Edition 5 June 2022


Introduction – Suzanne Moore, Pacifica Voice Editor

The City Council has agendized an appeal of the General Plan (GP) and Sharp Park Specific Plan (SPSP) at their Council meeting MON 7/11, and we invite our readers to participate. The GP and SPSP are the resources which will guide future development, and they embody the vision for Pacifica’s future. The challenges of our community are extensive, and our voices are needed.

In this Special Edition of Pacifica Voice, we present articles that raise our awareness and suggest improvements to the GP and SPSP. Please take a moment to consider the concerns.

Here is the listed link and the agenda. Please note that the study session starts at 5 PM, and the public hearing on the appeal is the only other agenda item. It is unclear when the appeal will be heard, but we encourage everyone to join at the 5 PM study session. Please refer to the City Council agenda for the city staff attachments.

City Council
Special Meeting
7/11/2022 5:00 PM
Zoom Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84059733437 Dial-in: 1-669-900-6833 | WebinarID: 840 5973 3437   Alt 1: https://www.cityofpacifica.org/LiveStream   Alt 2: Cable Channel, 26

Thoughts on Pacifica General Plan update and Housing – Nancy Tierney

As we review the city’s General Plan (GP) update and prepare for the update to the Housing Element (HE), we should consider the essential role of housing to the GP and to Pacifica.  Cities throughout the state are bound to provide additional housing units, i.e., Regional Housing Needs Allocation.  Pacifica’s allocation of 1892 units needs to be accounted for in the HE 6th cycle, due January 31, 2023.  Some cities on the Peninsula with more commercial development and access to public transit, are developing both mixed use and residential facilities with hundreds of units, including a portion of affordable units.  Attention to the balance between jobs and housing is an ongoing but necessary challenge to avoid a sizable influx of commuters from affordable housing in outlying areas. 

With a smaller commercial base in Pacifica, the imbalance exists, though on a smaller scale than in some Bay area cities.  According to the Sustainable San Mateo County 25th Annual Indicators report on Equitable Housing (October 2021), the County comes close to a healthy jobs to housing balance ratio of 1.5, i.e.., 1.5 jobs for every housing unit.  However, in the period from 2010 to 2019, looking at new housing units, the ratio was 11:1, i.e., 11 new jobs for every 1 new housing unit.  Focusing on affordable housing, especially very low and low income, reveals an even greater imbalance. The GP and HE updates should identify appropriate sites for new housing and focus on infill development near shopping areas and access to public transit.  In addition, plans should provide for different types of multi-unit housing, including temporary housing.  Beyond the physical sites, different housing management models are needed.  In a recent webinar on Homelessness hosted by State Senator Joshua Becker, panelists discussed examples throughout the state.  The Homekey program, with nearby facilities in Half Moon Bay and Redwood City, provides interim housing along with wraparound services.  Life Moves delivers interim and supportive housing, including safe parking programs.  Dignity Moves also provides interim supportive housing, including portable units. Both programs take advantage of government-owned land as a site for temporary housing.  We must acknowledge that the majority of homeless people are local

Another recent webinar from SPUR (San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research) on A New Social Contract for Housing in California offered this advice to cities:

  • Fix the politics of housing.
  • Remaking housing involves people, finance, industries, land use.
  • Stand against exploitation and displacement.
  • Embrace true diversity in housing; recognize importance of temporary housing.
  • Ownership matters, as in some form of resident control.
  • Transform the housing economy.

What this means for Pacifica is rethinking housing types and funding models.  We can achieve a just and equitable housing plan, at the same time preserving our coastal areas and hillsides.

Landslides, Fire Hazards and an Appeal of Pacifica’s General Plan on July 11, 2022 – Christine Boles

Christine is an Architect and Candidate for City Council, District 2
Re-published from Coastside Buzz with permission of the author

2-1/2 years ago I started reviewing a project know as Vista Mar that was to be built on a steep hill above my home on Monterey Road. I am a licensed architect and based on my 30+ years of experience, I would have expected our Planning Department to have required a thorough geotechnical report to make sure the project could be built safely before approving it. Nope – only two tests were done on the flat part of the site, right by the sidewalk.  Researching public records, I found a soils report from a previous project for this site by the same engineer, Javier Chavarria, 12 borings on the hill that found 4 landslides, one of them noted as active. The city’s geotechnical engineer of the time required digging test pits to analyze them further before even considering a project on this site. That project was abandoned with complaints by the applicant that the city’s engineer was too strict.

