At last week’s Half Moon Bay Planning Commission meeting, the city unveiled plans for its new home for the Public Works Department, a corporation yard on the 21-acre lot at 880 Stone Pine Road.
The proposed development will cost an estimated $3 million and seeks to clean up the haphazard array of shipping containers and stored equipment as well as upgrade the offices of Public Works employees. Much of the development is centered on erecting a 6,750-square-foot sprung structure, a premade, 24-foot-tall, aluminum-framed building to store the city’s tools and equipment.
Public Works Superintendent Todd Seeley estimated that the building could last 35 to 40 years. The city will build a locker room and rest-room inside the building, which will make the facility ADA compliant, Seeley said.
The first part of the project is expected to start in spring 2022 and will involve reconfiguring the two unpaved access roads into one wider, two-way driveway. Public Works Director John Doughty said the proposed development was welcome for the city as it was struggling for “quite some time” to find an adequate yard for storage that was correctly zoned and would not disturb residents.
“I think with 880 Stone Pine property we have threaded the needle as best we can in the community,” Doughty said to the Planning Commission on Aug. 24.
There are two key environmentally sensitive areas on the property. The first is a pond on the north side of the property that was identified as a breeding ground for California red-legged frogs, a federally protected threatened species. The lot also borders Pilarcitos Creek and will require a riparian buffer for a wildlife corridor. Those two factors mean the city will need a peer-reviewed environmental report in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.
Senior Planner Doug Garrison said some of the issues outlined in a previous biological report wouldn’t apply to this development because it took place before the city adopted its current Local Coastal Land Use Plan and refined the scope of development. Consequently, Garrison told the commission, the report required a 50-foot riparian buffer and 100-foot wetland buffer. The new LUP includes potentially broader riparian buffer requirements. Specifically, the buffer must be 50 feet from the edge of riparian vegetation or 100 feet from the creek top of the bank, whichever is greater. The city hired SWCA Environmental Consultants to help with this process conduct a peer-review of the report.
The Public Works Department’s waste and recycling containers are currently in the middle of the riparian area, and Seeley said it plans to move them as soon as possible and get adequate stormwater drainage. Seeley described the current display of storage facilities as “unsustainable and unsightly.” Some of the steel containers are rusting or have holes in them.
Trees are another environmental factor. The city granted PG&E a Coastal Development Permit to remove 11 trees located along the lot’s Highway 92 edge while simultaneously requiring them to provide funding for 33 new trees on the property.
The City Council last month authorized spending $184,500 to develop a three-phased construction plan to upgrade storage, road access restrooms and fencing. A staff report notes the possibility of installing a 3.25-acre solar farm and a community garden, but it isn’t clear how much that would cost or when that might happen.
“With the conceptual design that we’re looking at, it will be an advantage and a benefit to the environment in terms of stormwater treatment and actually getting things removed from areas that are too close to the creek,” Doughty said.
The city has had a complicated history with the property. In 2004, the city paid $3.1 million for the lot from Nurserymen’s Exchange through an interest-free loan from the Peninsula Open Space Trust. The city originally intended the area to be used as a new park and conceptualized plans for a soccer field and community garden. But those plans were scrapped in 2009 over concerns about rising costs of the proposed park. One design firm estimated a $14.5 million price tag. POST retained ownership while leasing the lot to the city for the Public Works Department.
POST announced plans to sell in 2018 and gave the city priority. Last January, the city purchased the land again from POST, this time for $2.1 million. To make the payment, the city borrowed $3.2 million from the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, or iBank, to pay for the land and develop it. The city plans to pay back the loan through $160,000 annual installments over the next 30 years.
The city will reach out to surrounding neighbors and at some point have a public hearing through the Planning Commission. Garrison called the project an important upgrade to the city’s public safety.
“It’s an important piece to how we respond to an emergency situation,” he said. “It will be nice to have it a little more organized and an all-weathered road. It fits into our policies in a number of ways.”