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July 06, 2021

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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).

The moral outrage is all on the side of citizens who understand the negative effects on people in places that already have far too many people to be sustained by limited resources, limited infrastructure, ecological subsidies, and governmental services. Everyone suffers from overdevelopment and overpopulation (with overdevelopment and overpopulation defined as development and population that cannot be sustained) except the hit-and-run developers, builders, and realtors--usually from outside affected locales--who profit enough to separate themselves from the higher prices, higher taxes, environmental and social degradation, overcrowded roads and other public facilities, and loss of natural benefits. And beyond local effects there is a huge negative "footprint" from the stomping of the Earth far from where urban development occurs. All overdevelopment hurts, including ALL those who occupy overdevelopments.

It is morally outrageous to use heart-tugging terms associated with less fortunate persons--terms like "affordable" that can be defended only by ignoring numerous costs and negative effects, to say nothing of literal and not-reworked definitions--to grease the permit process for developments. To one degree or another, the politicians involved are paid for. Relying on ABAG and the long history of shilling for developers by that quasi-governmental agency for justification only adds another element of moral filth.

Sorry, reliance on the schemes in the developer's playbook and policies from the ABAG dream world won't negate real-world considerations. Neither will dicking around with semantics or ignoring the numbers.

Carl May:

We are not using the newly passed legislation as the basis for project approval. The Density Bonus Law we are following is already on the books. Check out this link to read all about it.

State Density Bonus Law: meyersnave.com/wp-content/uploads/California-Density-Bonus-Law_2021

Your view of the real estate development process is distorted and cynical: "[Developers] use their playbook to deny physical realities, ecological realities, population realities, and the inherent rights of individuals while talking in self-contradictory circles and hurling handfuls of crap against the walls of public discourse and governmental processes to see what sticks."

The real estate industry is one of the most regulated industries in the US. A developer can do almost nothing without going through a public application process, complying with extensive regulations, including state law and city General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and Building Code. The physical realities, ecological realities, population realities, and inherent rights of individuals are all examined in detail as a matter of law before a project may be approved. This is a public approval process where the public has plenty of opportunities to review the project and participate in public meetings about the project. The reality is you may not like the direction that development is taking. Your redress is to participate in the political process at the local and state level to change the laws.

Unfortunately for you, the vast majority of people object to the consequences of restrictive housing policy. We view homelessness as a moral outrage and the number-one social problem in the state. We also view the high price of housing as an unacceptable barrier to entry for families that want to live here. The only answer to both problems is to build more housing. Housing construction also forces us to face up to the crumbling infrastructure in the US and do something about it at a local level. It typically results in an upgrade in sanitary sewer and storm sewer lines, domestic water lines, electric power distribution, telephone, and internet. None of these upgrades are paid for by the current residents of the community. They are paid for by the developer of the new housing constructed in the community. You are on the wrong side of history. Our communities need more new housing and it will be built.

Dan Stegink:

This is not Semyon Dukach's property anymore. He lives in Boston and sold it because he no longer spends much time in California. We have not made any donations to politicians in Pacifica. The approval of our project will depend on whether it complies with the law. The project application has been submitted to conform with state and local laws.

One of the biggest problems is that developers and speculators can easily sway local city councils with sub-$10K donations and immediately 50X their money. I believe this is Semyon Dukach's parcel; Dukach in 2016 was the largest political donor in Pacifica history.

At the state level, this kind of Pay to Play is banned, but not at the county level and below. Local electeds vote on parcels owned by folks they have accepted donations from on a regular basis.

Pacifica has some of the most lenient ADU requirements in the entire county, and both ADUs and jADUs meet Department of Housing & Community housing element requirements per 65583.1,a, and 65852.2.

Peter George:

Very good question about the ADUs, and I do not know the answer. The law on ADUs in Pacifica is restrictive. You cannot sell them without selling the home in which they are located. They are not considered saleable units. My guess is that they do not count toward the ABAG housing goals because they are not saleable.

