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July 06, 2021

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Peter George:

Further to our conversation about the traffic impact of new development in Linda Mar, the Silicon Valley Business Times reported today that a plurality of employers in the Bay Area are expecting employees to work from home two days a week going forward. This is what I think will be the new normal.

The reasons are the pandemic has proven there is no loss of productivity by employees working from home, it is highly desired by employees, it reduces stress on employees, and the amount of office space needed by employers is reduced so it lowers overhead cost.

Peter George:

I want to thank you for your civility. It is clear that you are skeptical about the development I am proposing. Your questions and comments have been thoughtfully presented. I appreciate that.

Last week someone opposing this development vandalized and defaced a monument sign I had constructed at the entry to Linda Mar Woods. The sign was a work of art built to U.S. National Park standards that cost $8,000. This is part of an effort I have started to clean up access to the woods. I am creating a new and improved trailhead for hikers and mountain bikers. So far I have repainted the gate and replaced the signage affixed to the gate at the southern end of Higgins Way. I have also repainted the fence next to Shamrock Ranch at the northern end of Higgins Way and cleared out overgrown tree branches constricting the pathway to Higgins Way. My next step is to organize an initiative to make repairs to Old San Pedro Mountain Road by cutting back the overgrown bushes and weeds that are choking the path and filling in the potholes with gravel. I have identified several locations where I think I can create overlooks with benches where hikers can take a break and enjoy the ocean and valley views. My objective is to improve access to Linda Mar Woods and the quality of the experience for both hikers and mountain bikers.

There is an organization called "Protect San Pedro Mountain" that is opposing this development. They have a website and an Instagram account where they are spreading false information about the project and inciting the recreational community by saying we are going to shut down access to the woods and destroy the mountain biking pathways and amenities constructed by the mountain bikers. We are not shutting anything down. We are doing the opposite. We are cleaning up and restoring long-neglected features and making the experience of Linda Mar Woods more accessible, better, and free for everyone.

Peter George:

I do not have links to the reports you are asking about. Our files are on private storage devices or private cloud service accounts. The files were sent to the Planning Department, and they are publicly available there.

Our traffic analysis was conducted using traffic counting devices, so it is based on hard data, not gut feeling.

As for my gut feeling, I tried to anticipate future events based upon the most current data available. It is too early to collect hard data using traffic counting devices to establish behavioral patterns of drivers in a post-pandemic world. But I do get out and about and see with my own eyes what is happening. I can tell you as a fact from personal observation that traffic is much lighter now and has been throughout the pandemic period in the Bay Area and in particular on Highway 1 in Pacifica. This is not a gut feeling. The question is whether this is the beginning of a new way of life, and I think it is.

The number of homes planned at Linda Mar Woods is 125. At Hillside Meadows it is 20 without counting the ADUs. The two projects are not connected. The Linda Mar Woods project is an outdoor recreation-oriented project. The Hillside Meadows project is a multigenerational housing development. It is intended to provide housing for families with aging parents who want to offer elder care within the home by the extended family.

It is unfair to compare the traffic volume on Higgins, Peralta, and Adobe today with traffic after the projects are built, assuming that the condition of the streets is the same as it is today. There is no question that Higgins is a substandard street. Higgins does not meet minimal city engineering standards and is too narrow. It is already congested south of Adobe Drive. Going north, Higgins is a one-block dead end, so there is no traffic flow. The road in front of Shamrock Ranch is used as a driveway, not a street. To build Hillside Meadows, we are going to remove the barrier blocking Higgins and build a proper road to connect to both Adobe and Peralta. The new road will handle traffic from 20 new homes easily and there will be no traffic impact on the community. At Linda Mar Woods, we have to either widen Higgins south of Adobe or prevent street parking on Higgins, or (most likely) a combination of widening and limiting street parking to enable smooth traffic flow and allow traffic to move properly. Our traffic engineer has determined with hard data that both projects will have little traffic impact if Higgins is rebuilt to proper city standards. It is like Safeway when it is moderately busy and there is only one checkout open. Customers get queued up and it is a disaster. But this is an artificial chokepoint. If you open more checkouts, suddenly the queue disappears. This is the same with Higgins. Currently, you have a substandard road with a dead end that blocks traffic flow to Peralta. When the road is rebuilt to proper city standards and the chokepoint removed, traffic will flow smoothly. This is a fact.

