July 06, 2021


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Carl May:

It appears from your latest comment that you have not visited our website at www.lindamarwoods.com because what you have presented as "facts" are opinions not based on facts. You do not know the details about our project. This development is not "obviously artificial (not natural), urban, and takes over the place for which it is sought." The project includes conservation of natural resources, restoration of recreational amenities, and housing integrated into the existing forest. It also includes wild-fire mitigation and affordable housing. Please go to the website and inform yourself.

You are also playing identity politics by labeling me as a "newcomer" who does not know or understand Pacifica. Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to see things as they are and what they could be. I have lived in Northern California for 40 years and I am no stranger. I do not have to live in Pacifica to see both its beauty and areas for improvement. My previous comments about the need for infrastructure improvements, a new civic center, and the creation of a "downtown" do not require living in Pacifica to recognize as ideas worth considering. I would add to the list the renovation of existing community shopping centers to the standards found in other Bay Area cities.

I doubt whether you have actually had to comply with CEQA and are unaware of how rigorous it is. The amount of effort and cost required to complete a CEQA review for even a simple project is one of the reasons why we have a housing shortage in California. The CEQA process is frequently manipulated by NIMBYs to block worthy projects from moving forward.

This development is obviously artificial (not natural), urban, and takes over the place for which it is sought. Such simple facts don't change just because the developer's playbook dictates wrapping projects in a made-up, self-defined illusion. Following along, we are informed that the benevolent developer is only trying to provide us with visionary and inspirational proposals for Pacifica, as if his newcomer's approach will provide what he sees is lacking and fill a void for such things in the poor dull-witted city. All will be allowed under CEQA, that holiest (and most manipulated) of government standards that is, we novices are informed, entirely adequate for assessing environmental acceptability in spite of all that it does not cover and the many exemptions allowed under it. Why, CEQA is so holy that the many assaults on what it does actually cover, such as SB9 and SB10 signed by the Governor in the past week, are as the squawks of a few radical environmentalists against the march of urban progress.

Carl May:

Aren't you judgmental? You wrote: "[H]ow a degrading artificial urban takeover of a place through 'change' in that direction is the way communities should go. This self-serving line, his 'philosophy,' can work only on people who are environmentally and socially ignorant, and is 'universal.'"

Note the strawman arguments:

1. "Artificial urban takeover of a place." I never advocated for this. The kind of renewal I am suggesting is not urban and it is not a takeover. I am proposing sustainable renovation, redevelopment, and repurposing on existing sites and infill sites. As Joe says: "Build back better."

2. "Self-serving line." I am a real estate developer and have the technical skills to renovate, redevelop, and repurpose real estate. But I am not suggesting these activities take place only on sites I own, but throughout the community, wherever it is needed. This is not self-serving. My ideas are intended to be visionary and inspirational for those who are interested. There are those who live in decay and seem to prefer it, and they are free to live as free men and women in their own squalor.

3. "Work only on people who are environmentally and socially ignorant." You seem not to know that almost every project in California has to go through a CEQA review before it can be approved. No one can say with a straight face that projects get approved by environmentally and socially ignorant people. There are far too many interested people showing up at Planning Commission and City Council hearings for this to take place.

4. I guess you are the smartest person in the room and the rest of the population is environmentally and socially ignorant. That is quite a statement.

Notice how Mr. Kontrabecki once again tries to lay out the standards for what is "good" and how a degrading artificial urban takeover of a place through "change" in that direction is the way communities should go. This self-serving line, his "philosophy," can work only on people who are environmentally and socially ignorant, and is "universal," if it is at all, only among people trying to justify their particular developments. It has no particular relevance to Pacifica. Pacificans have seen it numerous times before (and have experienced its gross failures), and it works only with local politicians and government staff who are tied to and/or friendly with the real estate and developer industries.

Tim Stein:

Sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see things as they are. I have mentioned in other posts that Half Moon Bay is an example for Pacificans to consider. It has all the things I listed in my response to Carl May. My point is all communities need to continuously evolve or fade away, regardless of where they are. This is a universal concept.

Your last paragraph response to Carl May makes it clear you're not a Pacifican and don't know much about us or our history.
For you to come here and preach to us about how we need to do this and we need this to do that is pretty bold for a representative of yet another out-of-town developer who just wants to make money by developing our hillsides.

