Letter: LAFCo Denies Midcoast Parks and Recreation Powers


By on Thu, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008—San Mateo County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) today, in a surprise move, overruled its own Executive Officer’s recommendation to reduce Half Moon Bay’s "sphere of influence" to the current city limits, as supported by the Midcoast Community Council, and instead left in place a 1963 determination that gives Half Moon Bay a sphere of influence including the entire coastside.

The only municipal service that Half Moon Bay currently provides outside the city limits, to residents of the Midcoast, is park and recreation by allowing Midcoast residents to have access to HMB’s recreational programs. And for many Midcoast residents, HMB’s services are a meager substitute for local community parks and nearby recreation opportunities.

The entire purpose of LAFCo is to guide delivery of services through adoption of spheres of influence, which define the area in which each city or special district may offer services and delimit the anticipated future boundaries of each city or special district. LAFCo prevents duplication of service delivery by authorizing only one city or district to have active powers over a given territory.

Because Half Moon Bay is already delivering recreation services in its sphere of influence, it appears any proposal to form a community services district in the Midcoast for the same purpose is now dead, and would be rejected out of hand as a duplication of existing services.

Oddly, LAFCo spent a great deal of time pondering which water district was best able to serve a small area currently outside of the jurisdictional boundaries of both Montara Water and Sanitary District and Coastside County Water District, but overruled the LAFCo Executive Officer’s recommendation on Half Moon Bay’s sphere of influence without any consideration at all of whether or not Half Moon Bay had any plans for more extensive park and recreation services or financing in place to extend services within its sphere of influence, as a step toward future annexation.

As an interested and relatively well-informed observer, I’m really quite surprised by the outcome. It’s a shame, because so many people have worked hard for Midcoast parks and recreation, and now the continuation of an obsolete sphere of influence for Half Moon Bay may extinguish those hopes.

Paul Perkovic

Comment 1
Thu, October 16, 2008 1:40pm
Carl May
All my comments

Just another lump in the slop bucket containing the county’s failures to do what is most appropriate for the physical character of our specific communities, most efficient, most cost-effective, and, first in importance, most in keeping with what the knowledgeable citizens of the unincorporated midcoast want for themselves.

But, Paul, I find your use of the words “obsolete sphere of influence” somewhat inaccurate. HMB’s sphere of influence over the communities to its north was nothing more than a political contrivance from its start and never proper for our actual circumstances. When I moved here almost 35 years ago, I first thought the HMB sphere of influence designation over our distant and very different towns was simply a reflection of ignorance and, maybe, stupidity on the part of government. (Newcomers tend to see only the superficial surface until they experience the games being played with their lives and homes.) Of course, it didn’t take too many years to realize the sphere of influence was a calculated designation for subjecting us to political manipulation by outsiders and to boost the activities of narrow special financial interests in our area.

LAFCo Adopts Spheres of Influence for Coastside
Promoting Regional Water Planning for Coastal Communities and Park and Recreation Services for the Unincorporated Midcoast District

Redwood City, Calif. –The San Mateo Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo)  has adopted spheres of influence (plans for boundaries and governance ) for San Mateo County’s urban coastal area including the City of Half Moon Bay and the Unincorporated Midcoast, that encourage and promote consolidation of special districts to create both a multi-service district to provide for park and recreation facilities and services to the unincorporated midcoast and a regional water and sewer agency to facilitate more efficient service delivery and a safe and reliable water supply, including recycling for Half Moon Bay and the unincorporated communities. On October 15, the San Mateo Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), an independent Commission charged with regulating boundaries of cities and special districts and conducting studies of government agencies, adopted spheres of influence consistent with previously adopted determinations that identified the study area as a subregion isolated from other urban areas that could best be served by a single water and sewer agency, or a single water district and a single sewer district. The area is now served by three sewer agencies,  two water districts and a joint powers agency.

The sphere of influence decision followed preparation and adoption of a municipal service review report examining services provided by the City of Half Moon Bay, Coastside County Water District, Granada Sanitary District, Montara Water and Sanitary District and the County of San Mateo.  The report identified a significant lack of park and recreation facilities and storm drain infrastructure and funding in the Unincorporated Midcoast; sewer and water service delivery for a population of 25,000 involving a total of five agencies complicating regional planning; and limits on water supply that merit partnerships and consolidation to work toward regional solutions.

