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Coastal Commission shoots down Big Wave

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Posted: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 5:52 pm

The future of the Big Wave office park and housing complex for the developmentally disabled is in doubt today after the California Coastal Commission sided with appellants who raised nearly a dozen issues with the proposal.

After five hours of testimony on Wednesday, the Coastal Commission was swayed by concerns over how to provide water and wastewater treatment, environmental worries, the potential for traffic and a host of other problems. Commissioners found the project out of compliance with San Mateo County’s land-use plan, overruling an earlier approval by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

Coastal Commissioner Steve Blank told developers that any support for the housing component was undermined by the shear size of the business park.

“It’s not the wellness center we’re denying,” he said. “The developer decided to tie these projects together.”

“We’re being asked to overlook our basic values to do something good,” added Commissioner Jana Zimmer.

Wednesday’s action was taken in the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors chambers, which was crowded with Coastsiders on each side of an issue that has created a rift among neighbors. Dozens of people spoke both for and against the project.

The Committee for Green Foothills, the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club and others appealed the county’s decision. The Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau and many individuals were on hand to support the project.

Big Wave has been in the planning pipeline for years. It was to include 225,000-square-feet of office space and housing for about 50 developmentally disabled adults in separate buildings. The office space would be a for-profit “economic engine” for the non-profit housing, according to Big Wave founder, Jeff Peck.

Proponents of Big Wave argued that most of the complaints with the project were without merit and that they were willing to work with the Coastal Commission to address whatever might remain.

Other supporters complained bitterly that opponents were putting animals and environment over the needs of vulnerable members of the community. Several Coastsiders with developmental disabilities spoke at the meeting.

“We’ve built a Ritz-Carlton, The Beach House, Oceano (Spa and Hotel) and housing for migrant farmworkers,” noted parent Terry Chatfield. “But we’ve built nothing for our own children.”

Opponents made a point to say they understood the need for housing for the developmentally disabled, but nonetheless maintained the Princeton plot behind the Half Moon Bay Airport is not the right place.

Lennie Roberts spoke on behalf of appellants and against the project, but said she had particular reason to sympathize with Big Wave supporters.

“My husband and I have a developmentally disabled adult daughter who lives with us,” she said. “We too worry about what will happen with her when we are gone.”

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Cid Young posted at 2:27 pm on Sun, Aug 12, 2012.

    Cid Young Posts: 114

    It was a Land-use Decision, and, as he points out, it was the Developers chose to bundle the two projects together. The Two Projects were denied unanimously, based on the LCP and the Coastal Act.

    I wish that the proponents would step back and see why their posturing failed. When I think of all the time and effort that went into trying to shove this project through, I can only imagine the disappointment for the DD Community, however if this project had been thoroughly vetted with the recommendations from the CCC Staff, there might be a project there by now. As it stands all the money spent and efforts on behalf of the DD Community has been wasted. The Commissioners saw right through the "Strategy" and looked only at the land use approval aspects of the project. As one or two of the Commissioners pointed out, Staff should not have been ignored.

  • Cid Young posted at 2:17 pm on Sun, Aug 12, 2012.

    Cid Young Posts: 114

    Commissioner Blank gave both a compassionate and a passionate speech. I felt all the Commissioners did a great job analyzing the project and deciding it based on the LCP and Coastal Act as a land use issue. They really couldn't understand why so many issues hadn't been resolved at the County level before spending CCC Staff time on it. The Developer had not resolved issues raised by CCC the Staff before the hearing of the Appeal. Next time, Big Wave Developers, do your homework.

  • rollingmyeyes posted at 9:58 am on Sat, Aug 11, 2012.

    rollingmyeyes Posts: 8

    also wondering why commissioner blank has his beautiful estate and all these other projects on the coast that are ALL FOR INDIVIDUAL OR CORPORATE PROFIT get approved by coastal commission, and the commissioners personal estates - but a project that benefits everybody, especially the disenfranchised, does not get approved. Is it because not enough money is changing hands? is it because somebody's view is being impacted, is it because somebody's morning walk is being impacted, is it because you are discriminating against special needs? I suspect that more than one of these is the real reason this is being shot down again.

  • rollingmyeyes posted at 9:54 am on Sat, Aug 11, 2012.

    rollingmyeyes Posts: 8

    would love for people to actually know what they are talking about before making asinine comments. The office park is to fund the wellness center - how many times does that point have to be made before you get it. Would you rather that all the special needs parents come to the government (local, state, federal) and demand funds to do everything for them? They are trying to be self sufficient and NOT burden the coastside, but instead add economic value to the whole coastside as well as help the special needs folks who desperately need housing and employment opportunities. Please read the material before making ignorant comments!!!

  • ken king posted at 12:09 am on Fri, Aug 10, 2012.

    ken king Posts: 3

    Here is the video portion of the Commissioners' discussion prior to voting on the project:

    Unrelated: August West is the non de plume of a local person unable to write coherent prose - i.e. I did not donate anything to get favorable treatment for what, or from whom, I'm unsure. (Please don't bother to explain, because no one is interested.)