Carl May:

I direct my remarks by name in response to specific comments made by the author. I am having a public conversation with the writer of the comments. This is public discourse and is appropriate. If this is bothersome to you, I will stop naming you in the responses I write.

You make references in your latest post to "growth in an overgrown place is somehow 'good' without need to account for limits of resource availability, infrastructure capacity, negative tax consequences for cities that went with almost every residential development over the past 50 years, direct negative physical impacts on the already over-strained urban environment, and failure to account for the maintenance and repair costs of new development and its associated infrastructure into the indefinite future." Are you referring to Pacifica or is this some abstract comment that may apply to other communities around the world?

First, Pacifica is not "overgrown." There has been little growth in Pacifica over the past 30 years. The population of the city has grown 3 percent since 1990 and there has been very little new residential construction over this period.

Second, you talk about "limits of resource availability, infrastructure capacity, and negative tax consequences on the already over-strained urban environment." Again, are you writing about Pacifica? Pacifica is not an "over-strained environment." The only resource that is limited in Pacifica is funding for the city government. The infrastructure capacity is adequate and is supplemented incrementally with any new project that is constructed. There have been no negative tax consequences to new development in Pacifica. There has been very little new residential development in Pacifica over the past 50 years. Additionally, new development adds to the tax base at current market prices and brings in sales tax revenues. The negative tax consequences to Pacifica and other cities come from the property owners and businesses that avoid paying their fair share of the tax burden due to Proposition 13.

Third, your comment that there is a "failure to account for the maintenance and repair costs of new development and its associated infrastructure into the indefinite future" is inaccurate. Every new planned residential development has to form a homeowners association that assumes full financial responsibility for all infrastructure within the community other than infrastructure whose ownership is given to the municipality or utility company. When the subdivisions in Linda Mar were created in the 1960s, they too had homeowners associations, but they appear to be non-functioning. I have investigated this because I have made offers to purchase a home there and have reviewed the CC&Rs. It is within the power of the homeowners in these subdivisions to restart the homeowners associations and raise funding for infrastructure maintenance with the subdivision.

I understand what "sustainability" means and the facts do not support your dystopian views. Pacifica needs redevelopment in the form of renovation, repurposing, and new construction throughout the city to remain a vital community in pursuit of a quality life. The city needs a downtown where people can gather and support local businesses. The city needs to plan for repurposing of industrial sites along the coast that are better suited for residential use. The city needs more affordable housing and multigenerational housing for seniors and extended families. The city needs a new civic center that enables city government to work for the public in a quality environment. There are many other areas where the city's physical environment can be improved for the benefit of the community. None of this happens unless the will and effort to redevelop is present.

Dan, wasn't that holding tank installed because the ancient laterals leak so much rainwater into the system that it overloads the pump? (Some of those laterals allegedly were even rolled-up tarpaper when the pipes didn't arrive with sufficient speed as the valley was being built out. Possibly another Pacifica legend.)

I was always under the impression it was the laterals that are the problem. Am I wrong, or is it a moot point?

Oh, shame on me for addressing remarks toward Mr. Kontrabecki, who has no reserve in directing his remarks by name to me and others. Objections to environmentally and socially destructive development are, once again, "dystopian," using his assumed definition of the word to counter objectivity. Due to an almost religious faith, growth in an overgrown place is somehow "good" without need to account for limits of resource availability, infrastructure capacity, negative tax consequences for cities that went with almost every residential development over the past 50 years, direct negative physical impacts on the already over-strained urban environment, and failure to account for the maintenance and repair costs of new development and its associated infrastructure into the indefinite future. The term "sustainability," as it is so often used by developers and governments, is slung against the wall like wet cement to see if it will stick in the greenwashing effort without providing the slightest inkling the user knows what it actually means. In fact, shame on all who do not become worshipful, glassy-eyed Pollyannas while being conned by the routines in the developer's playbook.

Dan Stegink:

Your comments about sewer capacity and water supply are interesting since these points have not been raised by the authorities in our investigation for this project. I will look into it further. Thank you.

