Highway Hijinks: Planners Plotting & Plodding Behind Closed Doors
Not So Lucky: Another One Bites the Dust


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Please remember that Pacifica City Council as of March 2013 did NOT respond to the open letter below. At that point, there was opportunity to conduct a hearing on the Calera Creek DEIR and other options to relieve congestion with lesser impacts and costs. The City Council "blew" that opportunity:

Open Letter to the Pacifica City Council
March 6, 2013

Dear Mayor and Council Members:

The Caltrans project to widen Highway One from Reina Del Mar to Fassler Avenue, if it takes place, would be the largest construction project in Pacifica in a very long time and would affect most area residents on a daily basis. We, the undersigned residents of Pacifica and the Coastside, therefore request that the City of Pacifica engage in a comprehensive review of Caltrans' plans. The City Council and the Planning Commission, in conjunction with concerned and informed citizens, need to fully review and provide input on the design of the project.

Transportation planning in Pacifica should not merely be the responsibility of a distant bureaucracy. It is the responsibility of local government to ensure that any project undertaken here will be the best possible for the City of Pacifica. We call upon you as our leaders to actively engage in the framing and examination of options in order to arrive at the best choices possible. This was done in Half Moon Bay – both its City Council and Planning Commission had significant input into the design of Highway 92 modifications.

We believe a review of Caltrans plans will reveal issues of concern to local residents. For example, Caltrans has not developed and made public a plan to provide for smooth flow of traffic during the construction process, which would last at least 2 years, nor is there any public plan to provide for continuous access to businesses along Highway 1 and in the Rockaway Beach area. Furthermore, post-construction impacts on businesses in the West Rockaway business district need to be investigated; the design could discourage tourists and local residents from patronizing those businesses. The visual impacts of the project also need to be addressed; the design calls for widening the highway to more than twice its present width and possibly including sound walls and large retaining walls.

Caltrans has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Report on the project, and it is imperative that the City Council and the Planning Commission conduct a public review of that document. The time is now for Pacifica to study the project, ask the necessary questions, and request that Caltrans modify the project if modifications would be in the best interest of Pacifica.
We ask the Pacifica City Council to act in a timely, positive, and decisive manner on this issue. Decisions affecting Pacifica need to be made by Pacificans. Caltrans may own the asphalt, but this is our home.
Please contact either of the undersigned circulators of this letter with your response.

Tom Edminster, Circulator

Hal Bohner, Circulator
Cindy Abbott
Lynn Adams
Todd Bray
Ian Butler
Victor Carmichael
Bill Collins
Ann Cooney
Leslie Davidson
Kim Day
Ann Edminster
Jeri Flinn, past President of Pacifica's Environmental Family and Past President and founder of the Pacifica Beach Coalition
Sherry Flumerfelt
Ana Garcia
Edwin Earl Geer Sr.
Laurie Goldberg
Margaret Goodale
Nancy Hall
Avril Hughes
Cynthia Kaufman
Mary Keitelman
Peter Loeb
Grace Mackertich
Dave Martinez
Roger Mascio
John Maybury
Ron Maykel
Margo Meiman
Clark Natwick
Bob Pilgrim
Stella Pilgrim
Mitch Reid,
Citizens Alliance for a Tunnel Solution (CATS)
Karen Rosenstein
Pete Shoemaker
Lou Sian
Dan Underhill
Dinah Verby
Stan Zeavin

I went to the City of Pacifica "Transportation" page:


It says: "Our goal is to collect community input in a variety of ways from a wide range of people that includes all sides, and provide it to the Council to inform their future decisions. Please join us!"

But there is not one way to leave a comment or input. If you click "email us," it takes you to an unsendable email with no address. The city knows this is a hot-button issue, but it can't even design the webpage to actually take comments? Even private comments?

This tells you how interested the city is in the public's opinion.

Dear Not Retired:

Please see my comment in the Highway Hijinks: Planners Plot & Plod thread.

The minutes for several years' worth of Project Development Team meetings are available from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, Public Information Office. I have the minutes for 31 meetings, including the meetings that urged Van Ocampo to agendize the Pacifica City Council meeting where he asks the council to identify its preferred alternative. No oversight, no transparency, just staff from all three agencies working together without any public knowledge. I've sent the two of the minutes to the editor, but if he can figure out how to load up all 31 sets, I'm beyond happy to do so.

(Editor's Note: After cocktails and kip, I shall endeavor to upload the files. Stay tuned.)

Todd, where can I find the meeting minutes in which Ocampo called us a minority of retirees? If he really believes that, he will be very surprised.

"staff driven": Lee Diaz, George White, who else? City Council has gotten at least two staff reports this year that are incorrect on this issue.

So how can the city manager know what's going on if she's getting biased information? How about contacting PH1A?

Proponents of the project are trying to pull Pacifica into another Bay Bridge Boondoggle: They do not care if the project works, they care only about their own salaries and pensions -- which they will get regardless.