You are correct that 36 acres are in San Mateo County, but this acreage is located on the west side of the property. The most visible ridgeline is in the area already part of the City of Pacifica. The fact remains that this hill is not considered a prominent ridgeline.

Interesting take here in today's Chronicle.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Why-California-liberals-are-so-conservative-about-16432660.php

Do new ADUs (especially ones added if SB9 and SB10 pass) count as part of the 1,892 "required" new units in Pacifica? If so, the housing goals could be achieved without paving over any greenfield, hillside, ridgeline, marginally accessible, Tier 3 extreme fire risk, beloved recreational areas (i.e., the "Woods").

Also, isn't part of the "Woods" outside city limits right now and would need to be annexed? Couldn't that explain why it was not mapped as a prominent ridgeline (which it clearly is, no matter what some hand-drawn, fuzzy 40-year-old maps happen to suggest)?

How incredible is it that developers, the construction industry, and the real estate industry can use their playbook to deny physical realities, ecological realities, population realities, and the inherent rights of individuals while talking in self-contradictory circles and hurling handfuls of crap against the walls of public discourse and governmental processes to see what sticks?

It is disgusting to see the newly passed SB9 and SB10 already being used in arguments (although not by name so as to avoid greater awareness of what has been slipped past a COVID-distracted public) to kill what meager environmental and land/resource controls exist in localities. The "affordable housing" scam currently in vogue among developer-owned politicians threatens to exceed (perhaps by far because of its superficial heart-tugging appeal to the ignorant and those unable to think critically) the corrupt "urban redevelopment/renewal" schemes of not so long ago.

Skeptical and Christine Boles:

I acknowledge the text you quoted from our reply letter to the Planning Department as accurately quoted. My response to an earlier posting was driven by the reference to the Ordinance Table posted. We are relying on the new State Density Bonus law that encourages residential real estate development by granting AS OF RIGHT concessions to existing local planning regulations. State law preempts local planning ordinances. We are asking for a waiver of the HPD for the area we are developing. The proper term used to request a concession is to ask for a waiver. It is a more polite way of demanding a concession, the granting of which is mandatory. The Planning Commission may use a different tool in the toolbox called a variance. I did not wish to tie the hands of the Planning Department by selecting one tool over another since we meet the requirements for both, so I suggested waiver or variance in my letter.

Christine Boles has been appearing at Planning Commission hearings lately, arguing to Commissioners that the HPD designation needs to be enforced. It appears this will be one of the arguments she will use when we appear before the Planning Commission seeking approval of our project. Let us put this in perspective. We all agree that visually prominent ridgelines on hillsides need to be preserved. The Linda Mar Woods property does not have a visually prominent ridgeline and is a legitimate residential development site.

The Pacifica General Plan's Land Use Element on page 22, paragraph 5, states: "Ridgeline designated as visually prominent shall be protected from residential and commercial development." (Emphasis added.) It does not say development along ridgelines is prohibited. On page 33, Prominent Ridgelines are defined as "A designation assigned to the most scenic of the City's ridges in order to protect their visual importance." The General Plan has maps that show where the Prominent Ridgelines are located. The area on the south side of West Linda Mar, which is the location of the Project, is not designated as a Prominent Ridgeline area on any map in the General Plan.

West Linda Mar’s land use is described on pages 47-48 of the General Plan. The area where the project is located is designated as very low-density residential. This plan also contemplates the connection of Higgins Way to Perez extended as a means for relieving traffic congestion in the area. The project as proposed meets the General Plan’s Land Use density requirements and our plan to extend Higgins Way is consistent with the Land Use Plan. Our project conforms to the General Plan.

Pacifica has new housing production requirements imposed by the Association of Bay Area Governments. Pacifica’s current obligation from 2023-2031 is for the construction of 1,892 more units. Pacifica is way behind in meeting its housing obligation. The flatlands in Pacifica were developed decades ago and there are no longer any significant flat areas available for constructing new housing. This means that development must take place on the hillsides in the City of Pacifica.

