OPINION BY TODD BRAY, SPECIAL TO RIPTIDE
Recently the Pacifica Police Department helped bring traffic along Highway 1 to a standstill by playing with drawn guns on Mavericks Saturday and by not playing with their guns the day the traffic lights went out at Fassler Avenue. The latter was due to an in-house policy of not helping direct traffic when traffic lights go out because, and I loved this excuse, “the traffic lights are Caltrans' responsibility. We called them to advise them of the problem.”Meanwhile, if you were unfortunate enough to be caught in traffic the day of the signal outage, you might have been wondering why our paid protectors decided to stay inside drinking coffee instead of wandering down the block a few hundred feet from their new $7.5 million police station/gymnasium (which we taxpayers built) to help us out in a crunch. Apparently it’s official police policy not to help us out if they’ve decided the problem isn’t theirs.
As if on cue, another round of Highway 1 widening madness is upon us this year. A Scoping Hearing (search CEQA) is being sponsored by Caltrans, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, and the City of Pacifica to ask the public what it thinks environmental impacts will be from widening Highway 1 from four lanes to six between Rockaway and Vallemar. Now you might wonder about the built-in bottleneck that this project creates for commuters just north of the Vallemar intersection, ironically right in front of the new police station, and what help (if any) the police are willing to give those of us who fall victim to the funneling this widening project will create. But the scoping hearing isn’t about that.
In the official press releases popping up online, in the newspaper, and in your mailbox if you are lucky, the three agencies want to know what impacts a project of this size (last published estimate was between $33 million and $35 million for little over a half mile of road) could have on our environment. The notices suggest topics for the public such as noise, air quality, habitat, water quality. I think you get the picture. What is left off the list is archeology, meaning things like Ohlone Indian burial sites similar to those found during construction of the Calera Creek Water Treatment Plant but destroyed anyway (source: Pacifica Village Draft Environmental Impact Report). Of note in the same EIR was the apparent misplacement of several Ohlone artifacts such as extremely rare, intact Ohlone fishing nets that “disappeared” without explanation.
(Bob Pilgrim photo)
Rest in Peace, Todd Bray, who in 2010 wrote:
"What is left off the list is archeology, meaning things like Ohlone Indian burial sites similar to those found during construction of the Calera Creek Water Treatment Plant but destroyed anyway (source: Pacifica Village Draft Environmental Impact Report). Of note in the same EIR was the apparent misplacement of several Ohlone artifacts such as extremely rare, intact Ohlone fishing nets that 'disappeared' without explanation."
Posted by: Dan Stegink | April 30, 2023 at 03:09 PM
Maybe Joe Hurley needs to understand he's a public employee and not a robber baron...
Posted by: todd bray | July 19, 2010 at 07:28 PM
Nobody has told us what other projects(s) will not be funded if we pay for the Calera widening.
I'd like to know what's getting bumped to fund this. There are limited Measure A funds, so what's the priority list?
Joe Hurley said he wants a solution so they won't ever have to deal with this again. Yet SMCTA admits that its widening proposal is a 20-year patch, at best, then we're back in the same discussion, and probably offered the same "solution."
The people of Pacifica have been surprisingly clear in their objections to SMCTA's proposal.
Posted by: bill collins | July 19, 2010 at 04:43 PM
Responding to Bark Nuggets post of 2/22, finally had time to check it out: "Please see this post at The Infrastructurist discussing the way four cities have addressed the issue (SF's Embarcadero Freeway is one example): http://tinyurl.com/mlvqpy"
Unfortunately, it does not seem to me that these solutions would work for us, although it would be great for my property values, because we are not a tightly packed urban area with many other routes available. So many new roads would have to be built to connect the different sections of town, it would be impossible, especially considering the fight we have to get anything done around here with the endangered species and sensitive environmental issues. Highway 1 is the only and key link between many sections of our town.
