We have a new tourism campaign for the San Mateo County coast. It goes like this:

Whatever you do, don’t come to the coast! We have fires and deadly virus! The traffic is crazy! Evacuees are flooding in from the south! We’ve closed the beaches but will nonetheless charge you to park! Restaurants and bars are closed! Do. Not. Come!

It’s guaranteed to bring in waves of tourists. How do we know? We were here last weekend.

Americans don’t like to be told what to do. That fact is only somewhat less sacrosanct than its unhappy corollary: Americans are often oblivious. Put those two facts together and you have waves of visitors spilling over hills literally on fire toward a perceived oasis that is really in the midst of a killer pandemic. Welcome to the Coastside, everyone.

For decades, Half Moon Bay promoters have fought and clawed to win favor among visitors. The Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau worried over signs pointing toward downtown and planted medians on the highways and promoted coupon deals in hopes of creating a more vibrant and profitable tourist center. Perhaps they should have tried to keep people away instead. It turns out to work like a charm.

Last week, as a historic fire licked at the southern edges of San Mateo County, the mayor, Chamber officials, restaurant owners and seemingly everyone else with a Coastside address pleaded with people to stay over the hill. The feeling was that two deadly crises was enough for one weekend. Half Moon Bay High School was filled with evacuees as were area hotels and RV lots. Public safety officials urged everyone to stay off the roads so that firefighters could get to the front lines. Alas, we were talking to ourselves. It’s as if everyone over there suddenly lost their social media accounts, turned off their televisions and threw their newspapers in the recycling bin. No one was listening.

Perhaps most disturbing, by and large these weren’t bumpkins from some backward red state. No, our problem has been our Bay Area neighbors — the same people who claim an affinity for the coast and a brotherhood with people a short drive from their own homes. Our problem is people who should know better than to pack up their kids and head to within 20 miles of a historic fire when asked not to do so.

On the coast, there is growing resentment against our day-tripping neighbors to the north and east. We are increasingly aware that they don’t do much for the economy. They don’t pay the transient occupancy tax at area hotels, they eat fewer meals at local restaurants, they seek fewer experiences like surf lessons and trail rides. All Coastsiders get from day-trippers is clogged roads and perhaps a case of COVID-19.

Fixing the problem may be impossible. The city of Half Moon Bay has tried to slow the tide of visitors, but frankly some mixed messaging hasn’t helped. The city closed Poplar Beach but allowed visitors to pay to park there. It urged folks to stay away but opened a new outdoor eating area on Kelly Avenue at the very same time. (To be fair, the theory was the outdoor area could prove useful for evacuees with nowhere else to eat.) Meanwhile, the California Coastal Act assures beach access for all, virtually all the time. A tangle of local, state and federal agencies are rarely on the same page when it comes to regulating coastal assets.

And it’s simply difficult to stop the flood of tourists after decades of extoling the virtues of local attractions. Half Moon Bay is known across the region as a great place to escape the heat. And however troubled the city is now, it beats the hellscape of places like Livermore that were 20 degrees hotter with far worse air quality.

So, come on in, everyone. The water is increasingly warm.

— Clay Lambert

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(8) comments

uffish thought

Clay writes, "On the coast, there is growing resentment against our day-tripping neighbors to the north and east. We are increasingly aware that they don’t do much for the economy. They don’t pay the transient occupancy tax at area hotels, they eat fewer meals at local restaurants, they seek fewer experiences like surf lessons and trail rides. All Coastsiders get from day-trippers is clogged roads and perhaps a case of COVID-19."

Boy, that sure sounds familiar..... Hmm, where have we heard something similar.....? Oh, I know! Yours truly has been saying it for years:

"On the whole, there is growing resentment against our border-tripping neighbors to the South. We are increasingly aware that illegals are a big negative for the economy. They don’t pay nearly enough tax for their high costs, they eat few meals at local restaurants, they seek few experiences like surf lessons and trail rides. All we get from border-trippers is clogged schools and hospitals, a high tax bill, ID theft, enviro damage, and perhaps a case of tuberculosis."

This editor brings in the Welcome Wagon to illegal alien foreigners while coming down hard on our own American neighbors (including American Hispanics) who visit and then, mercifully, go home.

