Supervisors’  vision for the Midcoast: double the number of houses (and cars)


Posted by on Sat, November 26, 2005

Kevin J. Lansing is a planning commissioner for the City of Half Moon Bay. The views presented in this article represent his concerns as an individual Coastside resident. The Board of Supervisors is set to resume public hearings on the Midcoast Local Coastal Program (LCP) update on Tuesday, December 6 from 2pm to 5pm at a Coastside location to be announced. Coastsider encourages you to attend this meeting and tell the supervisors what you think. The real estate and construction industries are expected to be there in full force.

UPDATED: Coastsider now has updated PDF’s of all three letters from the Coastal Commission to the Board of Supervisors.

Imagine the Midcoast (El Granada, Miramar, Moss Beach, and Montara) with 3400 additional houses—-a figure that would just about double the number of housing units that exist today. Figuring at least two cars per household (a conservative estimate), now try to imagine a 4-lane version of Highway 1 (think Pacifica) running past Surfer’s Beach in El Granada, with daily bumper-to-bumper traffic during commuting hours (again, think Pacifica). This is the future envisioned by San Mateo County Supervisors Richard Gordon and Jerry Hill, who comprise a special subcommittee making planning recommendations to the full Board of Supervisors.

After a 6-month hiatus, the Board of Supervisors is set to resume public hearings on the Midcoast Local Coastal Program (LCP) update. The next hearing will be held on Tuesday, December 6 from 2pm to 5pm at a Coastside location to be announced. Residents can provide comments to the Board either in writing or in person. You can download the staff report and subcommittee recommendations that will be discussed at this meeting from Coastsider.
Covering 23 Key Issues involving residential buildout numbers, annual growth limits, and infrastructure expansion plans, the subcommittee’s recommendations include the following:

  • Allow an additional 3000-3400 housing units beyond the approximately 3700 units that exist today.


  • Establish an annual residential growth rate of 1.9%, or about 75 new units per year. This figure is lower than the currently-allowed rate of 125 units per year, but substantially higher than the historical average rate of 52 units per year.


  • Encourage the construction of "affordable housing" on hundreds of nonconforming, substandard lots by: (1) providing a bonus floor area ratio, (2) reducing the requirements for providing off-street parking, (3) waiving permit fees and expediting processing, (4) allowing access to priority water and sewer connections, and (5) pre-approving a set of standard house designs.


  • Exempt new affordable housing, second-units, and caretaker’s quarters when figuring the annual growth limit.


  • Widen Highway 1 to four lanes "within the urban Midcoast" to accommodate peak commuter traffic.


  • Expand the water supply system to "Phase 2" to accommodate the Midcoast buildout vision.

The above recommendations, if adopted and carried out, would dramatically accelerate the loss of the unique rural and agricultural character of the Coastside. Many of the subcommittee’s recommendations appear to have little or nothing to do with the balanced principles set forth in the California Coastal Act, but rather are designed to help the County meet its objectives for providing new housing in the Bay Area over the next several decades. Policies for encouraging new housing belong in the Housing Element of the County’s General Plan, not in the Midcoast LCP (which is the local implementation of the California Coastal Act).

The idea of exempting several categories of new housing units from a higher-than-historical growth limit subverts the whole purpose of a limit; it would allow construction of an unlimited number of exempt housing units that impose just as much stress on Coastside infrastructure (roads, schools, water, and sewer) as any other type of residential housing unit. It’s also worth noting that the proposed growth limit applies only to residential units; it does not in any way restrain the rate of commercial development that can also impose great demands on the infrastructure. A perfect example is the "Harbor Village" project now under construction in Princeton, which will accommodate up to 450 cars.

While it is true that an annual residential growth limit provides some relief to the overburdened infrastructure, any proposed growth rate that leaves the final buildout numbers unchanged will only serve to postpone the day of reckoning when gridlock sets in for the Midcoast. Good planning for the future requires that decisions about infrastructure expansion be closely integrated with decisions about land use and development. No such integration is apparent in the subcommittee’s infrastructure recommendations. Instead, they appear to be saying "If we build it, they will come."