Posted by: Sharon | February 26, 2010 at 07:35 PM
Since your original complaint was a rehashing of the often-used myth that Pacifica generates large sums of revenue for Measure A and gets nothing in return, I think you have shown through your own calculations that particular myth is just not true. Whether you agree with me or not, your own figures dispel the argument that Pacifica gets the short end of the Measure A stick. It might not have been your intent, but well done all the same.
The amount of Measure A Local Share is determined, so I'm told by J. Hurley, by local population, not local contribution. This is one of the reasons that Pacifica makes out like a bandit when Local Share is redistributed. The case you are making about where we spend our money is one that could be used by other Peninsula cities to actually restrict the amount of money we get, so think about that next time you say we spend money over the hill.
Posted by: todd bray | February 26, 2010 at 02:50 PM
It's quite difficult to finance a viable public transportation system in this town. Most of the usage will occur during rush hours while too little during the day. It is possible for such a system only if changes are made to develop a vibrant downtown area as well as additional businesses. It's not that difficult to figure out. Vibrant downtown + businesses + smart sustainable development will result in more jobs for locals, additional capture of visitors and travelers, additional tax revenues, etc. Citizens will shop and play locally rather than have to drive out of town. Only then can a sustainable public transportation system occur. Development of the old sewer plant as well as the entire adjacent Palmetto/Beach Boulevard area along the waterfront can be a good start.
Posted by: Markus | February 26, 2010 at 08:49 AM
@Todd: You're the expert on these matters, but I don't see how it can be true that Pacifica contributes only $100,000 a year through sales tax.
Measure D, which was a 1% rise in the sales tax, was going to raise $1.7 million a year.
Measure A is a half-cent sales tax, which ought to raise half that, or $850,000 a year.
In addition, Pacificans spend a large portion of their money outside Pacifica. That doesn't count as "Pacifica's contribution" in your calculation.
Third, Pacifica receives about $750,000 a year in road repair money from Measure A, but less than half of that actually comes from Measure A funds. The rest is state and federal funds. If we've received anything other than road repair money from the measure, it can only be for the studies to widen the highway. What else has the measure done here?
So by my calculation, we contribute $850,000 a year to Measure A directly through sales tax (and far more indirectly through our purchases elsewhere in the county).
We receive about $450,000-$500,000 in road repair money and "preliminary studies" from Measure A (and another $450,000 from federal and state matching funds, which do not come from Measure A).
Please let me know how I've figured this wrong.
Posted by: Matthew Levie | February 26, 2010 at 08:46 AM
If we put our money into new public transportation, I'm guessing that many of those cars wouldn't need to be on the road at rush hour. Making public transportation comfortable and affordable would go a long way toward solving our problem while widening the highway will cut down traffic for a couple of years, until the word gets out and the developers make Montara, El Granada, Moss Beach, HMB, Pescadero, et al. into Daly-City-by-the-Beach and then we will have the same gridlock, only with many more cars.
Posted by: Dan B. Underhill | February 25, 2010 at 06:06 AM
Talk about a heavy carbon footprint! Has anyone noticed the snail-paced traffic during the morning & afternoon rush hours? You have hundreds of cars barely moving and spewing emissions. There is no doubt we need this daily dose of pollution and inconvenience gone. One alternative to widening is to create more local jobs by welcoming sensible businesses and development. Steve's mention of an outlet mall at the quarry would be a good start. In addition, development and business will do wonders for our lagging tax base and would provide much-needed local services and amenities locals are forced to seek out of town. If we can get moving in the right direction, we may be able to generate additional capital for other much-needed projects. Development of the old sewer treatment plant as a lead to the entire Palmetto St. renovation, to create a downtown center, would serve as a terrific accomplishment, not only for locals but also for the multitude of tourists and travelers. As in all things, harmony can be achieved only with balance. That is a universal truth.
Posted by: Markus | February 24, 2010 at 09:21 PM
"They need to widen Highway 1 for the new outlet mall that's going into the quarry." In your dreams, Steve, but it's a great idea for that location since folks in homes or hotels there would be really ticked off every time the sewer plant stinks up the area and it is the only retail development that could compete with Serramonte.
