Pamela Fisher

Half Moon Bay resident Pamela Fisher looks out over merging traffic on Highway 1 on a Sunday in September.

Doreen and Frank Garrity can see the rush of traffic on Highway 1 from the sidewalk outside their hilltop home.

They and other residents of eastern Half Moon Bay are reminded every day that the two-lane road bisects their lives. Without a traffic signal nearby, and with no sidewalks or pedestrian paths on their side of the road, the Garritys and neighbors have no way to safely navigate chores on foot.

Walking on the highway is “absolutely not allowed” in their household, Doreen Garrity said. To reach downtown shopping, she and her neighbors must cross the highway on foot or walk a stretch of Highway 1 on an unprotected shoulder.

Her neighbor, Pamela Fisher, said many residents prefer to take a detour to a signalized intersection rather than risk the shorter walk.

“I have adult neighbors who will get on a bike and ride a mile north to cross because they refuse to take a left onto the highway,” Fisher said. “You are really taking your life in your hands.”

Twenty-five of the 131 injury accidents on Highway 1 in San Mateo County occurred in Half Moon Bay, according to 2011 data collected by the Transportation Injury Mapping System within the University of California, Berkeley’s, Safe Transportation Research and Education Center. One of these incidents involved a pedestrian and two involved bicyclists. More recent figures were not available.

“We have issues that need to be addressed immediately, on an emergency basis,” said Fisher, who has called on the city to erect a temporary safety barrier for eastside Highway 1 pedestrians.

Half Moon Bay planners have revised the city’s master transportation policy document — known as the Circulation Element — with the goal of creating a “blueprint” for safety efforts and transportation alternatives. They also want to make the city safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The document calls for “complete streets” that emphasize safety features for both drivers and pedestrians. Additionally, it calls for extensions of existing pedestrian trails and the construction of a trail to the east of Highway 1, to connect now-isolated neighborhoods.

Officials said this document sets policy for the city’s transportation planners for at least the next 20 years. City officials say the next step is to find funding, perhaps in the form of grants, to defray costs.

Half Moon Bay has traffic lights at six Highway 1 intersections. An additional two signals with crosswalks have been in the works, as part of a series of measures to make Highway 1 safer for pedestrians.

One of the two proposed intersections, at Terrace Avenue, has been a neighborhood battle for more than a decade. This would be the traffic light closest to the Garrity’s home, yet neither they nor their neighbors expect to see it soon. “No one seems to know” when, or if, the traffic light will be built, Doreen Garrity said.

Debates like these are familiar to Patric Bo Jonsson, one of Half Moon Bay’s volunteer Planning Commission members. They shouldn’t overshadow the main need, which is to update the city’s dated design, he said.

“Half Moon Bay was designed back when walking a city was not a big priority. Using bicycles, walking, and using sidewalks and trails is our highest priority,” Jonsson said. “We know that’s the way of the future.”

For her part, Fisher is concerned civic divisiveness will rear its head again. “Often, nothing happens here until somebody gets sued,” she said. “That’s what we don’t want to happen on Highway 1. Now that we have kids from three neighborhoods walking the highway, we need to come up with a plan and implement it immediately.”

Veterans of highway planning efforts say that while they can be lengthy and contentious, such processes can also produce results. Len Erickson, who lives to the north of Half Moon Bay in El Granada, helped lead a Highway 1 “citizens committee” that advised San Mateo County on safety issues in 2011. “This is a long-haul process. It took 10 years just to put marks in the sand,” he said.

Stuart Grunow, an architect from Half Moon Bay who briefly sat on the Highway 1 committee, agrees, but is optimistic. “Highway 1 is our main street,” he said. “I wouldn’t relegate any of those concerns about pedestrian safety. Now, pedestrians are made to do the most ludicrous things to facilitate the ease of a car.”

Matthew Hansen is a graduate student in the Stanford University Graduate Program in Journalism and covers Half Moon Bay for the Peninsula Press. The article was reprinted from the Peninsula Press, with permission.

(16) comments

Clay Lambert Staff
Clay Lambert

Friends and countrymen, for some reason the discussion here has gotten more personal than most and a bit off the beaten track. I hate deleting comments; I'd like to spend my time more constructively. But I'm going to have a heavy hand on this one from now on, enforcing the terms of service and ensuring that the comments are on the subject at hand.

Stick to the topic. Don't debate each other. Be nice. Thank you.


