Letter: Smart Growth and the Coastside

Letter to the editor

Posted by
Sun, September 17, 2006


"[Smart Growth] encourages concentrated growth in areas such as Half Moon Bay and the urban Midcoast, in order to preserve the rural and open areas surrounding us"

Smart Growth is a land use philosophy whose central tenet can be expressed in the following syllogism:

  • Population growth and increased development are inevitable;
  • Urban sprawl into rural and undeveloped areas is undesirable;
  • Therefore, growth and development should be channeled into already urbanized areas.

That’s a simplification, almost worthy of Smart Growth for Dummies, but stripping the theory to its bones makes it easier to see how Smart Growth would apply to the Coastside.  Fasten your seatbelts, because this politically progressive philosophy actually encourages concentrated growth in areas such as Half Moon Bay and the urban Midcoast, in order to preserve the rural and open areas surrounding us, and enhance our community.  Here are some general Smart Growth principles, applied to the Coastside:

1. DON’T DISCOURAGE COASTSIDE URBAN GROWTH.  Smart Growth takes a dim view of urban growth rate limits, such as Measure D, and lot reduction schemes, like the one the Coastal Commission negotiated into the Ailanto settlement agreement.  As the Greenbelt Alliance recently observed, limiting the rate of urban growth, or reducing urban buildout potential, "can push development elsewhere, into other cities and out onto farm and other natural areas."  James Kunstler wrote in his highly regarded THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE: "The problem with the ‘no growth’ approach…is that the pressure doesn’t go away; if you don’t make some kind of provision for growth in the form of good planning, development just leapfrogs farther out into the hinterlands, resulting in longer commutes and more mindless sprawl."

2. SYSTEMATICALLY PLAN FUTURE RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT.  As it stands, the Coastside takes a reactive approach to planned development.  A developer makes a proposal, and the community reacts.  Smart Growth prescribes that we proactively chart out future development according to the infrastructural needs of the community, and approach owners of large, empty urban-zoned tracts with a plan for future development, along with the exactions that the public requires in return.  This town-planning approach squarely faces the reality that public funding for large-scale improvements is rapidly shrinking, so that without private financing, our community simply won’t have the basic amenities other areas enjoy.

3. WORK WHERE YOU LIVE.  The vibrancy of a small community like the Coastside is primarily determined by the health of its local economy.  Right now we have an economy based on tourism, local services, and vestiges of agriculture and maritime, with few high-paying jobs.  For that reason most household breadwinners commute over the hill, the majority in the high-tech field.  The Coastside, by redeveloping blighted areas in central Half Moon Bay and Princeton, could produce enough high-tech jobs to slash local commuter traffic over 92 and 1.  High-tech is generally easy on the environment, and great for our tax base and ancillary businesses.  Bringing high-tech to the Coastside is key to our future success as a community.

4. POLITICAL BALKANIZATION IS INIMICAL TO SMART GROWTH.  Our community is unnecessarily divided into separate political jurisdictions, a setup that encourages narrow-based decisionmaking.  Half Moon Bay and the Midcoast should be one municipality, as they are one community.  We should not have two fire districts, three sewerage districts and two water districts for the Coastside.  Our special districts should be consolidated in the interests of coherent, community-wide planning.  For example, CCWD’s and MWSD’s water systems should be fully integrated, and connected at the Devil’s Slide tunnel with NCCWD.  This would complete a water supply loop, from Crystal Springs over 92 on the one side, to Pacifica on the other, giving the Coastside the fullest fail-safes for emergency water supply.
 
5. REWRITE PLANNING POLICY TO ENCOURAGE INTEGRATED (MIXED USE) ZONING.  Our current regulations segregate types of land use (residential, retail/commercial, office, public, etc.) into separate zones, connectable only by car.  We can revive traditional, mixed-use zoning by redeveloping eyesores such as the lamentable strip development in the 92/Main/1 corridor.  That area could be transformed into a cultural destination, with high-tech enclaves, public facilities, buildings with lower-story retail/commercial and upper-story residences and offices, and underground parking to maximize usable above-ground space.

6. PROVIDE FOR PUBLIC SAFETY, ESPECIALLY ON THE ROADWAYS.  Every neighborhood on the Coastside should have safe vehicular and pedestrian access onto and across Highway 1.  This means stoplights at 2nd Street in Montara, California Avenue in Moss Beach, and intermediate between Frenchman’s Creek and Main Street in HMB.  Speed limits on 1 through the urbanized areas should be reduced to 35 MPH.  Left-turn lanes should be provided wherever necessary to ensure that a car is never standing in a traffic lane while waiting to turn left.  There is no entitlement to a nonstop, high-speed commute through the Coastside at the expense of public safety.

7. PLAN FOR PREDICTABLE IMPACTS ON THE COMMUNITY.  For the Coastside, two predictable future trends are increased visitor traffic, and the effects of global warming.  Visitor traffic can be accommodated by improving roadway conditions and circulation patterns, including parking.  Global warming will have two early effects on us, first by breaking up the fog season (thus attracting more tourism), and second by raising sea levels.  After the tunnel, the next big change to Highway 1 will be its rerouting inland of Surfer’s Beach, where it will wash away in the years to come.  Harbor breakwaters, which have already slumped and coved over the years, will need to be built up.  Any usable riprap from the tunnel excavation should be dropped at Princeton, instead of trucked over the hill.  Smartly anticipating future megatrends will minimize their negative impacts on our community.

8. THE COASTAL COMMISSION DOES NOT PRACTICE SMART GROWTH.  Land use in our community is governed by an anti-growth state agency that has de facto veto power over local coastal development decisions.  The Coastal Act, Coastal Commission and our Local Coastal Programs were established by borrowing Smart Growth concepts and language from legislation passed in Oregon, but the California translation subverts the Oregon model in two important ways.  First, it is applied only to the coastal zone (within five miles of the ocean), not the entire state, as Oregon did, where all areas are subject to similar development guidelines.  Second,  the Oregon legislation regulates how growth will occur, without taking a position for or against overall growth.  On the other hand, our Commission-certified Local Coastal Programs evince an anti-growth ideology, with politically backward locutions that anthropomorphize infrastructure as "growth-inducing."  All growth is treated like a cancer, and because the Commission’s mandate is parochial, with no corresponding Inland Commission to protect the rest of the state, a glaring double standard has emerged.  Smart Growth recognizes that the Commission’s anti-growth, non-holistic provincialism has the effect of causing overdevelopment of the less-protected inland areas, especially the Central Valley, accelerating the destruction of the most expansive wetlands in the western U. S.

9. ANTI-GROWTH POLICIES DEGRADE A COMMUNITY’S QUALITY OF LIFE.  Communities with political forces that successfully choke off growth experience a predictable diminution to their quality of life.  Infrastructure suffers in a variety of ways: schools fall behind the times, neglected roads become unsafe and congested, once-thriving small towns become mere bedroom communities for lack of a local economy, public amenities such as cultural centers or recreation facilities become unaffordable.  In other words, no-growth communities experience cultural impoverishment.  The lack of quality education and opportunities ensures a downwardly-mobile community, defined as a population where the children do not (on average) achieve the same level of education as their parents.  Finally, a paranoid political atmosphere that opposes change breaks down the feelings of trust and togetherness that would otherwise flourish in a small community like the Coastside.  We lose the Mayberry effect.

10. THE KEY TO SMART GROWTH IS SMART POLITICAL LEADERSHIP.  Many people in our community – elected officials, concerned citizens, public-minded organizations – realize that the Coastside can and must be improved, and work hard to do so.  Most of us have learned from experience that a no- growth philosophy is utopian and ultimately backfires: you still get the inevitable growth, only without the public improvements that could otherwise accompany a planned growth that the community embraces.  The shortest path to reviving our community is to develop an informed electorate, united around basic principles, supporting a political leadership that puts our consensus into action.


Don Bacon


Comment 1
Sun, September 17, 2006 12:33pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

It’s good to see a reference to Jim Kunstler’s Geography of Nowhere, which is one of the most influential books I have ever read. Along with Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities and Chris Alexander’s A Pattern Language, Coastsider is deeply influenced by Kunstler’s book.

There’s a lot here that Coastsiders on both sides of the development debates would agree with, including: good planning, emphasis on walking and biking over car traffic, concentration of development in designated parts of the Coastside, making the roads safe for people who aren’t in cars.

But there are areas where we disagree. 

Kunstler makes a strong case for keeping agriculture local, rather than allowing it to be “surrendered to the beast of development”. The italics are Kunstler’s.

Don refers to “anti-growth policies” and “no-growth communities”, which mislabels community members who insist that development must be done within the law.  Planning requires rules, and rules must be observed if growth is to be smart.

Speaking of rules, Don takes on the Coastal Commission and ignores the environmental laws which keep growth smart. A good example is his suggestion that riprap be installed at Surfers Beach to protect Highway 1 and that Princeton Harbor breakwaters be improved. This is likely to result in the beach itself being washed out to sea.

While the principles of Smart Growth are sound, they must the adapted to the Coastside’s unique circumstances. That’s the definition of good planning. Today, in Pacifica, a developer is using the related concept of “New Urbanism” to put 350 homes for commuters on a site zoned for businesses that would serve the community.

Wikipedia has a good overview of Smart Growth. What things can we agree on, and what are the real areas of dispute here? Can we disagree without name-calling?

