The city of Half Moon Bay could purchase a roughly 20-acre parcel it previously owned and had slated for a community park. That park never came to fruition.
The city purchased the lot in 2004 from Nurseymen’s Exchange for $3.1 million. It did so with the help of a no-interest loan from the land’s current owner, the Peninsula Open Space Trust. That loan was never repaid.
The park plans didn’t work out for various reasons. In 2009, when the plans were formally abandoned and the title for the land given to POST, the city was in a financial crisis following its Beachwood lawsuit. Project costs were one concern.
In addition, neighbors were worried about increased noise a park would bring to the area. Endangered California red-legged frogs were found on and near the property, which posed concerns for new construction as well.
“Many, if not all the prior concerns and issues remain,” Half Moon Bay Public Works Director John Doughty wrote in a staff report for the Jan. 16 Half Moon Bay City Council meeting. At that meeting, the council directed staff to bring the item back for discussion.
The city will need to consider whether it should revisit the idea of bringing a park to that spot — a notion that could dovetail nicely with the city’s current crafting of its Parks Master Plan. Another idea is to build affordable housing in that spot, or possibly doing so in conjunction with a park.
“There are a bunch of ideas floating around out there,” said Half Moon Bay Mayor Deborah Penrose on Friday. “Parks and Recreation made it a possible site for a community park and that’s something that I think can appeal to a lot of people.”
Environmental constraints brought in from the red-legged frog habitat could limit construction.
“I’m guessing it’s not suitable for super-active recreation,” noted Half Moon Bay Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock. So instead of ball fields, maybe the city would explore something with a little less impact such as bocce ball courts, picnic tables and space to toss a Frisbee around.
Councilman Harvey Rarback has long eyed a revisiting of the concept of transforming that property into parkland. He acknowledged that due to the environmentally sensitive habitat, the entire area couldn’t be used for parks, but says he would love to see the area brought alive with community gardens, trails, barbecue pits and low-impact playing fields.
“I think we should enter into negotiations soon,” Rarback said.
POST states that it’s interested in selling the property to a buyer with like-minded goals of protecting the riparian corridor along Pilarcitos Creek. POST also states that it never intended to own the property long-term.
“It is our preference to work with the city to achieve our goals as well as the city’s goals of developing new public park facilities,” wrote POST President Walter T. Moore in Nov. 9 letter to the city. “We want to give the city the first opportunity to purchase the property from POST.”
Further complicating the situation is the city’s current use of a portion of the property for use as its corporation maintenance yard. Currently, the city uses a slice of the property for storing vehicles, sandbags and other miscellaneous items and has been doing so for free as part of a long-held agreement with POST.
POST has an interest in formalizing the city’s use of the property and wants to start charging the city rent for use of the space.
The city doesn’t have another ideal spot in Half Moon Bay for use as a corporation yard so this will be another item up for consideration.