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December 17, 2021

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Peter George:

You asked the question: You previously stated that you will not remove "most" trees. Did you mean "most native trees"? Or "most trees"? Or have you not yet decided?"

I meant I will not remove most trees. Our vision is to create an outdoor recreation-oriented community. The recreation we are focused on is hiking and mountain biking in nature. It would defeat the vision to harvest most of the trees.

Included in our goal is the mitigation of fire risk. Based upon my personal observations, the way this is done requires the removal of fuel from the forest floor, removal of dead trees, the creation of fire breaks, and the installation of a fire hydrant system within the residential area. The Presidio of San Francisco has large areas with eucalyptus forest and the measures I describe here are the ones used by the National Park Service to mitigate fire risk there.

I am ultimately going to defer to the guidance provided by the forest management consultant and the requirements imposed by the City of Pacifica.

John, you have also previously stated that you will not remove "most" trees. Did you mean "most native trees"? Or "most trees"? Or have you not yet decided? My point being, you should not make statements about what the project will or will not do if the studies have not even been completed yet. Trying to make the intentions of the project "look good" now, but then deciding to do something different later, will do nothing to improve the project's credibility. Quite the opposite. If you are undecided on a point, just say so, instead of trying to spin it into a positive for you. Which brings us back to your famous "The homes we construct will not be visible from points below." How can you possibly say that now, given that you don't even have a plan for vegetation removal yet? Just admit that was pure "spin"/ wishful thinking on your part, then we can move on.

Peter George:

I will be hiring shortly a consultant for a forest management study to evaluate the wildfire risk. One fact I wish to point out is that the forest is largely made up of eucalyptus trees. These trees are an invasive species of plant imported from Australia in the mid-19th century and planted for their oil. They shed bark, which creates kindling that will fuel a wildfire. Because of their oil, they are highly combustible. In Australia, they have been the cause of massive wildfires. They are considered undesirable by cities throughout the state and are not heritage trees protected by the municipal code. This is a man-made problem. The City of Pacifica Planning Department will not oppose culling the forest and removing trees to create fire breaks to reduce the risk of wildfire. There are some people who will oppose this because they consider themselves to be environmentalists and view harvesting trees to be an affront to nature, regardless of their origin and the risk they bring for wildfire. As I have stated previously, environmentalism and benign neglect are not the same thing.

John: Thank you for acknowledging the hazard posed by Linda Mar Woods -- and by logical extension the grave peril potentially faced by future residents of Linda Mar Woods. If I understand you correctly, you are currently hiring consultants to prepare an objective study. The study will aim to answer "How should the current property owners manage and treat Linda Mar Woods for the greatest safety of current Pacifica residents." I agree that such a study is needed. One possible conclusion of this study is that the safest option would be active forest management and no new residential development on that hill. Are you and the property owners hereby agreeing to abide by whichever conclusions are deemed the safest for the current residents of Pacifica? Regardless of the implications for possible development? In other words, as responsible neighbors, will the safety and security of current Pacifica residents be the only guiding paradigm of the property owners?

Please let us know the consultancy you have contracted for this work, and when we can expect their report to be posted in a public forum. Transparency of the process here is the key to public trust, as I'm sure you appreciate. Thanks!

Julie:

I have also heard that Vancouver has passed a tax on unoccupied homes. The Empty Homes Tax, also known as the "Vacancy Tax", was introduced in 2017 to help return empty and under-utilized properties to the market as long-term rental homes for people who live and work in Vancouver.

Vancouver homeowners are required to submit a declaration each year to determine if their property is subject to the Empty Homes Tax. Properties deemed or declared empty in the 2021 reference year will be subject to a tax of 3% of the property’s 2021 assessed taxable value. Most homes will not be subject to the tax, as it does not apply to principal residences, homes that qualify for an exemption, or homes rented for at least six months of the year.

Net revenues from the tax are being reinvested into affordable housing initiatives. Learn more about the purpose of the tax, or review the latest 2020 Empty Homes Tax Annual Report PDF file (459 KB) for more information.

