I'm John Keener, Ph.D., research biochemist, small-business owner, and medical writer, now retired. My wife and I have lived in Pacifica for seven years. We were attracted to Pacifica by its many hiking trails, open spaces, and beautiful coastline.
I've made the Highway 1 widening plan the centerpiece of my campaign for Pacifica City Council. The 1.3-mile Caltrans project from the Fassler/Rockaway intersection to just north of the Vallemar intersection would add an additional lane in each direction to the existing four-lane highway.
In doing so, the proposed project would more than double the width of the roadway, from 64 feet to 144 feet, 12 feet wider than a typical eight-lane interstate freeway. Caltrans must acquire all or part of 27 parcels, including residential and business, to accommodate the increased highway footprint. Mature cypress trees lining the existing highway would be removed, and retaining walls up to 22 feet tall would be needed to stabilize cuts into hillsides.
I oppose the widening project because it wouldn't work to reduce traffic congestion during peak commute hours. This is because, at either end of the project, three lanes would merge back to the original two lanes in each direction, causing traffic jams. Other Caltrans widening projects have resulted in similar problems, notably in Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties.
Funded mostly by San Mateo County Measure A funds derived from a half-cent surcharge on sales tax within the county, the current price tag of the Highway 1 widening proposal is estimated at $55 million. I question the use of taxpayer funds without adequate public input. Comments on the Environmental Impact Reports for the widening project that were inconsistent with Caltrans’ vision were rejected.
Caltrans approved its Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) in August 2013. At this point, the decision on widening Highway 1 is a yes or no vote — no modifications are permitted to Caltrans' plan without starting over.
The major hurdle before construction could begin is a formal request by Pacifica City Council to the San Mateo County Transportation Authority for the $55 million needed to fund the project. I think such a request is a waste of taxpayer money on a design that won't alleviate congestion and is out of scale with community needs.
So I oppose funding the Caltrans plan. Instead, I support opening the process to the public and exploring alternative solutions that would effectively reduce traffic congestion on the Highway 1 corridor.
I'm running for one of three open seats on Pacifica City Council in November. More information about my positions on the highway widening and other issues may be found on my campaign website:
In this terrible drought, why waste precious water on ice bucket challenges? Here is a trash bucket challenge that can make a difference.
Pick up a bucket of trash in 24 hours (or take a little longer if needed), then make a donation to the Pacifica Beach Coalition (PBC) to help its beach cleanup and restoration work (click the link below). Challenge your friends and family to do likewise.
By answering the trash bucket challenge, you can help save the beaches, the ocean, and marine wildlife. Only you can stop the flow of litter into our creeks, where it goes down to pollute the ocean. Record your trash bucket challenge by clicking the blue bag at Pacifica Beach Coalition
Every subway rider that’s ever schlepped massive bags to JFK on the A train, or juggled holiday shopping on a packed 4 train, raise a glass to this man. He was spotted maneuvering dozens of balloons onto the 1 train at Chambers Street Wednesday afternoon. Success! And his fellow passengers were typically unbothered.
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.