The Rock: "Alcatraz/San Quentin" Look Not Right for Pacifica
Juicy Jobs for Politicians: Big Bucks for Little Work

The Rock: Proposed Development Would Tower Above Highway 1


FASSLER & ROBERTS RD.  copy 2Photo by Bob Pilgrim; renderings by the developer

By Todd Bray, Riptide Correspondent

On October 21 the city Planning Commission held a heavily attended Study Session about "The Rock," that humble outcropping (above at left) across from Sea Bowl. Also above are architectural renderings for "The Rock" proposal at 4545 Coast Highway, or to us locals, the southeast corner of Fassler and Highway 1.

Looking at the elevation and the four computer simulations above, the proposal is nine stories tall after all. Planning Director George White misrepresented the scale of the project in his study session notice by declaring the proposal to be only 41 to 45 feet tall. The proclaimed 22,000 square feet of commercial would be less than 9 percent of the overall project, which means the proposal is not a mixed-use development as claimed by White.

The proposal is a nine-story condo development with a five-story detached parking structure. Judging from the simulations, the applicant (who lives in Woodside) has put no thought into our surrounding community, as the project looks like it's on the Mendocino or Carmel coastline, not at the corner of Fassler and Highway 1.

The building is presented as two separate structures, but they share all utility and mechanical, so they are really one building, not two. The current proposal has 63 residential units, with two to three bedrooms each.

This proposal is a direct consequence of Caltrans' proposed Calera Parkway Project to widen Highway 1. In previous interviews, city planner Lee Diaz has stated that the proposal was always put off because of traffic issues associated with the project's residential units.

Even without possible highway widening, this new project should be shelved. But, of course, we now have a rubber-stamp planning director and a rubber-stamp planning commission, so this monstrosity is a real threat.
Therock THEROCK2


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Let's do it, Ian.

Big Banker's quip that Pacifica open a brothel to raise revenue actually has merit, especially during lunch hour, as every Pacifica palindrome lover knows: "Sex at noon = taxes!"

Now I understand why nothing gets done around town. You are all stoned!

(EDITOR'S NOTE: We all know Big Banker is just kidding, but this is no laughing matter. Medical marijuana is a serious matter. It relieves pain and nausea for people with real ailments, so let's not joke about it. This discussion has nothing to do with recreational use of marijuana, so knock it off, Big Banker, or we will plant a baggie in your briefcase.

Bobby, I am glad to see we agree on something! The Obama crackdown on medical marijuana was a last gasp at slowing the spread of the inevitable, and it worked. Communities like ours that were contemplating taking steps to allow dispensaries shelved the idea, but Washington and Colorado, along with public opinion running over 50 percent in favor of legalizing, have forced the feds to back off. In Pacifica's case, even though the city chose to deny the Cannabis Wellness Center's application to dispense medical marijuana, the center decided to open anyway, but to not dispense medicine on site. This middle path allows them to stay open without fear of being raided, but it limits their effectiveness. Nevertheless, they have shown that a medical marijuana business can succeed here without negatively affecting the neighborhood. It's time for our community to revisit this issue, hopefully with renewed vigor, and a few new allies.

I work with and know many medical marijuana clubs in San Francisco. Believe it or not, I do support Pacifica allowing clubs here in exchange for steep licenses and taxes, as in S.F. A successful medical marijuana club can bring in $5 million to $20 million a year. Taxes from a large club could be $1 million to $2 million a year. The problem is that Pacifica City Council people I've talked to about this believe everything our Police Department tells them, and they're afraid of prosecution for accepting tax money from a federally banned substance. Now that Obama has told the Justice Department to stop bothering clubs that are following state laws, I think we should take another look.

Medical marijuana would at least be an additional industry. Right now our industry is tourism. We have beautiful hills, flora, fauna, and a very famous ocean. Efforts to preserve and enhance our only serious industry keep getting scoffed at by the small minority that wants to convince us that "bedroom community" is an industry. I don't think even they believe that. I don't think we will ever get just one saving industry. Medical marijuana might help a bit. There may be a Pacifican who has just designed the perfect widget in his garage and wants it to be manufactured in Pacifica by Pacificans. There will probably be other tiny industries that help. I will be very surprised if any industry in this town has greater potential than tourism, and eco-tourism will most likely be a significant part of that. Nobody will be coming here to see our mausoleum/penitentiary on the rock or to gaze in wonder at our new soundwalls.

Many Riptiders already know that I support medical marijuana in Pacifica, but most probably don't remember that I also support a card club here. As I have recently learned, California has had a ban on new card clubs for some time, but that ban will end in a year or so. The city that is ready to take advantage of that when the time comes will reap the benefits. (Sorry, Big Banker, a brothel is out of the question.) The point is that cities like ours need to think outside the box, because most traditional businesses won't work here.