Carl May:

Shame on you, Carl, for making a personal attack on me. It is clear we have very different views of the world. Your view appears to me to be dystopian and full of gloom. My view is optimistic and full of hope. In my view, all growth is necessary for community vitality. It includes both new development and renovation, and must be sustainable. I do not support self-destructive economic activity and also reject the notion that doing nothing to address current problems is an acceptable strategy. It looks like doing nothing is acceptable to you.

You present no facts in your latest missive, only opinion, so you offer nothing to which I may further respond.


Notice how Mr. Kontrabecki continues to try to define and then control the playing field. The developer's playbook in action. "Good" and "bad" are according to his definitions. His opinions are the good ones in opposition to any contrary and better-supported opinions. His erroneous and self-serving view of history and his superficial, slanted, inaccurate examples of other cities that are in only a few irrelevant ways comparable to Pacifica are the stage on which the discussion should be carried out. His personally invented "points" are usually based on partial, artificially manipulated, so-called (in his scheme) "facts" that fly in the face of reality but which he seems to assume gain credence by repetition and his emphasis. "Growth" is the god of his patently narrow philosophy, with seeming ignorance of the massive (and hugely expensive) local to global degradation and misery his nasty god has engendered. The stupidity of pushing growth in a place that is already overgrown is lost in his contrived gushing for his kind of change and newness. The notion that both natural and artificial conditions must be sustainable in a place for any kind of positive future is lost in the pitch for his current money-making scheme. His refusal to acknowledge the public elections that have gone against large overdevelopment projects in Pacifica, the domination of recent elections by outside money from real estate and developer groups and individuals, and his oh-so-sincere, narrowly contrived and unrepresentative little surveys and push-polls that serve only to help him frame his arguments and hone his approach toward garnering approvals from local officials, especially those officials sunk deep into the quagmire of myopic, short-term thinking of the real estate and development industries, demonstrate an approach that shows little awareness of the entirety of Pacifica and its citizens.

We are supposed to give Mr. Kontrabecki credence because he has a "vision," as if we don't all have visions. Most visions are fantasies. Maybe he really believes in the game he is playing. Maybe he doesn't know more than the limited, cockeyed knowledge of growth and development that he displays. Maybe he really believes that realities looked at objectively are dystopian. Those are not reasons to give in on his and other development proposals that, each in its own ways, will make Pacifica worse.

@Kontrabecki, you aren't actually suggesting your project will pay for the fair share of infrastructure it uses, are you?

Linda Mar's sewage processing was so over capacity, the city spent $21M to build a holding tank (opened just last year) so they could run sewage through the plant at night. No additional capacity was added, just the ability to hold it until capacity was available.

Pacifica's water supply has been so constrained, the city can no longer afford to flush the pipes once a year so those on the beach end of town get yellow, undrinkable water several times per year.

Dan Stegink:

I am surprised you asked because the bleak picture of Detroit has been so often in the news.
The City of Detroit was the Silicon Valley of the Midwest from about 1910 to 1970. It was Motor City, home of the Big Three auto giants and also home of Motown Records, the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Lions, the Detroit Art Institute, etc. During the boom years, life in Detroit was very good for all social classes, with plenty of money to go around. Starting in the early 1970s, imported cars from Japan and Europe began eating into domestic auto sales and the Big Three began to lose market share and become unprofitable. The response was to offshore manufacturing, which led to a decline in employment, a decline in population, the eventual bailout of Chrysler, and the bankruptcy of General Motors. WIth the decline of employment and population came an erosion of the tax base, and Detroit could not afford to pay for the services the citizens of Detroit needed. The city has been in receivership for decades. Also, when the companies stopped manufacturing in Detroit, they left abandoned factories. When the people left Detroit, they stopped paying their mortgages and real estate taxes, leading to mass foreclosures. The abandoned homes were looted and eventually the city found it better to simply knock them down. Today, Detroit is a city of empty streets and vacant lots. Detroit is a city with no quality of life and little hope. No one wants to live there.

Linty Marr:

But you really do not know what they are, why they are used, to whom they are given, and by whom. The forms of bonds you listed do exist for specific purposes, but it is beyond the scope of this conversation to discuss them.

JK: Well, I know that there are construction bonds, performance bonds, payment bonds, subdivision bonds, and completion bonds. I learned this all from Ned Ryerson, the original strawman.

