $18 million debt”, or “the no-growthers will cost us $18 Million”.
They (and the City Council) hope you will forget that four people on the HMBCC intentionally, purposefully, and with malice aforethought, walked away from the appeal and swallowed an $18 Million poison pill.
They and their backers thought this was so clever. The four people who stuck the community with this bill now have some explaining to do. What we will see, of course, is them trying to pass the buck again.

Steven Hyman,

I agree with your statement that it “will end up as a lasting memorial to incompetent government “! We disagree on who make up the members of that “incompetent government”!

The “previous administration”, as you refer to them, won their appeal of a bad initial court decision. The current City Council Majority blew their case and then threw in the towel provided by Mr. Keenan instead of pursuing a viable appeal - costing us $18,000,000 plus the cost of trying to push AB 1991 now into $2,000,000 range. The cost in returning Half Moon Bay to the status of Environmental Piranha and an embarrassment in the State is incalculable.

Ken Johnson

I don’t believe that this was done in order to “stick it” or with “malice”.  AB 1991 was a clever way of getting out of a mess without having to pay a lot of money for the City wrongfully damaging someone’s property.

Appealing was a major gamble that we couldn’t afford if we lost so the settlement was the way to go.  And we reduced the size of the judgment so this accomplished what an appeal would have hoped to achieve.

As I said,  this mess has spanned many administrations.  What’s equally stunning is that we keep doing stupid things like the Oak St. Park.  How many lawsuits are we going to get hit with till it sinks in that you can’t keep taking people’s property cause its there.

Maybe the real question is are we capable of governing ourselves?  15 years of doing nothing but spending money on lawyers and fighting everything might prove we are not.

Thanks Steven and Ken for chiming in.
The HMBCC isn’t stupid. They knew exactly what they were doing. A sound appeal was already written up. They chose to walk away. They knew this was the most absurd decision rendered by an out of control judge. Just think about his famous pepper spray decision.
The WORST they could have received in a split-the-difference settlement would be about what they will now end up paying.
The problem with the majority of the current council is that they saw nothing wrong with the settlement. They can care less about over building an area and they certainly could care less about setting precedents to bypass environmental laws. The last council settled all suits to the benefit of the city. This council conscientiously chose to sell out.
They willfully used their 12 vote majority election win to put the city at risk. They actually felt that their black mail, poison pill trick would work.
They chose unwisely.
The citizens are now stuck with the $18-20 million in debt. They need to hold the four gamblers accountable.
Incidentally, this same group is insisting on trying to lead SAM. They refused to join in on the wet weather project. They just cost HMB $20 Million. But they still they should lead SAM. The rest of the SAM Board disagrees.

Ric’s point about the city gambling is correct.

It would appear that the whole AB1991 ruse was cooked up in order to make the $18 million more palatable to the city. It’s like selling a timeshare:

Keenan: “Sure, $18 million is a lot of money, guys. But you could wind up owing nothing!”

HMB: “Wow. Nothing! I think we could afford nothing.”

Keenan: “And I’ll tell you what. Don’t tell the sales manager, but I can throw in a option to buy Glencree. You don’t already own Glencree, do you?”

HMB: “Um, no.”

Keenan: “And then, when AB1991 passes, we can put another forty houses on it. Think of how much tax revenue forty houses would generate.”

HMB: “Tax revenue?  We like tax revenue. And you really think it could cost us nothing?”

Keenan: “Yes, I give you my word on it. Just sign right here.”

The gamble was getting AB 1991 passed so as not to pay $18 million.  If the City had to give up a field of weeds by a sewer plant and McDonalds,  that’s ok with me and many others.

Paying $18 million (really a lot more) for something worth a fraction of that is unpalatable. But the City screwed up and has to accept the consequences for the failed policies of the past.

Considering we may be paying for this for a long time,  these failures of government won’t be easily forgotten.

Steven—Please recall that those “weeds” are wetlands that are necessary for the health of the coast. No need to get a determination from you whether they’re worthy of protection. That has already been codified into law and tested in the courts. Wetlands are valuable resources in need of protection.

A better way to think of the $18 million price tag is that it pays for the land and well as the incompetence of your city government.