Regrettably, the subcommittee’s recommendations mostly ignore the detailed input provided by the California Coastal Commission staff in three lengthy letters [Download February 16, March 7, and March 28 letters from Coastsider] sent earlier this year to the Board of Supervisors. Some relevant quotes from those letters include:


  • "[W]e do not agree that affordable housing units and second units should not be counted under the annual growth rate limit."


  • "[W]e recommend that the LCP language clarify that the buildout estimates are the planned theoretical maximum buildout of the community, assuming consistency with all other LCP policies. In other words, the LCP should acknowledge that the buildout estimates…are therefore not an entitlement to a particular density or intensity of development."


  • "Plans for expanding the capacity of public works such as sewer and water that can be potentially growth inducing and lead to greater traffic should only proceed after roadways capacity has been increased sufficiently. However, we realize that the potential to significantly improve Highway 1 and 92 are extremely limited, therefore, the more realistic solution for easing traffic congestion in the area is to reduce total demand on the roadways. Policies should prohibit potentially growth inducing public works projects and reduce the amount of available opportunities for new development."


  • "Prohibit new subdivisions until such time as there is adequate infrastructure capacity to support such development."

Before becoming part of the Midcoast LCP, the subcommittee’s recommendations must first be approved by the full Board of Supervisors and then ultimately certified by the California Coastal Commission. Citizens who are concerned about the future of the Coastside have the opportunity (and perhaps the obligation) to participate fully in each phase of the approval process.

Comment 1
Sat, November 26, 2005 2:34pm
All my comments

Both the BOS and the Commission staff endorse the idea of building more commercial and retail space on the coastside. This strikes me as a mixed bag at best.

I see two conguestion-easing arguments for coastside commercial development.

1. Provide employment opportunities for coastside residents, eliminating over-the-hill commutes.

2. Provide local “neighborhood-serving” sources of goods and services, eliminating over-the-hill shopping trips.

With respect to the first, I wonder whether anyone has looked to see how many current coastside employees actually live on the coast. If the primary effect of building more commercial space is to import workers from over the hill, then there’s not much congestion-easing to be had.

With respect to the second, how do we encourage neighborhood-serving commercial development over visitor-serving development? Another batch of upscale restaurants and hotels will do nothing to ease congestion.

Comment 2
Sat, November 26, 2005 3:33pm
John Lynch
All my comments

Somethings amiss, somethings haywire. Neither the Board of Supervisors nor the Coastal Commission can make Hwy 1 north of Surfer’s Beach or Hwy. 92 east of Half Moon Bay a four lane highway.

Measure A, a county wide initiative passed by the voters in 1986, has a proviso that these highways CANNOT be increased w/o another FULL COUNTY WIDE VOTE. Neither the supervisors nor the Coastal Commission can sidestep this requirement.

John Lynch

When you read through and think about the draft recommendations, one thing becomes crystal clear:  the main priority is maximizing the number of housing units.  The next priority is facilitating other development.  What I don’t see in the actual proposed changes is anything that improves environmental protection, and the only thing that I see which would improve visitor access is 4-laning of SR 1, which would completely destroy the semi-rural ambience, and may not happen in our lifetimes due to lack of funding.

My thought after reading the document is “why do they (BoS) hate us so much?  Jealousy perhaps?

The Coastside is already suffering from too much being built, and too quickly.  So why are they proposing setting the rate limit higher than not only the historical average rate, but also higher than the recent rates?  And why exempt affordable units from the rate?  The CCC staff took exception to that.  What should be done is guarantee that affordable will not be denied a permit due to the limits, but they should still be counted.  I.e., put them at the front of the queue, even if it means “borrowing” from the next year’s quota.  For example, if the limit is 52 and 50 have already been issued and an application is received to build a 4 unit affordable building, issue the permit and take the excess 2 from next year’s quota.  Simple.