We neighbors pointed all this out to the Planning Commission, and then to the City Council at our appeal hearing. We even hired our own experts but were ignored and the project was approved. We were so concerned about our safety that we sued the city. We knew the developer was responsible for paying the city’s legal fees, so we were not hurting the city.

We were recently vindicated, with the judge agreeing with us that we raised significant issues that triggered a more comprehensive environmental review process. The city tried to discredit me professionally, saying I was biased as I live near the project, but the judge soundly rejected their arguments, as well as their arguments trying to discredit our geological, hydrological, air quality and biology experts. The law is clear, when there are conflicting experts, an Environmental (EIR) is required.

As part of my research for this project, I learned that Pacifica had experienced 475 landslides in 1982, including one on Oddstad Boulevard in Park Pacifica that killed three children asleep in their beds. Hundreds of properties were damaged, several destroyed. The city hired a geotechnical engineer, Howard Donley, in 1983 to study these landslides, and he wrote a report with detailed policy recommendations and called for new landslide maps to be drawn.  More of these rain induced, debris flow landslides happened in 1998 and 2016, and at least two more just this winter. The danger is still very present. In fact, Pacifica is USGS’s poster child for these types of landslides.

Fast forward 40 years and finally the city produced maps as part of the General Plan (GP) update. The first one lacked data on the north side of town. I pointed them to better data and was ignored. Then I spoke with the agency responsible for the data, the California Department of Conservation, and they agreed with me that their data set did not include us in Sharp Park, Manor, Edgemar, Westview or Fairmont.

At the Planning Commission hearing for the GP, Deputy Planning Director Murdock admitted the maps were incomplete, and said they were working on new maps. But the Planning Commission approved the GP anyway, oddly before even seeing the new maps…

New landslide maps were released about three weeks ago, just before the City Council’s first hearing on the General Plan. They are still wrong and are missing major landslides, even the recent one in 2017 that closed Highway One for almost an entire day.

I appealed the Planning Commission’s approval of the GP so that I could present the information visually to help everyone understand. Besides proper maps, I will also advocate for policies to be added to the General Plan, such as the need for geotechnical reports to study the hillsides above and below a project’s site boundaries, which is not typically done. Oddly, these policies were in our 1983 Safety Element that was completely revised after the 1982 events, but are missing now.

The Planning Commissioners must be given the reports and tools they need to thoroughly review a project before it is approved. An accurate understanding of hazards is a very basic, critical part of what is needed. Just look at the development projects already in the pipeline in Pacifica, Pacifica Highlands across from the quarry, Linda Mar Woods, and who knows what at the end of Cape Breton. All of these are on sites with previous landslides and are in high fire danger areas.

And speaking of fire, longtime Pacifica resident Mark Hubbell is joining me in the appeal about fire issues. The fire map in the General Plan is blank in the city limits by the way. BLANK. The 2014 Draft General Plan fire map has much different information, and this information was adopted by the City Council as part of the new Local Coastal Land Use Plan in 2020. Now they’re trying to say it is not accurate…

Please tune in to the Pacifica City Council hearing on July 11 on zoom at about 5:30pm (there is one agenda item ahead at 5). Raise your voice, in written or oral comments and let the Council know that they cannot continue to ignore our basic safety. 

Hopefully the City Council will listen this time as we argue for the safety of residents all over Pacifica. 

More Significant and Unavoidable Traffic – Vicki Sundstrom

Re-published from Coastside Buzz with permission of the author

Pacifica & neighboring communities adjacent to Pacifica, California:

Pacifica!s growth has generated and will continue to generate significant traffic but is it truly unavoidable?

Pacifica is in the process of updating their General Plan, a document last updated in the 80s.

As it stands today, the proposed development projects significant and unavoidable traffic growth. Much has changed in the 40 years since the document was last updated in terms of transportation, traffic, parking, how it!s analyzed and mitigated.

Pacifica!s draft General Plan update, a document for the next 20 years, plans for additional housing, a “robust” downtown and tourist destination – with significant impact to traffic without any consideration of managing and mitigating traffic, parking and congestion.