This whole mess has been staff driven, not council or public, but staff driven for a couple of decades now. Tinfow's lack of knowledge is tempered by the voice of Van Ocampo, director of public works, who has been attending project development meetings between city staff, Caltrans staff, and San Mateo County Transportation Authority staff. There has been zero adult supervision of this project and any public input has been either ignored or mocked as Ocampo has done (reference Project Development Team minutes from April 2007 describing opponents as a vocal minority of retirees), among other infractions against the public voice.

On the line are tens of millions of dollars that can be skimmed off the top from this proposal if it ever receives the level of funding indicated in the FEIR, approximately $55 million to $60 million. Caltrans has promised the city it can oversee the proposal's management. Senior staff view the proposal as a revenue source for salaries and pensions.

"... listen to Nihart moan about how we need a conversation ..."

Yeah -- disingenuous at best. Nihart has, along with some of the rest of council, refused to have a public forum on the proposed Caltrans widening, the so-called Calera Parkway Project (CPP).

Out of necessity to communicate the issues to an uninformed public, two grassroots organizations formed: Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) and Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A).

PH1A has more information about what Nihart and others refused to discuss in a public forum:

Not mentioned on the site, but affecting a lot of people: The Lutheran church on Highway 1 will be served with an eminent domain cut out of its land and high retaining walls between its property and the proposed highway segment.

"Even so, cooperative efforts by the three agencies have been progressing since at least the mid-1990s."

If what's gone on in the past is "cooperative," then that must be a synonym for dysfunctional.

"...plus other changes that brought the roadway up to 'freeway
standards.' This concept represented the largest viable project footprint possible which is typical of the
environmental assessment process in order to analyze the maximum potential impact. Doing so doesn't
necessarily mean that this version of the project would be constructed."

Uh, this indicates that Caltrans has offered more options than a freeway segment with or without a landscaped median. It has not.
Does this indicate that the city manager needs to come up to speed on this issue?

My impression of this article is that our new city manager works for the council members who favor the widening of Highway 1 as proposed by Caltrans, or that she really doesn't understand the issue and the community's majority reaction to it, that is, revulsion. I don't see a word about less invasive alternatives being seriously considered, or even considered at all. Ancient planning documents from the 1980s aren't going to help us in 2015.

This issue becomes more surreal with every move the city makes. There is no trust. Results of the last election made clear that opposition to highway widening was widespread in Pacifica. Voters sent a message no politician could miss. And yet, one cannot escape the feeling that we are being delivered to Caltrans. Humored with outreach and happy talk and endless process, but nonetheless being delivered. It appears some members of this council are unwilling to represent a majority of Pacificans on this issue. Enough already. Put it on the ballot and save council its agonies. November 2016 promises to be a historic election. For Pacifica, too?

As I read Tinfow's op-ed over one of the daily specials in Kenny's, my eyes started rolling around in their sockets. Her history is general and superficial, accepting what the agencies have done as what should have been done. She seems not to know of all the efforts by Pacificans over the decades to affect decision-making on this key stretch of highway. The 2013 lawsuit on which she blames a delay in the "conversation" is very recent and came about as a necessary result of the failure of local governments and agencies to openly and fully engage the public. The tone of her statements is on the level of an elementary lecture, as if she does not know there is a long local history, involving hundreds to thousands of local people, of dealing with the bullying, lies, and missteps of many sorts of Caltrans and overdevelopment-favoring local government officials on large projects like the bypass, the twin tunnels, the 380 extension, and so on. It read to me like she got her attitude and talking points from someone on the current council or Chamber of Commerce.

A "conversation" that serves only to explain to us uneducated dolts why they are going to do what they intend to do is worthless. If the interaction does not put the nature of the entire project on the table, with possible alternatives grossly different from the project being steamrolled by government so far, then it's back to the only hopes for halting the bad and opening up to something better being the Coastal Commission and lawsuits.

When John cleaned up my post, he changed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which included Project 24 (Calera Parkway Project), to CPP. I got the percentage of completions from that document, which City Council accepted at its last meeting.

(Editor's Note: Thanks for the correction, Tom. I also noted the correction on your earlier comment today. To all commenters: Please proof your comments carefully for factual accuracy, spelling, and grammar before submitting them. I try to do my best to clean them up, but I am at your mercy.)

Sorry, I meant billions of dollars, not millions, in overruns. Initial cost was $6.4 billion, not including "program contingencies":

$3.6 billion of which is in cost overruns:

It will have to be repaired at some point. Those costs are not out yet.

The last time City Council addressed the highway widening, it failed to approve an agenda item to "hold some sort of public discussion sometime in the future," so the question arises: What's changed? Who makes policy around here -- the City Council or the city manager? Is she acting on her own volition without the consent of council or did Nihart simply decree it would happen? How did this "conversation" come about?

