Mary Oldham remembers excitement in the air as community members gathered at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. in January 2014 to discuss the “Plan Princeton” project with county officials.
“There was communication in the community after that and I was on that mailing list and then it just kind of disappeared,” said Oldham, the director of marketing for the Princeton brewery.
Now, more than six years after the county embarked on the study to update the land-use plan for the mixed-use waterfront community, property owners and local leaders say they haven’t heard any more from the project in years. Some have never heard of the planning effort at all.
Plan Princeton aimed to provide a land-use framework to enhance public access, address shoreline hazards and loosen development restrictions by updating zoning regulations. San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley said Princeton’s unique status as a working waterfront with shoreline access led the county to begin the undertaking in 2013.
Project planner Summer Burlison said the county is now polishing a shoreline management plan by conducting research on sea level rise and erosion in the area. She added that the county has not been soliciting public input while conducting studies.
“There’s not really anything available for the public to weigh in on yet,” Burlison said.
Dave Olson, secretary of the Midcoast Community Council, said the county advisory council has been waiting on next steps for three years.
“They were 90 percent done in 2016, and the planning director made a priority decision not to work on it,” Olson said.
Burlison said the county knew it would need more information on sea level rise to get approval from the California Coastal Commission. She added that she hopes the assessment will be complete by the end of summer when the county will finish the land-use plan and send it to the MCC and the Planning Commission for recommendation following a public workshop.
“We’ve been plugging away at it since we commenced the project,” Burlison said.
Bob Resch, owner of Princeton Welding, said county planners weren’t aware of realities in Princeton and bristled at community concerns.
“There were a lot of things on the table, but a lot of their ideas were pretty much pie in the sky,” Resch said. The county hoped to improve coastal access and recreation opportunities while addressing circulation, but Resch said planners failed to address how existing infrastructure would handle increased traffic.
The county held several community meetings to solicit input on the plan, most recently in April 2015. Burlison noted the challenge of incorporating public feedback given the regulatory constraints of the area.
“It’s kind of what the public want (and) what we feel we can do with that based on what other regulatory requirements we have to meet from the state through the (California) Coastal Act and through the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan,” Burlison said.
Longtime Princeton property owner Barry McAdoo said he attended at least 10 Plan Princeton meetings, but isn’t expecting much to come of the project.
“I think in the time that I have been paying attention … the county has come in and done (three) studies with what to do with the place. And it goes away and we wait, and we don’t hear much,” he said. And that is fine with him.
“I love the funkiness of the old place,” McAdoo said. “And it can stay like that, as far as I’m concerned.”