Comment 2
Sun, September 17, 2006 2:37pm
Don Bacon
All my comments

Barry:
  Thanks for your comment on my piece.  I hope this discussion focuses proactively on the (many) issues raised by Smart Growth as applied to the Coastside.
  Your comment states that I am ignoring environmental laws, which I do not believe to be the case, and is certainly not my intention.  A close reading of my statement about Highway 1 at Surfer’s Beach shows that I am not suggesting riprap as a protection for the road, but to beef up the harbor breakwaters.  As the seas rise, the breakwaters will need to be heightened, or they will be overwhelmed.  Adding riprap on the beach to protect the road might temporarily stave off the inevitable, although extra riprap on the beach might actually cause more scooping action, thus accelerating the undermining of the road.  In my opinion, the road will need to be realigned inland from its current position, and that no amount of bolstering can avoid that eventuality.
  While still on the subject of Princeton and its environment, the radar station has got to go, sooner or later.  A park in its place would be an amazing addition to the Marine Reserve.

Comment 3
Sun, September 17, 2006 3:47pm
Leonard Woren
All my comments

There isn’t much value in responding point by point to Don Bacon’s article because his basic premise is fundamentally flawed—Half Moon Bay and the unincorporated Midcoast are not appropriate areas for “concentrated growth”, for these reasons:
1.  The large amount of sensitive habitat.
2.  The Coastal Act’s requirement for visitor access precludes high resident density that would crowd out visitors.
3.  There are no transportation hubs existing or even (financially) possible on the coastside.  Quoting from the Wikipedia article that Barry referenced:

A transit-oriented development (TOD) is a residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport, and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership. A TOD neighborhood typically has a center with a train station, metro station, tram stop, or bus station, surrounded by relatively high-density development with progressively lower-density development spreading outwards from the center. TODs generally are located within a radius of one-quarter to one-half mile (0.4 to 0.8 km) from a transit stop, as this is considered to be an appropriate scale for pedestrians.

So with that core concept of “Smart Growth” permanently lacking, the Coastside is not eligible for dense development under the pretense of “Smart Growth.”

Don’s version of “Smart Growth” for the Coastside would say:

1. Get rid of the 1 percent annual growth ordinance in HMB and don’t even bother with implementing a stricter growth ordinance on the Midcoast (which currently has a 3 percent growth ordinance).

2. Repeal the California Coastal Act and abolish the California Coastal Commission.

3. Add several more traffic lights on Highway 1.

4. Redevelop “blighted areas” in central Half Moon Bay and Princeton with new office buildings for high tech jobs.

If the goal is to make the Coastside look like every other community over the hill and turn Highway 1 into some version of El Camino Real, then implementing the above principles will surely do it.

On the other hand, if the goal is to preserve one of the most unique rural coastal communities in the entire state, then the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to start strictly enforcing the California Coastal Act—-a law that requires the preservation and restoration of vanishing coastal resources.

As an aside, I wonder if the view-blocking Harbor Village Mall now under construction in Princeton qualifies under Don’s vision of “Smart Growth”?

Comment 5
Sun, September 17, 2006 8:19pm
Don Bacon
All my comments

With all respect, the third and fourth comments indicate a lack of familiarity with the pre-eminent progressive land use philosophy of our generation, a movement that has been widely recognized as having little viable ideological competition in the field of planning.  In any event, Smart Growth/New Urbanism cannot be carelessly dismissed.  Readers of coastsider.com interested in seriously studying issues of growth and development should consider the following books:

•SUBURBAN NATION, Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck
•THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE, James Howard Kuntsler
•HOME FROM NOWHERE, James Howard Kuntsler
•EDGE CITY, Joel Garreau
•CHANGING PLACES, Richard Moe and Carter Wilkie

  The first of these titles is probably the best one-volume introduction, and is used as a textbook in schools of architecture and urban planning.  The two titles by Kuntsler are popular works, considered instant classics.  Edge City has a great overview of Bay Area land use beginning on page 303.  Changing Places explains the history of Oregon’s progressive growth and development legislation beginning on page 212.  All of these books are available through the County library system.  There are lots of other titles on these subjects, as interest in Smart Growth has literally swept the planet in the last few years.
  The Congress for the New Urbanism is the seminal professional organization behind the movement.  Its website is cnu.org.

Comment 6
Sun, September 17, 2006 10:46pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

You can’t defend a strategy simply labeling it Smart Growth or say that people who haven’t read the canonical works can’t participate in the conversation.

Your strategy has to make sense as a whole and stand on its own as a coherent plan.

As I said, Kunstler informs my thinking. But every situation is unique and we need to be sensitive to the things that make this place unique. So, I think it’s important to address the issues that are being raised here.

Comment 7
Sun, September 17, 2006 11:32pm
ken king
All my comments

I must clap for Don Bacon and CCF’s pirouette   away from their losing Foothill fiasco onto a winning cause like the Sierra Club’s Smart Growth concept. It is almost believable, except . . .

HMB’s amended Local Coastal Plan, which the new council majority has ignored since assuming office, allows for increased urban infill and is in sync with Measure D, which Mr. Bacon opposes. Mr. Bacon’s co-option of the “Smart Growth” term for CCF’s development agenda ignores the actual conditions where it is supposed to apply, in already dense urban corridors with existing infrastructure. (Think Glendale/Pasadena, Oakland/Hayward, San Mateo/Burligame, Santa Clara/San Jose, etc..) Leonard Woren rightly points this out above. So Bacon’s discussion is a non starter, but a clever ploy nonetheless.

Bacon’s ideas are grandiose to say the least and impractical to apply on any financial scale: i.e. We are to start allocating funds for realignment of Highway 1 due to global warming when most conservatives claim the subject is an environmentalist scare tactic. The point is that politicians are reactive and won’t commit a cent of political capital to any project before the salt water is lapping over our highways.

Mr. Bacon’s motives can best be discerned by looking carefully at his point 5, the one with the most immediate financial benefit for our growth-minded development friends. Getting to unleash a mega plan for projects like these would provide a lot of red meat to the builders and financial wizards who occupy those luxury homes at Spy Glass and the country estates being routinely approved by the county these days.

Comment 8
Sun, September 17, 2006 11:54pm
NeilMerrilees
All my comments

Don Bacon makes some great points, as does Barry Parr and Leonard Woren, but dividing the Coastside into two factions (“Smart Growth” vs no growth) won’t fix anything.

Of course a certain amount of growth is inevitable, and of course it would be better to proactively plan for it in a “Smart” way.  There are certain areas on the coast that could benefit from higher density (how about a “walking downtown” in Moss Beach, or Montara, or a town center at the radius of El Granada, like Burnham wanted). 

But annexing the Midcoast to Half Moon Bay, or getting rid of the Coastal commission won’t do anything to improve our local planning.  Half moon bay has enough of its own problems, as well as major pressure (and campaign contributions) from large developers (we need more wavecrests?). 

Without the Coastal commission, the midcoast would be a series of private gated communities, with no public beach access.  Yes the coastal commission has problems that need to be worked on.  What is happening to the princeton waterfront is a great example of bad planning (current LCP).

Yes, low density suburban sprawl is not environmental, or efficient, but neither is high density (around an urban core).  If it was, manhattan would be the garden of eden.

Whatever growth comes to the midcoast in the future (and it WILL come) should be carefully planned, locally, and with the Coastal Commission, with the future goal of a better, more fun, more environmentally friendly, all live happily ever after storybook coastal town (kind of like shrek).  Maybe there are areas of the coast that could benefit from higher density, but if thats the case, lets prove it first.

The name of the grand planning scheme doesn’t really matter.  What matters are the facts on the ground.  What should be done on Main St. in Montara.  Should the density be raised?  what about cars.  Should the parking standards be relaxed (less parking required)?  Would that get people out of their cars, or would it move the parking into the neighborhoods?  What will happen when the neighbors complain?  Lets take it to the community, and the coastal commission. Take it to the MCC Planning & Zoning Committee. But its not a simple process.  Its ugly and there are a lot of meetings involved.  It gets a lot harder when people start oversimplifying the issues and dividing into factions.  Then we end up with NO planning (kind of like now). We need to start getting together with good planning ideas, and come at the process with an open mind.

Comment 9
Mon, September 18, 2006 12:26am
Steve Terry
All my comments

Don,
I appreciate your effort to put this together.  You are clearly well-versed in the subject and have put a lot of ideas to work to present a straw-man for local development vis a vis “Smart Growth.”

I especially like your ideas #2 & #3 (“plan for future development” and “work where you live”), however, in the latter case, I don’t regard redevelopment (#3) or rezoning (#5) as the implicit or imperative means to that end as your language seems to convey.  I suspect there are other, potentially more viable means to achieve that locally, especially given the state of the art in telecommuting.

More generally, for many of the solutions you’ve put forth for our predicament, you fail to adequately support your reasoning.  In all fairness, you would need a lot more column space to get thru it all, and it seems you have tried your best to boil it down as concisely as possible.

But some things stand out especially stark.  For example, multiple local water, fire, and sewer districts “encourages narrow-based decisionmaking” (#4)?  I’m not saying I agree or disagree on these things—only that you haven’t made your case.  To be sure, it’s not uncommon for heavily consolidated governmental bodies to also act most narrowly;  and the bigger they get, the more narrow they often get.  Just look what the USDA has been doing to organic standards, for a nasty example.  Balkanization is a form or proportional representation, if you will, which tends to expand the scope of thinking.

And the “Commission’s anti-growth, non-holistic provincialism has the effect of causing overdevelopment of the less-protected inland areas” (#8)?  Please present the numbers that show this to be true since it’s hard for me to imagine how a band of restricted development a few miles wide is responsible for a band of development dozens or hundreds of miles wide.

And isn’t one of the impacts of rising sea levels (#7) dramatically increased coastal erosion?  This would seem to argue against coastal development generally.  (Doesn’t the Coastal Act actually prohibit development in areas expected to erode in a 50 year future forecast?)

