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Princeton shop runs afoul of county rules

County sees eccentric shop as harbor oddball

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 2:10 pm | Updated: 2:53 pm, Thu Sep 6, 2012.

The one-of-a-kind shop Half to Have It sells vintage toys, outdoor décor and other eclectic items, but San Mateo County officials say the store and its merchandise clash with the seafaring zoning rules for Princeton.

After almost 20 years of business in downtown Half Moon Bay, the store relocated as the “Nest Gallery” in Princeton last year, moving into a two-story residence on California Avenue.

But the store’s new building is inappropriate for a retail shop, according to county planning officials, who point to fire hazards, parking problems and zoning violations. As it stands right now, the store is essentially running a permanent “garage sale” in its front yard, said County Supervisor Don Horsley.

“We discovered they just moved in and started operating this business,” Horsley said. “It’s unfortunate this is happening, but I’d assume if you’re a business owner that you’d check on this first.”

Nestled between Pillar Point Harbor and the Half Moon Bay Airport, the western portion of Princeton has gained the reputation of being a Gordian knot of special land-use rules and unique exemptions. The two-story house occupied by Half to Have It’s Nest Galley is no different. The property is zoned as a waterfront, meaning its use is supposed to have a direct tie to the marine commerce coming out of the harbor. Planning officials say such uses include processing seafood or selling surfing gear. But the parcel also can function as a residence, thanks to a grandfathered exemption originating decades ago.

The Nest Gallery first came on the radar of county officials earlier this summer during a meeting of the Princeton Task Force, a group organized by Horsley to work through the tangle of land-use problems and revitalize the area. At the meeting, representatives from the Coastside Fire Protection District and San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office raised safety concerns about the store.

Fire marshals flagged hazards such as nonserviced fire extinguishers, an illegal canopy, and extension cords that were running from inside the residence out to the yard. Sheriff’s officials said customers parking along the street could cause traffic hazards.

Using the concerns as the basis for an investigation, county code enforcement found that the store didn’t fit the criteria for a waterfront business. County officials warned that the business had to apply for a use permit but couldn’t guarantee whether the shop would fit their profile for a viable waterfront business.

Planning officials say they met with store owner Melissa Manson earlier this month and that she made the case her shop sold marine-related knickknacks including shells and sea glass sculptures. If the business played up its connection to the harbor — perhaps by selling more sea-themed merchandise — it might have a better shot at obtaining a use permit, said Steve Monowitz, the county’s long-range planning manager.

“The more nautical it is, the easier it would be for us to find it compatible,” Monowitz explained. “We’re not dictating what they want to sell, but we think that what they sell does relate to the compatibility and purpose of this district.”

After the investigation, Manson began urging her store’s fans to provide support, asking them to send letters to the supervisors. Supporters for the business point to many other code violations in Princeton as evidence that the Nest Gallery is being singled out.

Manson declined to comment for this story.

County officials insist the Nest Galley is not being treated differently from other businesses. Monowitz listed other recent enforcement efforts aimed at the Exclusive Fresh seafood company, an illegal garbage dump, and a family of squatters living in a dry-docked boat.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Brian Holt posted at 3:51 pm on Tue, Sep 11, 2012.

    Brian Holt Posts: 14

    I often talk to friends from outside of Half Moon Bay about the lack of any attractive shopping on our Main St. Many people come to Half Moon Bay to stroll along Main Street and find unique shops. Unfortunately, many of the shops on Main Street are really limited to high end trinkets and tacky dresses. Not much that is interesting to the vast majority of shoppers under the age of 65.

    Invariably, they all say their favorite store in Half Moon Bay sadly closed down - and I immediately know they are referring to Have to Have It. They are excited when I tell them that the store didn't close, but just moved down to the harbor.

    I understand the need for zoning and trying to create a sense of place down there - but I am not sure that targeting Have to Have It is going to achieve much other than discourage others from attempting something unique. Yes, they should have done their due diligence and ensured their ducks were in a row, but not I think it would be in everyone's best interest to find a mutually agreeable solution.

  • Kent F posted at 1:39 pm on Sun, Sep 9, 2012.

    Kent F Posts: 2

    I feel that responsible, and frankly cool, businesses like Have To Have It, Twice As Nice, and Trojak Knier Winery, are beginning to attract more tourists and locals to the area, creating beneficial spending, and are adding to the aesthetic appeal of an otherwise mostly blighted area (all the land-fill abandoned looking lots filled with rusting junk and other refuse, though perhaps "seafaring" in description, basically the entire area of lots between Mezza Luna to the Pillar-Point Marsh area). These business like Have To Have It should be encouraged and welcomed and worked with in order to bring Princeton into a new era of prosperity, not harassed or singled out unfairly. It has been refreshing to see this area gradually emerge from it's dilapidated, eye-sore filled condition, to a more thriving community that people will want to visit beyond the harbor-front success that has been in place for a while (e.g. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company area). The area west of Mezza Luna deserves to be this attractive as well, to residents and businesses alike.