Posted by: Sharon S. | February 24, 2010 at 07:26 PM
No, no, Steve, it's going to be the Airy-Fairy Children's Storybook Park, presented by the bank that now owns the property.
Posted by: Lionel Emde | February 24, 2010 at 06:59 PM
They need to widen Highway 1 for the new outlet mall that's going into the quarry.
Posted by: Steve Sinai | February 24, 2010 at 06:23 PM
The problem with roundabouts is that I've seen how U.S. drivers handle them and it scares me. Grade separations are expensive.
I also wonder about spending money for any "fix" while the rest of our highway system continues to fall apart.
Highway 1 is an abomination -- it split Pacifica in two. No matter what is done to improve the flow, that will never change.
Posted by: Bruce Hotchkiss | February 24, 2010 at 03:50 PM
If any lanes are added, there is still the natural barrier of traffic lights.
If the issue is circulation, then the solution is to remove the lights and build roundabouts or grade separations.
Posted by: todd bray | February 24, 2010 at 02:18 PM
Mr. Levie -- Vreeland did all this by himself? Wow, I guess the fact that this has been on the table since Jim was in knee pants just doesn't count. Barbara Carr and Maxine Gonsalves both worked to get funding for the highway widening.
I have mixed feelings about the proposal. I was initially against it, for some of the reasons Todd has stated. Then I began to think that maybe if it were configured not as a widening project but something with extended turn lanes, it might work. I'm still not convinced, though.
I really don't know the answer. Highway 1 is a mess, but will this fix the problems? Probably not.
Posted by: Bruce Hotchkiss | February 24, 2010 at 01:33 PM
Matt wrote, "We're paying that extra sales tax, and we've been paying to electrify Caltrain and put ferries on the bay and who knows what all else. That's outrageous."
We are receiving more money from Measure A funds annually as part of our local share than we contribute. Our local share equals approx. $900,000 a year. Pacifica contributes approx. $100,000 a year through our sales tax. These numbers are readily available through the city and the TA.
I'm sorry Matt, but your enthusiasm is misplaced. Vreeland's posturing brought home nothing. The TA had set aside several million dollars for the widening years ago. Again, you can ask the TA directly. I suggest you speak with Mr. Hurley, who lives up Fassler, btw.
Posted by: todd bray | February 24, 2010 at 01:07 PM
Well, I don't think it's quite this much of a conspiracy. There are plenty of people in Pacifica who want this project, and City Councilmember Jim Vreeland has been agitating to get it for them.
I was at the meeting months ago when the SMCTA came down to Pacifica and told us all about the fantastic things that had been done with the first Measure A money. On Caltrain and BART and ferries and all. We watched, stunned. Did the SMCTA reps think they were in San Mateo?
Finally someone raised a hand and said, "Why does anyone here care? What have you done on the coastside? Squat."
So Vreeland got SMCTA to put "coastal equity" as a project criterion for Measure A funds, so that this project could get in on the second round of Measure A funding.
He did what elected representatives are supposed to do, and brought the money to Pacifica to help his constituents. We're paying that extra sales tax, and we've been paying to electrify Caltrain and put ferries on the bay and who knows what all else. That's outrageous.
And the money is there and we should get some of it--but for a project we really want. If we don't want the highway widened, we should propose other projects that could use that money, and we should talk to our elected representatives about how to get projects done that we actually want.
In Santa Cruz, I remember that city leaders were very eager to widen Highway 1, and people organized and got that project converted to an HOV/bus lane.
If you ask me, the single best and most cost-effective traffic-busting strategy for Pacifica would be school buses. On days when there's no school, there's no traffic. And putting the kids on the bus makes life easier for their parents, because they don't have to drive their kids down from Manor to Ortega and then turn around and drive back north. Everybody wins.