And, finally, please link to reports or data on how growth restriction policies tend to degrade QOL (#9) in a community like ours.  Again, not that I’m saying I disagree—it’s just that I can imagine how less restrictive urban growth policies could also have (and, IMO, already have had) a negative impact on QOL.

Don, I have read “Suburban Nation.” A copy was given to me by a local builder/developer (clue #1).

I agree with the philosophy espoused in your article: “Urban sprawl into rural and undeveloped areas is undesirable, therefore, growth and development should be channeled into already urbanized areas.”

The Coastside is mostly a “rural and undeveloped area”, so it should be protected from the “growth and development” and “urban sprawl” that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors wishes to “channel” here in order to be able to meet their housing objectives (see link below).

https://coastsider.com/index.php/site/news/921/

It turns out that we already have a “Smart Growth” planning document in place. It’s called the California Coastal Act. The problem is that local politicians try to ignore it. This is what the Coastal Act says about locating development:

30250(a) “New residential, commercial, or industrial development,...shall be located within, contiguous with, or in close proximity to, existing developed areas able to accommodate it or, where such areas are not able to accommodate it, in other areas with adequate public services and where it will not have significant adverse effects, either individually or cumulatively, on coastal resources.”

Link to California Coastal Act
http://ceres.ca.gov/wetlands/permitting/tbl_cntnts_cca.html

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel with a new planning vision for the Coastside, I would suggest that we simply adhere to the sound planning vision that is already in place: the Coastal Act.

Comment 11
Mon, September 18, 2006 10:49am
Don Bacon
All my comments

At this point I should probably focus on misunderstandings, so that the discussion can instead focus on the positions I’m actually carving out.

First, clearly I’m not in favor of abolishing the Coastal Commission or the Coastal Act.  I am in favor of acknowledging that the Act is first-generation law, the Commission a first-generation agency, and much can be improved.  The Oregon model, which is where we got a lot of the ideas on these subjects, shows us the way forward in certain respects.  Most important: get in place state-wide protections comparable to what we have on the coast.  John Landis, public policy and urban planning professor at UC-Berkeley, never misses an opportunity to explain that pushing development inland—something we are doing on a mass scale—has serious long-term repercussions for all areas.  It is a much greater burden on the environment to push population growth inland, and it creates an enormous underclass, because the good jobs aren’t leaving the coastal areas.  We are accelerating the have/havenot divide in California.

Another inescapable fact is that the Coastal Commission continues to approve poorly-designed development for the coastal areas.  Look at the Coastside residential subdivisions, or commercial properties, that have been built since the Commission was created.  Look at the approved plans for the Ailanto Pacific Ridge subdivision, which have only big houses on big lots, without any thought to mixed use or diverse housing.  This type of cookie-cutter development is universally decried, but local authority and the Coastal Commission not only approve it, they push it.  Kevin criticized Harbor Village: wasn’t the Commission involved in approving that?

The truth is we have a lot of bad development on the Coastside that was approved by the Commission.  And not just here.  Take a drive up and down the California coast.  More than a quarter-century ago I lived in Laguna Beach and San Clemente.  They were pretty sleepy back then, and foggy too.  People talked more about the communities withering, with all the young people moving away, than getting overrun by development.  Things rapidly changed in the years that followed.  Job commutes became more acceptable as northern Orange County superdeveloped.  The weather brightened.  The area started getting good press.  Almost thirty years later, I hardly recognize the place.  And all of that development, much of it very poorly designed, was approved by the Coastal Commission.  Moral of the story: there will be intense pressure on our community, with the tunnel completion and lifting of the fog.  We need a vision for how our area will grow, smartly, without the junky development.  And we can’t count on a state agency to do it for us.

Comment 12
Mon, September 18, 2006 11:59am
Don Bacon
All my comments

Some questions have been raised about the balkanization issue.  To begin, it’s true that no matter what size a governmental unit is, it is capable of behaving badly.  The point is to right-size the political jurisdictions.  As for the Coastside, I don’t think there is any doubt we are suffering from balkanization.  Sometimes it seems like the MidCoast and Half Moon Bay are in parallel universes.  Imagine if Pacifica were divided like that, so the southern neighborhoods were unincorporated, and the city of Pacifica began from about Sharp Park north.  How would one hand consistently know what the other hand is doing?  One of the central principles of Smart Growth is that planning and decisionmaking should be regionalized.  Otherwise small locales end up making unilateral decisions that can negatively affect wider areas.

This problem can be at its worse with special districts, which were often created to provide a service in a particular, sometimes very small, area where no municipality existed.  All fifty states have found over the decades that supervision and oversight of this proliferation of special districts is an ongoing problem.  California’s LAFCo was largely created to correct the oversight problems with special districts, and to reorganize them (usually involving consolidation) as society progressed.  The problem today is that LAFCo has been underfunded and understaffed.  So the special districts are more unsupervised than ever.  Here’s an example of just how bad the problem can be.

Almost three years ago I submitted a report to LAFCo documenting that the Montara Sanitary District (now MWSD) had never changed its boundaries to conform to the urban/rural boundary, a requirement of our Local Coastal Program and other State law.  Even though this requirement had been in place since 1980, our local LAFCo was unaware of the situation.  They held a County/State meeting to study the report, and soon agreed with its findings.  The Coastal Commission, Supervisor Gordon, County Counsel and LAFCo all publically confirmed the boundary discrepancy.  Of course they disagreed over whose responsibility it was to fix it (think Katrina), so the quarter-century-old problem persists to this day.

That means every year MWSD collects misallocated taxes, depriving other special districts of rightful tax revenue.  It’s a lot of money, especially when you look back 26 years.  The amount the school district loses each year probably rivals that intended to be raised by the failed Measure S.  The boundary discrepancy also means that people living outside the district’s service area can vote for and hold MWSD public office.  I am told there is a similar boundary discrepancy, with the same taxation and electoral irregularities, in the Granada Sanitary District.

The 1978 Community Plan, one of the precursors to our Local Coastal Program, called for consolidating our utility districts.  It was a good idea then, and an even better idea today.

Comment 13
Mon, September 18, 2006 12:14pm
ken king
All my comments

There should be no misunderstanding that Don Bacon and CCF present a development scheme to people who are not desirous of having one. His moral of the story, “there will be intense pressure on our community” refers to CCF and Don Bacon’s pressure to buy into their vision for transforming the Coastside into a Glendale by the sea.

Many of us are refugees from SoCal and have a different memory about the narrative of development down there. The developers were in a feeding frenzy by the mid 1960s, so much so that the populace was alarmed at how fast and dramatically the coast was being transformed. Passing the Coastal Act in 1972 was a slam dunk because of this grave concern. Laguna Beach and San Clemente have not been “sleepy” since before 1965, let’s be straight about this.

As far as all of the development that’s been approved since then, there are two things to say about this. First, it is unimaginable that anything at all would be left in a rural or pristine state had the Coastal Act not been passed. The Coastal Commission has slowed things down but not reversed the overall trend of diminishing open space.

The second thing is that the CC is a political agency that has succumbed in the past to being stacked by Republican govenors (remember two terms each for Deukmejian and Wilson?—that was a 16 year time out from responsible stewardship) whose appointees routinely overrode their professionally-trained staff’s recommendations in order to approve controversial develoments. I think it is the height of cynicism to then use those developments to pad the case for “better planning” using a model designed for already dense urban corridors laden with infrastructure.

Selling us visions of pardise is like selling the Inuit freezers. Best quote in this thread, btw, is Neil Merrilees’: Yes, low density suburban sprawl is not environmental, or efficient, but neither is high density (around an urban core).  If it was, manhattan would be the garden of eden.

Don, you seem really committed to just wearing us down with all of the mis-information that you put out.  I’m going to occasionally respond to bits of it, but I would like readers to understand that unchallenged points are not necessarily true just because nobody bothers to spend time responding.

Here’s a good one:  “That means every year MWSD collects misallocated taxes, depriving other special districts of rightful tax revenue.  It’s a lot of money, especially when you look back 26 years.  The amount the school district loses each year probably rivals that intended to be raised by the failed Measure S.”  Really?  Do you have any actual numbers?  One of us has a malfunctioning calculator and I’m betting it’s not me.  I have numbers for GSD; MWSD’s numbers will be slightly higher due to MWSD having more developed properties in the rural area.  I estimate that GSD’s total share of property tax revenue from all properties outside the U/R boundary in the District is $2,000-$3,000/year.  Remember, special districts get a small percentage of the 1% tax.

BTW, LAFCo does not and was never intended to “supervise” special districts—it was originally created to stop overlapping services and gerrymandered boundaries, such as Half Moon Bay’s “cherry stem” thumb-in-the-eye of El Granada.  LAFCo has essentially no authority under state law to supervise or regulate special districts.  That’s the voter’s job.  Who regulates city councils or boards of supervisors, or the legislature itself for that matter?  Why should special districts be treated any more second class than they already are?

Regarding special district boundaries with respect to rural areas, you might also want to read ALL of Policy 2.14 in the County LCP, particularly 2.14c.

The part that annoys me most, however, is the suggestion that bigger government agencies are better.  This is seldom true—small agencies are virtually always more responsive to what their constituents want.  It’s telling that most people pushing consolidation of MWSD and GSD are those who want to facilitate overdevelopment of the Coastside.  I challenge you to show how such a consolidation would improve services, or how it would save more than a pittance.

Since you reference the Community Plan, I figured I’d go take a look.  What I see here http://plan.sanmateo.org/page10.html is “<u>Utilities</u> - consolidation of coastside water districts is encouraged, to provide improved water service to Montara and Moss Beach.  Undergrounding of existing overhead utility lines is recommended in conjunction with new road improvements.”  I see no mention there of the sanitary districts, and “encouraged” is not “shall”.  BTW, are you spending any energy trying to get utilities undergrounded, or do you just pick and choose which policies you’d like implemented?