The City of San Francisco has talked about imposing a similar tax, but nothing has come of it.

I would love to see the City of Pacifica impose a similar tax on empty homes to make more homes available for rent and to fund affordable housing through rent assistance subsidies.

Julie:

Thank you for your post. I am familiar with the law in Vancouver that taxes foreign purchases of residential real estate. The purpose of the law was to discourage foreigners from buying up existing homes in the British Columbia market because they were artificially driving up home prices, making homes too expensive for local Canadian citizens to purchase. These buyers were buying second homes to invest in safe countries, as a first step toward getting a visa for an extended legal residency. Often, the homes remain unoccupied. In the US we have a similar problem. In fact, I have seen a study that found about 30% of the homes in Pacifica are owned as second homes by people who do not live here. Not only does this drive up home prices, but it hurts local retailers by weakening the amount of retail sales that would occur if the homes were occupied.

This is not the situation with the investor in Linda Mar Woods. This investor is not buying existing homes in Pacifica. It is providing the capital needed to build new homes to be purchased by US citizens. We have a severe housing shortage in California and foreign investors are helping to create new housing to address this problem by investing their own capital needed for new housing construction. American investors have not invested in new housing development at the level needed to meet demand. If they had, there would be no need for foreign investment. We should be grateful that foreign investors are willing to provide the capital needed to solve one of the greatest social problems in California -- the lack of affordable housing.

Peter George:

Thank you for your good points and referral to the link about the development that was halted for failing to study the impact of wildfire on the proposed project.

I also think wildfire is a real risk factor that needs to be studied in connection with Linda Mar Woods. The study should consider two risks: What is the risk to the surrounding community if nothing is done to mitigate the current conditions and what will be the risk if the conditions are mitigated?

The assumption by many is that doing nothing is the best strategy. I do not agree with this point of view. What we have learned from the past two years of wildfires is doing nothing leads to wildfires. Forest management is not benign neglect.

If we do nothing, I think it is only a matter of time before we have a fire in Linda Mar Woods. When it happens, there will be no easy way to stop it. The fire will engulf the hillside, then wipe out the homes on Higgins Way and Adobe Drive, then continue on and burn down the homes in the valley below.

You make a good point, Peter. You make a lot of good points, actually. I have a friend in Vancouver, B.C., who lives in the city where they used to film "Once Upon a Time" (ABC series about fairy tales coming to life). She's shared a recent law, which was challenged and deemed constitutional (see link below). We really need to do that here in the Bay Area. We also need to have a City Council that isn't filled with realtors, who tend to prioritize the interest of SAMCAR, rather than residents.

https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/b-c-s-foreign-buyers-tax-constitutional-provinces-highest-court-rules

Maybe this would result in actual affordable housing. Maybe no need for those RVs that people are complaining about.

https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Lake-County-Guenoc-Valley-resort-wildfire-risk-16756752.php

At least some wise people seem to be able to see the grave threats facing all of us going forward by building in California woodland (see link above). Shame that Kontrabecki seems to think a bit of tree clearing and a few fire hydrants makes his development somehow immune. It won't. Time for Kontrabecki to find somewhere else to build rather than imperil all of us, and his future residents, and the inevitable firefighters, first responders, etc., just to turn a profit for himself and the overseas property owners. Can't you do better than the legal bare minimum, John, for all our futures? Can't you see the writing on the wall -- that you are entirely on the wrong side of history? You are still planning like it's 1982. Please find a safer place to build the necessary housing. Current Pacificans and your future residents will appreciate it. Thanks.

Carl May:

You refuse to respond with facts to support your opinions. I asked you to provide facts to support specific criticisms in your last comment and you will not do so.

Your posts are all gaslighting.

The feigned naivete of a newcomer developer is not enough to get me to play his game. It's not my job to explain the history of land use and fraught, oversized, under-resourced, and misplaced development in the city and on the rest of the San Mateo County coastside in order that he may better frame his language to get what he wants. As pointed out months ago for this particular attempt at damaging, unnecessary development, the developer's playbook guides toward the attempted takeover of issues and the creation of rhetoric that fits into the developer's agenda for financial success. The factual information is out there, as all citizens of Pacifica who did not just fall off the turnip truck know.

