Icicle Optical
Pacifica Chamber of Commerce Tax Return: Bad News

Pacifica Chamber of Commerce: "Pay Up or Git Out!"

Analysis and Opinion

By Lionel Emde
Riptide Correspondent

The Pacifica Chamber of Commerce, in a stunning departure from its longtime policy, has decided to exclude non-chamber members from its printed directory. In sending out notices of renewal to members, this change was first on the list:

"ONLY Chamber members whose dues are current will have the opportunity to advertise in our annual keepsake, the 2013-2014 Business Directory."

The policy of inclusion of any business wishing to have a listing or an advertisement in the directory goes back to at least 1980, according to Jean Headley of Headley Office Services, who joined the chamber in that year.

But that's not all, at least in terms of shocking changes for chamber members. Membership rates have skyrocketed, with one member telling this writer of a dues change from $160 last year to $295 this year! Others have reported increases of 50 percent from last year's rates. The notice of increase sent to members has the reassuring question:

"IN 'STICKER SHOCK' OVER YOUR ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP DUES INVOICE? That was never our intention. The good news is we've changed the structure of your annual membership dues by adding more features which increase the value of being a Pacifica Chamber Member."

The notice then goes on to note various technological "improvements" to one's business visibility: (1) six-line listing in the directory, (2) listing in a mobile iPhone app, (3) uploading of photos, video, and customer testimonials to the chamber's website, (4) e-newsletter sent to members, (5) the chamber's employing a PR firm, which will supposedly drive more traffic to one's business website.

The chamber places the collective "value" of these items at $1,000. Pretty reassuring to a struggling local business facing a 50 percent to 100 percent increase in its chamber membership, eh?

The irony of all this is that some businesses have passed this by long ago and already get their new customers online with no assistance from the chamber. This writer's business has gotten almost all new business references from Internet searches,

The chamber directory, which used to be the local bible of buying, has not been the source of much of anything in terms of referrals in recent years. And full disclosure here: I haven't been a chamber member for years, having not seen any good reason to join. 

One of the stated goals of our newly inspired chamber is "Endorsing political action." The chamber has taken some pretty bizarre positions in recent years, including its breathless endorsement of Pacifica's very high garbage collection rates, which are being inflicted upon the smallest commercial base of any city in the county.

How that can be considered "representing the interests of business with government" (the chamber's words) will have to be left to the reader's imagination.

The chamber also has enthusiastically endorsed the proposed six-lane widening of Highway 1 between Vallemar and Rockaway, which would create the only such six-lane stretch of Highway 1 in the state of California.

And then there's the chamber's entry into the local political world. On the invoice for payment by local businesses entering the brave new world of chamber membership is a "voluntary" $39 contribution to something called "BacPac," a political action committee (PAC). 

On the California Secretary of State website, our chamber's PAC is called "Pacifica Chamber Of Commerce Business And Community Political Action Committee (PACPAC). There are no filings or contributions as of yet, and this appears to be new. Whether it's BACPAC or PACPAC, the chamber seeks to extract from members a contribution, as evidenced by the new billing invoice.

Perhaps politics should be left to the people and their government. Or perhaps a business organization such as the chamber of commerce should actually be in touch with its members to know their opinions. It seems that neither one is what's going on at present.


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Could not get a hotel room in Lee Vining this past August -- and Mono Lake was jammed with tourists from all over the world. Pacifica could attract all of them as well by capitalizing on its beautiful natural assets -- and catering to folks who want to hike the hills and stay here to go to our local national parks.

In the 1960s, I lived and worked in southern Siskiyou County as first Dunsmuir, then Mount Shasta, then Weed were bypassed by the Interstate 5 freeway. The Chamber of Commerce in each little city lauded the coming of the freeway, but downtown business (formerly on or intersecting with the main drag as the old highway went through the middle of the towns) in each city went, predictably, into the dumper as the sections of freeway were completed. The only C of Cs I have ever witnessed that are actually conscious of their full membership are in little out-of-the-way places where false notions of the wonders of growth and urban overdevelopment do not (cannot) put dancing dollar signs in the dreams of the would-be one percent--Scotts Valley, Surprise Valley, Lee Vining, etc. Pacifica and Half Moon Bay have more typical chambers, not worrying about the mutual well-being of all their members as their heads jerk this way and that following the hype of the latest short-term schemes supposedly paving the way to wealth.

@Fan of Peebles: Of course, 355 houses, a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, and setting all of our hair on fire would be just the thing.

This has become a debate about the highway widening, so let's look at the rest of Pacifica.
In the 1960s, Caltrans dug a trench through Pacifica to create a freeway. It tore the town asunder, as you can see in Sharp Park. There's no contiguous anything in Sharp Park; it's either east or west Sharp Park. This is the reason that Old County Road, now known as Palmetto Avenue, became irrelevant. It had been bypassed.
So the problem of a city with no downtown was never solved, indeed, to this day we have no downtown, and no center.
The six-lane alternative proposed between Vallemar and Rockaway will make things much as they are in Sharp Park -- divided, and worse. That the Chamber of Commerce supports this "solution" to our problems only illustrates the chamber's irrelevance to the business community.

The largest generators of sales tax revenues in Pacifica are the gas stations, so it can easily be argued that traffic jams would help our revenues, not harm them.

We don't have traffic jams, just some pesky congestion in the morning and afternoon that is as seasonal as good surf.

You know what would have helped all the business along Highway 1 and the rest of Pacifica?

355 houses in the empty quarry!!

Todd, maybe you missed the conversation over the past 10 years, but resetting the traffic lights could have been done with one simple phone call from city staff to Caltrans.