Its hard to look at a 300-400 wide strip of dirt between 2 neighborhoods fronting HWY1 as “necessary for the health of the coast”.  Similar parcels just north of this are disced all the time for growing flowers, etc.

This parcel was planned for homes and should be built out. 

Somehow when I drive past this hollow ground,  I don’t see the splendor of Big Sur.  Its just be a field of weeds that may even be a fire hazard.

It would be sad but it may end up being the $20-$40 million memorial to the failed policies of the past.  If it goes down that way,  I’m in favor of a solar or wind powered (fueled by the hot air from our past leaders) debt clock showing us the growing amount of our money they wasted on this folly.

Maybe then we won’t make another costly stupid mistake like this again.

Steven—Your inability to acknowledge the importance of natural resources is not an exemption for you or HMB from laws designed to protect them.

You don’t have to understand the logic behind those laws. But you and HMB have to abide by them like everyone else.

‘The Heretic wants to destroy the oasis of a rare Creation across from a Church where God’s gift of Creation is worshiped! Should we smite this evil, this Steven Hyman?’

Steven Hyman’s mantra is that of the moneychangers in the temple: “a field of weeds by a sewer plant and McDonalds”. He sees not the Church that is much closer!

I walk along the beach and marvel! Does Steven Hyman look from his car at 50 MPH and see only the possibility of oil drilling platforms and houses built from the beach to Highway 1?

Ken Johnson

Francis you are right.  I am incapable of acknowledging the importance of our man-made wetlands to the health of the coast at Beachwood.  That’s why I’m hoping we can pass AB 1991 so we can end this long running financial nightmare and use this land for its original intention - houses.

I walked the Beachwood property earlier this year to take some photos.

It struck me that, although it looks like a gap when you’re whizzing by from south to north at 55 MPH, when you’re traveling from west to east it forms a continuous band with the hills east of the city.  There is literally no development between Beachwood and the city of San Mateo ten miles to the east.

One goal of AB1991’s supporters is to build a bypass through Beachwood and the hills and to enable this by reconfiguring the Pacific Ridge development to smear it across those hills, rather than keeping it tucked out of sight.

Whether you regard Beachwood as a gap in development, or a piece of a larger, unbroken environment depends on which direction you’re facing—and how fast you’re moving.


Can I please borrow your glasses cause I’m not seeing the oasis.  Even when I’m only going 30mph in my 400 hp Jag,  I only see weeds.

Perhaps you can ask your Pastor at church to say a special prayer for our man-made wetlands and spare them from their fate with the Grim Discer.

I think this makes 2 times that we’ve actually agreed (about how pretty this place is).  You better be careful cause I’d hate to have your buddies think you are fraternizing with the (you fill in the blank) cause I can’t remember all the names I’ve been called here.  Heretic is a first though.  Thanks for making me laugh.

And since you brought it up,  maybe later we can talk about our solutions for energy independence.  I’m sure we don’t agree on that either.

BTW,  I’m going to be running a special promotion next month.  Come into my office and say “I love wetlands” and I’ll give you a break on selling or buying a home.  Hope to see a lot of you.

AB 1991, as amended, “The bill would provide that the approved tentative maps confer a
vested right” - translation = it creates lots with rights to build house!

The Settlement Agreement describes Beachwood as APN-048-280-020 and Glencree as APN-048-280-030 - translation = Beachwood and Glencree are each currently undivided single pieces of property, raw land.

It is currently zoned for Residential; prior: Agriculture; prior: part of ranch; prior: part of a land-grant; prior: roamed by Oholone Indians ...

I would certainly like to know to whom Steven Hyman ‘spoke’ to know that, in his words, “use this land for its original intention - houses.”

Ken Johnson

I guess the oasis Ken is referring to must have predated the gated community of teepees the Oholone’s had there.  And who told you this was an “oasis”?  Did Kermit the HMB Red Legged Frog whisper it in your ear or did you find a tablet from the Oholone Review!

Steven—You have a great deal of contempt for state environmental laws and zero respect for the majority of Californians that want those laws enforced.

Perhaps that’s to be expected from someone that would sell homes built on wetlands to unsuspecting buyers.