Pacificans for Sustainable Development says NO to Measure L

After much thought and analysis, including meetings and many conversations with Quarry owner/developer R. Donahue Peebles, Pacificans for Sustainable Development (PSD) steering committee has decided to oppose Measure L.

We were slow in making this decision because we, like many Pacificans, support an appropriately sized, environmentally sensitive development in the quarry, something we hoped that Mr. Peebles could provide. However, Measure L does not provide a clear definition of where Pacifica will stand if we give away a windfall entitlement of "up to 355" housing units to the developer, massively increasing the value of his land, with no guarantees at all for Pacifica. There is no contract, no agreement, nothing binding except the housing.

Pacifica is being asked to give something of tremendous value in exchange for words, promises and watercolor pictures. As alluring as those may be, they do not constitute any sort of contract or enforceable agreement. We would never personally enter into an agreement under these conditions, and we should not do so collectively.

Most would agree that a successful negotiation should include:

  1. A clear definition of what you are agreeing to;
  2. A clear process of negotiation leading to a contract to make sure all parties get what they bargained for.
  3. Reasonable legal protection should it become necessary to resolve conflict.

The potential development in the quarry is one of the largest real estate transactions in Pacifica 's history, and we owe it to ourselves and future generations to use the same common sense and due diligence in negotiating its development.

In addition we believe that any development with such a huge number of housing units would be, as Pacifica voters have said time and again, too big for the quarry site, creating too much traffic, stress on city services and redefining the quality of life in our town by too much all at once in an enormous urban-style development. A scaled down version would be something to consider, but the ballot measure indicates an "all or nothing" mindset.

The developer says his concept was the result of public input, yet the charrette process itself was deeply flawed and was in no way a true "community planning process"; the overall footprint and density of the project was fixed from the beginning and non-negotiable. Mr. Peebles pointedly dismissed all suggestions to revise it saying that that would be "left up to the city council" -- a council whose decisions and attempts to modify or reduce the size of the project may be challenged in court. In fact, Measure L makes our city vulnerable to this developer's law suits.

Because there is such uncertainty and no well-defined project to sell, this developer's strategy is to focus on selling himself, asking Pacificans to simply trust him. Yet there have been an increasing number of questionable incidents which add up to a disturbing trend; the blatant misrepresentation by ballot signature gatherers, incidents of fraudulent statements on email lists, and threatening comments and letters are just a few. Mr. Peebles attempts to deny and distance himself from these, but such a hands-on developer has got to be held responsible for hiring firms with a history of dirty tricks and then acting surprised when they perform them. We do not like what we are seeing in his campaign so far, and will continue to keep an eye on it.

Mr. Peebles has hired a formidable law firm specializing in pro-development, anti-environment and anti-regulatory litigation. They are true "heavy hitters" used by the largest corporations. We know from his history that Peebles has no qualms about suing to get what he wants, and this makes us all the more determined to make sure that our city's negotiating position is as strong as possible. Passing Measure L weakens our position in negotiations. NO on L means Mr. Peebles has to come back with the project the majority of Pacificans have indicated they want; a reasonable sized, mixed use development with traffic and habitat mitigations clearly defined.

We realized from the start that our opposition to Measure L will be seen by some people as our being against any development ever, which is not so. We understand the reasons that many citizens want a development in the quarry-- a town center, increased revenue, better shopping and transit, etc. and have spent much time and energy pursuing a win for both pro-development and environmental concerns. We are frankly very disappointed that Mr. Peebles did not take more time and care to submit a more reasonable ballot measure, one which we could all support, and we advised him from the beginning to do so. But the reality of Measure L is such that we cannot support it, and we ask that you join us in defeating it on Nov. 7.

The PSD Steering Committee

The above was printed as a Guest Column in the September 13th, 2006 Pacifica Tribune and is republished here with the author's permission.