Proponents of the Big Wave office park and housing complex for the developmentally disabled say they are considering their next steps after the California Coastal Commission effectively scuttled the entire project in a meeting last week.
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.
The Coastal Commission’s unanimous verdict came Aug. 8, in the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors chambers. The room 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. Representatives of the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau and many individuals were on hand to support the project.
When it was all over, Coastal Commissioner Steve Blank told developers that any support for the housing component was undermined by the sheer size of the business park.
“It’s not the wellness center we’re denying,” he said. “The developer decided to tie these projects together.”
Big Wave has been in the planning pipeline for years and cost more than $500,000, according to an attorney representing the project. It was ultimately 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 nonprofit 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 legitimate concerns might remain.
In the aftermath of the vote, David Byers, a Burlingame-based attorney for the Big Wave applicants, said fighting the state would be costly, the results uncertain and involve a complicated legal battle. Byers said proponents would have to meet to discuss the next move.
“I haven’t figured that out yet,” he said the day after the vote. “None of this stuff is done with the wave of a wand.”
In an email to the Review, Peck expressed disappointment but also resolve.
“I’m going to build the wellness center and I will have a commercial element to provide financial sustainability so that even the poorest of the developmentally disabled can have an opportunity in life,” he wrote on Friday.
During the meeting, some 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.”