(continued, since I hit the length limit.)

Don, if you want to fix perceived problems with special districts, you should be rallying public support for incorporation, and that doesn’t mean annexation which isn’t likely to ever happen.

The next paragraph in the Community Plan reads “<u>Community Appearance</u> - maintenance of the community’s small-town character is of prime importance [...]”.

Comment 16
Tue, September 19, 2006 12:04am
Carl May
All my comments

“Population growth and increased development are inevitable;”

The whole discussion loses it on the first bulleted point in the article (quoted above). While a version of the well-implanted (and artificially contrived, for those who have bothered to look into the directions chosen and promulgated by the economic elite in the U.S. since WWII) “growth ethic,” there are no real-world underpinnings that make the ethic a “natural law of the universe.” There isn’t even a good theory behind the ethic; and there are plenty of places in the U.S. that are actually losing population and experiencing an exodus of commerce. Whether one considers what is happening to, for example, the rural Great Plains a good or bad thing, the fact of what is happening in such regions makes the above assertion of inevitability patently false.

The version of “smart growth” presented here is, in itself, a chosen contrivance among many versions—any of the definitions favoring the agenda of some point of view. In fact, Mr. Bacon’s article is bristling with unsupported assumptions, perhaps the most obvious being that a form of urbanization carried out by increasing urban density is necessarily a positive development. Who says? That might work in some combinations of circumstances, but there is no support to fortify the assumption for *all* places.

To state the obvious, smart growth (taking “growth” to mean an increase and not merely a change in amount, the latter allowing “negative population growth”) in a place that is already developed beyond sustainability in the leanest of times is in no way smart. Put another way, in a locale already overdeveloped, all kinds and degrees of additional growth and development are kinds and degrees of stupidity if living within the environmental means of an area is the goal.

The Midcoast, including HMB, already being out of capacity and overgrown in several major ways (water from local watersheds, natural cover and biodiversity of coastal terrace, several kinds of infrastructure on a scale appropriate for a population that can be maintained here at current levels of resource use, etc.), one would expect an attempt at a rational discussion to head into how to redevelop, dedevelop, downsize, and conserve to a sustainable condition. The longer that kind of planning is put off, the more dire the measures that will be necessary as crunches occur. As a little exercise, imagine what the coastside of today would do if a drought like the one we had in the 1970’s occurs. (Bear in mind that the entire state of California and the rest of the lower 48 beyond are also domesticated and developed beyond sustainability in terms of fresh water for today’s human activities, so one can’t just assume water can always be obtained from someplace else.)

Carl May

Comment 17
Tue, September 19, 2006 11:37am
Don Bacon
All my comments

There is no doubt that MWSD’s boundaries are in violation of our Local Coastal Program, and have been since the LCP’s inception.  The Review reported on January 28, 2004:

“According to the opinion of San Mateo County legal counsel, MWSD’s boundaries are out of compliance with the Local Coastal Program.
And if they were brought into compliance the district would be much smaller.”

I received a letter from County Counsel on January 22nd to the same effect, stating “…we agree that the Local Coastal Program policies you have identified contemplate that the boundaries of these service providers will be adjusted to conform to the urban-rural boundaries.”

In the same article the Review also reported:

”County Board of Supervisor Rich Gordon affirmed counsel’s finding, and said it is unclear why MWSD did not take steps to comply with the LCP 20 years ago, when the document was created.”

After interviewing both Peter Douglas and Chris Kern of the Coastal Commission for the same article, the Review paraphrased their recommendation:

”The first step would be to take the issue to the Local Agency Formation Commission, which has the authority to redraw district boundaries.”

Here’s a link to the Review article: http://hmbreview.com/articles/2004/01/28/news/local_news/story03.txt

Turning to the subject of LAFCo, in my previous post I wrote:

“California’s LAFCo was largely created to correct the oversight problems with special districts, and to reorganize them (usually involving consolidation) as society progressed.”

Leonard has challenged that position, stating:

“LAFCo has essentially no authority under state law to supervise or regulate special districts.”

Here is the statutory language from the State Government Code giving LAFCo oversight powers, followed by the web link:

“56378.  In addition to its other powers, the commission shall initiate and make studies of existing governmental agencies.  Those studies shall include, but shall not be limited to, inventorying those agencies and determining their maximum service area and service capacities.”

http://leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=gov&group=56001-57000&file=56375-56388

This is in addition to LAFCo’s broad powers to reorganize special districts, including changes of boundaries:

“56375.  The commission shall have all of the following powers and duties subject to any limitations upon its jurisdiction set forth in this part:
  (a) To review and approve or disapprove with or without amendment, wholly, partially, or conditionally, proposals for changes of
organization or reorganization, consistent with written policies, procedures, and guidelines adopted by the commission.  The commission may initiate proposals for (1) consolidation of districts, as defined in Section 56036, (2) dissolution, (3) merger, or (4) establishment of a subsidiary district, or a reorganization that includes any of these changes of organization.”

Comment 18
Tue, September 19, 2006 12:53pm
Don Bacon
All my comments

My earlier post today discussed two points: first, that MWSD’s boundaries violate the Local Coastal Program, and second, that LAFCo has the ability to investigate and change those boundaries.  The next question is exactly how much general (1%) tax is being misallocated to MWSD and GSD, monies that should be going to the special districts and agencies that are mandated to serve rural-zoned MidCoast properties.  MWSD and GSD are prohibited by the LCP from providing water or sewer services in the rural zone.

The short answer to the $$$ question is that no one can know the exact dollar amount until the MWSD and GSD boundaries are actually changed.  This is because the County Controller and State Board of Equalization will not create separate Tax Rate Areas that would perform that calculation, until they are directed to do so by a change of boundary statement and map, providable by either MWSD/GSD or LAFCo.

Readers should understand that the existing boundary discrepancies involve thousands of acres.  The County created the Montara Sanitary District in 1958, giving it service boundaries stretching from Devil’s Slide to south of the airport, from the ocean to deep into the foothills.  The 1980 LCP pruned the MSD service area back to existing Montara/Moss Beach neighborhoods, a fraction of its original 1958 size.  Undoubtedly, the aggregate assessed value of the MidCoast rural zones will be an impressive figure.

The point, however, is that no amount of tax should be knowingly misallocated.  Of course MWSD/GSD directors who are receiving the misallocated tax may discount its importance.  But the shortchanged special districts and agencies—harbor, fire, schools, libraries, etc.—deserve their rightful tax revenue.  And because of Proposition 13, the general tax is limited to 1% of assessed value.  That 1% pie needs to be divided only between those special districts and agencies that are actually mandated to serve the property, not to special districts who are specifically prohibited from serving it, but refuse to change their boundaries to reflect that fact.

Another big problem with these boundary discrepancies is that persons who are not in the utility district’s service area can ‘serve’ as elected district directors.  This practice violates one of the cornerstone principles of our democracy, that elected representatives reside within the jurisdiction they are governing, so they’ll directly experience the effects of the official actions they’re taking.  As it stands, an MWSD or GSD director can live on a property outside of the district’s service area, yet impose rates, charges, rules and restrictions on residents within the service area, without ever being touched by the consequences of their decisions.

As someone from the Board of Equalization once explained it to me, special districts need three jurisdictional unities:

SERVICE AREA=TAX ASSESSMENT AREA=ELIGIBLE VOTER/ELECTED OFFICIAL AREA.

Don argues that the existence of the Coastal Act has not prevented any number of bad projects from being approved over the years.

Yes that’s true, but as Ken King points out, these outcomes are usually the result of political forces overcoming the sound planning principles set forth in the Coastal Act. This is what happened in the case of the Monster Mall project now under construction in Princeton and in numerous other ill-conceived Coastside projects that have made tons of money for a select few.

Any planning vision is only as good as the political institutions that must administer it. Don’s plan would be subject to the same type of political tampering.

Comment 20
Tue, September 19, 2006 6:14pm
Hal Bogner
All my comments

Hi Don,

Your exposition implying that various district boundaries and resultant tax allocations are in need of correction by LAFCo, and that LAFCo is aware and is empowered under state law to rectify the matter, suggests that either (a) LAFCO disagrees, (b) LAFCo isn’t really aware, (c) LAFCo agrees but lacks the resources to address the issue, or (d) LAFCo doesn’t care.

Have you identified which of the above is actually the case?  All too often, it seems, it takes a committed individual stepping up to make the right thing happen.  Sounds like you are nominating yourself to be the committed individual for this one.  So I’d like to ask a few more questions of you.

Do you have a determination of how much money any particular special district is losing as a result of this situation?  It seems like any special district that is losing out ought to look into the matter, and if necessary, file a lawsuit to recover monies as appropriate.  If you are correct, and the MWSD and GSD directors are taking in monies that ought to go to, say,  CCWD or CUSD, perhaps your CCF associates on those boards ought to be on the case.  Are they?

Hal M. Bogner
Half Moon Bay

PS - As you seem to be interested in making sure tax revenues are properly apportioned, I hope that you’ll also take note of the issue I raised on the Cunha thread (https://coastsider.com/index.php/site/news/1499/) about the fact that the school district appears to be wasting millions by not following a normal RFP and bidding process for the Cunha school rebuild. Your CCF president, Charlie Gardner, has not responded here; perhaps you could encourage him to do so.

