Half Moon Bay’s insurmountable opportunity


By on Wed, June 25, 2008

Half Moon Bay’s plan to save itself from actually paying its settlement in the Yamagiwa lawsuit is falling apart.

The city’s bill to make the settlement legal—AB1991—  has been withdrawn from the Senate’s Local Government Committee by author Gene Mullin and is headed to the Rules Committee, probably for big changes. Meanwhile, the city met in closed session with its attorneys on Tuesday, one day after Mullin pulled the bill.  It’s a cinch that they’re considering their options.

It must be dawning on the city council majority that the Senate is not going to let it rewrite the Coastal Act, as well as wetlands and endangered species protections, in closed session with a developer and present it to the legislature as a fait accompli.

AB1991 isn’t going to pass in its present form, but its future form must be decided in public. Chop Keenan has no incentive to cut the city any slack. Half Moon Bay is going to wind up owing Keenan $18 million and owning Beachwood. AB1991’s successor will probably include some kind of financial assistance, financing, or regulatory relief to help the city unload its newly-acquired white elephant.  It’s poetic justice that the value of that piece of coastal scrubland depends on the very people the city has vilified and ignored in the settlement process.

Whatever the city does on the property will have to be approved by the Coastal Commission, whom the city council majority have called liars.

And it will have to be consistent with state environmental laws. Senator Leland Yee, whose district is most affected by this bill, has insisted that any bill be vetted by environmental committee staff and that it not trash any of our state’s environmental laws.

The city council majority has the opportunity to undo a lot of the damage this settlement and AB1991 have done to our sense of community. They need to take responsibility for the mess the settlement has created. They must come up with a compromise that meets the needs of the stakeholders they’ve been trying to steamroll. They need to work with the people they’ve been slandering, disparaging, or simply ignoring. They need to acknowledge they’ve wasted about a million dollars on lawyers and lobbyists to get a result they could have achieved with a little openness and community spirit. And they need to do all this in public.

It’s debatable whether Tuesday’s closed session was even legal under the Brown Act, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. It should be the last closed session the city has on this matter.