The world is full of fighting and now so is our town. Some people enjoy the heat of battle; I personally prefer peace. However as a life-long Pacifican who cares about sane use of coastal lands, I feel compelled to join the fray.
In my opinion Mr. Peebles has made a grave moral error. It may not be a tactical error, because his tactics may cause him to prevail, but it is a moral error nonetheless.
The unbelievable nastiness of last week's telemarketing phone calls followed by the Jerry Springer-like "Realtors Candidate Forum" was the last straw for me.
The current destructive and painful fighting that divides neighbors and even families on this passionate issue was totally avoidable, and Mr. Peebles was shown with generosity and care by many community leaders exactly how this fight could and should have been avoided.
At the Quarry Charette I addressed the gathering; "I know we have been burned in the past by developers, but let's see this process through. I know we can find where the pro-development, environmental and the developer's needs overlap. Let's see if we can't be creative and find a win for all parties out of this opportunity. Let's avoid a fight". The round of supportive applause for that sentiment gave me hope.
I was putting great stock in the following:
- The developer purchased the quarry property at so low a price he would not be facing financial pressures to overbuild.
- He had knowledge of Highway One traffic constraints, previous votes rejecting huge numbers of housing units, and the regulatory constraints regarding building in the coastal zone. Therefore he probably understood how a more modest project made sense.
- The developer and designer were talking about environmentally sound building standards and habitat enhancement.
- And here we were in a community planning process where we could iron out all the issues ahead of time and build consensus before moving forward!
Now I have to ask myself; what happy planet was I on?
As the "planning" wore on I began to get a sinking feeling in my gut. When the overall project footprint with the entire flat land completely full of densely packed buildings was revealed, I knew they weren't listening. Many objected repeatedly to the enormous "city within a city" and a good many of us tried for days to engage the issues of over all size and the number of housing units. It soon became clear that these were immovable objects.
With very heavy hearts we realized that the "planning process" was an expensive charade to create the illusion of participation. Weeks later when I went to a Peebles/Davies sales pitch for Measure L, and the same footprint was unveiled as "a project designed by Pacificans", I nearly hurled. When I got the letter saying "Vote for my project or I will build a Wall-Mart", I got angry.
All we are left with is an "opportunity" to provide financial benefit to the developer by permanently entitling his property for a massive housing development, and verbal assurances of "future planning meetings". Yet his promise of $17 million for Pacifica is based on the absolute maximum build out. There is no room for compromise or collaboration with Mr. Peebles.
With the time and money this team has spent producing TV commercials, bashing our City Council while favoring Pro-L Council candidates and sending mailers that give us a choice between "Our Project" and "Punishment for Not Choosing Our Project" we could have had a real planning process. A real plan would be one that took notice of our recent rejection of a similar quarry project with 315 houses, concretely addressed traffic issues and built consensus in our community, still making the developer a truck load of money in the process! Amazingly, we were this close ( put your fingers a half inch apart ) to getting there when the rug was pulled and it was taken to a ballot measure as a maxed-out housing project.
I will now be voting No on Measure L, rejecting these tactics and an unfair process. I will be voting to retain our independent council who will hang tough for what we really want during the crucial negotiations that will follow regardless of the success or failure of Measure L. The current council has heard loud and clear what the vision for the quarry is; an appropriately sized, mixed-use visitor and resident serving main street and town square that is built to the highest environmental standards and architecturally gorgeous.
Funny; that is what Mr. Peebles heard us say, too. Why isn't that what he is offering?
The above was printed as a Guest Column in the October 18th, 2006 Pacifica Tribune, and is republished here with the author's permission.