After years of helping communities build traffic and trail plans, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute founder Dan Burden said there's generally 95 percent agreement on what the people want for an area, but then they get bogged down by the details of the last 5 percent. The result can be that no decisions get made.
On the Midcoast, the devil is definitely in the details; there is much internal debate about what kinds of things the communities want.
"We need to be together as we go forward," Burden said, during a kickoff community meeting to lay out the future of Highway 1. Midcoast residents gathered on April 29 at El Granada Elementary School to brainstorm phase two of the Highway 1 Safety and Mobility Improvement Study. This phase covers Half Moon Bay Airport north to Devil's Slide. On April 30, a group of roughly 40 people met for a charrette, or a planning workshop, to further survey the highway and provide feedback.
Part of the traffic problem is that the highway corridor has stayed the same, even though the surrounding coastal villages have grown. The Highway 1 Safety and Mobility Improvement Study is meant to provide a plan for a highway corridor that reflects the character of the Coastside and the area's natural setting.
To this end, county workers and Local Government Commission representatives joined community members to explore ways to manage traffic speed and parking and to identify opportunities for safe crossings and community trails.
"This is a community where people have been involved a long time, and people are very protective about their communities and new proposals that may come in," said Josh Meyer, director of community planning programs for the Local Government Commission. "On the other hand, they are wondering why they aren't seeing change."
That being said, he adds, during a values exercise at the kickoff meeting, the values participants highlighted were remarkably similar. Even the wording used to describe their priorities was strikingly similar. In order, the values were: the ocean, open spaces, the sense of small community, the quiet and slow life pace, trails and rural character.
"These are pretty consistent values that aren't in conflict with each other," Meyer said. Usually when he facilitates these exercises, there are about 12 values, and common themes are more difficult to tease out. Sometimes high-scoring values are in direct opposition: Half of the members of a community will want no new development while the other half want a new shopping center. On the Midcoast, the exercise demonstrated this wasn't the case.
The Sacramento-based nonprofit Local Government Commission partnered with the county to prepare the $162,462 grant through Caltrans. Caltrans provides these grants for planning purposes only. The county roughly matched the state money.
Although the Local Government Commission hadn't yet officially compiled the data, the community brought up some similar points at the meeting:
t Virtually everyone talked about strategies for slowing down cars. They focused on the areas that especially need traffic to be slowed down, like the north and southbound entrances to the Midcoast communities.
t Another sentiment that echoed throughout the planning sessions was that the Midcoast needs safer crossings, for pedestrians in particular.
t Most community members talked about the notion of a parallel trail in addition to the California Coastal Trail to carry walkers and rollers along the east side of the highway. The Coastal Trail runs into some constraints (like absent connections to link parts of the trail) and ends up being more of a recreational trail, according to Meyer. The idea here, he said, is to establish a more direct route east of the highway.
t Some groups talked about medians within Highway 1 - at certain key locations - to assist pedestrians across single lanes. This could also encourage people to drive more carefully in certain locations.
t Some of the major problem areas the community identified were around Montara Lighthouse, Surfer's Beach and the southern portal of Devil's Slide.
Once the committee completes the action plan, county staff will bring it to the Board of Supervisors for approval. Then the county Parks Department will seek grant funding to build out the improvements. By early next year, the team hopes to have an action plan ready to take to the supervisors.