Comparing Coast Road Improvements: Rumbling Along Highway 1
Wavelength: Ian Butler Interviews Cecily Harris & Mike O'Neill

Caltrans Conundrum: Calera Parkway Project Too Big to Fail?


From the very first public meeting put on by Caltrans in Pacifica, it was obvious that the state transportation agency had only two plans in mind. Not surprisingly, those same two plans remain as the two build alternatives in the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR): narrow median and landscaped median.

As to protecting coastal resources and minimizing impacts to businesses and visitors, the proposed highway widening fails. This failure results in disturbance and permanent removal of multiple acres of land with biological importance to resident populations of endangered species and their habitat, and taking of land used for commercial and visitor-serving purposes.

Caltrans' build alternatives result in a huge expansion of roadway. Highway 1 would grow from its current 64-foot width to either 130 or 148 feet. And keep in mind that this is for adding just one 12-foot lane. Most of the new roadway is nonessential to the additional lane proposed to help traffic flow. Caltrans should consider consolidating the two existing five-foot substandard shoulders and make one 10-foot standard shoulder.

Under the current widening proposal, impacts are allowed for project elements not essential to increasing capacity of the roadway (improving traffic conditions), supposedly the whole point of the project. The result of this excess is impacts to coastal biological resources, visitor-serving businesses, and existing parking, as well as potentially significant visual impact to the entryway into visitor-serving Rockaway Beach.

Alternative proposals should be undertaken and evaluated. We can find one that removes the non-traffic lane elements and adds a 12-foot traffic lane in each direction. This new alternative should be compared and evaluated with others having the least impact. The current Caltrans build alternatives are unacceptable for all the reasons stated above.

A solution is needed. By working smarter, we can find one, or implement those with fewer or no impacts. Lower-impact alternatives must be considered and the best ones adopted before a Coastal Development Permit is issued. I feel strongly that the vast majority of Pacificans will reject the two Caltrans build alternatives and insist on other solutions and/or alternatives.

William "Leo" Leon

Former City Planning Commissioner


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

What Jay Bird and Kathy Huygens said. I couldn't take public transportation for every trip I ever do, but in many cases, if it was fast enough, it could be far more convenient than driving my car.

Wish as you might, people are not going to get out of their cars and start magically telecommuting or ride sharing. This is not going on the ballot. And they are not extending BART to Pacifica. Better traffic flow will reduce emissions and accidents. This is not a massive freeway; it's just a simple widening of a short stretch of highway to improve safety and traffic.

"We have the same problems today that we had 30 years ago." Yep! Because you still don't have low-cost, reliable public transit! Pacifica needs to get off the automobile and onto the bus, train, BART -- to connect with the rest of the world. It would be better for the economy AND the environment/quality of life.

Urban Planning 101:

Add inexpensive, reliable public transportation coastside so workers and potential customers can arrive and leave town without relying on expensive automobiles for transportation.

Adding a massive freeway through the middle of town will encourage massive traffic through and past Pacifica, leaving exhaust, noise, and dust. Pacifica will become less desirable to live in since no one chooses to live next to a freeway. That will in turn result in lower home values here in town.

JJ asserts: "This project is actually much more important to the SMCTA than it will ever be to Caltrans."

JJ, perhaps you can enlighten us poor naive souls as to why the Calera Parkway Project highway widening is more important to SMCTA than it is to Caltrans? Is it because SMCTA director Joe Hurley lives within the influence of the project area? Is it because SMCTA has already wasted more than $5 million on studies, to date, on the proposal? Please enlighten us quivering, humble country folk.


This proved no one is safe from too big to fail. Plus the government just comes in and says okay, you're too big to fail, here is your forced merger. If you don't believe me, ask Countrywide (BofA), Wachovia (Wells Fargo), and WAMU (Chase).

And this gem set up by our US government.

Times flies when you're having fun. It was five years ago (9/14/08) that the US government declined to rescue 158-year-old Lehman Brothers. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection the following day, the largest bankruptcy in US history. If you think your company is too big to go out of business, at the time of the bankruptcy filing, Lehman Brothers had $691 billion of assets.

Todd: The City of Pacifica has blown the chance over the past 35+ years of missing out on $20 million of property tax and sales tax revenue by not developing the Quarry, The Old Waste Water Treatment Plant, and the big parcel (the Catholic Church Parcel; I can't think of the owner's name at the moment) behind Fresh & Easy.