Caltrans attorneys must be working overtime, trying to find projects for Caltrans, since Caltrans is costing the state millions of dollars due to its flawed build of the Bay Bridge.

It is absolutely false to state that the City Council accepted this project.

It absolutely did not.

CORRECTION: The City Council accepted the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), stating that the design work is 95 percent done and planning 65 percent done. How much room for public input is there if this is our starting point?

I don't agree that the plan they came up with is the best plan. Caltrans should have taken community input about design and problems with Highway 1.

I hope you know that Caltrans attorneys are reading these blogs trying to find anything to weaken your case.

In the good old days, everyone said, "Due to pending or ongoing litigation, I have no comment."

Chris Fogel, thanks for reminding us that City Council voted on a design alternative for a project that was NEVER discussed in public forum (though the public repeatedly asked for a public forum), was never approved, and which is antediluvian in approach by every metric.

I agree with the previous comments. The community tried for years to have a conversation with city leaders and was ignored. Then we had a conversation in which the community made it clear that it's opposed to the widening. It was called an election. A completely unknown candidate ran on a single platform of opposition to the Caltrans widening plan. He won. And the top vote getter was the only other council member who has been clearly opposed to the widening.

City Hall is not listening to the conversation that the community is trying to have with it. If the city wants to have a conversation about the highway, it must be about alternatives to the widening. If the city wants to have a conversation with the community only about Caltrans' Calera Parkway Project, that conversation will fail.

"During their annual goal setting process this past spring, the Council once again confirmed the high priority of this effort by identifying it as one of the Top 10 activities for the City in 2015-16."

Just to clarify Tinfow's statement, the City Council confirmed "5. Community engagement process related to Highway 1 widening project", not the Highway 1 Widening process itself.

2015-16 Council Goal Setting Process,
City Council ranked these as top priorities:

1. Launch the Economic Development Program
2. Start Phase 1 of Palmetto Streetscape Project and
continue development of "Beach Boulevard" Property
3. General Plan Update
4. Repayment of the $4 million in loans.
*5. Community engagement process related to Highway 1 widening project
6. Affordable Housing needs
7. Create an employee recognition and retention program
8. Introduce Priority-Based Budgeting for FY2016-17
9. Construct a new library
10. Raise Pacifica's Pavement Condition Index (PCI)
11. Conduct a needs assessment for new City facilities


I'll table for signatures on OSCAR in the Rockaway parking lots; just keep me in mind.

I have lost faith in this city and its leaders.

The community has tried many times over the years to engage with the city about this project, but over the past several years, the city has actively refused to have the conversation. Remember that evening a couple of years ago when -- after years of pestering: Can we please talk about this? -- the council finally put "Hold Some Sort Of Public Discussion Sometime In The Future About The Highway" on its agenda?

It was a complete waste of everyone's time and council didn't even get to the point of taking a vote. After 2+ hours, council couldn't even agree on a motion to put forward. A motion about holding some sort of informal meeting in the future! So I have little sympathy when a sitting council member states, "I hate this" when dozens of people show up at recent council and Planning Commission meetings to express their dissatisfaction with the way this has all been handled. The council member would do well to ponder the significance of that evening years ago and her part in it.

Also, despite Ms. Tinfow's characterization, there was nothing "erroneous" about the Tribune's publication of a Caltrans diagram that illustrated the 144-foot width of the proposed highway -- this is the preferred alternative that council voted in support of. And which then-City Manager Steve Rhodes pledged city funds for upkeep of!

But then again, we're now in a world where, according to Ms. Tinfow and council member Nihart, council's vote for a preferred version of the highway (wide median) doesn't mean that it's the version preferred by council. What?!

I had the exact same reaction. As a threshold matter, when someone starts a so-called conversation by putting the word "conversation" in quotes, you know you are off to a bad start. This reads like the decision has been made and the only open issue is "how wide" we should go. Do they really think we are as feeble-minded as some of them apparently are????? Time to start collecting ballot signatures so we can truly have that "conversation."

I find this initial communication by Ms. Tinfow disconcerting. She says, "The Council has tasked me with helping clarify where we are with these efforts and bringing the larger community into the conversation." To what end? Don't they know where we are? We don't want the widening!

It was absolutely sick to listen to Nihart moan about how we need a conversation, when she and her political allies have blocked all attempts to the point that the city had to be sued. How will this "conversation" empower the community to direct City Council in supporting an alternative that is something less than "freeway standards" or does it come down to a lot of noise only to suffer through another City Council meeting where Mary Ann tells us she is "so tired" of it all and then ignores the voice of the people and votes for the freeway?

Frankly, we are beyond a "conversation" offered up as a political cookie to placate the voters whom they perceive as children. If we are going to have this conversation, let it be about the alternatives, with the clear understanding that widening is out. Only then can something positive come of this. That should be the starting point. Short of that, it's all just gamesmanship to delay while the powers behind the scenes pave over the coast.

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