Pie in the Sky
Bob Pilgrim photo
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 and not on the shores of any body of water that we know of.
Applicant Javier Chavarria on behalf of Miramar Enterprises has filed a planning development application to develop a vacant parcel with a three-story mixed use development consisting of 1,752 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and five (5) residential units above the ground floor at the northwest corner of Monterey Road and Waterford Street (on the corner next to the Highway 1 northbound onramp, before the car wash).
By John Keener, Special to Riptide
At the Pacifica General Plan Update open house the other night, I became aware of a change in land use designation that I believe calls into question the transparency of the planning process.
In question is the "Calson property" on Pedro Point, approximately five acres immediately west of Pedro Point shopping center, separated from the Pacific Ocean by the old Ocean Shore Railroad embankment. It is a low-lying tract subject to seasonal flooding. One would imagine the flooding will only get worse as the sea level rises.
This property was changed from a land use of "vacant/undeveloped" in the existing Coastal Land Use Plan to "coastal residential mixed use" in the updated draft. It is the only tract with this land use designation in Pacifica. It is currently zoned "commercial," but with the new land use designation, rezoning to "residential" would be necessary to be consistent with the new Coastal Land Use Plan. Once rezoned, the "Calson property" could accommodate up to 80 houses. For comparison, there are about 230 houses in the entire Pedro Point neighborhood.
The Pedro Point Community Association has repeatedly asked throughout this process that the property retain the original use of "vacant/undeveloped" with a zoning of "commercial." This would prevent residential development. There is no mention of the community association's comments, and apparently no "paper trail" that would tell us how and why the land use designation for this property was changed. But it is very likely that the property owner was involved in the change.
In my opinion, this change in land use designation is an example of the lack of transparency that many have complained about in city government. It taints the planning process with backroom dealing hidden from public view. The city should explain exactly what caused this change, and reverse it.
Excerpt from the full post at link above:
"The California coast is a panorama of open farm fields and hundreds of miles of undeveloped land. Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) follows the coast for almost the entire length of the state. The kind of road you see in car ads and movies, it looks like it was built to be driven in a sports car with the top down. The almost 400-mile coast drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco is one of the road trips you need to do before you die.
With 39 million people in the state, there’s no rational reason there aren’t condos, hotels, houses, shopping centers and freeways, wall-to-wall for most of the length of our state’s coast (instead of just in Southern California). The Coastal Act saved California from looking like the coast of New Jersey.
Almost 40 years ago the people of California passed Proposition 20 – the Coastal Initiative – and in 1976, the state legislature followed with the Coastal Act, which created the California Coastal Commission. Essentially the Coastal Commission acts as California’s planning commission of last resort for all 1,100 miles of the California coast.
Thanks to the Coastal Act and the Coastal Commission, generations of Californians and our visitors enjoy the most pristine and undeveloped coast in the country, with recreation and access for all. It’s an amazing accomplishment.
The downside is that the coastal zone has the strictest zoning and planning requirements in the country. As a new commissioner I learned quickly what developers would do to bypass those requirements."
What is going on at the northwest end of Oddstad Boulevard? Christine Coppola reports on Next Door Rockaway Beach that construction/destruction is taking place to clear several lots for development, apparently without a city permit. Can anyone verify this?
By Hal Bohner, Special to Riptide
The proposed new General Plan is badly flawed. It actually encourages more housing. That’s unbelievable! We need to put the brakes on new housing, not encourage more.
The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the new General Plan clearly shows that if more housing is built, traffic will just get much worse. Here are a few examples, with LOS indicating Level of Service. LOS E means bad and LOS F means really bad.
(1) The intersection of Highway 35 and Hickey Boulevard is now at LOS E, with a delay of 65 seconds. By 2035, with proposed new construction, it will be at LOS F, with traffic delay twice what it is now.
(2) The intersection of Reina del Mar and Highway 1 is now at LOS F, with a delay of 175 seconds. By 2035, it still will be at LOS F, with slightly less (140 seconds) delay even if the Calera Parkway Project is built.
(3) The intersection of Fassler and Highway 1 is now at LOS F, with a delay of 93 seconds. By 2035, it still will be at LOS F, with slightly less delay (73 seconds) even if the Calera Parkway Project is built.