Another critically important issue is that under the current COSC zoning, it’s extremely difficult to build houses on the Burnham Strip fronting El Granada.  The Supervisors are so bent on allowing housing anywhere that it can possibly be built that they are now proposing rezoning to RM/CZ which will remove all existing limitations and protections for the Strip, resulting in a solid wall of oversized houses there.  (Many of the parcels are in the half acre range.  After RM/CZ setbacks are factored in, there could still be 12,000 sq ft houses there under the proposed rezoning!)  Consider that in the case of the single existing house, there is total view blockage for the complete frontage of that property, even with the existing COSC 10% lot coverage limit.

Lorraine Feather writes:
“Since they don’t care, what can we do? This isn’t a rhetorical question. I’d love to know if anyone has an idea.”

Well, I would say that they do care, but mostly for protecting the interests of their friends and contributors in the developer/realtor/contractor/property-rights communities. A small group of people are going to make a lot of money in the building, selling, and repeated re-selling of 3400 more houses.

One thing that can be done is to provide written and oral input at the December 6 hearng and then write letters to the Coastal Commission when and if this LCP update is approved by the Board of Supervisors.

You mentioned the issue of cars per household. The last thing that El Granada or any other neighborhood needs in my opinion is a policy that reduces the requirement for providing off-street parking. The streets of the Coastside are already clogged with too many parked cars. What will Midcoast neighborhoods look like with cars from 3400 additional houses?

Comment 5
Sun, November 27, 2005 10:18pm
Leonard Woren
All my comments

Lorraine’s comment reminded me of something I forgot to include in my earlier comment:  At one of the County Planning Commission hearings on the LCP update, one Commissioner, in arguing for a lower growth rate cap, said “The Coastside is headed for a train wreck and I don’t see any reason to speed towards it.”

As to Lorraine’s question of what can be done, one thing to do is that EVERYONE who is concerned about this needs to send email to or make phone calls to or make appointments with and speak to as many of the supervisors as possible BEFORE the decisions are made.  I guarantee that the developer/real-estate lobby is doing exactly that.  The supervisors need to hear just as stridently from the other side.  And even though it’s been scheduled such that it’s difficult for working people to attend, a large turnout at the 2pm-5pm December 6 hearing can’t hurt.  I believe the location has been announced as the Adcock Center in Half Moon Bay.

Comment 6
Mon, November 28, 2005 10:23am
Jack McCarthy
All my comments

This subcommittee of two grossly departed from the county Planning Commission’s report, which in itself was the result of a two-year series of public hearings involving hundreds of citizens. The full board of supervisors needs to understand that this action is ill-conceived and undemocratic. In addition, I can’t see how the Coastal Commissison would ever approve these ad hoc findings, particualry when the Planning Commission clearly laid out a more reasoned alternative.

Comment 7
Mon, November 28, 2005 3:43pm
Barb Mauz
All my comments

The purpose of an LCP Update is to take a look back at the amount of development that has taken place since the LCP was adopted and then take careful inventory of remaining Coastal Resources and create stronger protections to preserve them and also do a Carrying Capacity Analysis - THAT would show that the Mid-Coast is nearly built out NOW but, County Planning Staff didn’t do that.

Instead, the County Planning Staff used the out-dated, over-estimated LCP Buildout Numbers from the 1980’s that don’t even include the hundreds, if not thousands of antiquated 25’ Sub-Standard Lots in the Mid-Coast - note that there are at least 800 such lots in the Granada Sanitary District’s Sewer Service Area that includes the northern portion of Half Moon Bay.

County Planning Staff has incorrectly based all of their over-bloated assumptions for how many additional houses, people, cars, over-bloated infra-structure expansions, additional water needs & out-of-scale park/rec. & school facilities that they would like to shove into the Mid-Coast on these erroneous old, over-estimated LCP Buildout Numbers.

The County’s “LCP Update” is a TOTAL FRAUD and contains multiple schemes to exploit all of the vulnerable antiquated 25’ Sub-Standard Lots and EVERYTHING ELSE.

