Editorial: Senator Yee’s SB863 gets it right


Posted by on Thu, August 28, 2008

Saving the city of Half Moon Bay from itself is a dirty, thankless job.

You’re likely to be slammed for "public relations" by the Review’s editor and for being "morally bankrupt" by the anonymous wingnuts on its website when you propose a decent, practical plan for helping the city.

Senator Leland Yee’s SB863 will allocate $10 million to help the city buy as parkland Beachwood and the 22 acres on Pilarcitos Creek financed by the Peninsula Open Space Trust.

The city will still be out a few million in the Beachwood lawsuit. That sounds about right. The city’s strategy for getting out its obligations by gutting decades of environmental law was appallingly cynical.  That the Review’s editor calls it "wise" says a lot about his notion of wisdom.

Yee’s bill will buy the land, but not build the parks for the city. But there’s no reason it should. It does leave Half Moon Bay with the ability to finance its new park development—if it has the will. It’s time for the city to commit to building decent parks for its residents, rather than dithering over who gets the credit.

The parks money the city is receiving was intended to complement and encourage affordable housing. That seems fair. Half Moon Bay already has one of the highest affordable housing rates in the county, but it has little real parkland.

Yee did more than right by Half Moon Bay, when you consider their behavior in the last six months. The city misled Yee about its threat of bankruptcy, blindsided him with a toxic bill designed to enrich a single individual at the expense of the law, slandered the Coastal Commission staff, and secretly shared the expenses for its Sacramento disinformation campaign with another interested party.

There are cities all over California that are needier than Half Moon Bay. If their Sacramento delegation can get SB863 passed, AB1991’s supporters should stop whining and say thank you.

Thanks Barry for the perfect summary of the situation. Senator Yee has saved the Half Moon Bay City Council in spite of themselves and in spite of the people who attacked him. The Half Moon Bay public needs to take careful note of the specific people who drew up and signed the original poison bill agreement. The HMB public also needs to take careful note of the individuals and groups who supported the poison pill and their reasons for doing so. Their arrogance in their attempt to circumvent California law needs to be documented and remembered.

Comment 2
Thu, August 28, 2008 9:40am
All my comments

Senator Yee’s work shows what patience and persistence can lead to.  He has taken a bad situation, complicated by Half Moon Bay’s decision to not appeal a novel judicial ruling.  He worked with others from around the state to demonstrate that the cynical view of interests-in-opposition is not the only way to approach these things.  This is a great example of problem solving, and it’s great to see the city council’s support for his efforts.

Comment 3
Thu, August 28, 2008 10:38am
John Lynch
All my comments


You hit the nail squarely on its head.

We need to call Senator Leland Yee, “Saint Leland of the Coastside.”

I too am glad that this long running nightmare may be coming to an end.  Although,  as you all know,  we see things very differently.

Please lets not rehash the endless debate about which was better,  settling or appealing,  because we will never agree.

While 1991 was the cheapest way out,  it seems to placate the environmental groups,  the State is throwing us a generous $10 million bone.  So for only a mere few million bucks,  we can put this to rest.

I did notice in the Review that this money,  which will be doled out to us by another agency, is contingent on an appraisal.  That could be a tall order because we all know neither of these parcels are worth the gift money not to mention the real cost.  We all better pray for the “Mother of all Appraisals” because we will need a very generous one.  Surely we can find one of those unemployed bank appraisers to make this work.

Since we will be tapped out after this is done,  these two beautiful parcels will remain as is for many years to come for the residents to admire.  A fitting testimonial to the brilliance of government.  Maybe we can scrape up enough money for a little plaque thanking the City for their wise investment in getting us such great deals.

It might be wiser to read the bill before popping off. It’s for “acguisition and associated park and trail development” for the the two parcels. The Senator, it seems, has wisely anticipated that there might be appraisal issues and has provided language that would allow grants for park construction in case the two appraisals don’t reach the full amount.

I’m sure, however, that there will those who will find a reason to be snotty about that foresight.

Glad to hear that the appraisal issue was anticipated.  Everybody would sure hate to have this blow up in our faces after the ink is dry.

I’ll hope for the best and wait with baited breath till the check comes.

Many thanks to Senator Yee.

It is instructive to contrast Senator Yee’s efforts to strike a compromise bill that addresses the City’s problem while respecting environmental laws, versus Assemblyman Gene Mullin’s efforts to push through a blank check exemption of these laws (AB 1991) that was written by the developer himself.

Thankfully,  Mullin is termed out. A perfect example of why term limits are a good thing. We need term limits at the local level too.

HMB Review Letter to Editor 8-13-08

Barry thanks for a great editorial.

My husband and I posted a message on Senator Yee’s website on Aug. 21 in support of SB863.

Here’s what we wrote:

Dear Senator Yee,

We applaud your proposal to offer financial help to the citizens of Half Moon Bay while continuing to uphold environmental protections essential to the wellbeing of all Californians.  We understand that you were put in a very difficult position by the actions of the Half Moon Bay City Council majority and believe that you have come up with a solution worthy of Solomon.

We fully support your proposed legislation.

Barry, nice editorial.

Sometimes Senator Leland Yee’s prior professional experience prepares him for dealing with the Coastside.

