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August 2014

Linda Mar Beach Fence Protects Snowy Plovers

Kate Symonds, Margaret Goodale and Nelle Lyons(left to right) Kate Symonds, Margaret Goodale, and Ranger Nelle Lyons on Linda Mar State Beach

By Ian Butler, Riptide Correspondent

In this slow news cycle, with PCT in disarray as it upgrades to the 21st century, here is a new Wavelength episode to hold you over. It documents the installation of the snowy plover fencing at Linda Mar State Beach, and shines a light on the 20-year struggle to protect these threatened shorebirds.
Click for Video


Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) Gets Its Day in Court

DSCN5402PSC attorneys Celeste Langille and Brian Gaffney (Leo Leon photo)

By Peter Loeb, Riptide Correspondent

Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) has concluded its legal challenge to the Caltrans Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on the Highway 1 widening.

PSC attorneys Celeste Langille and Brian Gaffney completed their oral arguments at a hearing on August 29. Then City of Pacifica attorney Kevin Siegel presented his oral argument, followed by Caltrans attorney Derek van Hoften. PSC’s attorneys then rebutted.

Langille and Gaffney argued that the project was described as one thing in the draft EIR but became a much bigger project in the final EIR, with huge retaining walls and massive excavations.

They also claimed that Caltrans failed to do a legally required analysis of the project's visual impacts. And they charged that Caltrans did not analyze the project's greenhouse-gas impacts. They also argued that Caltrans improperly limited its analysis of the project's environmental impacts to only the project's footprint, without analyzing impacts on surrounding areas.

Judge Weiner challenged the attorneys on some of their points, but it seemed that she saw the merits of at least some PSC complaints about the FEIR's inadequacy.

At least 22 PSC supporters attended the hearings. Judge Weiner thanked them for being well-behaved during the hearings. The judge has 90 days to deliver her ruling, so the outcome may not be known until the end of November. But a ruling could come much sooner than that.

If the judge decides that some issues raised by PSC have merit, she may require Caltrans to go back and redo the analyses that were found missing. It’s possible that her ruling could require Caltrans to revise and recirculate the EIR, take public comments again, and then respond to those comments in another final EIR.

PSC's lawsuit is unlikely to stop the project, but a second group, Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A), is doing a variety of things to stop the project, including trying to get the city to apply for grant money to hire a traffic consultant to evaluate all alternatives for reducing traffic, raising the issue in the current City Council race, and considering a referendum or initiative on the project.


PSC's Highway 1 Lawsuit vs. Caltrans: Background

PSC Uses CEQA to Challenge Caltrans Highway 1 Widening EIR
 
In August 2013, Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) filed suit against Caltrans under the California Environmental Quality Act. On August 22 and 29, Judge Marie Weiner heard that lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court. Judge Weiner now has up to 90 days to issue a ruling.
 
The lawsuit challenges the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Highway 1 widening project. The suit contends that: the project was not adequately described at the time of the EIR, the project is out of scale with Pacifica’s scenic nature, the EIR contains contradictory information on impacts on threatened species, and the EIR does not adequately address adverse impacts of the project.
 
A PSC spokesman says, “Caltrans has approved a project that will more than double the width of the existing roadway, and encase the highway in 9- to 22-foot-high retaining walls. Pedestrians and bicyclists crossing from west to east or east to west would be challenged in crossing such a wide roadway, which as proposed is completely out of scale for a community the size of Pacifica. There were only two alternatives considered by Caltrans, big and bigger. Bigger was Caltrans’ preferred alternative.”

PSC LAWSUIT


PSC's Day in Court: Caltrans Talks of Frogs and Vertical Separation

By Peter Loeb, Riptide Correspondent

The PSC v. Caltrans hearing has concluded. Judge Marie Weiner has 90 days to issue a ruling. PSC's attorneys are Celeste Langille and Brian Gaffney. The opposing attorneys are Derek Van Hoften and Stacey Lau for Caltrans, Kevin Siegel for the City of Pacifica, and Adam Hoffman for the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA).

On August 22, the judge and the attorneys agreed to have Caltrans' attorney respond to some oral arguments Gaffney had presented. When Caltrans' attorney defended language in the environmental impact report (EIR) about "vertical separation" between northbound and southbound lanes, the judge asked what that meant. The attorney said it was not grade separation but that the roadway would be “tilted” to allow for views.

The judge did not understand, and questioned the attorney about it. The attorney acknowledged that the Final EIR doesn’t say anything about “vertical separation." Then he maintained that the red-legged frogs wouldn’t travel east of the highway at Calera Creek because they wouldn’t go through the culvert under the highway.