Big Banker,

I agree that it would have been best to put the widening on the ballot, which worked out pretty well for the tunnel. I did advocate for that approach, but the idea didn't get much traction. It would have had to be in this November's election, so it's too late now. At this point, it is pretty much up to the courts and the Coastal Commission.

Dear Todd: So what exactly is your point? All of what you are saying just proves how INsignificant this project is compared to the bigger picture. Caltrans District 4 consists of nine (that's right, NINE) counties with extensive freeway and bridge projects, almost none of which have anything to do with Pacifica. The Calera Parkway Project is but a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things. So if the lawsuit stops the project, what do you think? District 4 is going to come crumbling down? Wow -- how naive. This project is actually much more important to the SMCTA than it will ever be to Caltrans.

Dear JJ: The public information office of Caltrans District 4, the area we are in, says that over the past few years this district has had more projects going or in development than any other Caltrans district. In fact, the public information office boasted that last year Caltrans District 4 had more ongoing projects (meaning being built) than all other state and federal highway districts combined, including the entire nation.


Then get council and our city to put it on the ballot. Put up or shut up time about complaining about Highway 1. 35+ years wasted talking about this.

Todd: Your incessant comments on how the city, SMCTA, and Caltrans staffers are supposedly making some sort of killing and have job protection because of this project are laughable -- as if this one project will make or break these agencies. I hate to break this to you, but all three agencies and their staff will live to see another day regardless of what happens to this project.

Hutch, Ian:

It doesn't matter how many like the Calera Parkway Project or not. This is not junior high school. The project, if it moves forward, will be determined by laws, not feelings. Good or bad. And when I say forward, I don't mean the in-house way that the project has been exploited for profit to date by staffers and consultants. I mean moving forward as in applying for a Coastal Development Permit. Design choices, etc., are not forward-moving steps, just in-house project development window-dressing, which is making a good living for staffers at the City of Pacifica, San Mateo County Transportation Authority, and Caltrans.

We have no way of knowing what percentage of Pacificans support the project as it stands, but we do know that two-thirds of the public comments submitted to Caltrans were against it.


The gang of no cannot even give us a straight answer regarding traffic. When Peebles was in town, they said we had too much traffic, now we do not have enough.

Spin, baby, spin.

It is not true that this project is a business killer or that a "vast majority of Pacificans" are against it. Or that it's an ugly cement monstrosity. It will help businesses; that's why the Chamber supports it. It will be more beautiful than the ugly old road we have now. And it will be much safer. That's why police and fire are behind it. A majority of Pacificans support this modernization and we will make our voices heard.

How about a three-lane freeway from Pedro Point to 280. A couple of new overpasses need to be rebuilt.

Do it right, all at once.

Jay Bird, Pacifica didn't have an economy during the biggest postwar expansion. We have the same problems today that we had 30 years ago. You can't buy a decent pair of shoes, pants, clothes, etc., without going over the hill or buying on

We'll see what the courts say. The fact that the city and other agencies have to be taken to court to pull their collars up tells you something. Like PAY ATTENTION!

What's really sad is how badly this will hurt our little town's business community -- directly and indirectly. A huge "double wide" segment of freeway that bottlenecks at the next highway segment is not only out of character for our scenic, very livable coastal town but will result in lower "livability" and sustainability indices. Who would to live somewhere with a big freeway chock through the middle?

There's so much destruction in this freeway -- noise, dust, car exhaust, additional traffic, loss of scenic views and wildlife habitats. Instead of getting people out of their cars, it will bring more cars to Pacifica. Just the opposite of what works for a livable, scenic coastal town.

This proposed project has provided decades' worth of funding for public and private individuals and groups. At least $5 million by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority in Measure A money has been blown just on outside studies, with unaccounted-for staff time on top of that. The same spending issues exist at Caltrans District 4, which has mountains of paperwork dedicated to the Calera Parkway Project, none of it for free. Between the City of Pacifica, SMCTA, and Caltrans, I'd bet my house on the tab spent to date being more than $20 million, and if you read the Final Project Report, which you will never see in the environmental documents, there is at least another $51 million to go, $8 million of that for land acquisitions alone.

It's not that the project is too big to fail, it is too big and it will fail. And when it goes for development permits, it will be looked at by adults. The proposal to date has provided so much money and earnings for so many people both public and private that it won't stop until it is forced to.

Thankfully, there is in our nation a way to address grievances of our governmental agencies when our governmental agencies have gone too far, as has happened with this Calera Parkway Project nonsense. It's the unaccounted-for dollars of staff time that will eventually lead to this proposal's withering.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)