Kevin,

  So your answer to the above statement

“Yes that’s true, but as Ken King points out, these outcomes are usually the result of political forces overcoming the sound planning principles set forth in the Coastal Act. This is what happened in the case of the Monster Mall project now under construction in Princeton and in numerous other ill-conceived Coast side projects that have made tons of money for a select few. “

Is yep its broke but lets not do anything to at least try and fix it? That seems to be the theme in this whole comment section.
 
  While it is in everyone right to disagree with Mr. Bacons ideas; most people who have spent time using his statement as a punching bag (right or wrong) have not had a better answer or even offered a modified version of his ideas. It is sad to see everyone dig in their heels and fight tooth and nail for no change but when it does happen, just go and blame bad laws and bad politicians then proceed to keep doing things the way we have been.

Piggybacking on Kevin’s comment—

While the CCC may not have stopped some really bad projects (and during the Duckmejian years they rubber stamped everything), these days all one has to do is attend a Coastal Commission meeting to see how much worse these projects would be without the Commission reviewing them.  Government agencies are loath to deny projects, no matter how bad they are.  How many Coastside projects has San Mateo County denied in the last umpteen years?  One.  So what the Coastal Commission does is attempt to reduce the badness of projects.  Of course, a cynic (who, me?) might argue that developers intentionally submit applications which are so outrageous that nobody would ever approve them, knowing that they’ll get shaved down to something only moderately ridiculous and then approved as a “compromise”.

Comment 23
Tue, September 19, 2006 9:33pm
Ray Olson
All my comments

Great article Don, this is a long overdue and accurate assessment of our current situation. People should note that we can definitely have Smart Growth, and protect endangered habitat and address environmental concerns. These are not 2 opposite ends of the spectrum, and is something that many coastside communities have adopted. The so-called “laws” around the california coastal act are definitely not black and white and are written in such a way to support both the communities needs and the environments needs.

We desperately need to address the underdeveloped areas of our community such as road infrastructure, public safety, and public facilities such as a boys and girls club, etc. And I believe the majority of folks here on the coastside are in agreement with these concerns, but have been frustrated from decisions that have been made in the past.
Ray

In reference to Don’s attempt to counter my “LAFCo has no regulatory authority”, he mischaracterizes a section of state law.  Yes, LAFCo has those authorities.  No, those are not regulatory.  Note that “LAFCo” is the “Local Agency <u>Formation</u> Commission.  Further, while LAFCo has the authority to “initiate” certain proceedings, most such proceedings still require voter approval after LAFCo approval.  Therefore, LAFCo’s authority is narrow in scope and fairly weak, as it should be.  That said, I believe that LAFCo’s authority is excessive—it should be limited strictly to reviewing whether proposed government agencies and proposed boundary changes (1) would result in overlapping services, (2) are gerrymandered.  Beyond that, all other decisions should be exclusively up to the voters in the affected territory.

Why should other people be able to dictate our local government?  260 years ago we fought a war which ultimately was over local control vs an arrogant absentee government.  For a current local example, why should El Granada be told that GSD can’t become a Community Services District to add parks and rec services because some people meeting over in Redwood City think that we should be part of a larger parks agency?  This is particularly annoying because creation of that larger agency failed in 1994 and is unlikely to ever happen.  I see no reason whatsoever why it shouldn’t be exclusively the decision of voters in the District.  Yet LAFCo can disapprove the application just because they think they know better than we do.

Why should GSD and MWSD be told to merge, just because some people think that in government “bigger is better”?  The dollar savings in such a merger would be far below 1/10 of a percent of the combined budgets of the two districts.  Voters quite often show that they are willing to pay slightly more to have better service and local control.  See the May 2000 Little Hoover Commission report Special Districts:  Relics of the Past or Resources for the Future?.  On page ii of the Executive Summary it states “The essential lesson of the last decade is that successful enterprises – public or private – are those that understand the needs of their customers and continuously strive to improve the services they offer.  Similarly, successful organizations evolve to capture efficiencies and to
align their core competencies with customer needs. Bigger is not always better, and sometimes smaller is.” (emphasis mine)  On page 12 of the main report it states “At the same time, election results and academic research show that the public often prefers the government closest to them. Even when presented with more efficient and effective options, the public will often opt to maintain the government that they know, trust and believe can be more responsive to their needs.”

So, again I ask, why should ANYONE outside of the affected area have any say at all in the form/size of government agencies in that area?

Matt Wrublewski wrote:
“While it is in everyone right to disagree with Mr. Bacons ideas; most people who have spent time using his statement as a punching bag (right or wrong) have not had a better answer or even offered a modified version of his ideas.”

Matt, I think you are not being accurate here. Some of us have proposed an alternative: that we simply do a better job of enforcing the “Smart Growth” ordinance that is already on the books, namely, The California Coastal Act (and its associated local implementations which are called Local Coastal Programs).

Don responded by saying that the Coastal Act obviously needs fixing because of all of the bad projects that have been approved since its enactment. Yeah that’s right, but Don’s plan won’t fix that problem because politicians will still push through bad projects for wealthy and influential friends, no matter what type of “Smart Growth” principles are supposedly in place.

Lastly, if Don is really serious about implementing any of his recommendations, then the first step would be propose some very specific amendments to the Local Coastal Programs for the Midcoast and HMB.

Comment 26
Wed, September 20, 2006 9:15am
Ray Olson
All my comments

Kevin,
Why do you say that the California Coastal Act is the ordinance for Smart Growth? I don’t believe it is the coastal commission’s charter to tell a community how they should support the needs of the community. I believe their only job is to make sure there is a balance between coastal habitat, and land development. That is it. Coastal habitat is definitely not our only concern, and so it is up to us folks living in the community to find out where our needs are not met, and do something about it.
Ray

Ray:
As I noted in my earlier post, the Coastal Act embodies the same type of smart growth principles that Don is espousing. Check it out for yourself:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=prc&group=30001-31000&file=30250-30255

Regarding your emphasis on the needs of the local community, the local version of the Coastal Act (called a Local Coastal Program) adapts the smart growth principles in the Coastal Act to the specific needs of each local jurisdiction.

Our Local Coastal Programs (Midcoast and HMB) are far from perfect, but they certainly incorporate many of the same ideas that Don is advocating. Can the LCPs be improved? Yes of course, but we don’t need to re-invent the wheel here.

Wow

Either this is a topic that a lot of us care about, or there are a lot of people with too much time to spend in front of a computer.  If people really do have extra time on their hands, how about showing up at the Planning & Zoning meeting tonight (730 at the Granada (don’t say El Granada) Sanitary District Office) and voicing some of these same concerns?  Thanks Don for bringing up such a hot topic.

One point about the Coastal Commission.  The CC’s job is to protect the coastal zone for the Public at large, not for local residents.  Some of the projects that have been approved, have been approved for the benifit of the visiting public, and not the local residents (harbor village).  Oceanfront Mirada road is currently zoned for gas stations and mini-marts (believe it or not), and 3 story hotels, where a cottage would not be allowed.  The beachhouse is an example of a use promoted by the Coastal Commission, as opposed to a small private residence, which the CC would have fought.  (the one to the right of the beachouse is grandfathered in, but would not be allowed today).  It is theoretically possible to have a result that would benefit the Public, the community, and the environment (low impact), which is not easy, and sometimes not allowed under current zoning rules.  Thats why its a complete drag when we divide into groups that argue about a 50 year build out or a 30 year build out.  To me its not as important how many years it takes us to get there, as what it will look like when we do get there. 

-Neil

Comment 29
Wed, September 20, 2006 8:42pm
Ray Olson
All my comments

Kevin,
I do agree with you that we shouldn’t re-invent the wheel, if our LCP does address all things related to the community, but don’t we have 2 at the moment (one for HMB and one for the county)? And from reading Don’s article above I’m not sure he is saying to use something other than the LCP, he is merely pointing out areas that may need reconsideration.
Ray

Comment 30
Thu, September 21, 2006 9:22am
ken king
All my comments

I hadn’t thought of the the Coastal Act and Local Coastal Plans as being the same thing as the Sierra Club’s Smart Growth program, but in effect and intention they are, so thanks for helping us connect those concepts, Kevin. The Sierra Club’s Smart Growth and CCF’s purloining of the term to foster development in our largely rural setting are at odds to be sure.

I mention the word “intention” above because the Coastal Act is a preservationist act to conserve coastal resources, and Smart Growth is a program to concentrate human population along already developed urban transportation corridors. It assumes adequate infrastructure exists, and that there will be economies of scale for adding to that infrastructure.

The problem here on the San Mateo County coast, as Carl May continually stresses, is that population has outstripped the water resource and overtaxs our roads and sewers. So it cannot be said that adequate infrastructure is already in place because it’s not. Jim Larimer, a CCWD director known for his views on development, thinks that infrastructure improvements are needed and that the best way to do that is to allow developers and builders to build more homes in order to pay for the improvements that admittedly the existing citizenry either can’t or won’t afford.

The result, of course, is more people and worse quality of life before anything could possibly improve. And the looming question is, would it improve later? If you believe this, CCF may have a bridge for you.

Comment 31
Thu, September 21, 2006 3:54pm
Ray Olson
All my comments

I think we all understand Carl’s opinion, and based on the problem as he states it, we should ALL move from the coast, including himself. But of course the reality is we live 25 miles from a large city, and we already have a sizable population for which our current infrastructure cannot support (let alone any sort of growth). So there are really only 2 things that can be done:
1. Reduce the current coastside population by pursuading people to move
2. Improve the current infrastructure so that we can really accomodate the folks that are living here today.