Christine Boles, you need to get over your obsession with using the Hillside Preservation District designation as the means for stopping new development. You are on the wrong side of history. Our community needs more housing and you are standing in the way of progress.

Julie:

Waivers or variances to land use ordinances do not require a public vote. These decisions are taken by the Planning Commission.

Julie (no longer handmaiden?), you say such interesting things, I want to know more!

There was illegal grading and grubbing work done on the Pacifica Highlands site across from the quarry last month. Their biology report says no soil is to be disturbed because of potential special species and wetlands. The city wouldn’t do anything; planning and public works shrugged their shoulders and told us to contact code enforcement. No response at all from code enforcement. Emailed the city manager over 2 weeks ago, not a peep. Luckily we were able to get the state Fish & Wildlife Agency to investigate, and they confirmed to me verbally a few days ago that there are CEQA violations, and they will follow up. Something needs to change in a major way in our city processes and government.

If he needs variances or waivers, we need to vote on it.

Our quality of life. Our traffic challenges.

No wonder he’s flinging insults. A public vote would kill it.

And please, owner of these horrible projects? Don’t replace JK as the public face of these disasters.
Better than a biologist with a felony conviction for killing biology.

Thank you, Skeptical! I’ve been trying to educate the public (and our city leaders and staff) about our HPD ordinance for months. I’m very glad to see you’re on top of it!

My take on this project is that another access road is needed. If that's possible is not my concern, as I'm not proposing the development, and stand to gain nothing by it. Higgins Way is substandard, a remnant of a distant past that allowed all kinds of tucked-away streets.
And please don't tell me: "do your homework." I stand to gain nothing, and you -- millions upon millions of dollars.
Regards.

P.S. Re the distinction between a variance and a waiver -- and your claim that you have NOT sought a variance -- the following text is from your June 14, 2021 letter to Christian Murdoch (with bold type supplied by me). Perhaps an apology to Christine for the lecture and for accusing her of "waving a bloody shirt by saying things that are inaccurate" is in order?

Hillside Preservation District

a. Please confirm allowable coverage calculation per PMC Section 9-4.2257 (Tentative Map
Sheet 1). Staff’s calculation indicates zero allowable coverage. If you conclude the same,
please submit materials required for a Variance pursuant to PMC Section 9-4.3401 et seq.

Applicant confirms the Staff’s calculation indicates zero allowable coverage under
PMC Sec. 9-4.2257 and is SEEKING EITHER A WAIVER as of right under Gov. Code Sect.
65915(d)(1) OR A VARIANCE pursuant to PMC Sec. 9-4.3401 et seq. See Tab 5.

John, I am not sure that pointing to the technical legal distinction between a variance and a waiver substantively advances your argument.

The point is that your development appears to be using its moderate-income housing element to both (1) seek a density bonus (meaning build more houses than would otherwise be allowed) and (2) seek a waiver of the HPD in its entirety.

I have reprinted just some of the HPD below, along with a link to the full text. Again, the Planning Dept. docs. seem to indicate that you are requesting a waiver of ALL of Article 22.5, which certainly sounds like you are requesting a total waiver of every provision of the HPD as one of your three “concessions” under Govt. code 6915. In other words, you are not seeking waiver of three elements or provisions of the HPD; you are seeking to waive the entire HPD as a single “concession.”

Is this correct? If not, can you please list the specific provisions of the HPD for which you seek a waiver?

Also, to follow up on your response to my earlier post re the traffic study — you say the study does not depend on highway widening. I DO understand that the figures presented were apparently derived by looking at the actual numbers of cars entering particular intersections, and that those numbers are what they are. The thing is, the study DOES acknowledge that raw numbers do not reflect or address the real-world effect of what it calls the pre-existing “extensive queuing” on Fassler and Highway 1 during peak traffic, then goes on to say that the plans to widen Highway 1 will fix this problem. Take out the widening project and we are left with a report that acknowledges an existing traffic problem that will only get worse, without presenting any solutions.