"The homes we construct will not be visible from points below."
Mr. Kontrabecki, are you and your project backers guaranteeing every Pacifican that if they stand *anywhere on earth* at any elevation lower than the foundation of any one of your new homes, then none of the homes will be visible? Meaning these homes will be entirely invisible from **anywhere** in Linda Mar that is geographically lower than these homes (which is basically the whole of Linda Mar)?

Frankly, I find that incredible. Either support that incredible claim with full 3D renderings, fly-bys, etc. (which incidentally were promised on these pages some months ago and were never provided, so I'm not holding my breath). Or, if not provided such evidence, we will conclude (or your outreach team might even be big enough to admit) that this is yet another half-truth spun by your outreach effort to confuse and mislead the Pacifica community.

Incidentally, your outreach "answered" the question about *increased* traffic by saying "... [the project] will relieve traffic congestion in the area." A reply totally avoiding answering the question in the usual fashion. Does your outreach team honestly believe sleight-of-hand is some sort of a virtue? Does your outreach team think they are somehow so smart that people don't see when they do that? Its laughable. Why don't you tell your outreach team to knock that off -- we'd all think better of the project if they did. I look forward to them not answering that point in their typical fashion, by the way.

Also, when it comes to infrastructure and services, top-of-mind is the already overtaxed and failing Pacifica sewer system that your developments will further burden -- and that the relatively tiny fees your project will contribute will never fix: https://www.coastsidebuzz.com/sewer-spills-near-you-speak-up/
Are you hereby committing to using septic tanks as a mitigation? If not, please demonstrate in detail how this development will not make this sewer problem worse for literally every Pacifican. (Your team will be tempted to reply telling me how their project adds "insignificantly" to the problem. I'm here to tell you that even a thousand gallons a day *is* significant when we are already in a demonstrable crisis. So please remember that in the reply and do not dare to suggest this project is an "insignificant" burden on the local services.) TIA!

Carl May:

Please expand on the following comments in your post:

"[L]ocal residents working for their quality of life and recognition of what needs to be done (even if it is a long shot) to achieve a more sustainable future."

Please tell me what you think "needs to be done" to achieve a more sustainable future.

"And past time for local government to stop the ignorant pursuit of getting bigger and re-orient toward getting better, as has long been the goal of Pacificans who care about their place."

Please tell me what you think is required to "re-orient toward getting better as has long been the goal of Pacificans who care about their place."

Please include in your reply how you would address the crumbling infrastructure and housing shortage in the City of Pacifica. Also address the fire risk at Linda Mar Woods and the deterioration of Old San Pedro Mountain Road trail.

With every attempt at a counterpoint or argument, the developer validates my accusations about being a johnny-come-lately with specious and superficial knowledge of Pacifica. Note how he tries to assume a mantle of competence and authority with extremely short-term experience, claims of superior expertise with supposed knowledge of routine laws and regulations boringly familiar to all who deal with the manipulations and depredations of developers in the cities and unincorporated areas on the San Mateo County coastside, his total lack of knowledge of the rebuttals and defeats of over-development and destructive development that have actually been accomplished--in spite of opposition from huge inputs of outside money and ethically challenged governments over the decades--by local residents working for their quality of life and recognition of what needs to be done (even if it is a long shot) to achieve a more sustainable future.

Also note, once again because it cannot be pointed out enough to those relatively new to the land-use game being played, the typical (lest anyone get the impression this developer is necessarily worse than others who have also been clueless about population-resource-environment matters hereabouts) assumption that everyone should roll over for the government-developer-real estate footsie that repeatedly has sold out the future or attempted to sell out the future for the short-term money-making of a few.

Pacifica is long past the point of build-out and exhaustion of carrying capacity. And past time for local government to stop the ignorant pursuit of getting bigger and re-orient toward getting better, as has long been the goal of Pacificans who care about their place.

