Jones and Larimer blame Coastsiders for our own lousy middle school
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.