Public Works vehicles and storage units
Storage containers lined up at the public works property off of Stone Pine Road in Half Moon Bay on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Adam Pardee / Review

The city of Half Moon Bay now owns the 21-acre lot at 880 Stone Pine Road following a multiyear saga of failed repayment and a jettisoned park design.

The purchase will give the Public Works Department a permanent home. And in so doing, it paves the way for facility improvements alongside the creation of a public walking trail — a detail negotiated as part of the agreement with the property’s longtime owner, Peninsula Open Space Trust.

21 acre lot of public works
A large vacant field sits alongside public works vehicles and storage at the public works property on Stone Pine Road in Half Moon Bay on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Adam Pardee / Review

In the nearly two decades the Public Works Department has used the space as a mix of equipment storage, vehicle parking and workshop — commonly called a corporation yard — dreams for improvements abounded. But nothing substantial could be done without ownership.

That changed on Jan. 15 when the city closed escrow on the property, which was valued at $2.18 million. This brought the city one step closer to taking over title from POST, which had held on to the property after an initial repayment deal with the city fell through in 2009.

Last year, the city renewed its commitment to acquire the property and forged ahead despite the pandemic. This month it was successful with financing provided by the California Infrastructure and Economic Bank, or iBank. The city agreed to borrow $3.2 million from iBank, which it will pay off over 30 years.

About $1 million was reserved for improvements which Public Works Director John Doughty said are badly needed.

Soon after the purchase closed, Doughty and his staff initiated conversations with the design firms behind the Carter Park and the city hall remodel to begin work on a master plan for the site. He envisions a large single storage facility that will replace the multiple shipping containers, which now hold maintenance equipment, as well as covered parking for city vehicles.

“When you don’t own the property and don’t know what the future is, it’s hard to make investment,” Doughty said. “With the closing on this

land, we’re able to literally tear down buildings that should have been taken down a year ago.”

There are some interim improvements the city can make, Doughty said, namely heightening the site’s security system. This is a priority following an incident last year when a thief drove off with one of the city’s vehicles.

There are plans to install a card-access gate at the entrance, a project that involves running fiber optic cables through the property — an infrastructural change not possible before.

In 2004, the city purchased the lot from Nurserymen’s Exchange for $3.1 million with an interest-free loan granted by POST. At the time, the city planned to develop a new park that at one time included a conceptual plan for a soccer field and community garden. But just before loan repayment was to begin in 2007, concerns about exorbitant costs to build the park led to a loan extension until the city ultimately abandoned its plans in 2009, handing over ownership to POST.

Stacked Signs at Public Works
Road signs stacked at the public works property off of Stone Pine Road in Half Moon Bay on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Adam Pardee / Review

In 2018, POST announced plans to sell, giving the city courtesy priority. Talks to purchase the land resurfaced with broader possibilities for how the space could be used. The idea of a park was floated once again, along with affordable housing. By then, the site had been used as a Public Works corporation yard for more than a decade.

Public Works maintenance worker Nate Caravalho said he believes that with infrastructural improvements, his team can streamline its work and tackle some of the bigger projects so the city doesn’t have to look to contractors.

Public Works Superintendent Todd Seeley said he was excited for the future of his staff, which he said had to be resourceful in all the years the department lacked a "permanent home.”

“By having a nice, shiny building we can help build a more cohesive team that takes pride in the work they do in Half Moon Bay,” Seeley said.

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