Supervisors vote to allow no more housing on Burnham Strip

Posted by on Tue, October 17, 2006

Although the San Mateo County Board of Supevisors at their final hearing on their LCP update voted to accept nearly all of the proposed updates to the Midcoast Local Coastal Program, the supervisors voted to make one significant change to the proposal.  Housing will no longer per an allowable use on the Burnham Strip, which will be re-zoned as El Granada Gateway.  While some new uses will be permited, no more housing will be allowed.

The Burnham Strip is the strip of land between Avenue Alhambra and Highway 1 in El Granada [Google map].

The supervisors also voted to consider separately the exceptions being requested by the Big Wave live/work project for mentally disabled adults.

Coastsider will post video highlights of the hearing.

I’m glad that the strip won’t be developed for housing, but hope it won’t remain as the region’s largest plastic bag catcher.

I wasn’t able to attend the 11am meeting today. Unlike the many realtors, builders, and developers who apparently did attend, most ordinary Coastsiders don’t have the kind of schedule that allows them to attend middle-of-the-day meetings like this.

Attending meetings like this to lobby for more housing-related development is actually part of the job for the above-named groups.

Of course, I am not surprised that those groups got most of what they wanted from the County Supervisors, nothwithstanding the apparent (and probably fleeting) minor victory described in Barry’s story above.

One SAMCAR (San Mateo County Association of Realtors) rep actually asked the supervisors to change the zoning for the Burnham Strip to be “consistent” with other residential areas and allow 28’ houses, and to increase the allowed size over what the current zoning allows.  To me, that says everything you need to know about how SAMCAR is a narrow, out-of-touch, special interest group.  In fact, it’s the very definition of special interest group.

Once we acquire the Strip as a public park, I think the trash level will go down substantially.  In the mean time, I hope the trash cans that the Granada Sanitary District arranged are helping.

Comment 4
Wed, October 18, 2006 12:04pm
Brian Ginna
All my comments

“Once we acquire the Strip as a public park…”

Who exactly is we?  Is it the Burnham Strip Committee? or MPL itself?  Are they going to buy the land/hold title?

“Some of the current committee members are…”

Is that all of them?  If not, why not all of them?

What does MPL do with its funds?  How are they spent?  Accounted for?  Is there any oversight?

Leonard’s nor kidding about the SAMCAR request to allow 28’ houses on the Burnham Strip. The fun thing about video is you can see for yourself—look at the second of the public comment videos, just after the forty minute mark: SAMCAR is talking about 28’ tall houses of not more than 6200 sq. feet of living space.

Can you imagine?

I was embarrassed for them.


Today I spoke with a County Supervisor regarding the two existing applications to build houses on the Burnham Strip and was told that the County always grandfathers existing applications and would not make an exception in this case.  So there is still great risk of having two more houses on the Burnham Strip.

The Burnham Strip Committee is part of Midcoast Park Lands, a 501(c)(3) organization which is also a land trust.  When the Committee raises enough money to acquire property, it will be MPL which actually buys and takes ownership of the property.

MPL has multiple accounts.  One of them is for Quarry Park operations.  Another is the Burnham Strip Fund.  The use of those accounts should be self-explanatory.

I don’t understand the “oversight” question.  MPL has a board of directors, as do most corporations.  Who provides oversight to any corporation?  (Duh, the board!)  I take the question to be a sneaky way to try to undermine MPL or the Burnham Strip acquisition project.  Who provides oversight of CCF?  Of CCWD?  Of MCTV?  Of Congress?

People on committees come and go.  Why is it so important to you to know whether the list is complete and why it may not be complete?

As Realtors,  we represent the entire public and try to protect their property rights.  Over the years there have been many attacks through proposed zoning changes to reduce peoples’ property rights and the value of their assets.

SAMCAR and other real estate boards throughout the state look at all the proposed ordinances, both local and state, and try to make sure that the peoples’ rights are protected from over zealous legislation.

I know the Coast has become anti-growth, at least in terms of noise.  I personally think there’s a large silent majority that don’t agree with them but are too busy with family, jobs and all the pressures of life.

Having represented people,  I am sometimes shocked at some of the punitive zoning I have seen placed on property owners.  And unlike the large developers,  most ordinary people don’t have the deep pockets to fight City Hall or the County. They just throw up their hands in disgust and take it.  Once in a blue moon,  you will see mass protest, like Casa del Mar, that forces change.

Also,  the down side to all the restrictive zoning is that it forces up prices by limiting the supply or cost of housing.  With home prices here starting at around $700,000 and new homes at $1.3 million,  we have a situation where our teachers and kids can’t afford to live here. 

The Coast should be grateful that SAMCAR is here to protect them.