Well, we can’t do 1, so the only thing to do is make improvements so that we can satisfy the demands currently placed on our community. This includes water/sewer, support for tourism, addressing safety and disaster issues, roadways, supporting our youth etc. I don’t think CCF is stating things like “develop the whole coastside” or “remove all open space” as Ken might be alluding to. That would be ridiculous and shooting ourselves in the foot.
Ray

Comment 32
Thu, September 21, 2006 7:31pm
ken king
All my comments

Ray Olson presents the fallacy of false dichotomy in claiming just two options exist. Other options are apparent if one simply reads above. Incrementalism and pragmatism also come to mind, but that’s too pokey for CCF (Don Bacon is an officer of that group) which is trying to rev things up here.

This whole discussion about what we “need” reminds me of the farmer, who while holding an ax behind his back, tells the turkey he’s got a plan to relieve him of fear of an accidental death.

Comment 33
Thu, September 21, 2006 8:49pm
Carl May
All my comments

When ones sees noted factual shortages and trends that have already pushed the coastside beyond sustainability called “opinion,” one wonder if those who would assume the mantle of reason care anything about the numbers, the quantities, the empirical condition of our place. Using terms like “smart growth” and “sustainability” for their contemporary cachet and to frame convenient arguments without knowing their meanings and implications gives lie to the assertions of facile word manipulators.

Those of us who point out the foibles of persons who depend on myth and magic rather than supported, established principles and numbers are frequently mischaracterized. We are veterans of ages of self-serving assaults from dingleberries in such as the “wise use” movement. We know that even though numbers of people using available resources and natural subsidies at observable rates are at the heart of what calculations of sustainability are all about, some are so dedicated to superficial popular myth and narrow, short-term political and economic motives as to talk about any consideration of population in the pejorative.

Too bad, because by closing their eyes and stomping their feet in favor of greater degradation of a coastside already overstressed in a number of ways, the dedicated preservers of myth and magic as the determining factors in our local living conditions only abet the worsening of the area in terms of infrastructure, appeal to visitors, cost of life’s necessities (food, water, shelter, transportation, etc.) for residents, and so on. The longer one keeps one’s head in the sand or misleads others for personal gain, the more resources (some nonrenewable) and natural life support systems are destroyed and the more costly and time-consuming any eventual attempts to reverse our now-worsening multitude of problems on the midcoast due to overuse and abuse of what our limited geography provides.

Getting worse, even at what is claimed to be a “smart” rate and style, is never a reasonable route to getting better. People unwilling to recognize their impacts, face their logical responsibilities, and cap an obviously excess population now will always have the same unjustified arguments for not capping an even more overgrown and unsupportable population in the future. When it comes to declining environments and life support systems, there is never a better time than the present to get real.

Carl May

Comment 34
Fri, September 22, 2006 8:51am
Ray Olson
All my comments

Ken,
what you mention as alternatives above can be classified in one of my two options, it is just a matter of degrees. I think most folks on the coast are frustrated with the sort of “incrementalist” approach that may have been used in the past (ie no boys/girls club, no new middle school etc) and so want to see improvements, in a more realistic and worthwhile timelines.

And Carl, I am all for getting real, which is why I disagree with your point of view.
Ray

A seemingly minor but in fact very significant correction to part of what Kevin wrote:  “the local version of the Coastal Act (called a Local Coastal Program) adapts the smart growth principles in the Coastal Act to the specific needs of each local jurisdiction.”  Although County staff made the same mistake, an LCP is not “the local version of the Coastal Act”—it is the local <u>implementation</u> of the Coastal Act.  This may seem like a nit, but it’s a substantial difference, which the County does not want to understand.  What this means is that all LCPs MUST be consistent with the Coastal Act.  A jurisdiction may not have any LCP provisions which are in contravention of anything in the Coastal Act.  This is why all LCPs and LCP amendments must be certified by the Coastal Commission—to insure that the LCP is consistent with the Coastal Act.

Comment 36
Fri, September 22, 2006 3:33pm
Carl May
All my comments

Myths are real, especially those which have been behind repeated failures in the past when suggestions based on them have been tried? Such as the thoroughly discredited myth that a little more damaging, growth-inducing infrastructure is all that is needed to solve traffic and water problems?

Carl May

Comment 37
Fri, September 22, 2006 7:32pm
Ray Olson
All my comments

Carl,
What you call damaging, I call “life-saving”.
Your fear that improving infrastructure means “growth-inducing” is unfounded and not based at all on facts.
Ray

Comment 38
Fri, September 22, 2006 10:53pm
Carl May
All my comments

If one calls all the additional accidents, deaths, excuses for development, greater delays and congestion, and more hardscaping that have hammered the coastside with numerous highway infrastructure expansions since the slide outage of ‘82-‘83 not based on fact—well that is to be expected from a faction basing its desires on repeatedly failed myths.

Due to population/driver growth, as many drivers must go through the enlarged and improved intersections of HMB and the midcoast when the slide is open today as the number that had to go through when the slide was closed in the winter of ‘82-‘83. With all the infrastructure expansions (largely at intersections and in water and wastewater systems) of the past 20 years, we now have a situation worse than back then thanks to the ongoing induced and permitted population growth. Ever is it so—and obvious to any who look at the numbers and the plain evidence of lost values in their surroundings. There are no facts to demonstrate success—only failure of local closely held growth myths.

The contrived myth that more degradation and growth is needed to fix past destruction and growth has no local support—no history of success unless environmental wipeout, an artificially inflated and ever-increasing cost of life’s necessities, wipeout of natural life-support systems and amenities, and increased frustration and waste of time due to overwhelmed systems (both artificial and natural) is considered “success.” The record of local highway improvements and expansion of water and sewer systems is failure, thanks to the growth that always overwhelms infrastructure. Without prior caps on population and development, infrastructure improvements are a fools game as far as improving any situation goes. And even then any expanded infrastructure must be designed so as not to increase damage due to an already overdeveloped coastside.

The record of failure of those lost in homage to the growth ethic has played out dozens of times on the coastside and tens of thousands of times in California since WWII. So many places have been destroyed with unsustainable urbanization that one wonders why more of the same is continually advocated for the coastside when so many options for living in a thoroughly degraded environment are available elsewhere. That’s a rhetorical musing, of course, because we well know the ignorance of some easily-led, memory-challenged segments of the public and self-serving motivations of the few individuals who actually benefit from overdevelopment.

Carl May

Comment 39
Sat, September 23, 2006 12:49pm
Ray Olson
All my comments

I believe my point about being grounded in reality is even more reinforced by the above response.
Ray

Comment 40
Sat, September 23, 2006 10:23pm
Carl May
All my comments

Apparently the worsening situation on the midcoast, including HMB, through growth following every infrastructure expansion for the past thirty years is not reality to some who hold their growth ethic and head-n-the-sand myths closely.

Every major intersection in HMB “improved” with lights, more lanes, restriping, etc., over the past twenty years. Result: congestion worse than before.

Major new intersections with additional lanes and lights at Frenchman’s Creek and Coronado. Result: new major congestion points on Highway 1; residents of northern midcoast communities increasingly go north to Pacifica for shopping.

Lower speed limits on Highway 1. Result: see preceding paragraph.

Third middle lane for turns added through Moss Beach and Montara. Result: multiple cars in turn lanes back up into traffic lanes; use of middle lane confusing to drivers so lane is avoided and drivers turn directly into traffic lanes anyway; continuing accidents at highway intersections.

SAM plant prematurely expanded to full capacity (rather than in the incremental steps originally designed for the new plant). Result: plant, which was not the cause of infiltration during storms, still overloaded during big weather events.

Hardscaping of the coastal terrace increased with every additional bit of pavement, roof, etc. Results: removal of vegetation needed to hold soil and water; runoff in brief pulses that overloads and erodes streams during storms but then causes streams that had water in them year-round to go dry due to water not being held in natural landscape; erosion of slopes in developed areas; pollution of waters due to chemicals picked up in runoff; reduction of water filtering down to recharge aquifers, etc.

Good ag land zoned for new development and infrastructure in city and county LCPs that could be used for crops. Result: reduction in food and other agricultural production; reduction of ag jobs and productivity; pressure to develop ag to less productive land causing unnecessary damage to such land; provision of excuse to give up ag for the “final crop.”

Development of new shopping centers peripheral to downtown HMB. Result: loss or move out of downtown of retail businesses providing for everyday needs of populace; replacement of locally-owned businesses by out-of-town corporations or corporate franchises; hardscaping of large areas that is then heavily trafficed with vehicles and their associated problems.

And that’s just for starters.

Carl May

Comment 41
Sun, September 24, 2006 10:10am
Ray Olson
All my comments

Ok.. let’s see about reality:

Congestion worst than before = more people on the coast than ever before, while roadway bandwidth remaining as they have for probably 15 to 20 years.

Major new intersections with additional lanes and lights at Frenchman’s Creek and Coronado = Allowing people to cross highway 1 without loss of life

Third Middle Lane being added = marginal support of the traffic volume equals marginal solution. 4 lane hwy is a must to support the volume of traffic we see on the coast today. Just imagine how it would be if there were no middle lane today: added congestion, and traffic accidents.

Lower speed limit = to reduce the loss of life from trying to cross hwy 1 in safety. Again, the reality is that there are many more cars on the road today than ever before.

Now, how about the loss of life we see each year on devils slide because of no solution being delivered. This stretch of road has to be 4 lanes to support the traffic volumes. And, it has to be moved away from the cliff side.

Your points above makes one thing absolutely clear: Growth on the coast will NOT go away, no matter how much control is put in placed. This tactic of not improving our infrastructure for fear of “inducing growth” is only hurting the folks and businesses that currently live on the coast.
Ray

Comment 42
Sun, September 24, 2006 10:22am
Barry Parr
All my comments

Carl raises an important point about unintended consequences. We do a lousy job of understanding the impacts of seemingly logical incremental choices.  As we add lights and shopping centers, a huge, speedy tunnel, and other improvements, what are the ripples throughout the community?

