The Half Moon Bay City Council entered its second public hearing on the city’s Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan last night, though property owners continue to voice concerns of the plan’s shortcomings.

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, which occurred after the Review’s print deadlines, city staff was still fielding questions and meeting with property owners who thought the draft of the plan, which would dictate development in Half Moon Bay, would hinder development plans. The scope of the document would cover 300 housing units on farmland to building a 40-room hostel on open space.

Though the Planning Commission originally planned for two public hearings before the council, time has been reserved for a third hearing at the Oct. 20 City Council meeting if discussions run over. After the final hearing, the Planning Commission seeks the approval and adoption of the 2020 Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan Update.

Mark Massara, who represents the majority owner of the tract of land near Surfer’s Beach and Dunes Beach, planned to reintroduce suggestions of how his land could be used to build a 40-room hostel. He said interest seems to have moved away from such uses and has favored more residential uses.

“Now the pendulum has swung in a different direction. It’s really hard to do planning when every year the pendulum is swinging in a different direction,” he said.

What Massara is asking for is that the updated Land Use Plan add “commercial visitor-serving” to a list of designated uses allowed at the Dunes property. Currently, residential, agricultural and “agricultural-compatible” uses are proposed.

Massara said he wants to debunk the idea that he is planning a large development uncharacteristic of small-town Half Moon Bay. He referenced two projects he was involved in — the beach cottages at Crystal Cove and a campground in El Capitan — as closer to his idea of what he plans to do near Dunes.

“It’s not a question of whether you get free open space or Waikiki Towers,” Massara said. “The question is whether we can have sensitive, carefully planned visitor-serving (uses).”

Anticipating he may not be able to convince city officials, Massara is planning on making his case with the California Coastal Commission when it reviews the draft plan. He believes the Coastal Commission will agree with the kind of development he is proposing, given that visitor-serving uses are among the agency’s top priorities.

Thomas Gearing, who owns five parcels west of Railroad Avenue’s planned development area, has met similar resistance from the city. Gearing said that much like the 1996 land use plan, the new plan being proposed prohibits his ability to build single-family homes.

“I got two boys who want to stay in the Bay Area and I bought the lots for their future,” Gearing said.

“My sons and I actually fear attempting to do anything to display our ownership rights of the land,” Gearing wrote in a letter sent to the City Council on Sept. 11.

Gearing submitted a preliminary application for development, proposing to build five single-family homes. He remains optimistic that he and the city can come to a solution that will allow him to build on the land his family has paid taxes on for 113 years, given state housing laws have eased former restrictions.

But if not, he plans to file a lawsuit against the city in federal court.

“The council members said they’ve been working on this for seven years, but a lot of time people don’t get involved until it comes before the City Council …,” he said. “As sympathetic as I am, life changes and laws change.”

Jill Ekas, the community development director for the city, said that she will be ready to work with any of the property owners should they want to move forward with specific projects, but she wanted people to distinguish specific project proposals from a land use plan.

“There’s a real difference between what we’re talking about in the land use plan and what they’re proposing in their application,” she said of Massara’s and Gearing’s planned development projects. “It’s important to separate specific projects from a plan for the city as a whole.”

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