Pacifica has a long history of infighting, probably a function of our disparate neighborhoods without common interests. Scattered along 10 miles of coastal hillsides, deep valleys, beaches, and floodplains, our 40,000 residents range from blue-collar workers to white-collar professionals, and self-employed entrepreneurs to retired civil servants.
Lots of new money is coming into town, while lots of old money desperately hangs on. There is plenty of friction, resentment, bitterness, and distrust. This atmosphere engenders a kind of McCarthyism in which groups that have nothing in common blame other groups for Pacifica’s woes, demonizing and dehumanizing them with silly labels.
Reading comments on the four blogs of the apocalypse (Riptide, Index, Fix, Patch) and Pacifica Tribune letters to the editor, you may have seen a “Gang of No” label applied to various local environmentalists and conservationists because of their principled opposition to the highway widening and other public or private development/construction proposals.
As one of the aforementioned bloggers, and as a Tribune columnist, and as a member of the much-maligned “Gang of No,” I would like to ask for a timeout.
I do not claim to speak for my fellow gang members. They are fully capable of speaking for themselves, and many of them do so on the blogs and in the Tribune's inky pages.
I simply want to say that as a green-to-the-gills enviro, I am not primarily a naysayer. I love Pacifica’s green hillsides and blue waters. I moved here and I stay here because of the natural beauty of this little burg, just over the hill yet worlds away from the mad, mad mess of San Francisco.
Okay, I do say “NO” to anything that I think would endanger all this great scenery or all this laid-back small-town vibe. To me, bigger and faster is not better. I want to fix the town’s problems as much as anyone does. I may not share the same ideas as you about what is good for Pacifica, but make no mistake: I belong to “The Gang of Yes.”
I say “YES” to slow growth, smart development, small business, and green initiatives. From my deeply felt opposition to bad ideas and poor planning comes a wealth of positive alternatives and creative solutions.
Now if only I could get the powers-that-be to listen to me and my gang members once again, as they finally did with the Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil’s Slide. That brilliant and popular transportation solution came from the very same people who are now unfairly smeared as “The Gang of No.”
(A slightly different version of this op-ed ran in my April 9 Pacifica Tribune column "Wandering and Wondering.")
Follow Dan Walters’ political analysis in the Sacramento Bee (sacbee.com), especially his columns on state government shenanigans, including the $15 billion gap in funding for the Train to Nowhere (Governor Jerry Brown’s vanity/legacy high-speed rail project, whose bloated budget now exceeds $68 billion and whose route plan looks like the Chutes and Ladders game board).
Caltrans' proposed highway widening known as the Calera Parkway Project between Rockaway and Vallemar is a little bit more complicated than just adding a third lane northbound and southbound.
The project, as currently proposed, would add a center meridian nearly three lanes wide by itself, and would require further infrastructure to allow the project to be built over what is now thin air: things like a small causeway built over wetlands and up to 30-foot-tall retaining walls along most of the project length, again to allow for the extra lanes and center meridian to be poured and leveled in what is now nothing, just thin air.
If, like me, you need a visual aid to understand just how wide all of this roadway construction would be, get out a piece of construction paper and do a little origami fold right down the center of the paper, folding it in half long ways. The folded piece of paper represents the current width of Highway 1. Now unfold the paper and that represents the width of the proposed project.
And if you want to take it a step further, go to a vantage point that allows you to see along the highway. Hold up your folded origami highway to match the current width. Then, keeping the paper in the same spot, simply unfold it to the width the highway would be after being widened. Shocking, isn't it? Shocking to see so clearly just what sort of gigantic impact the project would have if, through our inaction, we allow it to be built.
Caltrain passengers now have access to the new grade-separated, elevated San Bruno Station. Since 2010, passengers have used a temporary boarding platform on Huntington Avenue near Sylvan Avenue. March 31 was the last day of service at that site, with the new station open a half-mile to the north at 833 San Mateo Avenue at San Bruno Avenue. Caltrain continues on the same schedule at the new station.
In May, Caltrain plans a community celebration in Posey Park to mark completion of the grade separation project, with local vendors and activities, speeches, and refreshments.
The $155 million grade separation project elevated Caltrain tracks at three separate crossings in San Bruno. The grade-separated crossings improve safety conditions for both pedestrians and motorists, while also easing traffic congestion to and from Highway 101.
The San Mateo County Transportation Authority provided $92.5 million for the safety improvement project, with the remaining funding coming from state and federal sources.
Dedicated Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A) members rallied in the rain March 29 to oppose Caltrans' Highway 1 widening plan and ask City Council to pursue alternatives. PH1A volunteers have been engaging the public all over town, finding overwhelming opposition to highway widening. PH1A's petition reads:
“To the Pacifica City Council: The Caltrans plan to widen Highway 1 is not good for Pacifica. It will cause more problems than it will solve. I support pursuing a combination of alternatives that can improve traffic congestion on Highway 1 and that will be less damaging to Pacifica.”