What is this place going to look like in 15 years?  A new & improved Coastside, or an upmarket Pacifica? Or maybe those are the same thing.

We don’t seem to have learned anything about how this process works.

Comment 43
Sun, September 24, 2006 10:42am
Laura McHugh
All my comments

Start with a coherent and unified “vision,” as Barry alludes to. What will (not what you want…) the Coast and surrounding communities and economies look like in 15 to 50 years out? What are the elements of the Coast that we can all agree should be retained (public access to the water, development rates, etc.), then work back from that vision to a realistic plan to build toward a future.

Can (or will) the Planning Commission engage the services of qualified professional with this expertise to help guide us? They have the added benefit of a third party view.

This robust discussion is a good start on defining all of the issues and interests.

Comment 44
Sun, September 24, 2006 12:53pm
Ray Olson
All my comments

I could not agree more that we need a vision, something looking at 15-20 years from now, with steps on how to get us there. I think this tactic of stifling improvements to limit growth has shown that problems have just continued to exist, so we need to think differently.
Ray

Howdy—Comment on Smart Growth for Dummies

Obviously, I missed the primer on Smart Growth, and have not read ANY of the prerequisite books on the matter.  However, I have attended hundreds of meetings that concern living on the San Mateo coast for dozens of service agencies, and have a few personal observations that may be relevant to this discussion.

First.  Something is very different on the San Mateo Coast as compared with other places I have lived …Los Altos or neighboring Sunnyvale (The model city per Al Gore in his book, ReInventing Goverrnment) or Edwards AFB or Huntington Beach or six places in Texas.  Observation—Do we coastsiders want quality life for our community OR, as it appears, do some just want to keep other folk from living here?

Political Balkanization seems to violate a basic business principle regarding Economy of Scale. If coastsiders want to think small, How small can we go?  If some small service districts on the San Mateo coast (MWSD) are just 1600 customers, and if that is “our” ideal, should we go even smaller?

Each service area, of course, must have their own staffs, engineers, attorneys, boards, lawsuits, etc, etc. Observation—The huge costs of continuing with this small service paradigm is mind boggling.  Isn’t it time that we SMC coastsiders seek consolidation of water, fire, sewer, and other vital services?  We only have 16,284 registered voters altogether west of skyline…

In many meetings of special districts it is typically NOT clear as to the hierarchy of Laws, Ordinances, Agendas, Agencies, Authorities, or Consequences that affect applicants, citizens, rate payers, or other agencies…So is it any wonder that a myriad of outcomes are possible when the public interact with service districts, their boards, staffs, attorneys,  or other elected officials.  Observation—Wouldn’t it be helpful if elected officials and staff could provide a simple roadmap for their services, so that we, as a community, could all be more healthy, productive, stress-free, humane, and affluent?

Terry Gossett

Comment 46
Sun, September 24, 2006 4:50pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

I’m on the fence about consolidating districts, but I do know that economies of scale is a terrible argument.  The pursuit of economies of scale has made interaction with most corporations simply impossible. I’d argue that the economies are illusory at a certain point.

The closer your elected representatives live to you, the more responsive they’re likely to be.  The Coastside has zero influence on County government. The closest thing we have to a Coastside-wide government is CUSD. Does anybody find it responsive?

Hi Barry..

IF Economies of Scale are a terrible argument, how small a scale is Too small for a service district?  That is my question to you.

We are not talking about the titans of corporate America here..

We are talking about a small water sewer service district with 1600+ rate payers, MWSD….with their own staff, lawyer, engineers, trucks, lawsuits, buildings, land and offices on the pacific ocean, etc…

It would be really grand to even hear from one of the Board of Directors of MWSD on this matter, so we can interact with our representatives and their opinions on how they plan to take care of us and spend our money.

Thanks for the opportunity to have public discourse.

terry gossett
moss beach
rate payer to MWSD

I agree 100% with Barry’s 4:50 pm post.  Every point is right-on.

As to claimed economies of scale, I have yet to see any of the consolidation proponents supply dollar figures for cost savings.  These need to be real, supportable figures, not just huffing and puffing as is currently the case, or numbers pulled out of a hat.  GSD, MWSD, SAM, are all run rather lean already.  Staff aren’t sitting around staring at the ceiling, so a consolidation won’t result in fewer staff.  As to attorneys and general managers, I don’t see their workload going down in a consolidation since the number of customers would remain the same.  And keep in mind that GSD does not have a full-time manager anyway, so there’s little to save by trying to figure out how to eliminate that position, because that workload would have to be picked up by other staff in some way, and if all existing staff are fully occupied, who would do that work?  An assistant manager in the consolidated district?  Hmmm.  That would cost more than GSD is paying for a contract part-time manager.  Same for legal work, which in all Coastside agencies is done on an hourly basis by contract legal counsel, and since the workload won’t change, the billable hours won’t change.

The only monetary savings would be from eliminating some boards, and at 2/3 of one percent of GSD’s budget, I figure that our constituents probably are willing to keep paying that to retain local, responsive government.  It computes out to almost exactly 1 cent per day per household in the district.  Oh, I forgot about elections costs.  Make that a cent and a half per househould per day.  But if you want to justify consolidation on that basis alone, why don’t we eliminate all elected officials except for President?  I’m sure that there are a few people who would like that…

Comment 49
Sun, September 24, 2006 7:10pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

Terry:  I think you have to answer the question “How small a scale is too small for a service district?” because you’ seem to think the districts should be merged.

The argument that MWSD is the right size is that Montara/Moss Beach is distinct community,  we draw all our water from our watershed, it’s geographically compact enough for anyone who wants to run for the board, and we undertook to buy our water company.

Hey Barry and Leonard..

If you wish me to conduct a fiscal assessment of eonomy of scale regarding MWSD I will attempt it, however my basic question was that if one were to look across the state I would be surprised if many service districts for water and sewer are smaller than MWSD AND provide a worse level of service.

For further examples…I find a couple of points very interesting.

That there are 240+ private wells supporting home owners in Montara and Moss Beach, and less than a dozen public wells supporting 1600 rate payers within MWSD.

That there is no interest by the MWSD Board to link their water services to CCWD or NCCWD or to run a line through the tunnel or to try to store or save water from Montara Mountain.

That if one were to compare the rates and quality of water from CCWD to that of MWSD, it should be very elucidating, and might reflect either economy of scale or philosophies of operations.


Furthermore, that there is no commentary from any of the MWSD board on any of these areas of interest to the community.

best,

terry gossett

Comment 51
Mon, September 25, 2006 12:05am
Leonard Woren
All my comments

Terry, it’s obvious that you know nothing about running a sanitary district, have not looked at all at other district’s rates, and are just huffing and puffing.  I don’t know where my copy of the California Sewer Service Charge Report is at the moment, but from my recollection, there are many hundreds of sanitary districts in the state in the size range of GSD and MWSD.  (Side note:  half of them are Community Services Districts also providing other functions, usually parks and rec.)

Sewer costs in MWSD are higher than one might otherwise expect due to the terrain.  MWSD must run many lift stations.  A quick Google search on “california sewer service charge report” (without the quotes) turns up some interesting data points:

http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/vgn/images/portal/cit_609/15/29/726893313ALL-Pie%20Charts.pdf
showing that a number of San Mateo County-run districts have SSCs many times higher than MWSD’s.

http://sccounty01.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/bds/Govstream/BDSvData/non_legacy/Minutes/2005/20050614/PDF/040.pdf#search="california%20sewer%20service%20charge%20report&#x22;
showing Boulder Creek’s SSC at many times higher than MWSD’s.

http://www.ci.rohnert-park.ca.us/services/water.cfm
the City of Rohnert Park’s SSC is 50% higher than GSD’s.  Economy of scale?  Really?  A quick glance elsewhere on their web site hints that they’re 15-20 times the size of GSD.

Also note that the Sewer Authority Midcoastside (SAM) discharges into the Monterey Bay National Marine Santuary (MBNMS) with very stringent requirements on the discharge, which increases costs.

Come to think of it, the biggest possible local savings via economy of scale is probably the sewer plant, since treatment cost is the bulk of our cost.  But how about that, we’ve already consolidated the sewer plant!  And what may readers may not know is that GSD’s and MWSD’s collection system maintenance is performed by SAM under contract.  Economy of scale?  Done.

By the way, the “savings” from consolidating the two coastside fire districts will be virtually nothing—maybe a few thousand per year from having fewer directors and board meetings.  Compare that to a combined budget of $7M and one has to wonder what the point is.

So yes, Terry, I challenge you to show real non-trivial cost savings from consolidation.

Oh… if economy of scale through consolidation provides savings, you must not be looking at your Comcast bill.

Leonard, your refutation of Terry’s assumption is well researched and would be overwhelming if only your first sentence didn’t state “it’s obvious that you know nothing about running a sanitary district”.  That’s an absolutist statement that Mr. Gossett can easily refute by showing knowledge of something, anything, regarding sanitary districts. Your argument - and the tenor of this discussion - would have been much better served by the statement “You do not appear to have based your assumption on comparative research”.  Or, if you preferred to be testy about it, something like “shooting from the hip” could have been deployed. 
Absolutes undermine arguments and should be avoided if a discussion such as this one is to move forward.

Mike Ferreira

Comment 53
Mon, September 25, 2006 9:24am
Barry Parr
All my comments

Mike’s point is well taken. I should have asked Leonard to remove that sentence in moderation. 

If Coastsider is about anything, it’s about our right as citizens to challenge the authorities and question the experts. It’s always better to stand on the facts and not on your reputation as an authority. Of course, Leonard did follow through with lots of hard data.