It would have been nice today to have those days squandered by the CC4 et al as I mused on August 19th morning <url=https://coastsider.com/index.php/site/news/2957/#6342>“I hope that the CC4 has not delayed to long to make it happen.”</url> The CC4 waited nearly a week to say ‘yes, save us!’ at a regularly scheduled meeting - not a special meeting. Today was the last day to get legislation out of the Appropriations Committee and back to the Assembly floor again. $10 mill out of a $15.2 billion deficit is a rounding error ;-)

It is difficult to evaluate, at this point, just how much damage city officials, lobbyists from California Strategies, PCF-CCF-Charlie Gardner, Etc., form Emails previously pushing AB1991 and smearing everyone opposed, made the job more difficult today in getting out of the Appropriations Committee. The floor vote on 08/22/2008 - Ayes 47 Noes 29 - was pretty much along expected lines when re-referred to Appropriations Committee pursuant to Assembly Rule 77.2 - a Substantially Amended Bill.
As Barry wrote: “Saving the city of Half Moon Bay from itself is a dirty, thankless job.” - so true!

Oh, State Senator Dr. Leland Yee is a Child Psychologist!

Ken Johnson

Comment 10
Mon, September 1, 2008 11:16am
Steven Hyman
All my comments

It would have been nice to have seen our past CC’s spanning 20-25 years not squander $25 million on this worthless piece of dirt by making a series of really poor decisions.

At least our current council is trying to get us out of the mess previous councils made as cheaply as possible.

And if people’s feeling got hurt in Sacramento or on the Coastal Commission,  they’ll get over it. And as you said,  they can get counseling from Dr. Yee.

But no matter how much counseling Dr. Yee does to the people of HMB won’t erase the staggering cost our leaders saddled us with from their unwise and illegal actions.

It was exceedingly unwise for a variety of reasons for the City government of the early 1980s to put drainpipes into a wetland because there was a variety of foreseeable negative consequences. But, I think we can forgive them if they didn’t foresee that an ideological judge would buy into the fairy tale that they created the wetland they were draining.

Comment 12
Mon, September 1, 2008 12:25pm
Steven Hyman
All my comments

Its also too bad that subsequent councils didn’t try to fix the problem they created then instead of letting it get this out of control costing $25 million.  In hindsight,  this should have been fixed back in the 80’s

The reason many people decide to settle is they don’t want to put their fate in the hands of a judge or jury.  When you settle,  you know what its going to cost.  I guess it boils down to your level of risk.  And here, our council was gambling with our money,  not theirs.  That requires a more conservative approach.

And I agree that we all wish we could see the future.  I know I would have done many things differently.

The “fix” for bad judicial decisions is in the appeals process, which, unfortunately in this case, has been thrown away as part of the ill-advised settlement gamble on AB1991.

Since we both agree that the City illegally damaged someone’s property,  I don’t see how a judge could come to any other conclusion.  We were 100% wrong.  The only question was going to be the monetary damages awarded.

I also don’t see what’s there to appeal other than the size of the judgment.  I know we are nice people here in HMB but that may not carry much weight with a bunch of federal judges.

But the issue at hand today is getting out of this mess as cheaply as possible.  HMB may have dodged the big bullet with the generous handout from the State and the insurance money.

Let’s hope too much of this $10 million dollar gift doesn’t end up in some other agencies pockets before it comes to us.  Could it be that Dr. Yee doesn’t have that much confidence in HMB handling money wisely? Anyway,  let’s see how much money we end up getting.  Anybody want to pick a number?

Your first 4 sentences are all absurd. You obviously read what my comments through some sort of filter that precludes cognition. There is a huge difference between draining a wetland and creating a wetland. An appeal would have gotten us out of this mess. Those who fell in love with Walker’s bizarre decision pushed the current council into this disastrous settlement in order to preserve a decision that will eventually be vacated by some other city’s appeal. Half Moon Bay will have made this sacrifice for nothing.

You just said that it “was unwise to put drain pipes on someone else’s property because of foreseeable negative consequences”.

That’s liability.  Case closed.  That’s why we lost and why are writing the check.

What you put in quotation marks is not what I said. Perhaps it is what you filtered. Bizarre judicial decisions need to be appealed. The failure to do so is proving very costly to the city.

The basic issue is the City can’t deface someone’s property without permission.  The City could have used eminent domain if they wanted to put drain pipes on Beachwood but they didn’t.  Instead they just did it. That’s illegal.

And the City seems to do it again and again as is evident by our newest lawsuits from the residents near the Pilarcitos Park.

This repeated pattern of arrogance and lack of respect for people’s property is not acceptable.

When you combine this with the long list of stalled projects that have been dragged out for too long,  you may start to understand why people are now fed up with the many poor decisions that our elected officials have made.  And how much of our money they have wasted in the process.

Your first paragraph indicates that you have very little knowledge of the basic facts in the case. The city not only had the permission of the landowner, the landowner actually paid for the work to be done.  No wonder you are so far off the track.

Mike,  the fact I replaced “wetland” with “someone else’s property” is factually correct and doesn’t change the fact it wasn’t City property.  It was owned by another individual.

To many,  this sad looking parcel will always be a field of ugly weeds near McDonalds, our sewer plant and sandwiched between 2 neighborhoods.  Its unfortunately also a $25 million government folly that will be remembered for a very long time.

Comment 21
Mon, September 1, 2008 3:16pm
Janet Zich
All my comments

One person’s weeds are another person’s wildflowers. But let’s get to the point, please. What happened to SB 863, and where does HMB go from here if it didn’t make yesterday’s deadline?

SB863 didn’t make it through the legislative logjam at the Assembly Appropriation Committee.


The settlement gamble looks worse than ever.