As for how many years of construction, that is different for Hillside Meadows and Linda Mar Woods. Both projects will be built in phases, with the first phase being the construction of the road and infrastructure. Since the projects are not connected and Hillside is further along in design, I expect the opening of Higgins and the construction of the road connecting Adobe and Peralta to happen first. The homes will then be constructed in two or three phases. At Linda Mar Woods, the construction of the new loop road and the widening of the existing road will probably take place at the same time. Thereafter, the homes will be constructed in phases, which could take place between five and ten years, depending upon housing demand and the state of the economy.

I do not know how many truck journeys will be required to build each project. To a large degree, this will be determined by the method of construction used. I have been researching using either a panelized or modular construction method where large sections of each home are factory built and brought to the site to be assembled. This is faster, cheaper, and involves less truck traffic. The architect I am using is Toby Long and he is an expert in this kind of housing construction. Look him up at https://www.cleverhomes.net.

Trying to compare the two projects to a hypothetical high-density development near transit, services, and access is an exercise in futility. I support this kind of development, but the General Plan and zoning laws do not. State Senator Scott Wiener and others have been pushing hard in the state Legislature for laws that will overrule local General Plan and zoning prohibitions to encourage high-density development like this without success so far.

We have a housing shortage in California that the state has determined is a public emergency. We must build new housing where we have in-fill sites that can be easily connected to utilities. Both Hillside Meadows and Linda Mar Woods meet these criteria and are suitable sites for housing development. This is not a situation where stopping the development of new housing is the best option for the community. New housing is the only option.

Unfortunately for the people of Pacifica, John, traffic patterns don't follow your gut impressions. But thankfully, traffic patterns are easily recorded, and recent actual numbers (not the gut impressions of optimistic property developers) show traffic volumes now close to, or exceeding, pre-pandemic levels. For example (one of many reports one can easily find based on actual numbers, not gut impressions; links to source data at this URL):

https://sfist.com/2021/04/12/bay-area-traffic-is-fully-back-and-on-one-east-bay-bridge-its-worse-than-pre-covid/

And do you really think that the folks living on Peralta and Adobe should accept the word of the property developer that 150+ new units (or what the total of Meadows + Woods both phases + whatever including all the ADUs is -- please correct me, you know the exact number, I don't) will generate no "issues" on their streets? You said yourself, "We have studied the hell out of this." As well you should. So why not post links to your expert traffic reports here, rather than telling each of us to individually go and find them for ourselves in the warren of the city website? You must have the URLs right in front of you.

Tell us, how many truck journeys alone in the years of construction would your developments generate? And for that matter, how many years of construction? You must know the numbers -- it's your job, and you studied the hell out of it. So simply tell us, since you "expect" they are "not an issue" and thus nothing to fear. Call me cynical, but I'd rather see the expert reports rather than basing this on the property developer's "expectations." Thanks.

For an added bonus, would you please compare and contrast those numbers with the car traffic/truck traffic projections from a hypothetical high-density development not on a slope/hilltop, or a dead-end road on the suburban fringe, but rather near transit, services, access etc. Few can argue the need for more housing in our area. But there are so many negatives to the "Woods" location (slope, grading, wildlife impacts, recreational impacts, oversize footprint, access, traffic, water, fire risk, median cost, viewshed impacts, the list is near-endless, as others have pointed out far better than I). Thus it is only right and proper therefore to compare and contrast your "Woods" to an equal number of housing units in a different locale. Because at the end of the day, provision of housing units is the main motivation, right?

Peter George:

You can find the traffic engineer's report on the Pacifica Planning Department's project website.