Comment 54
Mon, September 25, 2006 9:45am
Mary Bordi
All my comments

Sorry folks, I’ve been away on a fact finding mission or I would have insinuated myself into this topic sooner. (Miss me, anyone?

I did visit some interesting places that are dealing with growth (obviously I wasn’t in the Great Plains area that Carl mentioned in his Sept 19, 12:04 AM posting).

On the subject at hand, I found this online:

Hi Leonard…

Wow… And I thought I was passionate about this subject. 

Anyway, let me try to respond to your points, which were good.  In a way I think you made a good case for sewer consolidation with references to SAM.  If one were to read the Joint Power Agreement that formed SAM it states “..it would be in the best interest of each of the parties hereto, (HMB, MSD, GSD) for a single representative organization to be established…”  that quote was referring to sewer issues, but I maintain that it may be equally true for water, or , at least, is worth considering.

Regarding your comments on costs I believe that it may be misleading to not include the considerable costs on each of our annual tax bills for both water and sewer for ratepayers to MWSD.

Another possible cost saving of consolidation might include consolidation of office space, and the very valuable coastside property on which MWSD could be sold or made into a park.

Leonard, change does not have to be bad.  It appears to me that you are happy with the sewer consolidation with SAM…so am I.

terry

Mike, thanks for the constructive criticism.  I try to remember that, but as you see, sometimes I forget.  You wrote “That�s an absolutist statement that Mr. Gossett can easily refute by showing knowledge of something, anything, regarding sanitary districts.”  Amusingly enough, he hasn’t bothered to attempt even that minimal level.  Nor do I expect that he will.

Notice that we see from Terry’s followup that he is still using only vague generalities, never providing any actual numbers to support his unsupportable claims.

Terry wrote “Another possible cost saving of consolidation might include consolidation of office space, and the very valuable coastside property on which MWSD could be sold or made into a park.”  Again, Terry supplies no numbers.  I believe that MWSD’s office building is completely filled by their existing staff, so where would the additional staff go?  And while the suggestion of a park there sounds good, there are reasons that I won’t go into regarding why it would be very difficult/expensive to do so.

As to the “best interest” statement that Terry quotes without reference, it’s from the SAM Joint Powers Authority Agreement which created SAM.  SAM was a shotgun wedding, and describing all the politics involved is a book-sized discussion.  Regardless, since operational consolidation has been achieved via SAM, I don’t understand how there is any further benefit from actual consolidation of the districts.  So, Terry, that’s why I keep asking for actual numbers which you continue to avoid supplying.

As to how well the consolidation (SAM) is working, I should just leave it at “shotgun wedding.”  The baby is fine; the parents generally manage to speak to each other civilly.  Please don’t mischaracterize my previous posting as “being happy with the consolidation (SAM).”  I’m simply pointing out that any cost savings through consolidation have already taken place.

As for any lessons from SAM being applicable to the water districts, I don’t see how.  Consolidation of water treatment plants wouldn’t make sense.  If it did, wouldn’t CCWD consolidate their two treatment plants?  District consolidation wouldn’t result in any reduction of the number of field personnel or treatment plant personnel, and office staff workload is primarily based on the number of customers, which wouldn’t change.  So again, Terry, if you think that consolidation would provide benefits, please state specifics.

Terry wrote: “Regarding your comments on costs I believe that it may be misleading to not include the considerable costs on each of our annual tax bills for both water and sewer for ratepayers to MWSD.”  I have no idea what you’re trying to imply.  “May be misleading.”?  Well, that’s vague enough.  I used budget numbers, not numbers from any specific revenue source, so I’m implicitly including tax money.  So please explain how my statements “may be misleading.”

It seems to me that most proponents of consolidation of sewer and water are those who are unhappy with the current MWSD and GSD boards and happy with the CCWD board.  But what makes you think that anything will change with consolidation?  Consolidating GSD & MWSD for sewer will almost certainly result in a stronger environmental bent for the combined agency.  Consolidating CCWD & MWSD will very likely result in tipping the scales back to an environmentalist board.

I’ll close by repeating my mantra:  Show us the numbers.

P.S.  Mary’s “Dummies” book cover is hilarious.

Comment 57
Mon, September 25, 2006 1:12pm
Bob Ptacek
All my comments

Terry your first posting on this matter was Sunday 9/24 at 4:34 pm by 8:44pm, having not heard from any board member, you claimed it was very interesting “that there is no commentary from any of the MWSD board on any of these areas of interest to the community.” Obviously attempting to imply there is some negative or hidden reason about board member not responding.

I have always been more than willing to talk to you and have never avoided discussing facts with you. But implying that I have to do that in less than 250 minutes before you think I have some nefarious intention is egregious.

You make baseless claims and non founded accusation to create a spin that serves absolutely no benefit to the community such as “That there is no interest by the MWSD Board to link their water services to CCWD or NCCWD or to run a line through the tunnel or to try to store or save water from Montara Mountain.” Even if you only read our agendas you would know that we are actively trying to bring more water resources from a new well online and that we are working actively on a project to significantly increasing our storage capacity. I would assume with your accusations of what we are not doing, you will be one of the greatest supporters for our active efforts to increasing the resources to benefit the community. And with readily available data of cost of installation pipe per foot and cost of water per acre foot, you should be able to tell the community how much it will cost to connect and continue to operate a connection to another source north or south so that the community can evaluate the total expense. And if the majority of the community want to do that, then I’d be more than happy to proceed. But I’m not willing to commit millions of dollars or increase rates for the sole purpose to satisfy your need to do something different.

When I need to sometimes facilitate meetings, I use a ground rule that anything can be removed from the table but it must be replaced with something else so the subject matter experts can re-evaluate. Simply removing something because one doesn’t like it without a replacement to evaluate, is a waste of time for everyone at the meeting. So if you have something other than not doing what we’re doing with details, I will be glad to sit and go over that with you at a location of your choosing.

Bob Ptacek
Member of Board – Montara Water and Sanitary District.

Comment 58
Mon, September 25, 2006 3:48pm
Nate Serdy
All my comments

This is a fun thread!  But the conversation about water and sewer districts is leading me astray from the original topic posted.  Can someone put the two together and tie it to Mr.Bacon’s initial theory?  How can they be connected?

Thanks for all the numbers and facts!

Comment 59
Mon, September 25, 2006 4:31pm
Bob Ptacek
All my comments

Nate,

Excellent observation. Mr Bacon�s original posting had to do with growth philosophies. And then there were additional postings that dealt with opinions for both sides of the argument./philosophy.

For some reason, a tangent happened that brings in operations of special districts. I for one have always believed growth philosophies and direction are a zoning and planning topics, not an operational topic. And I have consistently stuck to that when any zoning and planning discussion come up.

I do not feel that there should be a connection between zoning/planning and operations. There are plenty of avenues for that discussion, but just not in the operation realm. And that�s the main reason I haven�t participated in any zoning/planning discussion on this thread. I only now replied because of the implication that not responding has some interesting meaning.


Bob Ptacek
Member of Board � Montara Water and Sanitary District.

Hi Nate and Bob—

I guess some may say I led this thread astray, but I thought I was directly responding and adding to to Don’s Smart Growth #4 Political Balkanization is Inimical to Smart Growth…and one of his comments ...“CCWD and MWSD water systems should be fully integrated and connect at the Devils Slide tunnel with NCCWD”

I agree with that assessment, and “agree” with Leonard that SAM has served the community well integrating sewer ops between HMB, EG and MSD.

I could also add that it appears that some level of integration is ongoing within our Fire Departments on the coastside.

I would like to thank Bob Ptacek for entering this discussion and will meet with him off-line as he has so generously offered so that we can have a more fruitful dialog.

I applaud Bob’s efforts for new wells and more storage, but also strongly support Don’s reasoning for his comments as well.  It is simply not clear to me why MWSD continues to run our water system in isolation from our neighbors, with little apparent interest in consolidation or integration, but I will certainly learn more when I meet with Mr Ptacek.

terry gossett

Comment 61
Mon, September 25, 2006 10:53pm
Leonard Woren
All my comments

Terry writes “It is simply not clear to me why MWSD continues to run our water system in isolation from our neighbors, with little apparent interest in consolidation or integration,”.

I don’t follow MWSD affairs very closely since by and large it’s not my concern, but I’m going to give short answers to Terry’s comment.

1) A pipeline from MWSD to NCCWD would be very expensive.  This has been mentioned at multiple MWSD board meetings.  I don’t remember the cost of building a new water pipeline, but I’m sure it’s more than small sewer mains which cost at least $150/foot.  I’ll let Terry look up the distance and the actual cost and do the simple arithmetic.  After he has an actual dollar number, he can then explain where the money will come from.

2) CCWD can’t legally sell Hetch Hetchy water outside of the district, and MWSD can’t join the H H system because it’s already over-subscribed.

Comment 62
Tue, September 26, 2006 7:56am
Bob Ptacek
All my comments

Terry,

While I look forward to our offline discussion, I can’t leave incomplete or partial dangling statements sitting in a large public forum unaddressed.

While consolidation of public services might appear to satisfy one need, there are many factors and financial impacts that have to also be addressed beyond the simple “ why don’t we just……etc”. Leonard pointed out at least two that are pretty significant and can’t be ignored.

Removing something that one either doesn’t like or thinks isn’t working right, without a comprehensive replacement is not productive and doesn’t resolve anything. (And “why not consolidate” is not a comprehensive plan).

As I indicated offline that we’ll probably be able to meet next week and like you, I look forward to our productive dialog.

Bob Ptacek
Member of Board- Montara Water and Sanitary District.