Jones and Larimer blame Coastsiders for our own lousy middle school


Posted by on Tue, May 3, 2005

Jim Larimer and Ken Jones are back again with another column in the Half Moon Bay Review on why we need Wavecrest and what developers can do for the Coastside.  ("Honey? Is this LAST week’s paper?") 

On Wednesday, their duet had backup vocals from a signed column by Review managing editor Clay Lambert. Clay amplified their point with the strawman argument that "developers aren’t devils", illustrated with a story about the mistreatment of a developer in Palo Alto, where he lives.

I’ve submitted a Matter of Opinion column to the Review on why Jones and Larimer’s idea of using development to fund the building of amenities is bad public policy.  I won’t spoil it by recounting that argument here.  I would like to take a look at why this idea hasn’t worked on the Coastside.

Jones and Larimer believe the Coastside should be developed the same way as everywhere else:

Communities across America use development as a method to fix existing infrastructure problems and expand community resources. Developers across America build public roads, libraries, schools, community centers, parks and sports complexes in return for the right to earn a profit by building homes and commercial properties.

That assumes we want the Coastside to be like everywhere else. Development-driven infrastructure creation is one reason for the increasing uniformity of American communities. Most of us live here because the Coastside is different from what’s on the other side of the hill.  It’s an accident of history that it hasn’t happened here already. If we’re going to keep this community unique, we need to find a model of development that is unique.

Jones and Larimer say that Wavecrest is a good model for development on the Coastside:

The original Wavecrest vision included mixed development that benefits everyone. The developer agreed to provide substantial ocean-front property for a community park and open space. The developer agreed to improve and then donate the baseball fields known as Smith Field to the community. They agreed to donate the land for a Boys and Girls Club, and sell the school district property for a new school at a discounted price.

That would be great, except the land is already open space. Wavecrest doesn’t plan to "provide" open space, so much as leave the wettest part of our existing open space undeveloped, after the rest of it is covered with houses and roads. If the community wants ball fields and a Boy’s and Girl’s Club, let’s pay for them ourselves. Yes, the developers did agree to sell us land for a new middle school, but the school district already owns a superior site for a middle school. It’s called Cunha.

Jones and Larimer say that Coastsiders are responsible for us not getting this great deal.

Our community needs solutions to problems not obfuscation and obstructionism. The next time you drop off your seventh grader in front of an inadequate 60-year-old school, think about what we could have with the $27 million we have in the bank.

Every time I drop my seventh grader off at our dilapidated middle school (and when I pick her up in the afternoon), I think about what $27 million could have done to make it a great place to go to school. Actually, it used to be $30 million, but that’s another story.

I agree that improvements to our middle school have been held up by obfuscation. Our school board stubbornly clung to the promises of a developer who couldn’t develop. Just last month, Wavecrest’s developer failed to inform the school district that it was delaying its wetlands delineation at the last minute for yet another six weeks.

A better middle school has not been held up by obstructionists. Wavecrest doesn’t have a problem with local frog-huggers. They have a problem with the California Coastal Commission, the California Department of Fish & Game, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Endangered Species Act.

If you’re tired of seeing the same names and the same arguments in the Review week after week and want to see another, more positive vision of what the Coastside should be, it’s time to write the Review and tell them your vision of the Coastside. If you think the Half Moon Bay City Council is actually moderate, you should write the Review and tell them there’s a middle ground between the developers and the no-growthers. If you think the Review’s scrutiny of public agencies looks unbalanced write the Review and ask them to investigate what’s happening at the school board and the Coastside County Water District, and not just report what these agencies decide.

Finally, Clay Lambert missed the point of his own Parable of the Victimized Developer. Just because someone wants to kill you, it doesn’t mean you’re doing the right thing.

Hear Hear!!  I sent a letter to the editor the moment I read the piece with much the same argument.

I’m curious. How many times have Jones and/or Larimer been given op-ed space in the Half Moon Bay Review over the past few years? Compared to other opinionators? And what about the Review’s onetime guru Chris Mickelson? Let’s, please, not forget Chris. How much free space has he or his ghostwriter filled?

I have to wonder: Is this a case of the Jones/Larimer/Mickelson well-oiled machine being the only one in town to fill unsold ad space? Or, is the Review turning down submissions from the opposing side?

I know there are people in HMB city government who feel so burned by the local paper they won’t speak to it anymore. I hate that they’re not represented and I hate what it says about so-called community journalism, but I can’t blame them.

After 28 years in Half Moon Bay I recently moved to a community I prefer not to name, where people have deep, economically based differences, but for the most part speak to each other. There’s a move toward gated communities for the royalty and Big Box stores for the serfs, but so far it’s not happening on a big scale. One thing that amazes me is that this small, not very wealthy part of the state (pop. 45,000 before the students leave for summer) supports one daily newspaper, at least three weeklies, and numerous monthly and quarterly shoppers. There is still no equivalent of Coastsider here, and I’d love it if there were. But even without an online presence, I don’t think people feel screwed by the local media here the way I did on the Coastside.




As far as I know, Jones and Larimer and were published because they took the trouble to write. I’ve submitted two opinion columns to the Review and both were accepted. The second one is in the queue. Larimer/Jones got a color mug on their piece. I got a color mug on mine in December.

However (1) this L/J column is a rehash of their last one, and (2) columns get different treatment depending on the author.  Clay wrote a column supporting the Larimer/Jones piece in the same edition, and Debra write a column taking a cheap shot at a column by Jim Grady on the same day his appeared.

Part of what I’m trying to do is to get folks other than the usual suspects to speak up in the Review.  The problem we have right now is analogous to national politics, where the pro-developers are articulating an optimistic vision and the other side is defined by what they oppose (“no/slow-growthers”) and not by what their vision of what our community should be like.