The judge questioned that assertion, but the attorney said it would be too dark in the culvert and too far to go, and that the frogs would die. The judge did not seem to accept this. (In fact, frogs have been documented in the creek east of the highway.)  

At the continued hearing on August 29, PSC's attorneys finished presenting their oral arguments, then Caltrans, the City of Pacifica, and SMCTA responded and the PSC attorneys rebutted. The judge now has 90 days to issue her ruling.


UPDATE: Tag and Tow Abandoned Vehicles

UPDATE: The vehicle in question below is gone from the parking lot as of August 26, apparently either towed away by the police or removed by the owner. George Tano, who originally made the complaint, is pleased that somebody paid attention.

GEORGE TANO'S ORIGINAL POST: I'm a Pacifica resident who enjoys fishing at the pier and walking along the beach at Sharp Park golf course that takes me up the stairs to the top of Mori Point. I often go to the pier to fish or walk to Mori Point, but lately I have noticed that parking at the pier has been getting tougher.

I have also noticed this RV parked at the lot for the past two months or maybe more. Pacifica Police tagged it for towing if the vehicle was not moved by August 1. The date has come and gone, the notice blown away by the wind, and the RV still parked in the same place as of August 8. The RV has weeds growing under it. It's so dusty you can't see inside it, and people have used it as a restroom. The smell at times gets overwhelming.

The City of Pacifica has a 72-hour parking limit on city streets and parking lots. Even the beach parking lot by the RV center is starting to look like a dumpsite, with TVs, boat trailers, and trucks filled with junk. What is the City of Pacifica going to do about all these illegally parked vehicles?”

George Tano


Hill's Bills: Martins Beach Bill to the Governor

California Senate Sends Jerry Hill’s Martins Beach Bill to the Governor; SB 968 Calls for Negotiations to Begin with Silicon Valley Billionaire to Restore Public Access to the Beach

SACRAMENTO -- The California Senate today sent to the governor Senator Jerry Hill’s legislation to require the State Lands Commission to enter into negotiations with Silicon Valley billionaire and Martins Beach property owner Vinod Khosla for one year, in an effort to re-open the beach near Half Moon Bay to the public.
In 2010, two years after Khosla’s purchase of beachfront land, his property manager closed the gate to the only road leading to Martins Beach and put up a sign reading, “Beach closed, keep out.” Since then Californians have been unable to access a beach they've enjoyed for generations.

The grassroots movement to re-open the road has attracted national attention, focusing on the rights of Californians to beach access. Senate Bill 968 by Hill, D-San Mateo/Santa Clara Counties, does not mandate use of eminent domain. But if signed by the governor, it would mandate negotiations for a year as an attempt to reach a positive outcome for all parties.

The bill, which the Senate passed on a bipartisan 23-9 vote, does not interfere with current court battles that could take years to resolve, but is designed to provide the public access to the beach in the near term.

For more than a century, the road to Martins Beach was owned by the Denney family, which charged visitors a fee for access and parking at the beach. After the gate on the road to the beach was closed, a group of protesters known as the Martins 5 was arrested for bypassing the gate, walking down the road to the beach and going surfing.

After charges were dropped by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, a lawsuit to restore public access was filed by a group called the Friends of Martin’s Beach. The plaintiffs based their claim on the public trust doctrine and Article 10, Section 4, of the state constitution, which prevents property owners from excluding access to public bodies of water.

Last October, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled that the constitution’s provisions do not apply to the beach because ownership of the beach was decreed by a document that predated the California constitution. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War and guaranteed that the United States would uphold the property rights of Mexican citizens., had granted 200 acres to Santa Clara Valley settler Jose Antonio Alviso, including the Martins Beach parcels. Judge Buchwald ruled that the land grant took precedence over the public trust doctrine in the state constitution.

Buchwald’s decision – which is being appealed – didn’t outlaw public access to the beach, but because the only way for the public to get there now is from the ocean, it had the same practical effect.

Meanwhile, the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans and beaches, has been pressing its own lawsuit against Khosla based primarily on the California Coastal Act.

(Senator Hill press release)


County Health Seeks Volunteer Water Samplers

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Water sampling of beaches, creeks, and lagoons is conducted by a combination of county staff and citizen volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering to assist in the collection of water samples from your favorite beaches, please email Greg Smith at GJSMith@smcgov.org or Kate Elgin at kelgin@smcgov.org of County Environmental Health or call 650-372-6200. County staff will provide training and needed equipment and supplies for the sampling. Sampling is done every Monday morning, and volunteers drop samples at convenient locations in either Half Moon Bay or Pacifica for transport by county staff to the Public Health Laboratory for analysis.

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