I do not agree with your premise that all traffic from Higgins will default to Peralta. I think it will select the route that will get the driver to the place he or she wants to go the fastest. That is determined by the relative demand at a given time of day on Peralta vs. Adobe.

I also think we are going through a fundamental change in work as a result of the pandemic. Every major employer in the Bay Area has instituted some kind of work-at-home policy. This has reduced traffic loads all around the US and in Pacifica. I have experienced this firsthand. Also, retailing has changed, with more people opting to shop online, having products delivered to the home. This includes Amazon, Target, Safeway, and local retailers as well. Finally, many people are opting to have food delivered to their homes by Uber Eats and other food restaurant delivery services. It is now very important to have reliable broadband so we can all use these services.

Another interesting trend is the explosive growth in electric bicycles. I own two and ride them as often as I can. They can be used for local commuting and shopping. Pacifica has made a serious effort to improve bike lanes throughout the city.

I do not expect to see traffic as an issue in the development planned for west Linda Mar.

John, I never mentioned traffic originating on Adobe. I'm talking about traffic going to/from Higgins -- the Montessori School, trailhead, and the significant traffic you will generate if the "Woods" gets developed. It is very easy to foresee that once Higgins is open to Peralta, then basically all that Higgins traffic will no longer turn right on Adobe as they leave but rather will go straight across that intersection to/from Peralta. If you consider the distance, the topography, and other factors, if you are trying to reach Highway 1 from Higgins, you will have every reason to take Peralta, not Adobe. I just hope everyone living along Peralta (as you rightly point out, currently a quiet road) realizes that if all these projects (Meadows, Woods, etc.) all go ahead, then the people on Peralta, even more so than the people on Adobe, will be most affected downstream. Can you point me to the official traffic expert reports, please? I'm clearly no expert, I'm just using common sense. I'd like to see how that matches with the expert opinion and see how they model these things. Thanks.

Peter George:

My conversations with the owner of Shamrock Ranch are private. I am sure she would not want me telling you about her business, just as you would not want me telling people about your business.

I do not agree that the majority of traffic heading for Linda Mar Boulevard will use Higgins Way to Peralta Road. For the people living on Adobe and Higgins, perhaps yes. But not for others who live east of Higgins Way, no. People will not backtrack down Adobe Drive to Higgins to loop around the school to get to Peralta Road. If they were inclined to do this, they would loop in front of the school now, and they do not.

As for traffic flow in front of Shamrock Ranch, it is currently a dead end and there is no traffic flow. Removing the fence and constructing a proper road will produce traffic. We own the strip of land between Shamrock Ranch and the school and we need to open up the dead end for our Hillside Meadows project.

Exactly what we are doing, Carl. Just archive this thread.

The nonsense with the 2018 election, and against a City Council member, the 2017 fake petitions financed by the CAA, which resulted in evictions (and the RVs), were easy to get away with during Sherman's ownership of the Trib. We have a local weekly newspaper again, run by people who live here, not Marin. No suppression of news, or information.

Thanks for the reply concerning Peralta, John. So to answer my other question, how are you working with Shamrock Ranch to mitigate the significant impacts on them? Once Higgins opens to Peralta, it is easy to foresee that the majority of Higgins traffic (trailhead, school etc.) will take that route to Highway 1 over Adobe (imagine entering it into Google maps -- it is easy to see it will prefer Peralta for all Higgins-bound traffic). Plus the significant additional impact of the "Woods" development -- if it goes ahead. Not hard to imagine the traffic in front of Shamrock Ranch will increase a hundredfold literally overnight (what do your "official" traffic experts say on the numbers?). What are you doing with the folks at Shamrock to mitigate that? Plus folks further down Peralta? As a good neighbor, it would be unthinkable that you are not already working with them on this point. And I don't mean just asking them to fill in an online survey.

Carl May:

There is nothing I can write that will overcome your cynicism and negativity.

You start with the belief that change is bad, everyone is a crook, no one tells the truth, and public officials are either bribed or incompetent. There is no way to have a conversation based upon facts and reason with someone who holds this worldview.

