The California Coastal Commission did the right thing last week when it voted down the Big Wave development project. (See story, 1A.) Now it’s time for the rest of us to do the right thing. Now it’s time for all of us to work together and find affordable living arrangements for people like Mathew Cadigan-Hearn and Elizabeth Peck and Devon Yoshimine and Harrison Mahler.

All of them spoke their minds before the Coastal Commission and a packed, hushed house in the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors chambers on Aug. 8. It was heart-wrenching testimony that took place over several hours and you could not hear it without being moved.

It was an intimidating venue for anyone, but Cadigan-Hearn, Peck, Yoshimine, Mahler and a half-dozen others with developmental disabilities spoke eloquently about a project they see as necessary for them to continue to live full lives on the San Mateo County coast. Many of their parents worried openly about what would happen to their loved ones once they weren’t able to care for them. They wondered why there was land for luxury hotels on the coast, but not for a project that, in part, would provide housing for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Good question.

The truth is Big Wave was doomed from the start. It was too big, too speculative and just plain too audacious to have ever survived the realities of Coastside politics. It lacked the support of local water and wastewater agencies, it was in the tsunami inundation zone, and it was bigger than any similar commercial project for miles around. None of that excuses the truly hurtful suggestion that Big Wave proponents were using their children’s problems as camouflage for a moneymaking scheme. What a terrible thing to suggest. In this instance, some of our leading citizens used “environmentalism” as a shroud that barely hid their own ugly nature.

So, what now? In the wake of another bitter Coastside land-use fight, what have we learned this time?

For one thing, that San Mateo County and the Coastal Commission are miles apart on strategies of development and coastal protection. How can one body unanimously approve the project while another unanimously rejects it — when both are supposedly using the same criteria? What an incredible waste of precious tax dollars and supposed expertise.

But more important than that, what is the answer for Coastsiders like Mahler, Yoshimine, Peck and Cadigan-Hearn? People on both sides of the Big Wave battle said they would support affordable housing on the coast for adults with developmental disabilities. So let’s put as much energy into that positive outcome as we did grousing about a patch of dirt behind the airport.

Imagine what could be done if the same representatives of the Sierra Club and the Committee for Green Foothills got together with staff from San Mateo County and the Coastal Commission to identify property that would be perfect for such a housing complex. What if they held a joint fundraiser of some sort? What if the county waived some permitting fees and moved the project ahead of other more crass development? What if someone in a position to make things happen finally stood up and did the right thing — instead of the usual thing?

I know. That’s not the way it normally works. Normally, we ignore the Mahlers and the Yoshimines and the Pecks and the Cadigan-Hearns. We mutter, “There but for the grace of God go I,” and go about protecting our precious “viewshed.”

We can go about our business as normal. Just don’t expect to look Mathew, Elizabeth, Devon and Harrison in the eye anytime soon.

— Clay Lambert

(4) comments

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden

"...How can one body [San Mateo County] unanimously approve the project while another {Coastal Commission] unanimously rejects it — when both are supposedly using the same criteria?...'"

The answer is very simple for those of us who pay attention to how the County Supervisors do business: They don't care about the rules they only care about pleasing their developer/realtor friends.

The same thing is true about the Old Guard HMB City Council, which is why they keep getting sued and end up losing in court for approving projects which don't comply with the rules

Of course the developer/realtor-friendly Review knows all this, but their job is to provide cover for the chronic rulebreakers in County and HMB government

August West
August West

"This is a truly unjustified and nasty allegation and I am shocked that it made into print."

Truth hurts, huh?

"In this instance, some of our leading citizens used “environmentalism” as a shroud that barely hid their own ugly nature."

Perhaps you need to take a long look in the mirror - this is what you were looking for, and missed.

DavidV
DavidV

"None of that excuses the truly hurtful suggestion that Big Wave proponents were using their children’s problems as camouflage for a moneymaking scheme. What a terrible thing to suggest."

This is a truly unjustified and nasty allegation and I am shocked that it made into print.

For one thing, let's start with semantics. Is this a hurtful suggestion that some, a majority, or all project opponents were making?

I attended the hearing before the Coastal Commission and just about every hearing and presentation that has taken place over Big Wave over the past five years and not once have I heard this suggestion made.

In fact, I have heard exactly the opposite - In her presentation before the Coastal Commisson, Lennie Roberts of the Committee for Green Foothills (one of the project appellants) revealed that she herself was the mother and primary caregiver of a developmentally disabled adult daughter and shares many of the concerns that the parents of the developmentally disabled voiced in support of the wellness center.

Others, both with and without developmentally disabled children of their own, spoke out against the project proposal but in solidarity and support of the parents in need of support for their developmentally disabled children.

I'm short, despite Clay's nasty assertion above, this was never "us" against "them" - instead, it was a matter of those who believed that the developer was acting altruistically in their interest and were willing to suspend their disbelief because they so badly wanted - and truly deserve - to have their needs addressed, and those that saw a greedy developer creating false hope to push through a crass money making scheme.

Let's see if the project opponents are all proven wrong and Peck/Barber come back to the table with a project that puts the wellness center first and buries once and for all the prospect of luxury ocean front condos and a beachside business park.

Peck and Barber claim they were in this for the developmentally disabled all along and not, as it would plainly seem, to make a quick buck at the expense of the Coastal Act.

If they come back to the table with a project that puts the developmentally disabled first, as opposed to at the end of the line after their business complex has made them a handsome profit, the Commissioners, their supporters, and even those that opposed this particular project will sing their praises.

In the meantime, as Commission Blake correctly pointed out, if there is a villain in this drama, its neither project opponents nor proponents, it's the developer that sold a dream he had no intention of seeing through.

All that being said, I agree that it's time to move on and put Big Wave behind us once and for all.

John Charles Ullom
John Charles Ullom

Clay has made some thought provoking comments in his editorial. What would it take to make this work?

Typically, somebody would propose we do something and then the rest of us will find things wrong with it. What if we started off with the notion that we as a community want to do something for the folks Clay has mentioned.

What if we found a developer who knows how to make a project happen and some Greens who instead of working against the project, came to the table with a mission to make it happen, but make it happen green? What if we as community had the attitude that we should figure out how to do something good vs preventing something bad?

Start off small. Build some trust. Developers and Property owners aren't evil. Neither are Sierra Club members or Preservationists. We need all and more in our community to make it better and we need them to work together on some level to get things done and get things done right.

A lot of effort was expended by both sides of the Big Wave debate. What if instead we all worked towards something we as a community could be proud of?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.