Carl May: Here is my reply to your comment, point by point:

“It's all straight out of the developer's playbook.”

“Here we have a developer who blows into town”

Fact: I have been developing property in the Bay Area for 40+ years. I did not “blow into town.”

“[T]ries to get support for his claims that he instantly knows what is best for a place, what changes need to be made”

Fact: I make no claim that I instantly know what is best. I have been studying this site for over two years and have expert reports from an environmental engineer, geotechnical engineer, traffic engineer, and civil engineer. I have been conducting community surveys and engaging in-person to learn from Pacificans firsthand about their use of the property. I have also been asking people on Riptide to constructively criticize our vision so I may improve it.

“[T]hat he has an imaginary community on his side, that he is more expert on local laws and real estate matters than people who have been dealing with these things for decades, that he knows more about the local environment--both artificial and natural--even though he has no experience with such things.”

Fact: I have been a practicing real estate and land use attorney for 45 years. I have studied the Pacifica General Plan and Municipal Code. I have been working constructively with the Planning Department staff on this and other projects in Pacifica. I also have been engaging in-person with Pacificans who actually use the property for recreation to learn about their concerns. I have experience with such things.

“That anyone with much more local experience with the community, government, and relevant laws and regulations who disagrees with him is erroneous and untruthful, etc.”

Fact: I am always willing to listen and learn from others to improve the projects I am developing. Based upon the lack of information in your comments, you are not someone with more local experience with the community, government, and relevant laws and regulations. All you offer is sarcasm and opinion without factual support. If you have facts to support your opinions, share them.

“That playbook has been developed with a lot of trial and error; its manipulative methods work to achieve the developer's ends with the real estate industry, local officials sold out to that industry and mentally polluted with the 'growth ethic,' and gullible local citizens not accustomed to critical thinking about such matters and quality of life for themselves, their loved ones, and their fellow citizens.”

Fact: Your typical commentary attacking the character and competence of people in the real estate industry and local officials. It is not true. Personal attacks of this kind are inappropriate.

Tim Stein:

Here is how the development I am proposing will benefit Pacifica and Pacificans.

My goal is to create an outdoor recreation-oriented and economically diverse community. There will be 140 homes on the 60-acre property. This will not be a tract housing development like the ones found in Linda Mar, where all the homes are basically the same. The homes we intend to construct will include single-family detached, townhomes, duplexes, and two flats. By varying the size and style of the homes, we will be able to offer homes at a range of prices. A minimum of 30% of the homes constructed will be affordable. This means the affordable homes will have a maximum price of $850,000.

The typical Linda Mar rancher is 1,400 ft.² in size and sells for about $1,000 per square foot, or $1,400,000. It has three bedrooms and one bathroom with an attached garage. The affordable homes we will build will range in size from 800 ft.² to 1,400 ft.², with two to three bedrooms and one to two bathrooms and will sell for prices between $680,000 to $1,190,000.

Here are some demographics for Linda Mar. Age: 80% are 35+ years of age and 40% are 55+ years of age. This is an aging adult community. Married: 51%. Household size: 33% have 4+ members. This community has small families with few young children. White-collar workers: 64%. Average income: $171,965 per year. Home values: 52% greater than $1 million. Average time living in Linda Mar: 20+ years. This community is stable and with owners who have a lot of equity in their homes.

Based upon the surveys we have been conducting, the Linda Mar community is outdoor recreation-oriented. What Linda Mar residents appreciate most about living in Pacifica: access to the ocean, access to mountains, and living surrounded by open space. Recreation they enjoy: hiking 90%, mountain biking 43%, and dog walking 53%. The survey results on recreational activity are confirmed by the photos from our trail camera on the Old San Pedro Mountain Road trail.

The rapid rise in housing prices in Pacifica indicates there is a housing shortage in the community. By constructing 140 new homes, we will help alleviate the housing shortage. By selling at least 30% of the homes at prices at or below $850,000, we will be building affordable housing for a community that needs it.