Your view seems to be in fashion today. I however refuse to embrace it. I personally think you would be better off suspending your cynicism and investing your time learning the facts and making an evidence-based judgment on the issues.

Stop making straw-man arguments where you set up a false premise and then criticize it. You say:
"Touting popular 'outdoor recreation' allows development interests to ignore the extensive environmental damage caused by some forms of activity, such as undisciplined gung-ho mountain biking, often to the detriment of other outdoor activities, such as hiking and the calm and solitude one can get from being in nature." Your premise is that our development is ignoring extensive environmental damage caused by certain activities. This is false. We see the environmental damage and are going to reverse it by rationalizing and improving what is now undisciplined. We are not going to shut down the mountain bikers. We are going to renovate what is there so it does not damage the environment and build other paths for the bikers in an environmentally responsible way. We are also going to renovate and improve the walking trails and separate free-ride mountain bikers from nature lovers because their uses are incompatible.

Good luck to you.

Don't expect historic, physical, or numeric facts to halt or even bend the semantics and spin of the well-practiced PR section in the developer's playbook. And why should they? Recent elections in Pacifica have been bought by saturating voters with lies funded by outside real estate interests. Touting popular "outdoor recreation" allows development interests to ignore the extensive environmental damage caused by some forms of activity, such as undisciplined gung-ho mountain biking, often to the detriment of other outdoor activities, such as hiking and the calm and solitude one can get from being in nature. Ridiculous claims that adding more vehicles to narrow and already congested roads will ease traffic problems go unchallenged. Uncritical local officials readily accept studies by rent-a-scientists selected and paid for by developers. Silly claims (based on rigged governmental income standards) that new housing will be "affordable" for locals who really need it get feel-good approvals from local officials immersed in and owned by the real estate and development industry. Through it all, the public is constantly bombarded by the failed but enduring economic principle that growth is synonymous with the greater good.

Going back and forth on details with those selling over-development merely aids developers with developing their spiels. Energy would be better spent in making the public aware of what is going on and how it will make their lives worse.

Peter George:

We own another property located next to Shamrock Ranch that we call Hillside Meadows. Included in the property is a strip of land that extends along the front of the ranch between the ranch and the school from the northern end of Higgins all the way to Peralta Road. When we build Hillside Meadows, we will construct a new road to connect Higgins to Peralta. This will create a second path for people living in west Linda Mar, besides Adobe Drive, to reach Linda Mar Boulevard.

The two projects are not connected. The construction of the Higgins Road extension is not connected to or dependent upon the construction of Linda Mar Woods.

By the way, I am gearing up to start holding online town hall meetings with people interested in speaking directly with me about the projects I am planning. If you are interested, please go to the Lindamarwoods.com website, take the surveys, and list your email address so we can send you an invitation to participate in a video call.

And what do the folks at Shamrock Ranch think about the Peralta connection plan? I presume you are working closely with them on the 18-unit development?

John Kontrabecki, are you proposing opening up Higgins Way all the way to Peralta? I did not see that as part of any plans I have seen. How would you navigate the slope and where would you connect to Peralta? Does your property extend to Peralta? I would be extremely keen to see this on a map, thanks!

VK:

We have studied the hell out of this. Our application with the city Planning Department is loaded with expert reports.

We have a traffic study that shows opening up Higgins Way all the way to Peralta will improve traffic flow. This makes sense because you now have another secondary outlet to Linda Mar Boulevard. More outlets = smoother traffic flow. When you go to Safeway, the more checkers, the faster the checkout. Same idea.

Yes, new houses will change affordability because the new houses will be designed to cost less and therefore we can charge less for them. We will create an economically diverse community with a variety of housing types. Instead of all the houses being 1,400 square foot single-story structures on a 5,000 square foot lot (which is the typical Linda Mar tract home), we will build a mixture of houses including townhomes, duplexes, and two-story flats, that are more economical to build. We will also agree as a condition on project approval to sell 30% of the homes at prices mandated by the State of California as "affordable" for moderate-income families. The typical single-family home in Linda Mar sells for $1.3 million or more. That is not affordable by anyone's measure. Our "affordable" homes will cost much less than this.