Tyler Durden

From Lambert:

"...Perhaps most disturbing, by and large these weren’t bumpkins from some backward red state..."

Ah, nice labeling of half the country as "backward." Along the lines of Hillary Clinton labeling half the country as "deplorable" in 2016.

You're gonna need to come up with some more original material Mr. Editor.

John Charles Ullom

There are exactly two reasons why people drive through Half Moon Bay. The Pacific Ocean and miles of empty beaches. There is nothing that any city council or newspaper can do to change that. We all chose to live close to those resources. Complaining about visitors doing what we would all want to do if we were them is like complaining about gravity.

Vince's overall premise is spot on. The beaches belong to all of us. Too may people on the Coastside seem to think they belong to us locals. Localism is ugly. It is unfortunate that Vince needs to be a snot. Nobody hates him. He does his best to insult and is pretty good at it too. Some of his insults are clever. Others say more about Vince than the insulted. But nobody hates him. That right side of history cliché has been beaten like a rented mule. Google yourself Operation Iraqi Liberation. Choose a different slogan.

Justin makes the best points in the best way. People are doing their best. All of us need to examine our motivations and adjust our outlook from time to time.

Justin is mistaken about the evacuation thing. Preserving as much capacity to move resources in and around during the time the fires had zero containment made sense, to me anyways. Asking people to put aside their desire to visit here for a week, so as to accomplish those goals, is not tribalism. It is an appeal to one of the most noble aspects of humanity. There are times when Humans put aside our desires for the common good. That most of us do is evidence of our humanity.

The pandemic threat as it relates to recreation? Justin is mostly correct. Even when parking lots are full and the roads are packed with parked cars, the beaches are relatively empty. California's beaches are all of ours and a blessing in these times.

Regrettably, the watering holes in the Harbor and the South end of town have been packed at times with folks who are not being Covid responsible. Even the most well intentioned among us slide on our personal codes by the middle of the second drink. Hard to be surprised about the behaviour of people who who pull over, have a drink, or two and then drive on.

Justin nails it. We should all be more nice.

MAYBURRITO

Bravo, Clay. You express the frustration that most Coastsiders feel. Unfortunately, warnings and pleas don't work without strict enforcement and public cooperation, both of which are nonexistent here on the coast.

August West

Nothing to enforce. There is no authority to "close" the beach. Maybe the parking lots.

Vince

The xenophobia displayed in this editorial would put William Randolf Hearst's yellow journalism to shame.

I feel comfortable being hated by the parochial rubes of HMB, whose minds have rusted shut, clinging to something that no longer exists. I'd rather be on the right side the facts, history, the law and basic humanity.

It's sad to see what passes for the local newspaper self destruct in a blaze of self immolation, rather than fade away.

John Charles Ullom

"It's sad to see what passes for the local newspaper self destruct in a blaze of self immolation, rather than fade away." -- Vince

"It's better to burn out than fade away." -- Neil Young

JustinStockman

My wife and I were walking down Magnolia the other day with our four kids. The three year old was having a typical three year old conversation, mostly a confluence of silly one liners, musings about super heroes, and a good bit of "potty" talk. I've learned not to fight this, I just converse with him like this is a completely rational conversation.

I turned because I heard someone chuckle. It was another dad, walking with a woman and what I assumed was their ~3 year daughter. "We have the same conversations..." We commiserated for a moment.

I asked if they were local. "Sort of". He was apprehensive. "We're from Oakland. Just trying to get out of the smoke." I told him I was happy he was able to find a brief respite. Because I am. Because I could imagine what it is like to live in the middle of a city, in the middle of a pandemic, completely inundated by smoke.

I've jumped on this "we need to keep people out of here" bandwagon before. And I am ashamed of that. These aren't are beaches. The pandemic threat from visitors is blown way out of proportion. The evacuation reasoning is an excuse.

People are doing their best. We all have a choice. Be kind, or be part of the problem. The biggest threat to our country, our health, our safety is not COVID-19 or wildfires or economic collapse... it's a further dissent into tribalism and selfishness and using excuses to justify obnoxious behavior.

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