Creating an outdoor recreation-oriented development responds directly to what Pacificans cherish most about their community: access to the outdoors. By renovating and expanding the trails on this property, we will provide a quality experience for the very activities for which the property is already being used, namely hiking, mountain biking, and dog walking.

Development of the property will address a serious public safety problem: risk of wildfire. We intend to remove the dead eucalyptus trees, clear the forest floor, plant native trees, install a fire hydrant system throughout the development, and cut fire breaks along the perimeter of the property. This will mitigate wildfire risk.

To develop the project, we will upgrade the infrastructure serving the area. We will extend all utilities, including water, sanitary sewer, storm drainage, electricity, gas, cable, and telephone. All utilities will be installed underground. This will enhance the quality of the infrastructure serving Higgins Way and beyond.

Development of this project will add to the financial health of the City of Pacifica by adding millions of dollars of new property onto the real estate tax rolls. Additionally, new consumers in the community will shop at retail establishments and use restaurants and other service providers in the area, generating additional sales taxes that will benefit Pacifica.

You state that this development will increase traffic. It will, but we are going to extend Higgins Way all the way to Peralta to create another path to reach Linda Mar Boulevard. Currently, the only path is on Adobe Drive. This will relieve traffic congestion in the area.

You also say the homes we build will appear on the scenic hillsides. This is not true. We are planning our project on the flat crest of this hill, not on the hillside. Additionally, we are going to dedicate as permanent open space the entire hillside area for recreational purposes. We will also create a conservation buffer at the back of each lot facing the hillside where no buildings may be constructed. The homes we construct will not be visible from points below.

You commented that there will be more demand for services without specifying which services. The infrastructure we construct will take care of all utilities with a positive impact on those existing homes that will share them. The increase in demand for police and fire department services is negligible. The public schools will experience some increase in enrollment, but they have been facing declining enrollment for years and have the capacity to handle more students.

You ask: “Who are the Pacificans who want to move into the new property?” These Pacificans are among the same people who use the property every day for recreational purposes. We do not have to sell them on the idea of living in a recreation-oriented community. They are the same people who have Linda Mar ranchers worth $1,400,000 with lots of built-up equity. Some of them will sell out and trade up to a new home at a lower price that conforms better to their home size need and lifestyle. Other buyers will be people renting apartments in the area who will qualify for affordable housing. Still others will include people from outside the area who are attracted to the lifestyle offered in Pacifica.

You say the people who support the project are not posting on Riptide. Given the verbal abuse I have suffered on Riptide, would you post on Riptide if you supported the project? I doubt it. I have had residents who live on Higgins Way and Adobe Drive tell me privately that they support the project but cannot be open because they do not want to be harassed by their neighbors. Perhaps, because of the vandalism I have experienced at the entrance to the property, they are concerned about vandalism on their property. There is nothing to be gained by them coming out publicly for the project and perhaps something to lose.

You commented on the dangers of mountain biking and asked how residents of a new development would accept responsibility for people riding bikes on their property. Your comment is based upon an erroneous assumption that people would ride bikes on their property. The bike riders would be on property that is going to be owned by a not-for-profit corporation and dedicated as open space for recreational purposes. The residents would have no responsibility for the activities of mountain bikers riding on the hillside.

You also commented on a shooting range you say was used by the Boy Scouts. This is the first I have heard of this. If there is toxic debris from a shooting range on the site, we have not seen it. Perhaps you could tell me where it is. If there is contamination, we will have to clean it up.

I hope my comments are responsive to your questions. Thank you for asking.

It's all straight out of the developer's playbook. Here we have a developer who blows into town and tries to get support for his claims that he instantly knows what is best for a place, what changes need to be made, that he has an imaginary community on his side, that he is more expert on local laws and real estate matters than people who have been dealing with these things for decades, that he knows more about the local environment--both artificial and natural--even though he has no experience with such things, that anyone with much more local experience with the community, government, and relevant laws and regulations who disagrees with him is erroneous and untruthful, etc. In other words, without any experience, prior knowledge, or credentials specific to Pacifica, following the developer's playbook to game the situation will eventually produce the permits that are tickets to the riches he envisions and allow him to devote energies involved to the next scam. (Yes, it's true, many developers these days sell off all or parts of their projects and don't even stick around for the construction phase or follow-through on all the promises or platitudes made to grease the approval skids.) That playbook has been developed with a lot of trial and error; its manipulative methods work to achieve the developer's ends with the real estate industry, local officials sold out to that industry and mentally polluted with the "growth ethic," and gullible local citizens not accustomed to critical thinking about such matters and quality of life for themselves, their loved ones, and their fellow citizens.