Or, for instance, the recently deceased DX line cost something like $400K per year to run. For the $35+ million that Calera Creek would cost, we could more than double the service on that line for more than 35 years.
Posted by: Matthew Levie | February 24, 2010 at 12:39 PM
"...but which corporations specifically could be behind widening Highway 1, of all things?"
Development interests of all kinds, which you already referenced previously.
Bureaucracies "rooting around" for projects because they have some pot of taxpayers' money is one of the most dangerous realities of today's "ignore-the-public" world.
Saw another good example of this problem we're dealing with in the San Mateo County Times:
"High-speed rail meeting gets heated"
In the article, locals in Menlo Park "...decided they weren't getting clear answers about the bullet train's proposed route through their city." "...rail authorities displayed barely visible slides of possible elevated, at-grade and below-grade options for routes through Menlo Park and Atherton, ...residents bacame incensed and angrily peppered the officials with questions."
Well, I'll be darned, those danged locals get upset because "authorities displayed barely visible slides" of a project that may create a freakin' nightmare where they live?
How about when authorities call a scoping meeting with no plan or map and ask locals to provide "public input" window dressing for whatever plan they already want to move forward?
Posted by: Lionel Emde | February 23, 2010 at 08:13 AM
We don't need room for more cars, we need low cost, low carbon footprint public transportation.
Posted by: Kathy Jana | February 22, 2010 at 08:37 PM
Come on now, J'ohn, you are supposed to be the G'rown-up.
Posted by: todd bray | February 22, 2010 at 04:03 PM
Posted by: John Maybury | February 22, 2010 at 03:24 PM
Posted by: todd bray | February 22, 2010 at 03:18 PM
The idea that increasing the number of lanes will actually result in increased traffic and more congestion has a name: "Braess's Paradox." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braess%27_paradox)
The basic gist is that when people find it easier to drive, they will drive farther and more often. The thinking is that by adding an additional lane in each direction on Highway One, you are encouraging people to take that route, thus increasing the number of commuters and ultimately reaching the point (in terms of backup and congestion) that we're presently at.
Please see this post at The Infrastructurist discussing the way four cities have addressed the issue (SF's Embarcadero Freeway is one example): http://tinyurl.com/mlvqpy
For anyone interested in the science of traffic and roadway design from a layman's perspective, I highly recommend the book, _Traffic, Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)_, by Tom Vanderbilt.
Posted by: Bark Nuggets | February 22, 2010 at 03:14 PM
I talked to Van O'Campo [sic] this morning. He's adamant about there being no ulterior motives or tricks being played. It's just a simple scoping meeting like the one a few years back that did by contrast have plans and alternatives for the widening project. I asked if the public comments from that scoping are still being used and he didn't seem to think so.
If you had concerns a few years ago, you should dust them off and resubmit them. I'll say that again. If you had concerns a few years ago, you should dust them off and resubmit them.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Van Ocampo is our city engineer. We thank Todd for the reportage, but sorry to disappoint: Ocampo doesn't have an Irish apostrophe in his name.)
Posted by: todd bray | February 22, 2010 at 01:33 PM
I think maybe they learned a P.R. lesson from a slick operator from Florida: Try to get people's buy-in before specifying any actual details they could oppose or even examine.
If so, then they learned the wrong lesson: That effort failed.
@Lionel: As for corporations and government colluding against the people, um, there sure is way too much of that going on in this world and I'm all against it, but which corporations specifically could be behind widening Highway 1, of all things? The asphalt manufacturers? Korve? Kiewit? A conspiracy or corruption in this case seems kind of far-fetched to me (unlike the Picardo Handout, which clearly, ah, stinks).
What seems more likely to me is some kind of bureaucratic wrangling, like Caltrans rooting around for "shovel-ready" projects it can use to apply for federal stimulus funds and thus keep from having to lay people off. "Hey, looky over here, this project been sitting around for 50 years, let's see if we can dust that one off..."
Posted by: ken restivo | February 22, 2010 at 11:55 AM