The Mid-Coast Community Council that is SUPPOSED to represent the tax-paying homeowners in the Mid-Coast at their Planning & Zoning Committee meeting this Wed. - 7:30 p.m. at the 3-Zero Cafe will be working on their “advisements” to the Board of Supervisors regarding the County’s “Sub-Committee/Task Farce’s” Staff Report regarding the Dec. 6th “LCP Update” Public Hearing that pretty much reflects of all of the Planning Commission’s recommendations promoting destructive, exploitive schemes put forth by the realtors/builders/greedy land owners & “property rights” group except that instead of going along the Planning Commission’s recommendation to push the majority of additional residential development in El Granada, they suggest spreading it out “equally” throughout the Mid-Coast including the CalTrans Bypass land that those in Montara/Moss Beach would like to retain as Open Space.

Please send a message to ALL members of this Advisory Group at p&[email protected] and ask them to instead of continuing to “just go along with” whatever this corrupted County proposes regarding its fraudulent “LCP Update” to DRAW THE HARD LINE and take a STRONG STAND AGAINST IT and all of its inter-linked exploitive schemes and advise the County that they need to do a Carrying Capacity Analysis, get their erroneous LCP Buildout Numbers & over-bloated assumptions brought VASTLY down and DEAL with the Sub-Standard Lot Problems in the Mid-Coast!

Barb Mauz (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))


It is true that the County Planning Commission recommended a lower (1% percent) residential growth limit, but they also recommended not counting affordable housing, second units, and caretaker’s quarters. The latter is a bad idea and goes directly against the Coastal Commission staff recommendations.

The County Planning Commission also endorsed the idea of the Midcoast being able to handle an additional 3000-3400 houses. The Midcoast infrastructure cannot support that. Just think of the impact those additional houses would have on the already-overburdened Cabrillo Unified School District.

Comment 9
Tue, November 29, 2005 2:30pm
Barb Mauz
All my comments

The County BOS Public Hearing on the County’s “LCP Update” will be held on Dec. 6th from 2pm to 5pm at the Ted Adcock Center in HMB. Please attend and/or Fax letters to ALL Supervisors at either 363-1916 or 599-1027 and relate your concerns re: their proposals. Here are some points to write or speak on: 

- County should match HMB’s Measure D (1%) annual residential growth rate so infrastructure we participated in paying for and the impacts of dev’t are equitably allocated and felt betw City and Midcoast. Current County proposal is almost twice as many houses as HMB for starters (70/yr), and (unlike HMB) not all dev’t is counted against that limit, so the total could be significantly higher.  Note that affordable housing doesn’t count in HMB ONLY for units built in excess of developer requirement for subdivisions (20%); otherwise it does count because the impact (cars, schools, sewer, water, schools, services, etc.) is the same as market rate housing, and the Coastal Act clearly makes affordable housing subject to its preservation requirements.

Grossly uneven growth rates in two adjacent coastside jurisdictions can have negative future consequences for the entire coastside because both communities share limited transportation, water, school, fire fighting, and waste treatment infrastructure and resources. Coastside history shows that negative consequences of uneven development pressure include undue and divisive competition for limited resources; unnecessary, growth inducing and prohibitively expensive infrastructure expansion pressure; and associated law suits ((which create uncertainty, expense, delay and discord for all sides).

- County should adopt HMB’s Proportionality rule for ALL substandard lots, not just the bigger ones (eg apply to a 2500 ft2 lot in a 5000 ft2 zone, not just an 8800 ft2 lot in a 10000 ft2 zone, or a 1 acre lot in a 4 acre zone).  It’s the lots smaller than 5000 ft2 that the County has thousands of. The County now says HMB rule is too limiting however, economically beneficial use of small lots is still permitted. The result in HMB for 2500 ft2 lots is simply empty nester, retirement and weekend use cottages (a great boon for school district which collects residential fee and incurs no additional students, and a boon for City since fewer cars join peak hour commute).

The result under County proposal would be many 1300 ft2 starter houses for growing commuter families (greatest impact on everything). Note that Coastal Commission shot down County’s last attempt (Coastal Protection Initiative of 1998) to handle small lots from 1905 subdivisions (treat them like standard lots).

