Half Moon Bay Review: Wednesday, Dec 03, 2008 by Merrill Bobele
I attended the Big Wave scoping meeting on Nov. 18 at El Granada Elementary School. The project, according to the developer, “provides … housing and employment opportunities … for developmentally disabled children and adults.” The meeting’s purpose was for the public to register concerns that need to be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report required to gain approval by the various permitting agencies.
Many of the people attending were friends and family members of the developmentally disabled community. Those who attended that were not part of this group may have been overwhelmed by the number of supporters who spoke, most with great emotion. I, too, am the parent of a developmentally disabled adult daughter, and share similar concerns, wanting only the best for my daughter. The scoping session did not comfort my doubts that the project can meet its stated objectives.
The Coastside community should harness the energy that those boosters represent! But I think that it’s unfair to mislead people’s legitimate hopes and wishes with an unnecessarily flawed plan. Big Wave’s site has severe obstacles in its documented wetlands, unavailable water from a district long under moratorium, poor feeder roads and is isolated from services provided by a community.
The project sponsors claim they won’t use any government funds. Almost all of the potential residents of the Big Wave project are clients of the Golden Gate Regional Center. Regional Centers are entirely supported by federal and state funds, which, in turn, fund services for the developmentally disabled. Since most of the potential residents of Big Wave are GGRC clients, it’s misleading to say that Big Wave will use no government money.
Our community should recognize that Big Wave as proposed is only one approach to providing for the needs of the developmentally disabled population once members leave school. Speakers addressed the need to accept and integrate them into our community, and I agree. Big Wave’s model does not do this, but instead offers a separate, self-contained campus with living, working and recreation components. The preferred model is to live in existing neighborhoods, and work in the community. We should also provide recreational activities within our community. Since my daughter turned 18, she has happily lived most of the time in this kind of setting.
In my professional experience as a career counselor, transition specialist for School-to-Work and a job developer for the developmentally disabled, I’ve found that they go through the same career development as everyone else. They have to learn about a variety of jobs and identify their interests, likes and dislikes. One size does not fit all. Big Wave’s Project Description indicates residents work farming, landscaping, recycling/composting, and dog grooming/walking. This offers too few opportunities.
Contrary to what I heard said that evening, these programs do not “run themselves.” If the Big Wave business plan is to self-fund without government help, provide services such as supportive work, independent living skills, transportation and recreation, it’s obvious these programs won’t run themselves.
Quality services to the developmentally disabled are costly, and some individuals may require behavioral interventions. Hence the revenues of the commercial development must support the expenses for the residents of Big Wave. No one provided a market analysis for the commercial development, other than a dubious survey claiming the need for office space.
The Big Wave concept appears to have morphed from having the Wellness Center/residential cost met by the revenues generated by the office park to a fee-for-services model. The project description states that the “Wellness Center (will be) funded through association fees and shared development costs.” This does not seem to provide the promised “opportunities for low-income developmentally disabled children and adults” stated in the “Notice of Preparation.”
The EIR should offer alternative locations, which do not have as many permitting issues as the present Big Wave location. For example, a portion of Half Moon Bay’s Beachwood acquisition could accommodate the Big Wave Wellness Center housing, supported by the benefits of Section 8 Housing. The business part would not fit into Beachwood’s six permittable acres, so remains problematic for the location, but it’s permitting hardships in Moss Beach make it an unlikely survivor there. Big Wave is well-intentioned, but it is in the wrong place.
Merrill Bobele is a resident of El Granada and a retired teacher.