@Kontrabecki: John, can you walk us through your arguments on how the people of Detroit are in physical decline because they have stopped evolving and lost their zest for life?

"People who complain about over-building in Pacifica are ignoring the necessity of both increasing the housing stock and taking care of the infrastructure we have. When communities stop evolving, they go into both physical and spiritual decline. They degrade physically and the people who live in declining communities lose their zest for life. Look at Detroit as a clear example of this." (John Kontrabecki)

@Kontrabecki: Semyon Dukach was never a Pacifica resident. His 9/21/16 campaign contribution was recorded with both first and last name spelled incorrectly to avoid disclosing his contribution before the polls closed, and was listed as Semion Dukash XX Westbourn Terrace Brookline MA 02446 Managing Director Techstars.

Dukach was a high-stakes gambler (his historical title) looking to parlay an ineligible county parcel by annexing onto City of Pacifica water. The Hillside Preservation District and the General Plan in Pacifica would have prevented that parcel from ever being developed had it actually been part of the City of Pacifica.

Linty Marr:

What makes you think security is not posted before construction begins? Are you experienced with infrastructure development and how it is financed? Another strawman argument.

Carl May:

"Quantitative ignorance is not an excuse for qualitative disinformation." What the hell does that mean?

In my reply, I made a few points. The first is I do not share your cynical views. You have a dystopian view of Pacifica and the world that is not fact-based. All you can say to any new development proposal is NO. You offer no alternative vision for what the Pacifica community should be like that would be a better alternative. All you have is a negative critique. If you have ideas to improve Pacifica, put them out there for examination and discussion.

The second is communities that do not change and evolve to meet challenges eventually atrophy, both physically and spiritually. I gave you an example close to home, Half Moon Bay. Anyone can see with their own eyes that this community has proactively addressed the challenges it faces and the results are self-evident. New housing, an attractive vibrant downtown populated with local businesses, nice civic buildings, a very nice Ritz Carlton resort, and a fiscally sound local government.

My third point is there is a small group of so-called environmentalists in Pacifica who attack all projects that are proposed regardless of merit. They are smart, well educated, and social media savvy, which gives them the power to appear much larger than they really are. They wrap themselves in a false cloak of environmentalism but are really NIMBYs. They do not speak for the majority within the Pacifica community. I have been running surveys on our www.lindamarwoods.com website and have a significant amount of data that I have publicly shared that says the majority of people in Pacifica do not oppose development but are concerned about addressing particular problems and preserving certain "quality of life" aspects of the community. This is responsible citizenship.

My final point is this. Your comment about pouring a great deal of money into a publicity campaign is factually inaccurate. I have created a website that explains the vision behind the Linda Mar Woods project and have sent postcards to people living within 500 yards inviting them to visit the website. I have also been engaging in a public discussion of the project on social media, mostly responding to a misinformation campaign initiated by NIMBYs.
Soon I will be inviting people who have provided me with an email address on our website to participate in video town hall meetings with me to discuss our vision and hear their concerns. The people who decide to participate will have all the time they need to share their thoughts. The cost of this is trivial. I welcome the discussion because I believe in our vision and am comfortable discussing it with people with opposing points of view. I also learn things from the dialogue that help me improve the vision I am pursuing.

I think I am probably the first developer to propose a significant new project in Pacifica that is willing to engage in a public discussion of the vision in social media and live video town hall meetings. I am also the first to publicly call out the NIMBYs for the destruction they are causing to the community with their obstructionist tactics. I have also publicly stated that their personal attacks on the competency and integrity of the Pacifica planning staff, Planning Commission, and City Council are outrageous and have no place in civil discourse. The NIMBYs have created a toxic environment that is leading to the slow decline of the quality of life in Pacifica.

Agree totally with Carl May's statement, well said. One more point, if these land speculators were required to have construction and completion bonds in hand prior to the first shovel, payable to the City of Pacifica, for every phase of an approved project, or for restoration costs, I might take the guys seriously.

Quantitative ignorance is not an excuse for qualitative disinformation. Spouting unsupported opinions and trying to redefine terms to justify destructive development may mollify and even bolster sympathetic local and regional politicians and bureaucrats being backscratched and paid for but flies in direct opposition to the physical, ecological, social, and economic realities on the ground in Pacifica. The developer's playbook doesn't work with people who have seen the repeated failures following its slimy glad-handing and sometimes attempted greenwashing hereabouts.