  • KJT posted at 5:17 pm on Thu, Aug 9, 2012.

    KJT Posts: 3

    I encourage everyone to look at Big Wave's website. There is a lot of great information that addresses many of issues mentioned. Plus, it can give you a chance to learn and understand the wonderful people it will serve.

    Frankly, I am brokenhearted, sad and disappointed about the decision made yesterday. I know so many families and kids that are in need of something affordable and close by.

    If you knew the people leading the project and the people it would have served, I believe that you might think differently. The cynicism shown in the Sierra Club's post about their success that Big Wave did not pass says a lot.

    It seems that they think Big Wave is all about using Adults with Special Needs as an excuse to build office space. It is the other way around. Office space will be leased to fund and care for those so in need in our community. Specialized housing and care is very expensive (I read about one wonderful place in Sonoma today - $3250 a month per resident).

    Many thanks to all who have worked so hard, devoted so much time and work to serving and trying to build a home for such beloved members of our community.

  • August West posted at 4:08 pm on Thu, Aug 9, 2012.

    August West Posts: 362

    Wonder why Mr. Blank gets his huge mansion without any agricultural or conservation easements but he demanded the same of others (see Sterling v. CCC)?

    But he can deny housing for developmentally disabled. We all know Ken King could care less.

    I would love to know how much he had to donate to get that favorable treatment. I am sure others would too.

  • DavidV posted at 3:03 pm on Thu, Aug 9, 2012.

    DavidV Posts: 52

    Thanks for the links - and great summary, Ken.

    -- DavidV

  • sgblank posted at 2:45 pm on Thu, Aug 9, 2012.

    sgblank Posts: 1

    Commissioners public testimony on Big Wave here:

    The full hearing can be found here:

  • ken king posted at 2:12 pm on Thu, Aug 9, 2012.

    ken king Posts: 3

    After all the people spoke before the Commission (primarily parents of developmentally disabled (DD) children and the children themselves in quite a few cases) and the developers and their lawyer had their final say, the Staff then rebutted a number of statements and criticisms by the developer, finally turning the meeting back over to the Commission.

    Commissioner Blank immediately made the motion to scuttle the project, which was rapidly seconded. After this discussion ensued. Blank, with a visible degree of anger, pointed out that the commissioners were aware of the lack of affordable housing for DDs, and being parents themselves deeply empathized with the plight of the families and kids. But, he pointed out, it was the developer who decided to tie the wellness center to the gargantuan business park that caused most of the issues of scale that warranted denial of the project. He was angry that the Commission was put into the position of having to turn down the project, part of which they were sympathetic toward, because of the developer's persistence in ignoring well documented CCC staff warnings and advice going back to 2006, nearly an identical list of items with those listed in the final staff report. Nothing had changed, except that the commercial part of the project had been scaled up!

    When Blank finished, two other commissioners spoke saying they agreed with everything he said, but added that they thought the County had done no one favors by approving a project that lacked the proper water and sewer permits, adequate geological information, and other information that the applicants claimed to have provided, but which was found lacking. Everyone who spoke said there was a possible project in there, but that it would have to begin over again, be reduced in scale and have all of the attendant issues solved before they'd consider it again.

    This is what I saw and heard yesterday. The entire session is on video at the CCC website.

  • Danismaximus posted at 11:50 am on Thu, Aug 9, 2012.

    Danismaximus Posts: 15

    Oops, wow thanks for correction David. 225,000 sq/ft.

  • DavidV posted at 11:12 am on Thu, Aug 9, 2012.

    DavidV Posts: 52

    "I may be wrong but I heard the complex was to have 20,000 sq/ft of office spaces for business. Marketing it solely as a housing complex for the developmentally disabled seems deceitful if that's true."

    Yes, and all the more so because it was actually 225,000 sq/ft of commercial office space, not 20,000.

    -- DavidV

  • Danismaximus posted at 8:33 am on Thu, Aug 9, 2012.

    Danismaximus Posts: 15

    I may be wrong but I heard the complex was to have 20,000 sq/ft of office spaces for business. Marketing it solely as a housing complex for the developmentally disabled seems deceitful if that's true.

  • Tyler Durden posted at 8:24 pm on Wed, Aug 8, 2012.

    Tyler Durden Posts: 431

    Why not convert part of the mostly empty Oceano "ghost mall" and closed crab landing circular restaurant into a wellness center. It's already there and it looks like a giant row of houses smashed together.

  • Sabrina Brennan posted at 7:26 pm on Wed, Aug 8, 2012.

    Sabrina Brennan Posts: 58

    The Coastal Commission decision was unanimous.

  • Cid Young posted at 7:06 pm on Wed, Aug 8, 2012.

    Cid Young Posts: 114

    Folks who went to the hearing are still driving back from Santa Cruz, no doubt.

  • HoneyBadger posted at 6:33 pm on Wed, Aug 8, 2012.

    HoneyBadger Posts: 29

    Did any commissioners vote in support of the project?


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