Waking from a dream

Have you ever had to wake someone, and found out later that they were in a particularly wonderful dream?

Initially, they may hardly respond. However, as you persist in trying to help them reconnect with a reality that does not include the cherished dream, one often discovers that they can become quite grumpy, even outright angry, in response to your well- intended efforts!

R. Donahue Peebles and his large staff, have done an impressive job of weaving a dream for the citizens of Pacifica, that puts him in the roles of Santa Claus, "father knows best", and a knight in shining armor all rolled-up into one! Wow! What a guy!

The public Charade, (not a true charrette at all), at which people experienced the illusion of helping to design the project, resulted in many artistic renditions of a project whose "footprint", is not significantly different from that proposed by Trammell Crow, and defeated by the voters of Pacifica four years ago! Well, it is different; it's for more housing, and as a result, more traffic!

Those of us still caught-up in the warm, fuzzy dream may well protest; it is different; there will be a library, an aquatic center, a town hall, it will be built to LEED platinum green-building standards and it will generate a gazillion dollars! Why, part of that gazillion will be because the hotel that our hero will build will generate twice as much income for our little burg as the Ritz-Carlton down the road apiece! He promises!

He's different! He likes us! He wants to meet with all of us, have wine and cheese with us. By golly, he wants to move in! He's sooo charming, sophisticated, powerful, did I mention handsome? He even sent me a letter! Me! In it he said that the vote in November is "simply to allow the city and community to evaluate our concept, that's it."

How innocuous and harmless does that sound? Who could imagine from such innocent phrasing that said vote is really about removing a protection preventing builders from putting as many houses as possible in the quarry, a provision which Mr. Peebles referred to during the recent debate as a "poison pill"! A "poison pill" in the absence of which, it's pretty clear, there would have been no phony charrette, no pretty picture presentations, and no wine and cheese parties!

At the last day of the "charrette," and in his letter, Mr. Peebles reminded us that, he really didn't have to do "this," this process. He could simply submit an application to build a "large scale commercial space including a big box retail development (like a Wal-mart)", and that, "A "no" vote would force me to file [such] an application," etc. Sounds like classic "carrot or the stick" intimidation to me!

When people who had received the letter complained that they didn't like being threatened, why, he apologized, saying that he had no intention of threatening anyone. Are we to assume, then, that he didn't read his letter before sending it? Or is it perhaps that he is completely innocent of the implications of repeating this over and over again?

Now, I will confess that I'm having a little fun with this. It is absolutely not my intention to offend anyone. It is my intention to challenge all of us to carefully examine our thinking and the basis on which we will vote on Measure L.

What prevented Mr. Peebles from putting all of the beautiful promises in the ballot language if he unequivocally means to perform them?

Herein lines the challenge for those who currently plan to vote yes, and protest in response to this missive, that they are not confusing dreamy images and unenforceable promises with the carefully vague, quite lacking in detail language of the ballot measure. Have at it. Be careful, however, if this letter upsets you, to check to see if it isn't because of the discomfort of facing the clear disparity between the "dream" and the reality of the ballot language.

Another issue: If Measure L passes, and Mr. Peebles decides that he would rather sell the property than develop it, the approval to build "up to 355 residential housing units" stays with the property. Result: new developer sans "dream".

What Mr. Peebles and his well-funded juggernaut is seeking to "sell" us on is to simply trust that, in spite of the clear choice to not first prepare an enforceable development agreement or even to just include all the elements of the dream/vision in the ballot language, he'll do it anyway.

I guess I am open to the accusation that I'm "just not trusting enough". I can't help wondering, however, how many of us tempted to vote yes would bring in a builder whom we had never met before, and on the basis of some meetings and nice pictures, engage him to build a house for us without having blueprints and approvals, first.

I could support real, approved, plans for a mixed-use development in the quarry, with hotel and residential, and a clear, approved, traffic mitigation commitment. Sadly, none of us are being give the opportunity to vote for that. Don't try to claim that you are; it's not in the ballot language.

Please vote NO on Measure L. We deserve to be treated like adults, not like gullible rubes at a carnival show!

The above was printed as a guest column in the Pacifica Tribune on August 30th, 2006