A proposed affordable housing project draws crowd
Hundreds of Coastside residents attended the Jan. 22 San Mateo Planning Commission meeting to voice their concerns about the proposed Moss Beach affordable housing development. Sarah Wright / Review 

The crowd was so large at last night’s San Mateo County Planning Commission’s that Half Moon Bay Library staff had to open the outdoor partition to let in the cold January air.

The discussion centered on the highly contested proposal for a MidPen affordable housing plan.

After hearing more than two hours of public comment from almost 50 commenters, the planning commission did not come to a decision on amending the Local Coastal Program and Planned Unit Development for the proposed Cypress Point site, tabling the issue to be discussed at an undetermined date.

Residents’ main concern with the project, which would create 71 units of affordable housing on Carlos and Sierra Streets in Moss Beach, is that the site is not accessible to affordable amenities and services like grocery stores, schools or libraries. There were other concerns cited about safety, limited evacuation routes and increased traffic on rural roads. The majority of those in opposition to the plan said they generally support the development of affordable housing, but cannot in this location.

“It’s not near a transit hub. It’s not near any affordable services,” Moss Beach resident Marcia Yeates said. “Affordable housing is not just about the cost of your home.”

Resident Carlysle Young agreed, and voiced her concerns that residents of the new development, along with all Coastside residents, do not have viable options for emergency evacuation.

“What I am really concerned about is the evacuation plan,” Young said. “There is no emergency evacuation plan for the Coastside.”

But residents who support the project said that the Bay Area’s overwhelming need and moral imperative for affordable housing outweigh these concerns. 

“This project is not going to make or break our disaster response,” housing advocate Kelsey Banes said. “We really need action. This has been debated for years. And that’s years that people haven’t had homes.”

Residents and commissioners alike wanted clarification on the portion of MidPen’s proposal that states a preference will be given to applicants who live or work on the Coastside. As the current proposal stands, 36 of the 71 units will be filled first with qualified applicants who meet the live-work preference criteria, according to MidPen representative Andrew Bielak.

“We expect those 36 units would be filled by people who live or work on the Coastside because the demand is so high.” Bielak said.

But some residents said 36 units is not enough, and that MidPen needs to commit to total preference for Coastsiders.

“I’m extremely disappointed that only 51 percent are going to be preferenced for live-work,” El Granada resident Chris Johnson said. “If it were 100 percent, that would overcome the other concerns that I have.”

Lisa Ketcham, county planning commissioner for the third district, used her time to make clarifications to the PUD, including its maximum height requirements and definition of affordability.

She said making these clarifications is important because the commission is evaluating the project out of order.

“With every other PUD that the county has approved, the planning commission has already reviewed and approved the planning permit,” Ketcham said. “It seems important in crafting a zoning ordinance to get it right the first time, so you don’t have to go back later.”

Ketcham said the wording of the PUD, which states the eventual development proposal in the Coastal Development Permit must be “substantially consistent” with its concept plan in the PUD, is confusing.

“But what does ‘substantially consistent’ mean?” Ketcham asked.

Ketcham said having the project plan approved first would also avoid duplicate efforts for public commenters if the CDP eventually comes under consideration.

“It’s unfortunate because the process is confusing for people,” Ketcham said. “Most of the comments that were made last night really pertain the CDP, which was not on the table.”

The Planning Commission will revisit the LCP and PUD amendments for this project at a later meeting. Planning Commission meetings are scheduled for every second and fourth Wednesday of the month in Redwood City.

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