Gotta agree that traffic jams are not good for the economy. What we have now is congestion at the peak of the morning commute -- only when school is in session -- and lesser congestion at the peak of the evening commute. Neither would be much changed by widening the highway between Vallemar and Fassler. Look around at any place where three lanes go down to two -- traffic jams. But the current commute congestion would pale in comparison to the all-day-long traffic jam during two years of construction for the widening. That would be terrible for Pacifica's economy.

Connecting and timing the lights would cost $300,000 and could be done in a few months. Widening the highway would cost $40 million and take two years. Whatever your opinion of the widening, we can all agree that the prudent thing would be to time the lights immediately, but as someone said, "Caltrans won't do that because it might work."

Gotta agree with Jimbo on this one, Toddster. Traffic jams are not good for the economy.

Jim, a little more reading comprehension and a little less witch-hunting, please. Correctly estimating that two years of highway construction will be devastating to many local businesses is not the same as saying (as you incorrectly state and misread) that those same businesses will go out of business. Please try harder.

You didn't ask me, but my list of businesses that would be impacted by the two years of construction of the proposed highway-widening project would include:
• All the businesses in West Rockaway -- hotels, restaurants, retail, salons, offices, etc.
• All the businesses on the east side of the highway from Vallemar through the Fassler intersection -- restaurants, grocery, gas stations, auto services, salons, etc.

In addition, for people who live north of the part of the highway proposed to be widened, their access to all businesses south of that part of the highway will be impacted, making them less likely to drive to those businesses -- Linda Mar center, Pedro Point, and all other businesses in the Linda Mar valley, including Adobe Plaza and Park Mall, as well as businesses and restaurants south of the slide.

And the same thing will happen for people who live south of the proposed widened section of the highway. Because of the hassle of driving through that section while it's under construction, they will tend to avoid driving north to get to any of those businesses.

Some of these many businesses are already barely hanging on and would not survive a noticeable drop in sales. Besides the impact of the loss of these businesses on city revenues, the result of the drop in sales on all of the affected businesses would be a significant drop in sales tax revenues across the board.

Meanwhile, Caltrans will not implement alternatives to the widening that could reduce the congestion, much sooner and at much less cost and with minimal construction impacts. One of these alternatives would be interconnecting the traffic signals at the Reina Del Mar and Fassler intersections and coordinating the signal timing. If this could improve commute congestion without two years of construction, wouldn't this be much better for all the businesses in the area?

Hal Bohner says construction on Highway 1 will make 80 businesses go out of business.

Doesn't seem like Highway 1 is keeping them in business right now.

Hal Bohner can, of course, speak for himself. I haven't counted any businesses. I expect that Linda Mar and Rockaway would be the big losers if the highway were widened. Manor and Sharp Park have already been done to. The customers in Manor and Sharp Park are almost exclusively local to those neighborhoods. If it weren't for the post office and library and a couple of real destination-type businesses, they would have even less business from elsewhere. Pacifica needs industry. We also need to recognize, despite road crews having lunch here for a time, that highway widening is not an industry, just as "bedroom community" is not an industry. We have many empty storefronts that would be businesses if we weren't in a recession. After we have the Devil's Slide recreational area, things may be somewhat different. We should time the lights instead of widening the highway, and be patient and not make changes until somebody has a good idea.

Hal Bonher I am curious what 80 businesses you feel would be devastated by the highway widening.


I do get some business from the chamber's directory, but I get most of my business by word of mouth. The customers one gets by advertising are kind of a pig in a poke, while with word of mouth one has a reason to believe that the person you are dealing with (it goes both ways) is at least trying to do right by you. I joined the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce when it made clear that my ad was going to cost much more if I weren't a member than it would if I joined. Now I'm thinking that maybe I should leave the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce Directory to the big corporate outfits that get most of their business by advertising.

Breathtaking. Who are these geniuses on the Chamber of Commerce who would support the widening of Highway 1? Don't they have a clue how this project would adversely affect business in Pacifica?

Oh stop your whining, little people. Don't you know Pacifica needs those short-term, hit-and-run highway widening jobs to replace the short-term, hit-and-run tunnel building jobs that are almost a thing of the past? How dare you put your petty concerns about personal survival foremost when there are big forces of commerce, wealth, and ownership of government to be considered?

How can the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce, supposedly representing the interests of local businesses, start a political PAC? Is it legal? It will only end up dividing the community even more, to say nothing of the fact that this provides another reason not to join the chamber.

I was on the chamber board many years ago when the object of our existence was to do everything possible to support local business. The focus has certainly changed.

It is a dreadful idea not to include every business (local or not) in the Community Directory. You couldn't have found a better way to choke off the remaining businesses we have here currently. Way to go, Chamber! Where's Loyle Mueller when we need him?

The Chamber of Commerce will have an answer in the Pacifica Tribune on Wednesday.

My favorite chamber moment of late was when members of the board appeared before council begging it to please, please, please let Recology raise its rates on everyone. I'm sure the chamber members were glad to see their leadership actively working to increase the cost of running a business in this town!

How can the Chamber of Commerce support widening Highway 1 and expect its members to believe it is supporting them as well? During the more than two years of construction, about 80 businesses (by my rough estimate) will be devastated due to their customers' lack of access. I fear that many of those businesses won't be able to survive. And the chamber blames environmentalists for damaging the economy of Pacifica. What hypocrisy.

At least I am a man with a big plan!

That's pretty funny. What do business members get for their $295?

The widening of Highway 1 to a freeway complete with divider walls and six or more lanes wide will gut the scenic Rockaway business district. A freeway of traffic will damage the scenic nature of Pacifica and let drivers rush past Pacifica.

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