Thursday, March 3, 2011

Big Wave = Big Pave?

by Lennie Roberts

The Chapter has joined other environmental groups in appealing the San Mateo County Planning Commission's three-to-two approval of the Big Wave Project to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. The other groups are the Committee for Green Foothills, Surfrider, California Pilots Association, Pillar Ridge Homeowners Association, and the San Mateo County League for Coastside Protection.

This farmland would turn into a massive office complex if Big Wave is built.
Located on low-lying agricultural fields on the coast adjacent to the environmentally sensitive Pillar Point Marsh, Big Wave proposes building a 225,000-square-foot office park in massive 46-foot-high buildings plus housing for 50 developmentally disabled adults and 20 caregivers. The Chapter is sympathetic to the needs of the disabled, but this location is a dangerous and inappropriate location for this development.
The project would conflict with the county general plan, zoning, and the Local Coastal Program (the basic planning that guides development along the coast). Its location is inherently hazardous: it's adjacent to the active Seal Cove-San Gregorio Fault and within the 100-year flood plain and tsunami hazard zone. The housing's location so close to the runway at Half Moon Bay Airport is incompatible with the safe operation of the airport. Traffic studies indicate that up to 2,123 peak-hour vehicle trips per day would have to squeeze through two narrow access roads to reach the site.
Sewer and water infrastructure does not currently exist, and local agencies have not committed to connecting the property. Endangered species and sensitive wetlands in the Pillar Point Marsh could also be affected.
The developer is asking for a 20-year development agreement, which would lock in approvals and allow construction to be spread out over two decades, subjecting neighbors and the coastal environment to the impacts of a protracted construction project.
The woefully inadequate Environmental Impact Report (EIR) generated some 250 comments from the public and responsible agencies. When the developer refused to pay the additional costs to have the independent EIR consultant prepare responses to comments, the county planning department agreed to collaborate with the developer in writing the responses. This calls into serious question whether the EIR meets the legally-required standards of impartiality and independence.
The Appeal will likely be heard in March. An adverse ruling could be appealed to the California Coastal Commission.
Lennie Roberts is the Legislative Advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills and is a longstanding member of the Chapter.

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