Beachwood—Create a sustainable destination


Posted by on Mon, August 24, 2009

I'd like to discuss an opportunity for this community to turn the Beachwood fiasco into a sustainable attraction that helps our economy, and maybe get federal funds to do it. Why not transform Beachwood into a Sustainability Lab?

With potential exhibits on solar, wind, and biomass power, water conservation, fisheries preservation, organic farming, etc. the Coastside Sustainability Lab could become a destination in itself, bringing school groups and interested adults into the area where they can spend money at our existing businesses.

The federal government is looking to fund green energy initiatives, perhaps our congressional delegation can help us secure funding where our state legislators could not. We'd have to design it so it wouldn't be an eyesore, but such an attraction could promote healthy, informed lifestyle choices and possibly help us recoup some of the money we've already poured down the drain.

It's just an idea, extremely far from implementation. But let's start the discussion and see where it takes us. I think the idea has more potential than leasing the field to another farmer, but it would require a unified effort that's not very characteristic of this community. Can we do it?

Steve Slomka

A sustainability lab is an excellent idea!  I hope a self-guided nature walk with educational information about native plants could be part of the sustainability lab.  I imagine a boardwalk located over the wetland.  The boardwalk would be thoughtfully placed in a location that would do minimal damage to the environment and wildlife. 

It would be awesome if a classroom was included in the Lab for BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable MIni-Farming Workshops.

Comment 2
Mon, August 24, 2009 10:30pm
Carl May
All my comments

Step 1: learn what “sustainable” means.


Thanks for the input. I’d suggest you check either of these websites for a more comprehensive discussion of sustainability.

Comment 4
Tue, August 25, 2009 3:34pm
Carl May
All my comments

Thanks, Steve, for the links pointing out efforts that use the in-vogue term but avoid the meaning of “sustainable.”

Hello Carl,

Good point, Beachwood is a living sustainability lab.  Why build a greenwashing “sustainability” center?

Perhaps it’s better to renovate one of the warehouse buildings in Princeton into a working Sustainability Lab.

If HMB city government decides the property is unacceptable as open space I hope they will consider the site for a boardwalk to educate people about native plants.  This trail would hopefully be well designed with minimal impact on the ecosystem. 

The plants, animals and micro-organisms found at Beachwood are functioning fine as a sustainable biological system.  The ecosystem would not benefit from development. 

If a choice is made between building homes and/or commercial development I prefer Steve Slomka’s Sustainability Lab idea.

I’m not clear on what type of development is allowed at Beachwood.  Maybe someone could explain what can and can’t be developed at Beachwood.  Will any and all development end in another big lawsuit?

Comment 6
Wed, August 26, 2009 5:10pm
Carl May
All my comments

My caution is not against Steve’s idea but against calling projects or activities “sustainable” when they clearly aren’t. Like the pop word “green,” a lot is given the semantic mantle of sustainability when it has little to do with anything that can be supported and continue indefinitely. Hereabouts, the county’s “sustainability” program is particularly galling in its political/governmental misuse and misdirection.

Being honest about employing genuine sustainability as a feature of all sorts of proposals that impact both our natural and developed environments would be a big leap forward, so I’m not at all opposed to the concept. But that honesty requires an objective look at such factors as resources, growth, and population, so I’m not holding my breath.

Just for clarification, I need to discuss the concept of “sustainability”.  SSMC’s foundation rests on the United Nation’s 1987 Brundtland Commission, [the which first defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Hopefully, the following will clarify the definition of the term “sustainability”.

The Brundtland Commission, formally the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), known by the name of its Chair Gro Harlem Brundtland, was convened by the United Nations in 1983. The commission was created to address growing concern “about the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and natural resources and the consequences of that deterioration for economic and social development.”

In establishing the commission, the UN General Assembly recognized that environmental problems were global in nature and determined that it was in the common interest of all nations to establish policies for sustainable development.

In 1987 the Brundtland Report, also known as Our Common Future, alerted the world to the urgency of making progress toward economic development that could be sustained without depleting natural resources or harming the environment. Published by an international group of politicians, civil servants and experts on the environment and development, the report provided a key statement on sustainable development, defining it as:

“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainable San Mateo County (SSMC) was established in 1992 by a group of San Mateo County citizens who sought to create a broader awareness of the sustainability concept. In 1996 SSMC began operating as a non-profit group under the administration of the Tides Center. In 2002, SSMC became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit public benefit corporation dedicated to educating the community about sustainability.

Sustainable San Mateo County is dedicated to the long-term health of our county’s economy, environment and social equity.

Relevant websites include:

A greenfield site with wetlands and endangered species habitat as well as a significant view corridor might not be the best place to build a sustainability lab.

The city council is determined to develop the site because it’s worth millions of dollars—although last year they told us it was worthless. There will almost certainly be houses built at Beachwood. The only question is how many and how much land will they occupy.

If the site were to be developed, is there a way to do it in a way that could be described as “sustainable” in any meaningful sense of the word?

Viewed from a regional perspective and using any reasonable definition of smart growth, it’s hard to see how any single-family housing development at Beachwood can be considered anything other than sprawl. This is because there are no nearby jobs for people buying million-dollar homes, no public transportation, and the highways are already jammed.

I don’t think it’s impossible, but based on the back-and-forth, it seems close. The following was clipped from Inside San Jose:

Council Approves Clean Tech Center
Aug 26, 2009, by Laura Fishman Politics Comments (2)

The San Jose city council voted to begin the process of establishing a Clean Tech Demonstration Center at yesterday’s city council meeting, and it might not cost the city much money at all. The council decided to start this process by adopting a resolution authorizing the city manager to apply for federal assistance. Sources would include up to $4 million from the U.S Department of Commerce and up to $5 million from the U.S Department of Energy.

The SJ item seems like a good idea from their perspective as a tech center with an uncertain economic and environmental future.

Part of my problem with the discussion is you haven’t defined what “sustainability” means in the context of Half Moon Bay. So, rather than a general definition, it should consider the nature of the place, its population, its economic base, and its goals for the future. I’m having a hard time seeing how Beachwood fits into that vision, even if you ignore for the moment the fact that the site is so politically toxic it would be impossible to bring the community together around that site.