Jay:

Noise, dust, and erosion? It is located in the middle of a forest. There are no motorized vehicles. It is for mountain bicycles. There is no dust and erosion if planned and built properly. There has been mountain biking on Boyscouts in Linda Mar Woods for years and there have been no complaints. Have you ever been up there?

Mountain biking is the fastest-growing sport in America. Every major ski resort in the Western US and Canada has developed extensive mountain biking trails. Pacifica has one of the best mountain biking trails in Northern California with Boyscouts.

"I want to share an example of how Boyscouts and other trails in Linda Mar Woods can be improved for the mountain bike community."

Photos of the bike park in Terre Haute, Indiana:
https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Griffin+Park%2C+terrehaute%2Cindiana&t=newext&atb=v1-1&iax=images&ia=images&iai=https%3A%2F%2Fmedia-cdn.tripadvisor.com%2Fmedia%2Fphoto-s%2F0d%2F91%2F34%2F98%2Fplenty-of-chances-to.jpg

"Improvement"? Most would disagree.

Viewers will just have to imagine the noise, dust, erosion.

John:

Can you please back up your response to Tim Stein with some concrete studies? Or are your claims just your opinions?

A lot of them do not make any sense. For example, more people less traffic, or that the new houses will somehow change affordability here. More density = positive impact on quality of life.

Please, if you could, sharing any hard and independent data with us would be fantastic. If it is just your opinion, then sadly it does not have much weight, as I assume you do not have any relevant experience of the life here.

Julie:

You raise a good point. Why is it that our teachers and first responders (cops and firefighters) cannot afford to live in the community they serve? The answer is the cost of buying or renting a home. The follow-up question is why are homes so expensive that they are not affordable to public service workers? The answer is "supply vs. demand." The supply of new housing has been choked off.

Who is choking off the supply? It is not the Planning Department, Planning Commission, or City Council. It is the NIMBY crowd who organize to oppose every residential development in the city. They are smart, social media savvy, and they mobilize to attack every new project proposed. Their newest target is Linda Mar Woods.

If you want your 30-year-old teacher to be able to live and work in the community where he or she was born, then join the movement to support new housing. Use your smarts and skills for positive change. Become engaged for good.

Julie:

I think my answer was very clear. At least 30 percent of the homes (about 38 houses) will be affordable for a family with a combined gross income of $161,500 per year. This is what the State of California calls "moderate-income housing." We have not locked in on sales prices, but I can show you how to do the math.

What could a person with $5,100 a month in housing costs afford to pay? With fixed-rate 30-year financing available at 3% and a 5% down payment, I estimate the price is going to be around $885,000. This is for a three-bedroom two-bath townhouse that is about 1,400 square feet in size. It is a new home, not a tract home built in the 1960s. And it will be located within a public park that has hiking and biking trails immediately accessible out the door. Sounds like living in the Presidio in San Francisco.

Where can you find a new home in Linda Mar for $885,000? Nowhere. They do not exist.

Can your 30-year-old teacher buy one? Sure, if he or she has the 5% down payment and can qualify with income and credit.

I am going to try to drive the price down further by offering some smaller flats if there is demand. Perhaps a two-bedroom with one bath would be more suitable for his or her lifestyle and family status.

This is what a development planned for economic diversity is all about. I can build a variety of homes of different sizes and prices to meet the needs of people with different incomes. A development created this way also attracts people of different generations and creates a path for upsizing or downsizing your home as needs change without leaving the neighborhood. They will fit harmoniously together from an architectural design perspective. It does not have to be cookie-cutter tract housing where they are all the same design and size. Perhaps you and your 30-year-old may want to move into the same neighborhood and be within walking distance of each other?

Buried in your replies was there an answer to “How much will the homes go for?”

I know we can google it and San Mateo County will provide the information. Thanks. We can look that up. What about the project?

