Citizen and government leaders held a virtual open house last week, unveiling plans for a new effort aimed at revitalizing the Coastside economy.

The effort, called the Coastside Recovery Initiative, was initially announced at the Jan. 19 Half Moon Bay City Council meeting. The public kickoff for the initiative came at a virtual open house on Thursday.

Held over Zoom, the open house drew more than 100 attendees. A team made up of Half Moon Bay city staff, business leaders and an outside consultant organized the event. There were talks and

interactive activities that elicited community feedback on what recovery could look like in the short and long term.

Some recommendations for recovery included improving the region’s internet infrastructure and improving education to prepare students for future jobs. Attendees also highlighted the need for the Coastside to get a handle on its housing affordability crisis.

“What struck me about the comments when I listened was that they really affirmed the need to think about recovery inclusively,” said Erica Wood, a Half Moon Bay resident who helped host the open house and has been hired as a consultant for the Coastside Recovery Initiative.

Inclusion is the theme that the keynote speaker Lenny Mendonca reiterated. Mendonca served as the chief economic and business adviser as well as director of the Office of Business and Economic Development for California Gov. Gavin Newsom. He is also a member of the board of the Coastside News Group Inc., which owns the Review.

“The point is to have a vibrant economy,” Mendonca said. “It really needs to be much more inclusive, ensuring that those opportunities for high-quality jobs are available to all of the residents and geographies, not just those with particular backgrounds.”

Facilitators leveraged the virtual meeting platform’s technology, using live-polling and breakout groups to encourage attendees to contribute ideas.

Deputy City Manager Matthew Chidester said the breakout group discussions helped him and the others setting up the recovery initiative ensure that their vision aligned with how people were thinking about recovery.

“People are hopeful,” Chidester said. “And it really is shaping up as what we wanted: a community initiative and not a city initiative.”

One of the immediate goals of the open house was to encourage applications for the recovery task force, which is expected to begin a series of feedback sessions and research in March.

Wood said the task force composition should reflect the diversity of the Coastside. The goal is to get a cross section of experiences. Among the factors the selection committee will consider are geography, length of time on the Coastside and industry.

“We're going to work really hard so we can represent the wonderful diversity that is represented in the Coastside community,” Wood said.

Live-polling done during the open house found heavy representation from Half Moon Bay residents and fewer Midcoast and South Coast residents. Feedback during the event also revealed key industries like agriculture were underrepresented.

“Some groups were missing last night,” said Chidester the next day. “We want to make sure we engage them. That means we’ll double down on outreach for the task force.”

Both Chidester and Wood said that while the task force membership will be capped at around 15, the executive committee — comprising representatives from the city of Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County and the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce and Visitors' Bureau — promised that individual interviews, focus groups and surveys will happen in coming months. These will serve as avenues to ensure fair representation in the final recommendations the task force is expected to deliver at the end of its tenure.

Wood said shortly after the open house, several people applied to join the task force. The recovery task force is expected to convene by the end of February. City staff said additional recruitment may come later should the selection committee find key backgrounds missing from its membership.

In March, the task force will begin identifying the region’s recovery needs. Recommendations for projects will be shared at the end of 2021.

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