Select text of the HPD with link to full text:
Article 22.5

Sec. 9-4.2252. - Purpose (HPD).

It shall be the purpose of the Hillside Preservation District to promote the following City objectives which shall be considered as guidelines:

(a) To maximize choice in types of environment available in the City and particularly to encourage variety in the development pattern of the hillsides; (b) The concentration of dwellings and other structures by clustering and/or high rise should be encouraged to help save larger areas of open space and preserve the natural terrain; (c) To use to the fullest current understanding of good civic design, landscape architecture, architecture, and civil engineering to preserve, enhance, and promote the existing and future appearance and resources of hillside areas; (d) To provide density and land use incentives to aid in ensuring the best possible development of the City's natural features, open space, and other landmarks; (e) To encourage the planning, design, and development of building sites in such a fashion as to provide the maximum in safety and human enjoyment while adapting development to, and taking advantage of, the best use of the natural terrain; (f) To preserve and enhance the beauty of the landscape by encouraging the maximum retention of natural topographic features, such as drainage swales, streams, slopes, ridge lines, rock-out-croppings, vistas, natural plant formations, and trees; (g) To prohibit, insofar as is feasible and reasonable, the padding or terracing of building sites in the hillside areas; (h) To provide safe means of ingress and egress for vehicular and pedestrian traffic to and within hillside areas while at the same time minimizing the scarring effects of hillside street construction; (i) Utility wires and television lines shall be installed underground; (j) Outstanding natural physical features, such as the highest crest of a hill, natural rock outcroppings, major tree belts, and the like, should be preserved; (k) Roads should follow natural topography wherever possible to minimize cutting and grading; (l) Imaginative and innovative building techniques should be encouraged to create buildings suited to natural hillside surroundings; and (m) Detailed and effective arrangements shall be formulated for the preservation, maintenance, and control of open space and recreational lands resulting from planned unit development.
It is the intent of this section to discourage the development of ridgelines; however, where a parcel has ridgelines that are the only buildable portion of the property, or where it can be demonstrated that the sensitive development of other portions of such a parcel would significantly frustrate the other purposes of this article, then some development of such ridgelines may be permitted provided most of the ridgeline remains undisturbed, and any such ridgeline development is of low profile, has minimum visual impact, and utilizes a minimum of grading.

MUCH MORE HERE:

https://library.municode.com/ca/pacifica/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT9PLZO_CH4ZO_ART22.5HIPRDIHP

Look again at your second document I linked earlier, JK. I would take a screenshot so you don't have to do the work, but I can't post it on this format. It sounds like you're hoping that one of the three options, which include a variance, might stick for not complying with HPD, but have you actually gotten the Planning Department to say they would accept any of them?

My argument is not general, nor is it mudslinging. HPD has a strict formula, and you know it as the allowable disturbance calculation is on your coversheet. I asked you where your actual proposed disturbance calculations are on Facebook and you have still not answered. Go ahead, I can wait.

The coversheet also shows the HPD zoning overlay removed, which would require a citywide vote. It doesn't sound like that is your intention, is it?

You wanted intelligent discussion here; for now I'm just trying to understand this one issue. There is no need for personal attacks.

John, I clearly and directly asked how many YEARS until the community center parking is open. And you gave a reply that clearly never mentions how many years. And yet you applauded yourself for answering the question, and in the same breath cast doubt on my understanding of the answer. The example is a very minor one, John. But you gave an answer without answering the question. It is a tactic you use frequently (is it commonplace in your profession?). But please do not think for a moment that it ever goes unnoticed. It makes your replies quite frustrating to read.

Christine:

Then you did not read my document. We did not use the word "variance." We did use the word "waiver" and we cited the California Government Code sections as authority for doing so. I did not throw a stone. I pointed out your misrepresentation. This is just one of many mistakes you make publicly, and you mislead and upset people when you do so. You also accuse inappropriately the Planning Department staff, Planning Commission, and City Council of incompetence and malfeasance when they do not agree with your faulty analysis. You really need to consult with a land-use planning attorney before you make your accusations because you clearly do not understand the Pacifica General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.

