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July 06, 2021

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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).

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.

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