PH1A opposes the current Caltrans plan for a number of reasons: It is vague and does not address the need for safe pedestrian crossings. It does not have good bicycle lanes. It calls for huge retaining walls and does not rule out the possibility of sound walls blocking coastal views. In short, it would destroy some of Pacifica’s unique natural scenery and quality of life.
Moreover, the plan seems destined not to reduce traffic in the long range but to increase it, since four lanes would go to six lanes and then back to four – permanent bottlenecks on either end. Increased traffic during years of construction would generate more congestion, as well as air and noise pollution. Most likely, it would never lead to shortened traffic jams after that multiyear process.
PH1A has been organizing for more than a year to get Pacifica City Council to hold public hearings on Caltrans' plan. So far the city has not acted, and the plan is moving forward, with Caltrans taking the lead. PH1A also wants council to hire a traffic consultant to investigate best alternatives for Pacifica.
PH1A has suggested synchronization of traffic lights, more resources for school carpooling and shuttle buses, better public transportation, and other alternatives for pedestrians and bicycles, which are more likely to reduce traffic and be less invasive and disruptive for Pacificans and other coastsiders who use Highway 1.
The earth is flat. This whole global warming thing is a scam. Trickle-down economics work, and although we had to destroy the village to save the village, I am not a crook, and we've had enough damned talk about the highway widening already.
Troublemaking is afoot. A number of ne'er-do-wells have had the unmitigated gall to request that the City of Pacifica, a sponsoring agency of the Calera Parkway Project, sit down with its residents to talk about the project’s scope and what the city’s approach to it will be—something the city thus far has actively refused to do.
And that’s a really odd thing; you’d think there would be—oh, I don’t know—if nothing else, merely a bit of curiosity on the part of our elected representatives about the role the city will play in a $50+ million project running through the heart of our town, if it’s the best fit for our town, or how residents feel about it, etc., etc. But nope: Cue the crickets, for Saint Caltrans can do no wrong.
These rabble-rousers have been getting a fair bit of serious press coverage lately, and it’s been making Sauron a wee bit uncomfortable as the increased scrutiny is making it difficult to dissemble and explain away the reasoning behind the city’s refusal to openly discuss the imagined highway project.
So, having been summoned by Sauron himself, the Nazgûl, clad in shorts and loud Hawaiian shirts, have stumbled from Mount Doom’s bars to mobilize Pacifica’s mightiest keyboard warriors to arms: the 33 1/3rd Insanity Squadron (“The Fightin’ Shadows”).
“Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?” “Why, I spent $500 to have facts I pulled out of my ass put into print, honey.”
The group’s most recent flailing-about has been to flush more than 500 American dollars down the toilet on a half-page comedy piece in the February 19-25, 2014 Pacifica Tribune, which declares, among other things, that Highway 1 is dangerous (“dangerous” is underlined so that everyone will understand just how dangerous it is), that 99 percent(!) of Pacifica supports the widening project, and oh, the children, won’t someone think of the children?!
(Guys: don’t you know that all jingoistic propaganda should always, always, include references to 9/11 and terrorism—you really whiffed on this one.)
I respectfully request that a second ad be taken out to answer the questions the first ad has now raised:
(1) If Highway 1 is such a deathtrap, shouldn't the city immediately sit down and talk with the public about this?
(2) Why does Caltrans’ own report state that its project doesn't address safety issues? We should get Caltrans to go back to the drawing board and return with a better project—yikes, people are dying out there every day!
(3) Why would a cause that claims 99 percent support be asking additional supporters to join—they've already got 99 percent of this town locked up! It’s almost as if the 99 percent number is completely made up and is merely intended to evoke images of “Occupy Wall Street.”
(4) The children! My god, won’t someone think of the children?!
"Caltrans today is significantly out of step with best practice in the transportation field and with the State of California's policy expectations. It is in need of modernization."
So says a report by the State Smart Transportation Initiative, covered in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee. The California State Transportation Agency, which oversees Caltrans, commissioned the report. The report also cites the Caltrans "culture of risk aversion and even fear." Here is a downloadable PDF of the actual report:
Pacifica City Council has prevented a CEQA hearing on the Calera Parkway Project (widening Highway 1), resulting in the public asking the court for relief, and triggering loss of sphincter control by several locals who advocate buildout of Pacifica.This crowd never refers to the Calera Parkway Project as a roadway segment intended to connect Pacifica and the midcoast to Interstate 280, thus urbanizing the coast.The above map tells thestory graphically.