(4) The intersection of Linda Mar Boulevard and Highway 1 is now at LOS E, with a delay of 65 seconds. By 2035, it will be at LOS F, with a delay of 83 seconds. The Calera Parkway Project would not improve traffic at that intersection whatsoever.
You don’t need to take my word for it. Read it in Table 3.2-5 of the General Plan DEIR at page 3.2-24. This situation could be improved by growth management. Many cities include growth management in their general plans. Pacifica should do it, too. We just need the political will. For more on this, please read my blog: http://pacificagrowthcontrol.wordpress.com/
In all my years on the Pacifica Planning Commission, I never saw a more useless map (click link above to see project proposal). Therefore, I have added a third page, highlighting as best I could figure out (having seen the dog-and-pony-show drawings presented to us earlier) to make it more readable. It bears no resemblance to what we were shown, so some of the highlighting is guesswork.
Reading the first page, you get some numbers in absolute contradiction to the neighbor-friendly drawings shown to us quite some time ago: 16 houses on the ridge, not five or six. Farther down Gypsy Hill Road, 10 more houses; then even farther down, 16 below-market homes (required by law to include affordable housing). A "paper road" would have to be paved.
This is a grossly larger development than we were originally presented with, and in my personal opinion, the intent was to placate the neighbors into thinking this was no big deal so there would be no opposition. One of the “selling” points to our community was that the Campagnas themselves would be the architects, with their intimate respect for the community and environment.
Here is the truth, which I have heard directly from an inside source: The Campagnas do not have the money to develop this project. They hope to get all permits in place so they can sell to some outside company that will obviously build it to make a profit. Adamo Campagna would like to be the architect, but there is nothing to say that this would happen or what that would really mean, anyway.
Another glitch in the plan is that the required noticing area does not include the people on the hillside across the valley of Brighton (e.g., Talbot), who would be the most visually impacted, but because of the code, are not required to be noticed.
Additionally, there is the reality of a history of mudslides on this hill. Because we have had no hard winters in a long time, that may have faded into recent memory. But at the top of Brighton (under Grace’s Vista Point) is a very steep, bare hillside, which has repeatedly slid in wet winters.
After the recent disastrous news from Washington state, where a massive mudslide occurred where they knew mudslides had occurred in the past, how dare we put people at risk? For those on Brighton, whose backyards face the steep hill but have so far been protected by the dense vegetation, what will excavation do to the stability of the hill? The proposed houses are large and set somewhat downhill, dug into the hillside; the extent of excavation required is of major concern.
I’m not even going to go into the various species of wildlife that live here, including many varieties of birds in particular, at the risk of being labeled some kind of environmental extremist.
If any of this matters to you, please talk to City Council and the Planning Commission. Now is not the time for apathy.
BJ Nathanson, Former Pacifica Planning Commissioner
It’s interesting that Pacificans want Pacifica to remain beautiful, in good shape financially, and its infrastructure intact. Folks see that happening in different ways. Most people who live here stay because they want the open space and to be away from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco or Daly City. In fact, I know one person who says we Pacificans are spoiled because our town is so beautiful – that made me smile.
We don’t need to fill up our “empty space” with buildings in hopes that businesses will come here and stay. We have empty business spaces, for instance, Eureka Square. I’ve been told that rents there are very high; rumor has it the owner wants to sell that or build condos, but who knows. We do need more business, but basic businesses that will stay, not simply niche businesses. Niche businesses are good and fun, too, don’t get me wrong.
Folks who think that building is the answer to our problems should ask themselves why they think empty space is “wasted” space. Someone actually said that to me. If buildings attract business, then why do we have empty storefronts? If that’s true, then just move up to Daly City or SF.
As for widening Highway 1, I’ve driven to San Mateo for nearly 17 years now for work. I leave before 7 a.m. to get there without the hassle of traffic. I can honestly say two things: When school is out, I can leave 10 or 15 minutes later; and widening a part of Highway 1, then narrowing it again, does not truly solve traffic woes – it would be like a heart surgeon cleaning out part of your artery but leaving the rest of it clogged.
“Gang of No” is a label meant to segregate and isolate a specific group of people and give that group a negative connotation. That does not help anyone because it turns ideas into conflict. It is not productive. People will argue. Big deal. But ALL sides need to realize there will be give and take. It’s not a contest; it’s a process to reach a mutual goal.
(name withheld by request)
By John Maybury, Editor and Publisher
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.")