@coastside Citizen. Actually, no. The post you are referring to is different. It is factual, public information. I'm trying to respect the Review's rules and keep it respectful, so left out the sarcastic commentary.

Coastside Citizen

I agree with everything you write, tmcwhirt, and there is nothing incendiary or untruthful about it - but isn't this identical to your earlier post that Clay deleted?

When he gets back from lunch, Clay's going to sprain his fingers pushing his favorite button (DEL).


I agree that the residents on the east side of Highway 1 need a safe pedestrian path to schools, downtown, the coastal trail, beaches, etc. Highland Park residents had a very safe way to get to downtown, the coastal trail, and the high school. We had a safe route through a long used pathway at the top of Highland Ave until it was recently fenced off. Since the closure of this path, we have seen countless kids walking to school along the narrow stretch of highway one between Terrace and Main St. The developers have offered to donate the path to a willing entity such as the city. The owners of the house at the top of Highland have also offered to donate a portion of their yard to a willing entity so the path could be widened and improved. A plan to improve the path was presented to the city along with potential funding. The city council expressed no interest in taking this path.

The people who are cited in this article about not having a safe way to walk to these areas are the very same people who strongly advocated for the closure of the path and the construction of a fence.

Coastside Citizen

Hi, Matt. Ironic that you're responding to yet another perfectly legitimate comment that Clay deleted, isn't it? That alone should teach you something about how not to be a journalist.

I don't blame you. You're young and you were played by people with an agenda. I'm sure you're a smart guy and hope you continue to learn your craft and develop into a real journalist, one who isn't afraid to actually ask questions and delve deeper into issues. Best of luck to you.


Hi @Coastside Citizen- just to clarify, no one solicited me to write this piece. I interviewed several residents for this piece and ultimately chose to include the people I did because I felt they offered interesting perspectives on the broader issue of pedestrian safety in the area.

As I mentioned below, I decided to focus less on past disagreements (including the closed pedestrian path) and more on the prospects for current safety measures. But I recognize that a reference to past issues would have added more context to the current debate.

I'm happy to continue this dialogue if you like here or via the email link I included below.




Hi everyone, Matt here. Thank you all for reading and sharing your feedback! I really appreciate it.

@amyw: During my reporting, I did come across the issue of the closed pedestrian path, and actually included it in a first draft. Ultimately, though, I felt that it was important to focus on issues that were happening right now, particularly the city's Circulation Element revisions and the plans for possible traffic lights and sidewalks. But your point is very well taken, and I think in retrospect some background on the path would have helped the piece.

@Monica: You raise some interesting questions, particularly whether pedestrian traffic is being purposefully routed outside of certain neighborhoods. You are also right that these issues deserve more investigative reporting. In this piece, I was trying to offer an overview of the current situation regarding pedestrian safety in the city, as I mentioned above. But I agree with you that further follow-up reporting is called for.

Please feel free to continue offering me feedback on the piece. If you'd like, you can reach me via email through the Peninsula Press:



Clay Lambert Staff
Clay Lambert

Good question. If you scroll all the way down and click on the "Terms of Use" link on the bottom right, that might help. Please pay particular attention to Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

I've communicated with a couple of posters to say I won't allow anonymous posters to make accusations about named private citizens. I don't think that's fair. I want to encourage the dialog and most of these comments are great. Just please be civil. You are free to discuss safe passage to downtown.


Many of the comments are being removed. Perhaps someone from the Review can post a comment with parameters on what they consider appropriate comments, so these comments can be heard.

Jerry Steinberg

To correct margin hidden cutoff of end of link.. in post below:

You can copy and paste the following link:

into your browser...

Note the .html at end in link of post below is there but just hidden...and may not be picked up when you copy and paste link.

Jerry Steinberg

Jerry Steinberg

More information on earlier post:

“It should be noted that wetlands issues in the median and buffer requirements determined by an EIR funded by the Pacific Ridge developer has raised issues on feasibility of the stoplight at or in the vicinity of Terrace Avenue.”

For a full discussion of this issue go to:

and click on link to take you to HMB Review Server Copy.

For those that have been following this since 2006 you will remember that at the public City Council meeting to consider approval of 63 Pacific Ridge homes these comments were presented and our former City attorney immediately pulled the the “rabbit” out of the “settlement agreement between the City/Ailanto/Coastal Commission litigation ( Paragraph 7(d) hat” that allowed Ailanto Properties to gain City Approval by “agreeing to have Letters of Agreement to pay $2,500,000 (and subject to Engineering News Record CPI updates) drawn up to cover the possible future widening of Hwy 1 and a stoplight in the vicinity of Terrace.