Overdeveloped, traffic-clogged, income-gapped, resource-short, unsustainable Half Moon Bay, a city in which landowner enrichment and developer profiteering in support of the "final crop" was the quest of most city politicians and bureaucrats for decades after incorporation, is in very few ways comparable or any kind of positive model for Pacifica. Pacifica has its own history, population makeup, pre-development natural setting, conservation needs, social and economic problems, overdeveloped areas, and remaining, enduring positive attributes in its communities and landscape.

Blaming opposition on a radical few is straight out of the playbook. Some of the greatest successes of the citizens of Pacifica have come with votes against unwise and city-damaging developments over the years. Only by pouring huge amounts of outside money into campaigns full of misrepresentations and lies has the real estate industry managed to swamp the discussion and win a couple of elections in recent times. And the losing votes in those elections have come from far more than a radical few. Hey, let's put Linda Mar Woods with a full public discussion on the ballot without campaign support from outside the city and let's see where the people of Pacifica are on the matter. You could even throw in the "affordable" bait to see how many suckers will bite on a project that will contribute to a decline in their quality of life.

"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."
(Kenneth E. Boulding)

Carl May:

I do not share your cynical views. First of all, Pacifica is far from overbuilt, so your critique about the impact of overdevelopment does not apply here. Second, I am not using "heart-tugging terms" when I describe the vision we have for Linda Mar Woods. There are real problems arising from a lack of housing throughout California, and the word "affordable" and the lack of affordable housing is accurate. Finally, I work with public officials who are trying their best to address real problems in our community, and I can assure you that they are not bought by the development community. Perhaps, like me, they do not share your view of the world and your lack of ideas for addressing the real social problems (like homelessness, petty crime, traffic congestion, and long commutes) that our communities are facing as a result of a shortage of affordable housing in our community.

What blows me away is that critics like you do not seem to grasp the direct connection between the quality of life in a community and the quality of the physical environment in which we live. People who complain about over-building in Pacifica are ignoring the necessity of both increasing the housing stock and taking care of the infrastructure we have. When communities stop evolving, they go into both physical and spiritual decline. They degrade physically and the people who live in declining communities lose their zest for life. Look at Detroit as a clear example of this. Better yet, compare Pacifica to what the citizens of Half Moon Bay have done in their community through community engagement and development. In Half Moon Bay you have a vibrant local community with a nice downtown, new civic buildings, a growing local population with new housing opportunities, a very nice Ritz Carlton resort, and a city that is fiscally sound. In Pacifica, you have a small but very vocal obstructionist community that tries to block almost every new development, the civic buildings are horribly run-down, population growth is stagnant, and the city is strapped financially. Pacifica has all the beauty and a better location than Half Moon Bay relative to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and should be thriving. You tell me, which community offers a better quality of life for its citizens?

Peter George:

Allow me to clarify. The Linda Mar Woods development will require infrastructure upgrades from Higgins Way to Adobe Drive. The other project we are doing, Hillside Meadows, will require infrastructure upgrades from Adobe Drive to Peralta Road. These upgrades will be paid for in the development budgets of each project. I am not suggesting that these projects will upgrade the infrastructure throughout Linda Mar.

As a point of information, Linda Mar had homeowners' associations created when the developments were first constructed. Unfortunately, they appear to have been abandoned. The homeowners' associations should be the vehicle for private investment in infrastructure upgrades in each neighborhood except for those improvements owned by the city or the utility companies.

John, you acknowledge the obvious fact that the infrastructure throughout Linda Mar and beyond will face extra burdens if the 150+ units of "Woods" is developed. But are you saying that you will pay for all the upgrades to the *entire system* that your extra burden creates? Obviously the developer pays for the *new* infrastructure, hookups etc. But if *the developer* is offering to pay for all necessary upgrades *now and in perpetuity* to the *entire system within Pacifica city limits* then I must say it raises my opinion of your project considerably. Please point to the document that binds you (the developer) to this perpetual offer. And thanks!!

Whereas, if this is not your offer, then how can you claim that future upgrades necessary because of the increased utilization you create will not be the burden of current residents? They clearly will (shared with the new residents, pro rata, of course).

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