The required circulation & safety elements of Pacifica!s general plan does not address the traffic growth seen to date, nor does it address the planned traffic both within city boundaries and on neighboring communities co-dependent on our shared road infrastructure. Staff has been unable to share any analysis that shows how overall traffic was reviewed and problem areas identified.

While the commute related traffic analysis (vehicle miles traveled) is unavoidable, the lack of a robust analysis (traffic counts, capacity, delay times) limits the ability to adequately understand what is avoidable through policy, mitigation or improvements. There is only ONE roadway improvement planned in the 20 year planning document – on a local road.

Neither the lack of adequate analysis nor the rush to approve the general plan document are good and sufficient reasons why we should all live with perpetual congestion or lack of parking availability – issues that impact our quality of life and our economy. Furthermore, beyond the everyday quality of life, this missing information handicaps the planning and funding needed to address disaster evacuations, as well as traffic related safety improvements.

Pacifica City Council and Staff have the obligation to do what every other city is required to do in managing traffic and transportation in support of their residents and neighboring communities – addressing and mitigating the traffic impacts of future growth. It!s time for them to lean in.

Contact Pacifica
Pacifica General Plan Update and Specific Plan EIR – CEQA Findings

The Great Perhaps, Circulating Pacifica – Rick Nahass

Pacifica could have applied for a $100K grant to begin developing a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan from the San Mateo County Transit Authority (SMCTA) as part of the SMCTA ACR/TDM Measure A/W sales tax funding program but did not apply despite being notified that 30% of the awards for the entire county were prioritized for coastal towns with Pacifica specifically called out. Both Half Moon Bay and the mid-coast applied and are recommended to be awarded $100K each to update their existing TDM program, Connect the Coastside.

Perhaps the reason for Pacifica’s reluctance is the exclusion of a General Plan element to develop a TDM plan or an element to work towards justifying the benefits of Pacifica inclusion in the SMCTA Connect the Coastside plan jurisdiction (e.g., a united 60K coastside population gets noticed.)  

The Comprehensive Pacifica General Plan with its visions and hopes for the future, omissions and mistakes will almost certainly be approved by City Council. Per California state law, amendments to the General Plan are allowed four times a year. Perhaps the City Council might direct staff to begin accepting proposals for amendments immediately after initial approval for consideration in say, six months or so. Perhaps over time with collaboration of City staff, Council and active citizens a regular, trusted and periodic small scale amendment process evolves that corrects mistakes, re-prioritizes direction and adds elements based on new realities, ideas and region/state laws.

This first round of Circulation amendment proposals should include:

  1. Establishment of a formal Pacifica TDM Plan or inclusion of Pacifica TDM policy and initiatives in the existing Connect the Coastside TDM plan, because referencing a TDM plan is the entry point for qualifying for competitive transportation funding. US Department of Transportation and Caltrans State Route (SR) 1 District 4 TCR Report considers the Highway 1 from SR92 to Sharp Park Road as one rural section of highway.
  2. Using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) reduction laws to justify initial and yearly fees on any new development until state/regional agencies provide funding/projects to accommodate infrastructure requirements for new housing mandates, much like the recently increased sewer fees. Of course where resources/funds are restricted, getting safe water to our homes is a higher priority than having a bus you can catch at the corner to take you speedily to BART or across the Golden Gate Bridge without transfers.
  3. The 2020 approved City of Pacifica Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan is an excellent operational model for how citizen committees can work with city staff to collaborative conceptualize, find funding for, and build plans. Special kudos is given to the committee chair and staff project manager for their creativity, drive, and passion in making this plan happen. The City regularly uses this plan to win competitive fund grants for prioritized Bike and Ped projects. Added to the General Plan might be enhanced roles for committee/commission member active participation and collaboration outreach, lobbying, grant writing, etc. with city staff.

In August 2022, the SMCTA has a new Pedestrian and Bicycle call for projects. Perhaps after two years our Pacifica Bike and Ped Master plan could use a small update. Perhaps the City Manager can take it on the chin (once again) and assign a staff project manager to respond to this new call for projects.

Keep it a Secret Movie – Surfing in Ireland at Winters