    The fire code issues are legitimate, and any business should address those certainly. But overall, I think these efforts are misplaced, and appear to be singling out Have To Have It unfairly, when the focus should be on cleaning up the actual blight in the area, and encouraging responsible businesses (seafaring and non-seafaring) to grow and flourish for the benefit of all in the region.

  • Barney posted at 8:31 am on Sun, Sep 9, 2012.

    Barney Posts: 23

    And.....I guess the Big Crane property is much more appealing to the eye when you turn the corner expecting to see a nice, quaint harbor area. Instead, it looks like a construction zone with trucks, cranes, rigging & equipment everywhere...because you can lift a boat with a crane I guess it is nautical. Is the discount warehouse selling surf gear or seafood? Maybe dented cans of tuna fish gets them by...

  • Tyler Durden posted at 9:24 am on Sat, Sep 8, 2012.

    Tyler Durden Posts: 412

    Since when has the County ever cared about enforcing the rules? There must be something more to this that we're not being told.

    Recall that the County approved the BIg Wave project unanimously---That was probably the most grossly-out-of-compliance-with-the-zoning-code project in the history of the Coastside.

  • Zack B posted at 6:09 am on Sat, Sep 8, 2012.

    Zack B Posts: 157

    It took the county nearly two years to get around to this. Did someone file a complaint? If the county is so concerned about those businesses running afoul of the law, how about investigating those amusement parks along Highway 92 masquerading as farms?

  • watchdog posted at 11:18 pm on Fri, Sep 7, 2012.

    watchdog Posts: 51

    And yet the County keeps permitting phony "live-work" units on the Princeton shore which are in fact just private homes with a view.

    Also, comparing Half to Have It to Exclusive Fresh is disingenuous at best, since the County has bent over backwards looking for some way to NOT shut down EF, including discussing changing the zoning to allow it. I've never been to HtHI, but from this article it sure seems to me that they're being singled out. I don't support looking the other way for non-allowed uses, but the County must not selectively pick which ones they go after. If they want to shut down HtHI, they had better shut down the few dozen or perhaps many more other non-compliant uses. And they should start with the private residences which were fraudulently permitted as "live-work" units.

  • John Charles Ullom posted at 1:56 pm on Fri, Sep 7, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1049

    Everyday and in every way, they want to tell us how to live our lives.

    “The more nautical it is, the easier it would be for us to find it compatible,” Monowitz explained. “We’re not dictating what they want to sell, but we think that what they sell does relate to the compatibility and purpose of this district.”

    Who is this Monowitz person, (I will resist the temptation to compare the logic expressed above to...never mind), and why Monowitz think that the above comment was anything other than dictating?

    The Harbor is weird. That is it's appeal. Bragging harassing families who are living on their boats does not make harassing a Mom and Pop shop any more appealing.

    They inspect her until they find a reason they can harass her. Then the tell her to be more nautical but assert they don't want to tell her what to sell.

    Obviously, to me anyways, this looks pretty damn selective. Leave the lady alone.

    And Nocack? Good job. I would not haven known of this outrage if you hadn't told us. Thanks.

    How can you compare NEST gallery to "an illegal garbage dump, and a family of squatters"?

    He didn't Monowitz did. Noack's job is to report. Monowitz said:

    Monowitz listed other recent enforcement efforts aimed at the Exclusive Fresh seafood company, an illegal garbage dump, and a family of squatters living in a dry-docked boat.

    Which Noack reported. What should he have done? Censored the words used by Monowitz or changed them to something more appropriate?

    Monowitz listed other recent enforcement efforts aimed at the Exclusive Fresh seafood company, an illegal garbage dump, and a family of squatters living in a dry-docked boat..

  • CABW posted at 12:12 pm on Fri, Sep 7, 2012.

    CABW Posts: 1

    Mark Noack,

    How can you compare NEST gallery to "an illegal garbage dump, and a family of squatters"?

    This store has sold early 19th century anchors, mid-50's kayaks and still has the old beautiful wooden ship helm, mermaid and merman door knockers, Japanese glass floats, fish, sea otter, turtle and sea-life decorations. The antiques and reproductions are for coastal homes and businesses that desire a nautical feel and decor.

    I think NEST gallery is a place where visitors and locals enjoy shopping and taking photos, and and so apparently does Sunset Magazine.

    And to show the photo with the closed sign is to mislead the public that the store is permanently closed, something the Half Moon Bay Review did when Half To Have It was on Main Street as well. The photo was taken after hours. I do believe that NEST gallery is open for business.

    ~ Charlotte Weinert
    Montara, CA

  • enmd suxx posted at 7:55 pm on Thu, Sep 6, 2012.

    enmd suxx Posts: 2

    What about the truck sales and repair business, what about the steel welding business, what about the discount warehouse, what about the exercise facility, what about the fruit and vegetable stand, what about the winery, what about etc. How do any of these businesses carry the theme of the harbor? I am sick and tired of all you special interest people who claim that your action are for the people and improvement of our community --- HOG WASH! This is the most self serving corrupt area that I have ever lived in.


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