Concerns over a diminishing supply of agricultural land on the South Coast are conflicting with a proposal to move the Pescadero fire station to a parcel adjacent to the Pescadero High School that has historically been used for farming.
Last month the San Mateo County Farm Bureau voiced its opposition to using the agricultural land for the fire station in a letter to county Supervisor Don Horsley. He was unavailable to comment on the Farm Bureau’s letter by press time.
The proposed site, which is owned by the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District, is “prime agricultural land which has been farmed for decades and should remain in production, not paved over for other purposes,” wrote B.J. Burns, president of the county farm board. “There are feasible options that would be more appropriate for the fire station, including consideration and research of improving the current site.”
The letter comes after more than three years of assessment by county and local officials and community members about whether to move the fire station from its current site at 1200 Pescadero Creek Road. The current location is at risk of seasonal flooding.
A steering committee is preparing recommendations to the county on the best site after a community meeting in February assessed 14 parcels as potential station sites.
Burns said that the school-owned plot was not the community’s top choice of the 14 sites. He pointed to three other county-owned sites, including the fire station’s current location, that community members had identified as workable. Those three sites, Burns said, would be more appropriate and would infringe less on fertile agricultural land.
“We want to protect the prime grounds, and without the prime grounds we can’t farm,” said Burns. His wife’s family owned the land in question before selling it to the school district nearly 60 years ago. Burns later farmed the land until around 10 years ago, and another farmer did so until this year.
La Honda-Pescadero Superintendent Amy Wooliever said the final location of the fire station is far from finalized, and that the steering committee would first have to formally recommend the school site for the fire station before negotiations would begin. The committee is in the process of preparing its comments and recommendations for the county, said committee member and Pescadero Municipal Advisory Council Chair Dave LoCoco. He said the committee is not ready to share them publicly. LoCoco did not respond to a request for comment on the Farm Bureau’s letter.
Burns said he hopes the fire station stays at its current site on Pescadero Creek Road.
“I want to see the fire guys have a facility. They’re very, very important to our community, but I think we could put in a new facility and living quarters down there and elevate the ground — that would take care of them and be good for the community.”