The following originally contained numerous spelling and punctuation errors. It has been edited for clarity:
Proposal to construct 24 town home condominiums at 801 Fassler Avenue, Pacifica (APN 022-083-020 & 030).
The purpose of a study session is to offer an opportunity for informal discussion with the Planning Commission.
Agent: Jeffrey Potts, SDG Architects, Inc., 3361 Walnut Blvd., Suite 120, Brentwood, CA 94513
Applicant: Samir Sharma, 1 Vista Montana, Apt. #3408, San Jose, CA 95134
Owner: 1106 Nevada LLC, 5730 Uplander Way, Suite 110, Culver City, CA 90230
Location: 801 Fassler Ave. (West of Sea Crest Condos) APN 022-083-020&030
Project Description: Construction of six buildings with four units each that range in size from 1,300 to 2,100 square feet, each with a two car attached garage.
General Plan: Open Space Residential and Low Density Residential
Zoning: PD with HPD Overlay
CEQA Status: Additional Environmental Review
Required Approvals: Planning Commission approval of a Development Plan, Rezoning, Specific Plan and Subdivision. Other permits may be necessary depending upon project details.
Additional Required Approvals: City Council approval of Rezoning.
Recommended Action: None
Prepared by: Kathryn Farbstein, Assistant Planner
Background: A project called "The Prospects" was approved in 2008, which consisted of 29 condominium units with a mixture of clustered and detached dwellings, a parking garage, walking trails, and many other amenities. The Planning permits are still active until September 2, 2014. An EIR was certified for the previous project that included many green building features.
Project Description: The subject site has been sold and the new owner is proposing a modified project. The current proposal is for 24 town home condominium dwellings with four units contained in each of the six buildings proposed. Vehicular access has changed to a loop road that provides access to the buildings, the two-car garages proposed for the buildings, and the 12 guest parking spaces.
Although the proposal is similar to the previously approved project, the layout and shape of the proposed 24 units has changed. The current design results in each of the buildings exceeding the maximum height limit of 35 feet and range in height from approximately 37 to 48 feet in height.
Existing Conditions: The site is a vacant lot of approximately 11 acres just west of the Sea Crest condominium development on the north side of Fassler Avenue and approximately 0.3 miles east of Highway 1. Major protions of the property are steeply sloped with a ridgeline (although the ridgeline is not identified as a prominent ridgeline in the General Plan) extending across most of the site, and it appears that no development other than quarrying has taken place on the site. Unobstructed views of the ocean exist all along the subject site.
Zoning, General Plan and Surrounding Land Use: Staff calculated 7.47 acres of the site to be designated as Open Space Residential, which requires more than 5 acres per site for each dwelling, yielding a density of 1 unit. The Low Density Residential portion of the site is 3.69 acres, which allows a density of 3-9 units per acre for a maximum density of 33 units for that portion of the site. Thus, the total maximum number of units allowed for the overall site is 34 units. It should be noted that the Transfer of Residential Density was approved for the previous project and still applies now, which allows for the 24 units as proposed for the portion of the parcel with the General Plan designation of Open Space Residential.
To the east of the site is the Sea Crest project, which features 46 two- and three-bedroom townhouse (condominium) units in eight dwelling groups. The remaining area surrounding the subject site is vacant land with a General Plan designation of Open Space Residential and zoned P-D with an HPD Overlay.
Municipal Code and Regulatory Standards: The zoning of the site is P-D (Planned Development) with an HPD (Hillside Preservation District) Overlay. Thus, a rezoning to P-D with a Development Plan would be necessary for any project on this site. The HPD Overlay limits the square footage of the lot that can be disturbed, including construction of buildings, access roads, paths, and landscaping.
Comments from Other City Staff and Outside Agencies: Staff obtained preliminary comments from the Engineering Division. Engineering requested additional information such as an updated traffic study, an updated title report and the Complete Streets Policy compliance. The Building Division commented that 10% of the units in each building must be handicapped accessible, one van accessible guest parking stall with accessible path to all the buildings is needed and all community areas must be made accessible. The Fire Marshal stated that the project must comply with various fire code sections and those comments have been forwarded to the applicant. The North Coast County Water District (NCCWD) commented that a water main extension and Water Service Agreement are necessary and more information can be obtained from NCCWD.