John, I am quoting from your own documents, whose links I put in the post for all to read themselves. You might want to stop throwing stones in your own glass house.

Coffee spew! I think I just got inadvertently snark shamed!

Christine:

Here you go again. You are waving a bloody shirt by saying things that are inaccurate. You are doing the same thing on Facebook and Instagram. As a licensed architect, you have a professional responsibility to know the land-use planning laws in the community where you practice. It appears that you do not.

First, neither project is asking for a variance. As a licensed architect, you should know that a variance is a procedure to request a one-time modification to the application of the zoning law to a particular property that has very specific requirements. A variance procedure request has not been made here.

Second, as a licensed architect, you should know that the State of California has passed laws recently that are intended to promote the construction of more affordable housing to relieve a statewide housing crisis. These laws allow a property owner to request from the city certain concessions if the owner commits to constructing affordable housing. The request for a concession is called a waiver. The "waivers" that you are complaining about are provided under state law and are valid and proper.

If you would like help in understanding land use planning laws, I suggest you consult with your legal counsel. If you would like me to explain the laws to you before you post more incorrect information on this or any other forum, please contact me and I will be happy to do so. I am a land-use attorney. You are upsetting people with your misinformation.

Peter George:

Your response is not factually accurate. Please allow me to reply.

"And why do I say you are losing the argument? Because you avoided answering almost all my previous questions:"

I have answered your questions. See responses below.

"* I asked you to publish (or at least describe) the road alignment that will allow for road widening while permitting the residents on the north of Higgins to park in their driveways and not carving through the school on the south side. You didn’t. From which we can assume no such engineering hat trick is possible and you are, in fact, still planning on taking parking from the driveways to the north."

I responded by informing you that your point was valid. I learned this from conversations with some of the neighbors impacted by the design, and will be revisiting the road alignment with my civil engineer.

"* I asked you to tell us how many years until the parking in front of the community center is open. You didn’t."

I responded by telling you that the parking in front of the community center would be constructed at the same time as the loop road and would open when the road was completed."

"* Increased parking demand may not be the *objective* of your promotion of the trails, but it will be the inevitable outcome. So it is your responsibility. Thus, despite you previously saying that your development would not increase parking demand on Higgins, it will. And if your target audience is locals who know the area and new residents (who can’t move in yet), then why are you already promoting the trails on Facebook groups that reach far farther than Pacifica?"

This is a compound question to which I previously responded. First, we are increasing parking by extending Higgins Way to Peralta Road and by providing parking in front of the community center. Second, we are not taking parking away by widening Higgins Way. Second, my target audience is locals. There are already people from outside of Pacifica who are coming to Linda Mar Woods to ride Old San Pedro Mountain Road all the way to Montara. I am not promoting the trails on Facebook. I am responding to attacks from NIMBYs who are saying we intend to close the trails to public use.

"* You still refuse to do even a basic parking study: That refusal speaks for itself."

I responded previously that there is no need for a parking study because we are not taking away any existing parking; we are managing the parking required by the subdivision within our property, and we are adding parking by extending Higgins Way to Peralta Road.

"* And I asked you to confirm if you still expected that an extra car at least every ~30 seconds during peak times was "not an issue" (your words) for the people of Linda Mar. You didn’t."

I responded that I was improving traffic flow in Linda Mar by widening and extending Higgins Way to Peralta Road. In fact, the analogy I made was to the checkout in Safeway. If you add shoppers to the store but do not open up more checkout stations, you end up with shoppers in a long line to pay for their groceries. The solution to the problem is to open more checkout stations and the lines disappear. Same with traffic flow. If you depend only on Adobe Drive to get to Linda Mar Boulevard and you add more cars, you will have a backup. But if you open up Higgins Way and connect it to Peralta Road, you create a second way that easily leads the additional cars and more to Linda Mar Boulevard and actually reduces demand on Adobe Drive.

Please read my responses more carefully. I do try to reply to your questions.

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