What nobody knows, sir, is how much your homes will cost. What is the price range? You don’t take on a project like this without it having a role in your planning, and ROI.

Could a teacher buy one? I have a 30 year old.
She’s one of your “targets” at least here, not sure about the boardroom. She grew up in Pacifica. Can’t afford to buy.

Not sure if the down payment from parents was an attempt to insult. We saved, lived in a studio, bought a lot zoned for residential, did a lot of the work ourselves. Took a few years.
When our parents died, I’d lived in my own home for a decade.

Aim better.

I want to share an example of how Boyscouts and other trails in Linda Mar Woods can be improved for the mountain bike community. I am working with a trail design consulting firm that designed a bike park in Terra Haute, Indiana called Griffin Park. Compare this to what is at Linda Mar Woods now.

Check this out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEZEsuHNy4s

Julie:

Sorry, but I do not see any contradiction between building housing at a profit that Pacificans want and providing affordable housing to those who can no longer afford to live in the community in which they grew up. This is especially true when the developer's goal is to create an economically diverse community by varying the kinds of homes within the neighborhood.

When every home in a community is 1,400 square feet in size and sits on a 5,000 square foot lot, you do not have an opportunity to create economic diversity. This is Linda Mar. All the homes cost the same because the cost of creating them is the same. But when you develop a variety of homes (single-family detached, townhomes, duplexes, flats) within the same neighborhood, you can vary the size and density per lot and the costs will vary with some homes costing a lot less than others. You can then vary the prices of the homes and sell both affordable homes and more expensive homes in the same neighborhood. The character and quality of the neighborhood are uniformly high, but the price of each home varies. This is what economic diversity is all about.

Julie:

"Affordable" housing is defined by state law. It is based upon the median income for families of different sizes within San Mateo County. The state publishes this data every year and determining the "affordable" price is a function of the median income data.

For moderate-income families, the income calculation used looks like this for a family with 2 adults and 3 children:

Moderate Income home-
Median Income 2021 San Mateo County
5 Person Household $161,550
Moderate Income Allowance @110% $177,705
Maximum Allowance @35% $62,197
Monthly Allowance $5,183

Total Monthly Housing Allowance Per Home $5,183

To arrive at the moderate sales price, you determine how much you can charge for a home for a family of 5 with a monthly housing allowance of $5,183. You have to add to the monthly mortgage payment real estate taxes, insurance, homeowners association dues, and utilities.

Does this look like "moderate-income" to you? Can two working adults make $161,550 per year? So does this sound "affordable" to moderate-income families? It does to the State of California. What can you buy in Pacifica on a housing allowance of $5,183 per month? Nothing with a foundation. Certainly, not a 1,400 square foot Linda Mar tract home that sells for $1.3 million. So if you were born in Linda Mar, you cannot afford to live there unless you earn much more than $161,550 per year, unless your parents give you money for a very large down payment.

Julie:
The vision for Linda Mar Woods is for a new kind of community in Pacifica with a variety of homes of different sizes and prices to create an economically diverse neighborhood. At least 30 percent of the homes will be affordable for moderate-income families. The subdivision will include single-family detached homes, two-flats, duplexes, clustered townhouses, and single-family homes with accessory dwelling units. This approach will maximize choice in the types of housing available in Pacifica and create variety in the development pattern of the hillcrest. It will also allow the owner to offer a range of for-sale affordable housing at a variety of prices. Phase 1 of the development will subdivide the property into 125 lots of varying sizes representing the maximum number of structures that are proposed to be built in the project. Subsequent development phases will offer a mixture of home types in an architecturally, harmoniously, comprehensively planned community.

The inspiration for this approach comes from older neighborhoods found in towns and cities throughout the U.S. developed before the automobile became an essential part of daily life when streetcars were the primary means of public transportation. For example, in parts of old San Francisco, within a single block, you can find a mixture of single-family, two-flats, duplexes, and townhomes all built at the same approximate time in complete architectural harmony to meet the needs of an economically diverse community.

The Linda Mar Woods neighborhood will not be your typical tract home development.

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