- To improve the historical inaccuracy of Coastside growth and infrastructure forecasts, buildout targets should not be set at maximum levels assumed from zoning (50 years from now or 3500 more Midcoast houses than we now have), but rather set for a more manageable time period of 20 years, with regulated growth rates applied to current conditions (~4000 Midcoast residences).

Even the development, impact, infrastructure capacity, and cost projections of the early 80s (reflected in current the LCPs of both City and County) have proven inaccurate after only 20 years, so there’s NO credible basis for assuming that 50 years of growth will produce sustainable conditions for the Coastside economy, environment or quality of life.

- The County LCP should directly incorporate the Coastal Act sections adopted in HMB’s LCP Policy 1-1. These policies not only help an LCP update get certified, but can also help defend the LCP’s environmental protections from unnecessary or threatening litigation, since they have already been litigated at the state level and found to be in legal conformance with the Coastal Act.

- Given the recent Conditions of Approval 4A thru 4D of the El Granada Pipeline CDP (which limit the number of equivalent water connections in CCWD service area to ~8100 unless another CDP is obtained to allow use of the pipeline for development to be serviced by Phase 2 water), the County’s LCP should incorporate this limit in its buildout target and infrastructure sections, just as HMB has done. Whether Phase 2 occurs has a major impact on the accuracy, relevance and time scale (Phase 1 water could last another 12-15 years at 1% growth rate) of the County’s buildout target and projections for getting there.

I will present my remaining points in a separate posting due to character limitation.

Barbara K. Mauz (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

Comment 10
Tue, November 29, 2005 2:37pm
Barb Mauz
All my comments

Here are my remaining points to be related to the BOS for their Public Hearing on Dec. 6th that you can either write to them about by faxing ALL Supervisors at either 363-1916 or 599-1027 or, present to them in oral comments at the Public Hearing.

- The County’s definition of where “public views” occur is too restrictive (the only public views that matter to the County are those from coastal access routes which means that only views from Rt. 1 count and only visitor views matter). In truth, public means wherever the public has a right to be, and public includes coastal residents. In short, public views include views from public streets, rights of way and trails.

Current County view definition would allow north-south rows of houses like HMB mistakenly ended up with along Pilarcitos Ave. in Casa del Mar.  Wherever a house ended up at the intersection of an east-west street, the public view is blocked and residents or visitors driving or walking on that street might as well be driving or walking in Kansas. The Coastal Act protects public views period.

- In general, the County’s coastal resource map is relatively blank compared to HMB’s. This is counter intuitive because HMB and the Midcoast are adjacent and share the same pattern of geography, climate, wetlands, streams, public views, plants and wildlife. HMB updated their coastal resource map in part by having an EMC Planning Group biologist drive around & walk around with planning commissioners and residents and indicate on the map where coastal resources (public views, wetlands, streams and special habitat) were apparent.

The County’s map could benefit from the LCP update if a similar exercise were undertaken to at least identify “suspected” coastal resources and then apply a higher burden of proof on applicants seeking to develop on or adjacent to those areas. Otherwise, the County’s currently proposed map will not have been significantly updated at all, and the opportunity to improve the accuracy of the County’s coastal resource map will be lost for another LCP cycle (up to 20 years).

Barbara K. Mauz (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

Barbara commented regarding the County’s Sensitive Habitats Map. We did in fact update it in a manner close to what she suggests.  But the County is apparently shelving the map update for some reason.  I guess they didn’t like the fact that a lot of sensitive habitats got added to the map, which as Barbara states, is pretty much “blank” now.

Letting the Board of Supervisors know your opinion is THE most important thing you can do.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  The Board knows this and will continually test the resolve of Midcoast residents.  We have to respond each time or risk abdicating any influence we have on the future of our community.  Democracy means participation.

Attending the meeting is best, and speaking is better.

If you cannot make the meeting, writing a letter is also very effective.

For meeting information, Talking Points and an Email directly to the Board, visit: