The Midcoast Community Council last week reviewed San Mateo County’s Connect the Coastside plan, a sweeping and multifaceted project, more than a decade in the making, designed to improve roadways and land use in the unincorporated areas north of Half Moon Bay and Highway 92.
Formally called the San Mateo County Midcoast Comprehensive Transportation Management Plan, the plan known as “Connect the Coastside” is meant to preserve coastal character, reduce roadway traffic, and increase opportunities for walking, biking and public transit on the Midcoast. The county has been formally studying this plan since 2014, and involves collaboration with a multitude of agencies including SamTrans, California State Parks, Granada Community Services District and Montara Water and Sanitary District.
It includes changes based on public input from earlier Midcoast Community Council meetings. The county estimates the cost for all permitting, environmental review and construction to total nearly $77 million over a 30-year timeline. It’s all focused on the Midcoast areas surrounding Highway 1 and Highway 92, including the unincorporated communities of Montara, Moss Beach, El Granada, Princeton and Miramar.
After reviewing the draft, the MCC decided it would host a study session in December to get public input and write a letter with recommendations to the San Mateo County Planning Commission, which will meet in January to consider recommending the plan to the Board of Supervisors. The county released the 207-page final draft of the project in October and could implement the plan as soon as spring.
The entire plan is based on feedback from the county and MCC Midcoast Transportation Survey, which said residents prioritize reducing traffic and improving safety along the state highways while indicating that residents care about preserving the rural character of the Midcoast.
“Everybody knows traffic is a big issue,” MCC member Dan Haggerty said. “We only have one artery here, and we have to be good stewards of its use so we don’t wind up with a trainwreck at the end of this.”
Chanda Singh, a county senior transportation planner, said the plan took Half Moon Bay traffic data into account but did not make recommendations for the city. She noted that because of the vast timeline of the plan there is some overlap with other agencies, including SamTrans, which is rolling out its own program to redesign bus access around the Coastside. There also isn’t an exact timeline on when projects will get done because the county will need grants to pay for many of the projects.
The final draft includes a long list of proposed improvements with varying timelines based on the scale, cost and funding cycles. Some could be done relatively quickly. For example, installing truck signs on Highway 92 could cost $2,000 and be done within the next seven years. Others will take much longer. The Highway 92 bike lane falls into the long-term category and wouldn’t be completed for the next 17 to 30 years.
Other improvements include paving the parking lot and creating a left-turn lane for southbound traffic near Gray Whale Cove, aligning the Coastal Trail from Half Moon Bay through Montara, and a $9.1 million multi-modal trail for pedestrians and cyclists along the east side of Highway 1 as well as a new pedestrian and bicycle overcrossing of Highway 1 south of Carlos Street costing $4.8 million.
The county would mostly pay for these projects through a multitude of federal and state grants and land- use fees, though staff noted that funding some projects could prove difficult. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment indicated that the Midcoast, compared to the rest of California and the surrounding region, is not identified as a disadvantaged community, meaning it will not compete as well for some funding sources.
One way to offset some of the costs is through a Transportation Impact Mitigation Fee, which would charge for new development based on the size of the project and the forecast of traffic and future land use. It bases the amount on a per-housing-unit basis for residential units and a per-square-foot basis for nonresidential development. Those fees could then be used for prioritized projects. But to implement that policy, state law says the Board of Supervisors will need to document the “nexus” or linkage between the fees being charged to new development, the impacts of the new development, and the cost allocation.
Some worry the plan would not adequately reduce traffic and road hazards with more development on the way. The primary subject under scrutiny was the Cypress Point affordable housing project in Moss Beach. MidPen Housing plans to build 71 affordable housing units at the intersection of Carlos and Sierra streets. The California Coastal Commission advanced that project in March when it approved changes to the Local Coastal Program. Because the project is still pending a Coastal Development Permit, the county’s final draft doesn’t detail the proposed units.
“We’ve been in touch, they are aware of Connect the Coastside, its timeline and its recommendations, but their application for a CDP is a separate conversation from this project,” Singh said.