I don't understand how this development is going to benefit Pacificans.
The increased traffic, homes appearing on our currently scenic hillsides, more demands on services, I can't see how this is good for Pacifica.
- You state, as I recall, that there are many current Pacificans who want to move in once they're built. Where are they? I don't see them posting here and I've never met anyone that's for it. If they can't afford a Linda Mar rancher, a clapped-out, tired old one goes for a million dollars, how are they going to afford one of your new homes?
- You insist the mountain bike trails will be preserved and maintained by the development. Given the dangers of mountain biking and the regular responses by Pacifica Fire Department to serious crashes, I just can't see how any residents of your new development would ever accept the responsibility of people riding mountain bikes on their property.
- I haven't seen where you address the shooting range the Boy Scouts used and how your developers are going to remove the toxic waste.

So I ask you, Mr. Kontrabecki, please tell me how this development is going to benefit Pacifica and Pacificans. I ask not to seek conflict with you, but instead I'm genuinely curious and could be convinced if your argument is sound.

Julie:

In the legal profession there is a saying as follows:

If you have the law on your side, you argue the law.
If you have the facts on your side, you argue the facts.
But if you have neither the law nor the facts on your side, you attack the character of your opponent.

With your last posting, it is clear you do not have the law or the facts on your side in this debate.

Shame on you.

Tim Stein:

How did I twist what Carl May wrote? I quoted him verbatim.

What I challenge in my posts are misstatements of fact and misinformation. There is a lot of it. In Carl May's case, he pretends there is a "developer's playbook" that is based on dishonesty. This is false.

I have been a real estate developer for over 40 years. My playbook is written by the city where the development takes place. It consists of the General Plan and the Municipal Code. It also consists of overriding state law. If I do not follow the law to the letter, I cannot get a project approved. The real estate projects I propose are designed by architects and engineers to comply with the law.

I run into trouble with people like Carl May in two ways. First, they do not understand the legal and administrative process that regulates the real estate industry. They make personal criticisms against everyone involved from developers, to technical professionals, to city planning staff, planning commissioners, and city council Members. They label them as crooked and incompetent. I know from personal experience that these labels are unfair and not supported by facts. Second, they rarely address the merits of the project with specific criticism and recommendations for improvement.

If a person does not want part of their city developed, then they need to participate in the process that determines the content of the General Plan. The City of Pacifica is going to release shortly a draft updated General Plan for public comment. Anyone who is interested is free to review the draft and write a letter to the Planning Department offering their opinions. Carl May should direct his comments to the people who make the rules in a constructive manner if he wants to create change. His sarcastic commentary criticizing developers serves no public purpose.

Folks, let's stick to housing and development issues and skip personal comments about the developer. Thanks.

Maybe lose the imperious attitude. I understand you are used to ordering people around. I doubt you win every case in court, though, and you might want to look inward as to why.
You were offended by sarcasm, and decided to state what the rules were here, as if you and your investor own this blog, too. If the owner was smart, he'd have cast you aside long ago.

I've never seen a more incompetent outreach. I've seen plenty of incompetent, but you excel.

John:
Twisting what Carl wrote doesn't help your cause. And neither does your tendency to wage war with posters. Instead of building a movement with Pacificans to be on board with your overseas employers and their idea for our hillsides, you're attacking any and all who oppose this development.

Carl May:

"The superficial tactics of the developer's playbook work only on the naive and corrupted."

What arrogance.

According to you, the people of Pacifica must be too stupid or immoral to make their own decisions.

You must be the smartest person in the room. Or not.

I'm with Carl.

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