Environmental Review: Due to the location and size of the project, it is possible or likely that additional environmental review would be required. More detailed analysis would be completed upon submittal of a formal application. Potential environmental issues include aesthetics (visual impact), traffic, access, geology, and biology. One area of particular concern and in need of further study is access to and from Fassler Avenue, a road that carries a tremendous amount of traffic traveling at rapid speeds, especialy moving westward down the hill.
Staff Analysis: Since the plans are conceptual, staff is unable to determine if all the same amenities for the previously approved project such as pathways, community room and the plaza have been included in the new project. But due to the fact that the proposed project exceeds the height limit, the buildings proposed have a new design and the access road has a different configuration, staff believes that this should be considered as a significant modification because of the substantial changes proposed by the current applicant.
Specifically, staff requests that the Commission comment on the following: Would the Commission support the buildings as designed, which exceed the height limit? Is the Commission generally supportive of the proposal? Are there any other areas of concern the Commission would like to address?
The following are not posted on the city website:
a. Land Use and Zoning Exhibit
b. Plans (Planning Commission only)
Riptide commentary: The former project was called Prospects. The original owner/developer Rick Lee sold the property. The new owners are bringing forth a project they say is the same project approved as Prospects, but there are significant changes. The new project calls for 24 condos (six 4-unit buildings) instead of single-family homes. They are asking for a variance on the height limits of 3 to 13 feet. This means the buildings will be 38 to 48 feet high, rather than the low-profile project previously approved. Plans can be viewed at the Planning Department.
Appellant calls Rockaway hotel expansion plan "a stucco box with Hollywood prison guard turrets," but Coastal Commission denies appeal. See the conversation about this issue at our Comments link below.
Story and pictures: John Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle
(from Norina Tang's post on NextDoor.com's Rockaway Beach site; edited for clarity and space)
I am writing to provide an update on The Rock. Last October, I received a notice about a proposed development on The Rock (the hill between Fassler Avenue, Sea Bowl Lane, and Highway 1).
The proposal was for a mixed-use development consisting of two buildings with 20,000-plus square feet of commercial space and 63 condominium units (two to three bedrooms each). The notice mentioned a study session with the Pacifica Planning Commission on this topic in one week.
After receiving the notice, I put together a petition opposing this development. With the help and support of many Pacificans, we quickly gathered 75+ signatures on the petition. Many also attended the study session, resulting in a record turnout for such a meeting.
Since then, Todd Bray has spoken to the owner/developer Guru Thalapeneni, and I have spoken to our State Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and Pacifica Mayor Mary Ann Nihart. I am happy to report that for now it appears that Guru is dropping his proposed development and that no future proposals are on the table.
We are safe for the time being! Yippee! Thank you all for your help and support on this matter, which will undoubtedly help preserve the beauty and quality of life we all enjoy here in Pacifica. I will keep you posted about any future proposed development of The Rock. If another unsuitable proposal is on the table, I hope I can count on you again for your support in opposition to it.
(Posted by John Maybury, Pacifica Riptide, Pacifica, California)
Just as the highway-widening debate heats up, an out-of-town developer proposes to build a nine-story colossus on top of The Rock at Highway 1 and Fassler. The architect's renderings look like San Quentin or Alcatraz.
The property owner (applicant) is Guru Thalapeneni, 1920 Glenbrook Road, Glenbrook, NV 89413. He apparently also has or had an address in Woodside, California. He is the founder, president, and CEO of Remoba, a mobile technology company, with almost 3,000 Google entries. You could look him up.
The City of Pacifica Planning Commission met in a public Study Session on October 21 to look at this controversial proposal. Inexplicably, the city had ham-fistedly posted a confusing and misleading notice on its website about the Study Session. The headline for that date said the regular commission meeting was cancelled. Nevertheless, dozens of citizens found their way to the unfriendly confines of Council Chambers to hear the Planning Commission's concerns about the proposal.But if you clicked the link anyway, you got:
Bray's alternative (top), applicant's proposal (bottom)
By Todd Bray, Riptide Correspondent
To further the debate, I offer this to the Pacifica Planning Commission, the general public, and the applicant: a three-story alternative to the nine-story proposal for the Sea Rock condos (aka The Rock) at Fassler and Highway 1.
By losing the top building and two floors of the bottom structure, I think a proposal of this scale, with an iconic coastal veneer of shingles, would not have much, if any, opposition. It's one-third the size of the project to date but still would allow for seven units and (possibly) a rooftop bar and grill.