The City of Half Moon Bay than issued a resolution that none of this money could be spent until the 63rd home Certificate of Occupancy was issued i.e. they would consider at that time if it was required.

Jerry Steinberg

Coastside Citizen

Clay, are you going to delete all these truthful comments, just as you already deleted several of mine on this subject?

When exactly are you going to actually practice journalism? Grow a pair.


Although a protected shoulder between Terrace and Main St. would be better than nothing (which is what we have at the moment), this article missed so much. What Matthew Hansen should do to redeem himself is some investigative reporting regarding the how the city's and school district's decisions and priorities disproportionately affect underprivileged families in Half Moon Bay. Matt, please look into the coastal commission records and the city council minutes and find the many submissions our community made on behalf of pedestrian students. Look into a few of the additional actions taken by the city in the past year and a half: In particular, read up about the fencing of the Beachwood property just north of Highland Park (this cut off foot paths also). Take a look at the lawsuits directed at the high school. There is so much material out there for you...

In my opinion, the sudden concern for safety and the push for a protected shoulder is to ensure that all student foot traffic to the high school is directed outside the Highland Park neighborhood, along its perimeter. Heaven forbid that we have children walking our streets! Or should I call them "riff raff" as some of my neighbors have chosen to do.

What we need is for the city and in particular the school board to step up to the plate, be proactive, apply for Safe Routes to School funding, and do right by the children in our community. Individual citizens cannot fix these sorts of problems in a vacuum. We have tried. And a "protected shoulder" on a highway where cars are flying by at 45-60 mph is just a reactive band aid. Someone will eventually get hit regardless.


As a Highland Park resident who fought to maintain the safe access that existed for decades through the historic pathway to the high school, this article misses the point. We had our opportunity to legitimize safe access in and out of Highland Park. The 'NIMBY' attitude killed it. We had overwhelming neighborhood support, an offer to donate the land, financial backing to build the path and a mission to provide a better, safer path for our children. We ALL agree that kids should not be walking this stretch of the highway to get to and from school.

Sadly, as hard as we worked to maintain access to keep our children off this dangerous stretch of road, the individuals cited in this article worked to build a fence. In our appeals, we took the same pictures, brought Coastal Commission staff to the same intersection and pleaded with the City Council to accept the donation of land, the energy and funding of our team and partners to build a legal pathway. We did not prevail and the children lost their safe path to school, town and the coastal resources. This is all public record.

To now bring a reporter to town, walk the neighborhood, take pictures of a dangerous stretch and wring hands over safety concerns for Highland Park residents baffles me and many of my neighbors. For the Review to repost this article without this context is inexcusable.

Zack B

Close Terrace Avenue at Highway 1 and open Silver Avenue to the highway. Widen Highway 1 North from Sliver Avenue past Terrace Avenue [closed] to the spot where the Highway 1 widens in front of the now owned City of Half Moon Bay property. Install a Traffic light at Sliver Avenue [now opened] and Highway 1 with pedestrian cross walks. Those who will to do chores by foot will have safe access to the foot path on the west side of the highway but more importantly, residents of the Highland subdivision will have a safe and controlled access to the Highway.

Jerry Steinberg

It would appear that an immediate solution to Pam Fishers well presented issue is for a Pedestrian Path to be constructed on the east side of the blocked out metal barrier along Highway 1 from Terrace/Silver to Main street. i.e. at road level at the top of the earth slope in place now.

The metal beam blocked out barrier in place presently would also act as a safety barrier for the path. It would be posted as “East Side Naomi Patridge Path”.

Eventually, the Half Moon Bay desire to connect neighborhoods and provide for pedestrian safety would be resolved when the Podesta property (directly east of this proposed path) is developed.

This proposed pedestrian path solution would appear to avoid the many issues related to the proposed Terrace Avenue light which would require the replacement of sloped earth fill with a retaining wall up to 7 feet high for several hundred feet with a 3 foot barrier on top of wall at road level. This widening would provide for the required CalTrans standards of a 12 foot shoulder and a 5 foot UNPROTECTED sidewalk along the East side of Highway 1.

It should be noted that wetlands issues in the median and buffer requirements determined by an EIR funded by the Pacific Ridge developer has raised issues on feasibility of the stoplight at or in the vicinity of Terrace Avenue.

Jerry Steinberg

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