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Enviros Sue County to Block Big Wave Project

Committee for Green Foothills (CGF) has filed suit in San Mateo Superior Court against San Mateo County in an effort to prevent the controversial Big Wave Project from moving forward. Big Wave proposes to build 225,000 square feet of office and commercial space, plus housing for 50 developmentally disabled adults and 20 caregivers in a Tsunami Hazard Area next to the environmentally sensitive Pillar Point Marsh in Moss Beach.

“The Board of Supervisors ignored basic common sense in granting approval for this project,” says Lennie Roberts, CGF legislative advocate. “This project threatens our waterways and puts dozens of our most vulnerable residents at risk. Turning a blind eye to the many real dangers associated with the Big Wave Project will not make them go away.”

Big Wave is the largest development San Mateo County has ever approved on the coast. It would nearly double office and commercial space between Pacifica and Santa Cruz. The 46-foot-high office park buildings would loom over single-story homes, farmed fields, and preserved open space.  

“California’s strict environmental review laws are in place for a reason,” says attorney Winter King of the law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, which represents CGF in the lawsuit. “The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors overstepped its bounds when it approved this project despite gaping holes in the environmental impact report. How will the project dispose of its sewage? What will the residential facility actually look like? These fundamental questions were never answered.”

The project is within the mapped Tsunami Hazard Area, which was evacuated in the wake of the Japanese earthquake on March 11. The Board of Supervisors approved the project on March 29. The proposed building site is next to an active earthquake fault, and is on sandy soils that are highly susceptible to violent shaking, liquefaction, and other earthquake hazards. San Mateo County is potentially vulnerable to a large tsunami event that could be spawned by a major underwater earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which stretches from Cape Mendocino to Vancouver Island.  

“As the parent of a developmentally disabled daughter, I fully sympathize with the need for expanded housing for developmentally disabled adults in the county, but this is clearly not a suitable location,” says Lennie Roberts. “Placing these individuals in mortal danger is not a reasonable solution to the County’s housing challenges.”

The environmentally sensitive Pillar Point Marsh, home to a wide diversity of species, including the California red-legged frog, could also be affected by the project. The project’s stormwater drainage and wastewater disposal systems are inadequate. Pollution from stormwater runoff and possible sewage overflows would severely impact the marsh.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the state Division of Aeronautics, and the San Mateo County Department of Public Works also have objected to the project. The county is at risk of losing federal funding for airport improvements due to fundamental incompatibility of the proposed housing in such close proximity to the airport.

Approval of Big Wave has already been appealed to the California Coastal Commission by CGF in partnership with the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club, San Mateo Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Pillar Ridge Homeowners Association, and San Mateo County League for Coastside Protection. Two additional appeals also were filed with the commission by the Granada Sanitary District and by the commission itself. The commission has the authority to amend the approved project or prevent it from moving forward.

The Committee for Green Foothills (CGF) has been working to prevent unwise or poorly located development throughout the Peninsula since 1962, when it was founded by a handful of citizens and activists to save Peninsula foothills from sprawling development. The organization’s mission is to protect and preserve the hills, forests, creeks, wetlands, and coastal lands of the Peninsula through grassroots education, planning, and legislative advocacy. CGF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP (SMW) specializes in government, land use, natural resource, and environmental law. Since 1980, the firm has provided representation to public agencies and community groups throughout California. Known for its commitment to promoting environmental and community values, SMW is at the forefront of major land use and development issues facing California today.


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Shills for overdevelopers of the coastside notwithstanding, what good is the Committee for Green Foothills (CGF) if it won't engage in actions like suing the county for erroneous approval of numerous violations of the Local Coastal Program, NEPA, CEQA, etc.?

Viewing from the outside, CGF has been too compromising on other unsustainable coastal development and on infrastructure supporting the overdevelopment in recent times. And, of course, CGF rolled over for the enormous taxpayer-raping, overpopulation-stimulating doubling of the tunnels project at Devil's Slide. It's good to see them get back to dedicating their effort and expertise to something positive on the San Mateo County coastside.

When you do not get your way, in the face of evidence that you ignore (not the other way around), sue. The American way.

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