Supervisors’ vision of the Midcoast is a work in progress

By on Tue, April 26, 2005

Barry Parr
The fate of the Caltrans bypass in Montara will be decided by the Board of Supervisors during the LCP process. This is only a small portion of the land.

The San Mateo County Supervisors met today to consider their vision of the Midcoast. They took comments from interested Coastsiders on a draft statement of principles put together by supervisors Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill, acting as a subcommittee of the Board. Coastsiders from both sides of the growth issue addressed the Board, but most of today’s presentations were from the slow-growth camp. The Board will revise their principles and revisit the entire matter in early June.

The big questions raised by the public speakers were:

(1) What do the principles mean when they refer to "open space" and "will be developed":

"Open space" Midcoast lands will be developed with low intensity uses that are compatible with their community setting, and assure a reasonable exercise of property rights.

(2)  What do they mean by "private property rights":

Private property rights will be respected, and new regulations will not unreasonably downgrade the land use potential of private property.

(3) Does sewer and water infrastructure drive planning, or should our planning determine what our sewer and water capacity should be?

It turns out that "open space" (when it’s in quotes) means space that is perceived to be "open space" because it’s undeveloped, but is still in private hands.  After the meeting, some folks suggested that this specifically means the Burnham Strip in El Granada.

Meanwhile,  the Board says "private property rights" refers to the right to develop undeveloped property, but does not include maintaining the value of the property that is already developed. Supervisor Hill clarified, "Private property rights does not mean property value. It means the right to develop land. It does not mean the rights of neighbors."

And, finally, our local agencies will be called upon to produce enough water to serve the growth planned by the county. As Supervisor Mark Church put it, "Special districts and agencies should accommodate growth."

Several speakers came to speak in favor of property rights. Terry Gossett was there for Californians for Property Rights. CPR posted their own letter to the Supervisors on their new Web site. They’re seeking development of substandard lots to create affordable housing, keeping rural residential areas out of the Montara Water and Sanitary District, and letting urban land owners drill wells until they can get hookups from the water company. They’ve also posted an indictment of Midcoast elected officials, saying "The leadership role in supporting the Supervisors’ moderation sould be assumed by MidCoast elected officials".

For the record, I made the following statement in my two minutes before the Board:

I agree that it makes sense to start with an agreed set of principles before considering changes to the Local Coastal Program.  My concern is that the principles are still pretty vague. I’d suggest two additional, specific principles.

First, recognize explicitly that the Midcoast is unique community and environment deserving preservation.  Under this principle, the CalTrans bypass in Montara and Moss Beach must be rezoned as open space to keep these communities from becoming—after the tunnel is completed—satellite neighborhoods of Pacifica.

Second, I strongly support increased commercial activity on the Coastside.  I propose a principle that gives preference to commercial development in existing, underused downtown areas in Montara, Moss Beach and El Granada over new commercial development in Princeton and near the airport.

The Board plans to have the subcommittee revise their principles based on feedback from this meeting, and to next take up the LCP revision in June.

UPDATE: The San Mateo County Times now has a story on the meeting.