The sphere of influence report, built on the previous work and discussion generated by the Municipal Service Review, is consistent with the County’s Local Coastal program and promotes implementation of the County’s Midcoast Action Plan for Parks and Recreation.  Specifically, the Commission amended the spheres of influence to indicate that water and sewer districts should be consolidated into a single coastside agency and that a community services district should be formed for the unincorporated midcoast for park and recreation services.  Granada Sanitary District and Montara Water and Sanitary District and Coastside County Water District were assigned spheres of consolidation and the sphere of influence of the City of Half Moon Bay was reaffirmed to include the unincorporated area.  A first step toward consolidation contained in the report and supported by some speakers at the hearing was a consolidation of Montara Water and Sanitary District and Granada Sanitary district to form a community services district to provide water, sewer, garbage collection and parks and recreation.

The October 15 LAFCo hearing was attended by representatives from the water and sewer agencies, City of Half Moon Bay and residents supporting and opposing consolidation and advocating for an active park and recreation program in the unincorporated area. Montara Water and Sanitary District representatives stated that the District supports consolidation but opposed the LAFCo staff recommendation to exclude territory south of MWSD boundaries from the MWSD sphere of influence. LAFCo Executive Officer, Martha Poyatos, recommended that the area containing the southern portion of the Half Moon Bay Airport and adjacent public and privately owned lands remain in Coastside County Water District sphere of influence based on the previous LAFCo decision placing it in CCWD sphere, the MWSD water moratorium and ability of CCWD to provide service.

Commissioner Howard Jones stated he was concerned about park and recreation and has heard over the years that everyone wants park and recreation. “The real question,” Jones stated, “is not what do the directors of Montara Water and Sanitary District want but what do the residents want? Do they want park and recreation or do they want to preserve these two small districts at all costs?”

The Commission voted unanimously to reaffirm the City of Half Moon Bay sphere of influence to include the unincorporated Midcoast, amend the spheres of influence of Montara Water and Sanitary District, Granada Sanitary District and Coastside County Water District to that of consolidation, to provide for a regional water and sewer agency and a community services district in the unincorporated Midcoast to park and recreation services. LAFCo Chairman Bob Craig remarked after the meeting that the Commission would now welcome a joint application by Montara Water and Sanitary District and Granada Sanitary District to consolidate into a community services district in order to maximize resources and add the much needed park and recreation services.

For more information about San Mateo LAFCo, the Municipal Service Review and the Sphere of Influence report:


Comment 3
Fri, October 17, 2008 4:08pm
Carl May
All my comments

Again, the Imperial Outside telling us what is best for us when we have already shown for decades we can do much better for ourselves. San Mateo County LAFCO demonstrates no depth of knowledge of coastside communities and the special districts that serve them.
Whenever they do studies of us curious coastside denizens and our strange (to someone in Redwood City) habitat, it has always been with outside consultants unfamiliar with our communities and geography. The reports of these outfits have always contained major errors of fact and conclusion, reading like a hypothetical place invented by over-the-hill bureaucrats seeking to have their own pre-conclusions justified. The one involved in our latest periodic LAFCO review was no better. From this set of LAFCO decisions, we see the county hegemon behaving as usual.

Fact is, the MWSD and GSD have long served our communities and are run by people who know our local circumstances well. The accumulated knowledge of some of the district directors we have re-elected repeatedly is a major asset of the districts. Where does Howard Jones get his attitude in deciding he knows us better? Don’t the outcomes of our votes in the form of the district directors who represent us mean anything? Does he even know of the several polls of local citizens that showed our community preferences for parks and recreation? (The county’s recent politically trumped-up parks and rec committee—appointed by outside county politicians, of course—turned the order of local preferences almost upside down.)

Time to see if we can do anything for governance of our communities outside the county’s unrealistic and politically bent LAFCO. The state law that created LAFCO agencies originally came into being to form hurdles to local self-governance, the better for larger governments to maintain or expand their rule. Most of the smaller cities in California could not incorporate today under its inhibitions, no matter how much better they are at serving their citizens than the larger, less informed governments that would operate in their stead. What we see is an outside political power game that is on the other end of the spectrum from “what the residents want.”