City of Pacifica bets $20,000 on spending $583,000 for the Colt trail property.
By Lionel Emde, Riptide Correspondent
Pacifica City Council voted 4-1 on September 8 to speculate with taxpayer monies. Item #8 on the council agenda was a proposed option/purchase deal for David Colt's property that the city has wanted to buy for at least the past 10 years to complete the Pedro Point Headlands Trail.
Councilmembers Len Stone and Karen Ervin negotiated the deal with Colt, who has already agreed to its terms. Because of real estate negotiations being allowed in closed session under the Brown Act, this deal had no public scrutiny before the council meeting.
But there is one slight problem. The staff report reveals the obvious: "As (the) Council is aware, funds for the purchase price are not currently on hand." Not on hand, indeed. City staff and a forensic CPA hired for the purpose are trying to track down $4 million in missing city funds. Even before the $4 million surprise, the budget wasn't in great shape.
So here's the city's gamble: To obtain the property from Colt, the city promises to pay an option of $15,000 for nine months from the signing of the deal to amass the funds to pay for it. The purchase price is $583,000, with the option amounts applicable to the purchase price if the deal is completed in time. If, in nine months, the deal isn't done, the city pays another $5,000 for an additional six months to complete the deal. If that time is not sufficient, the city forfeits the $20K to Colt, and the taxpayers lose again.
It's reasonable to say that a functioning trail system would be of value to both locals and tourists. To speculate with taxpayer money when the city is laid bare by fiscal mismanagement of some years' duration seems a bit odd, if not pushing the limit. It's also important to remember that this is buying only the land, which is not improved for public use.
In justifying the proposed agreement with Colt, the staff report offers this hopeful scenario:
"… the 15 month option period is designed to give the City time to explore the possibility of contributions from San Mateo County, the Pacifica Land Trust and others with interest in trail development toward the purchase price. In addition, under a previous agreement with the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the City will receive $360,000 in reimbursement funds related to the purchase of land from the Tronoff family (also to complete the trail) and this purchase once it’s complete. These funds from the SMCTA could be applied to the purchase price. Any remaining balance could be made up from other sources such as Excess ERAF in 2015, if received."
So it would seem that ERAF funds, which the new city manager has wisely and strictly classified as one-time-only funds, might be used to put the deal over the top. They were used this year to fund the Resource Center on a one-time-only basis. The SMCTA money ($360,000) is also put toward another property of unknown purchase price, so we don't know how much of that would actually apply to this deal.
A City Council facing a budget crisis needs to answer a few questions for the public before pushing ahead with this expenditure:
A. What are the details of the $360,000 SMCTA reimbursement, and exactly how much would go toward the Colt property purchase?
B. How much funding has already been identified, not just speculated on, from other sources such as Pacifica Land Trust, San Mateo County, etc.?
C. What funding sources have been identified for improvements to the property, as more unimproved land in the city's ownership means more financial obligations?
The public is owed transparency, and lots of it, after this closed negotiating process.
By Carolyn Jones, SF Chronicle, SF Gate Blog An endangered Eastern Pacific green sea turtle, normally found in Mexico, the Galapagos and other warm climes, was recently snagged by salmon fishermen outside the Golden Gate. The turtle, about 2,000 miles off course, was either lost or just exploring new turf, scientists said.
The fishermen took a few pictures of the gentle, 150-pound beast, and — after removing the hook from its underbelly and determining that the turtle seemed unharmed — tossed it back in the ocean and it swam away.
“We see leatherback sea turtles all the time, but we knew this wasn’t a leatherback,” said Roger Thomas, skipper of the Salty Lady fishing boat. “We didn’t know what it was.”
Thomas sent the pictures to scientists at the Turtle Island Restoration Network in Marin, who determined that the visiting creature was a very rare, and very far-flung, green sea turtle.
It was the first they had seen around here, they said.
“That’s really an unusual sighting,” said Todd Steiner, director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network. “But with the warmer water, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing animals venture further north.”
The turtle, found on Sept. 6, looked to either be an adolescent male or a small female, although gauging the age, and sometimes gender, of sea turtles is an inexact science. They tend to live longer than the biologists studying them. The only thing scientists know for sure is that some sea turtles don’t reach sexual maturity until age 50.
Green sea turtles normally live in the Pacific’s warmer latitudes. Their numbers are dwindling because of development along the beaches they use to nest, and because they sometimes become snared in industrial fishing nets and drown.
Climate change has also affected the ancient reptiles. Because temperature determines their gender when they hatch, females vastly outnumber males these days. And the warmer ocean currents tend to take the turtles places they’re not accustomed to going, such as San FranciscoBay.
Water temperatures around the Golden Gate this month are about 65 degrees, about five degrees higher than normal and possibly harkening an El Nino, Steiner said.
The green sea turtle isn’t the only unusual visitor Thomas has seen lately. He’s spotted red-footed and brown boobies at the Farallones, plus some warm-weather albatross.
According to Canadian developer Sonora Shores* (say what?), Pacifica's scruffy surfer overlook Roberts Road (between Fassler and Crespi) is to become home to something mysteriously branded as Harmony Estates. How's that grab ya?
*Note to the geographically challenged: Sonora is 145 miles east of Pacifica, up in the foothills and not on the shores of any body of water we know of.
Call for Artists Since 1997, Coastside Land Trust has actively worked to protect and enhance the natural, scenic, recreational, cultural, historical, and agricultural resources of Half Moon Bay and the San Mateo County coast. Our gallery was launched in 2011 to convey the beauty of these resources through art. We now hold four to six thematic, juried shows per year and all artists are invited to submit.
We invite you, and the artists you know, to submit to our upcoming show "California Raptors." Raptors are icons of the California landscape and continue to inspire and delight us. The word "raptor" includes hawks, falcons, kites, eagles, vultures, and owls. Coastside Land Trust Gallery hopes to capture this diverse group of birds and their habitat in the upcoming show. All media are invited to be considered. The submission period is September 22 - September 29 and the show will run from November 7 - February 13.