Long lines at Poplar Beach Parking Lot
Visitors sometimes face long wait times when trying to pay for parking at Poplar Beach. It is just one of the challenges Half Moon Bay city leaders considered as they discussed managing area beaches. Adam Pardee / Review

With easing of restrictions on social gatherings and warmer weather on the horizon, the city of Half Moon Bay is preparing for an influx of visitors to the Coastside over the next few months.

The Half Moon Bay City Council unanimously approved its 2021 Beach Action Plan last week. It is designed to alleviate the effects of increased traffic to the Coastside this year. With concerns over bathroom availability and adequate

infrastructure to support more people, the city is planning to add more trash cans, restrooms, signage and opportunities for beach cleanups. The plan will be in effect from May 1 through Oct. 15.

“We can’t just look at this as Half Moon Bay issue,” said John Doughty, the city’s director of Public Works. “This is a Coastside issue, all the way down to the county line by Santa Cruz, all the way to Devil’s Slide.”

The city will hire a part-time seasonal maintenance employee who will clean the city beaches, parks and downtown area during the spring and summer months. The city will also pay $12,000 to rent and service two portable restrooms for the plan’s five-month duration. One will be at Kelly Avenue near Half Moon Bay State Beach, the other at the northern end of Pilarcitos Avenue at Wave Street. These spots were selected because of their proximity to public parking and foot traffic.

In the call, city staff identified 51 public restrooms from Princeton Harbor on the north to Miramontes Point Road, but 10 of them on Venice State Beach are inoperable. The city wants to work with State Parks to open those restrooms during peak season. The city will also update signs signaling dangerous surf to be replaced at Poplar, Surfer’s and Miramontes Point beaches.

Rick Hernandez and Sara Polgar, both members of the city’s Planning Commission, wanted the city to address the pay station at Poplar, which they both described as poorly designed and, as a result, subject to long wait times. Poplar is getting a third dumpster near the kiosk, separate from the other two in the parking lot. The city is advocating for more trash cans and signage on State Parks lands near neighborhoods that allow for public parking.

“The beaches and our open spaces are our No. 1 assets,” City Manager Bob Nisbet said. “We have an obligation to take care of them and manage them, and that includes providing amenities for locals and visitors who visit the open spaces and beaches.”

Traffic management is largely unchanged. On holidays — Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day weekend — the plan calls for a digital sign at Highway 92 near Main Street a minimum of five days in advance of the holiday weekend reminding the drivers of parking, activities and enforcement. Councilmember Deborah Penrose said while there was only so much the city could do in terms of managing the number of visitors, and it should look hard at what it can do, such as beach cleanups.

The updated plan addresses concerns over large numbers of people trashing the beaches throughout the summer. The city will write a letter to Nancy Magee, San Mateo County superintendent of schools, to ask her to inform other local schools about the rules, responsible behavior and enforcement of Poplar and other city beaches, particularly to those graduating this year. The hope is that more outreach will prevent a myriad of issues, including litter from parties and drunken driving. Doughty referenced nighttime bonfires, which are not allowed at Poplar, as a concern for the neighborhood.

Council members also discussed the possibility of expanding the budget for the Abundant Grace Coastal Clean Team, and suggested including more nonprofits like the Surfrider Foundation and creating opportunities for local youth to clean up the beaches and Coastal Trail.

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