Steven Hyman

Comment 8
Thu, October 19, 2006 11:59am
Barb Mauz
All my comments

Excuse us a moment here, Mr. Hyman——you seem to be ignoring the fact that the existing Tax-Paying Homeowner/Residents in the Mid-Coast ALSO have Property Rights and the need to protect our Greenbelt/Open Space Areas including the Burnham Buffer Strip that is a part of the Burnham Street Plan which is a County Historic Resource in El Granada which is a ONE-OF-A-KIND, Designed Community by Daniel Burnham in 1906. It is designated Rural Land and is Zoned Community Open Space Conservation. It is there to be a Greenbelt/Open Space Area that separates El Granada from SR1.

People here are sick and tired of SAMCAR, associated builders and other Special Interest Groups here pushing their maximum buildout schemes in the County’s FRAUDULENT, exploitive, so-called “LCP Update”.

Barb Mauz

Thanks for that clarification Steve. I had no idea that realtors were so darn altruistic; out there fighting selflessly on our behalf to protect our property rights. I was operating under the silly misconception that SAMCAR realtors were lobbying the Supervisors for things that would help generate more real estate sales commissions. 

One minor question: How does this altruism square with SAMCAR’s advocating for more new houses per year, on smaller lots with less off-street parking, but with larger floor areas, and larger impervious surface coverage (which contributes to more polluting runoff), with larger height limits (which blocks views), and which are to be built despite inadequate infrastucture to support them (thereby further clogging our roads and degrading the quality of our schools)?

Putting Steve’s overwrought word choices to the side I’d like to say that whenever I’ve had dealings with SAMCAR’s staff personnel I’ve found them to be professional and focused.  Yes, they work for a Board of Realtors and, yes, they do work to publicly support the growth positions that one would expect from a realtors’ organization but they also do a lot more.  And I’ve always observed them to be doing it with a sense of professional decorum. 
    That deportment made it easier to work with them on matters that don’t get written about very much, things such as business license policy or sewer lateral upgrade policy.  They bring considerable expertise to those discussions and I’ve seen policy shifts occur in recognition of that expertise. 
    I guess that what I’m trying to say is that we should recognize and appreciate when folks are engaging in the civic process in a civil and professional manner.



Thanks for the compliment and I’ll take it as such.

For the most part,  I think we do a lot of good for the public.  And SAMCAR with our Legislative Affairs Director,  does an outstanding job of protecting all of our rights.  And as Mike said,  we don’t get a lot of credit for what we do.

I wish SAMCAR could get the State Legislature to do more for us Realtors.  I would love the law to mandate a 10% commission on our million dollar home sales.  I would love to be able to charge every prospective seller for free consultations.  I would also love to charge every person who I spend hours showing homes a fee when they don’t buy from me.

Instead,  we spend a lot of time helping local organizations with our time and money. Boys & Girls Club, Back to Basics, Chamber, etc.

On to the “growth” issue.  As I see it,  its really blown out of proportion.  Despite what some people think,  its much to do about nothing.  I don’t think we’ve ever in recent years sold enough vacant land to hit the maximum allowed limit.

To me that shows that the demand from the public isn’t very strong.  Over the past 2 years,  total number of home sales has declined significantly, agin showing a lack of demand from the public to move here.  Maybe its because the building process has become so lengthy, abusive and expensive.

Quotas and moratoriums are horrible economic concepts and work against the public. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about real estate, gambling, or some of the other “sinful” vices”,  it doesn’t stop people and it drives prices up.

We don’t have any more water connections to sell so there’s a gray market where it now costs $40,000 to get a connection.

There’s also no question that the infa-structure here is bad.  Unfortunately as a community,  we can’t seem to agree on things and do things in a timely manner (i.e. water pipe line, new school, Boys & Girls Club, etc)

What this place needs it won’t get.  Instead we’ll have years of appeals and lawsuits and lousy traffic.

Steven Hyman

My preceding remarks were written while the two prior comments were in the moderator’s queue so I’ll modify my opening sentence to eliminate the word “Steve’s…”


This may be a bit off-topic, but I do want to lend my personal experience with the realtors and SAMCAR.  The realtor who sold us our house, Denise Aquilar was knowledgeable, honest, and worked tirelessly for us in every manner of the word.

As ED of the Coastside Opportunity Center I can tell you that the realtors of the Coast are very supportive of our local non-profits.  They are active board members, volunteer at events, and our own second harvest food drive each month is often manned by realtors.  SamCar sponsored an art auction and donated the proceeds to the COC in support of food and shelter on the coast for our less fortunate neighbors.

While I certainly understand many of the concerns, we need to be balanced and consider the positive these folks bring as well.  Like any other group, the deserve to be held accountable for actions, but that includes the great deal of good they contribute right here on the coast.

Barb will correct me if I am wrong but didn’t the burnham plan and have a “casino”, a boardwalk, a train station and other commercial uses at the center of the town of Granada?.  maybe the original site has washed away but I would guess that Burnham, as an urban planner, Gag at the thought of gravel and garbage open space at the center of his wheel layout. A recreational park and Trader Joes would be ok with me. 
Tim Pond