Regulating and taxing marijuana is the best revenue source we can tap into, and it would be immediate, unlike all these pie-in-the-sky land developments that, as shown above, are so out of scale with anything remotely Pacifica that they are laughable.

For the record, I do not ingest marijuana in any form. The only psychoactive drug I use is red wine. My preferred dealer is BevMo, although Safeway will do in a pinch.

The revenue from taxing and regulating medical marijuana sales can be enormous. This has been the experience of other cities. And the cost of city services is almost nil, as are the environmental and traffic impacts. Even the increased property and transient occupancy taxes from a hotel built on undeveloped land are less than the potential revenue from taxed and regulated medical marijuana sales. Cities can charge fees for licensing and permits for medical marijuana sales, and levy local sales taxes and keep ALL of these revenues, in addition to the small percentage of sales and property taxes that development brings in.

Why doesn't that post surprise me?

For maximum revenue, we should promote and tax medical marijuana sales.

John, maybe you can lobby City Hall for a zoning change to allow a brothel in town.

Big John's Brothel and Cardroom.

Just an idea!

(Editor's Note: I love it. Now that's some creative thinking, BB! I wanna be the Bordello Blogger!)

Isn't everyone tired of arguing about the same old issues? I know I am. I have outrage fatigue. Some of us believe that Pacifica's visitor-serving amenities (recreation, restaurants, hotels, shops) are the key to our economy. Others believe (despite published evidence) that new housing (more people, more traffic) will help the local economy. Still others believe that new businesses (light industry or high tech, for example) will solve our money problems. Does that about cover it? If so, I propose that we move on to other topics and spare our readers the juvenile sarcasm and stale arguments, none of which moves us forward. As your moderator, I stand for free speech, but honestly, this whole dialogue has gone in circles for too long. Maybe time to pull the plug?

Yes, John, build trails and they will come. That has worked very well. Hey, I have an idea. Let's make our environment our economy! I think that is the solution. Can we get Jimmy and Pete back? This will work, just give us about 20 years and Pacifica will be a magnet for tourists, hikers, bikers, and all the money they spend.

Sadly, it is inevitable that "Papers" submitted to develop 4545 Coast Highway will cover "The Rock" -- unless "Scissors" cuts before "Rock" shatters.

Yeah, Big Banker, what John says!!!

Also, published studies show how national and state parks and beaches benefit nearby communities, bringing in tourists, sightseers, surfers, beachgoers, fishermen, treasure hunters, dogwalkers, mountainbikers, hikers, and diners who patronize area hotels, restaurants, and shops. Hey, Big Banker, if you want to be part of the solution, eat more Nick's crab sandwiches to help the city finances.

"Why don't you people talk about how much revenue the quarry and Mori Point bring into the city?"

The quarry? Somewhere around $9,000 per year. I think the owners are still delinquent on their taxes, though, so whenever it all gets paid, somewhere close to $100K ought to be coming to the city.

It will be interesting to see what the owner's intent becomes.

Why don't you people talk about how much revenue the quarry and Mori Point bring into the city?

I will go make some coffee and wait for your answers.

big banker: Does it really matter if you use a higher sales price for the condos? No, it doesn't. Larry's back-of-the-envelope calculations are only a way of showing that a hotel will bring in lots more revenue than condos. It's that simple. Quibbling about what to use as comparables doesn't change the basic principle.

Larry: Does it really matter who posted it?

Using Terra Nova or Oddstad condos to compare with a new condo development doesn't work. The only comparable properties are the condos at the top of Roberts Road.

big banker: I was the one who posted the numbers, not Todd. The point of my comment was to make a back-of-the-envelope estimate to show that different types of projects provide different benefits to the city.

On my current property taxes bill, the general tax rate is 1.1171 percent. Actually, now that I look at it more closely, the base rate that should be used for any revenue estimates is only 1 percent. The other .1171 percent is for various school district bonds that are not relevant to calculating how much the City of Pacifica gets. The same is true of other bonds, sewer charges, etc. None of that revenue goes into the city's general fund.

To estimate the price of the condos, I did a search on for recently sold condos that matched the size mentioned in the original proposal. The first page of results ranges from $411,500 to $725,000, so I think $700,000 is a generous estimate. Remember, this is an average price for all 63 units, some of which are only 1,140 square feet in size.

Even if you increase the average price of the condos, it doesn't change the fact that the city won't see very much revenue from this project as it's currently envisioned.

On the other hand, a 40-room hotel, which was originally approved for the site, would generate much more revenue. A conservative estimate would be 40 rooms at $125/night, rented an average of 250 nights/year times 12 percent tax = $150,000. A more luxury hotel would bring in more. In addition, hotel rooms are smaller than the condos being proposed, so the project itself would be much smaller. And the commercial space associated with a hotel is more likely to generate sales taxes.

BB has confused me with Larry, I think. Funny.

Big Banker, I have no idea WTF you are going on about.

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