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April 15, 2014

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The fact of Eureka Square being mortally, if not fatally, wounded by the freeway is not changed by my error in indicating the highway came after, not before, the shopping center was built. Many of the other businesses on both sides of the freeway through the northern half of Pacifica, pre- and post-freeway, have been, and are, harmed by the city-splitting road, which divides locals, neighborhoods, and communities (a fact now acknowledged by City of Pacifica planners) and hurries highway traffic on through. Kinds of businesses that depend on a critical mass of foot traffic and a measure of highway exposure and access are disabled. That fact does not depend on the disability being present from birth or acquired sometime afterward.

Harm to local communities and small businesses caused by freeways is a general phenomenon in the U.S., and is dramatically true in California. I first experienced it in Siskiyou County as I-5 bulldozed, then roared, past the small cities of Dunsmuir, Mount Shasta, Weed, and Yreka (plus a few smaller communities) one by one, depriving them of the business they previously got from US 99 through their centers. And many locals started using the freeway to go to Redding or Medford for much of their shopping. Though I-5 was not the whole story by any means, it was, in undeniable fact, a major blow to local enterprise; and its negative impacts were a flat refutation of the short-term, growth-addled, Chamber-of-Commerce stupidities that were voiced in all of those towns. The same short-sightedness, trading a quick, powerful shot of wealth for a few for long-term negative consequences for many, is obvious in fractured northern Pacifica and is forcing its glib, myopic way through southern Pacifica.

If you go into City Hall and look at the old photos of Pacifica, you can see what this part of town looked like before Highway 1 was put in the so-called trench.

As a resident of Salada Beach, I'm happy with the freeway being dug down where it passes my street. I previously lived on the east side, just south of Eureka Square, where the highway comes back up to street level (and above to go over Clarendon), and it was horribly noisy. In my current location, I'm the same distance from the highway, but I don't hear the cars at all because they are down in the trench. It's certainly a much better solution for sound abatement than the ugly soundwalls one sees along 101, for example.

I also don't see the highway as much of an obstacle, as we often walk over the overpass to Eureka Square, or to yoga classes, or to the Salada Beach Cafe, or drive there if we will be doing lots of shopping. It's a total non-issue. Would be basically the same trip if the freeway were a small street or railroad or river or anything else.

Wow, talk about an altered state of reality.

Todd, first you say I made up the fact that ambulances get held up in traffic. Then you have the brilliant idea of blaming the ambulance driver for driving the wrong way.

And now Carl says building the highway caused Eureka Square to go down, but when I point out that the highway was there before Eureka Square was built, I am "uninformed"?

Wow, whatever "fantastic voyage" you're on, you better dial back the dose a little, son.

Thank you, NWBR, for your column, which is far more polite than anything I could or would say on the same topics, and thank you, Mr. May, for some basic counterbalance to the continued uninformed opinions that Hutch throws around here and elsewhere. He, of course, has a right to do so, but we have an equal right to call him on his fantastic voyage through our town.

As a 16-year tenant of Eureka Square and a friend of numerous small businesses that have been in (and out of) here, my "analysis" is not without empirical evidence.

How anyone with any local experience can say the freeway brought the city closer together is beyond me. It is a fenced-off swath of pavement several miles long and dug deep, almost as a moat, in places. A real business reducer for businesses on both sides due to greatly hampered access and the division of the population through the Manor area and Sharp Park.

"Two-lane country road" can be called a red herring, presented here as if it would be the only alternative to the no-man's swath of the city-bisecting freeway.

That's an interesting theory, Carl, that building the highway killed business in Eureka Square. But I believe the highway was there first, if I'm not mistaken. If anyone got screwed, it was Anderson's store (and they were fine) after the new highway went in.

Imagine how hard it would be to get around town if that part of the highway hadn't been put in? Some people at the time said it would divide the city. But it actually brought the city closer together. Would anyone say now that it would be better as a two-lane county road than as a highway?

With no intent to hijack the discussion with a minor sidelight, it should be noted that the much-rumored owners' desire to convert the Eureka Square property into housing seems to be moved to the back burner for the near future. Rent on the retail level was recently reduced and some of the long-empty spaces are being filled. Just in the north building (the one with the offices overhead), the Dinosaur sandwich shop has expanded into the space next to it, a new photography studio is in, Pacifica Glass has moved in, the yoga studio is expanding into an additional space next door, and a cafe or coffee shop of some sort is being prepared on the corner where the Cafe de Capo used to be.

Eureka Square was royally screwed when the freeway went in, killing visibility of the center, easy highway access, and separating the shopping center from residents in "West Sharp Park." Few bother with the pedestrian walkway over the freeway. Foot traffic for businesses is condemned to be much less than in larger, more diverse shopping areas like Linda Mar and Pacific Manor. There are relatively few residents in "East Sharp Park," so the shopping center and offices now require mostly "destination" businesses that people will make a little extra effort to get to.

Contrary to standard Chamber of Commerce foolishness, wide, limited access highways bypass and starve local business.

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