Road fix

This is the temporary fix that materialized after David Shue asked multiple agencies about the state of the corner. Clay Lambert / Review

Updated: 9:00am, August 11, 2021.

An update …

Last week’s editorial focused on the nature of bureaucracy on the coast and the difficulties one man, El Granada’s David Shue, had understanding why the southwest corner of Capistrano Road and Highway 1 was not maintained.

After the editorial appeared in the Review, a Caltrans crew materialized to smooth out the area between the road and the crosswalk button. A more permanent fix is scheduled for 2024.

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David Shue likes to walk from his home in El Granada to Pillar Point Harbor. That means crossing Highway 1 at Capistrano Road. And that means navigating the crumbling walkway between the road’s end on the southwest corner and the sidewalk to the west of the road. One day he took it upon himself to contact his local elected representative to ask why that corner — the only one a pedestrian can legally cross to get from east to west — was the only one allowed to fall into disrepair.

What followed will sound familiar to too many Coastsiders who have identified a simple solution only to step into bureaucratic morass.

On July 16, he sent an email to Don Horsley, the San Mateo County supervisor representing the coast. He included a photo of the problem and noted that the other corners at that intersection had been improved with curb cuts to allow for wheelchair users. He asked, sensibly, “Why was the southwest corner omitted?”

Horsley responded promptly with a hearty “thanks for the picture,” and said he was forwarding the email on to county Public Works.

Then comes an email from Khoa Vo, deputy director of road services for the county. Vo sent along a Google image and a detailed schematic of the roadway on which he had circled the southwest corner. “If it’s the area in red,” Vo wrote, “please submit your request/inquiry to Caltrans” followed by a standard link to report complaints to the state transportation agency.

Shue did just that. Shue says Caltrans told him the corner wasn’t the state agency’s problem. Better try the city of Half Moon Bay, he was told.

Because he is a good and patient citizen, Shue followed directions again. City Engineer Mazier Bozorginia’s response was sympathetic. Bozorginia, himself an El Granada resident, noted that his daughter was a wheelchair user and that they had stopped trying to cross at that intersection. Nevertheless, the spot was not within city limits, Bozorginia maintained. He wrote that it was “within San Mateo County jurisdiction, but is technically a state facility.”

The city engineer suggested taking up the issue with the Midcoast Community Council, an advisory board that reports to Horsley and his colleagues. And with that, Shue had come full circle.

Meanwhile, someone — Shue says he was told it was Caltrans — filled part of the hole with asphalt. The fix is clearly temporary and only repairs the crumbling road surface and does nothing to help anyone trying to get to the crosswalk button on the light post.

All of this comes as local businesses sweat letters from out-of-town attorneys demanding that they follow the letter of the Americans with Disabilities Act and pay thousands of dollars for not doing so. The ADA also applies to local government, however we presume all but the most litigious attorneys would simply give up after going through the runaround Shue experienced.

Of course it could have been even worse. No one tried to slough it off on the adjacent San Mateo County Harbor District, nor did any public servant suggest the repair would take a Coastal Development Permit nor a trip to a California Coastal Commission meeting in a year or so.

On Thursday, Vo forwarded Shue an email from a Caltrans engineer named Mohammad Suleiman. Upon further review, Caltrans says the intersection is part of a larger project, known memorably as 04-0Q130, which he says will repave seven miles of Highway 1 and update a number of things, including the paving of the crumbling southwest corner of Highway 1 and Capistrano Road. When can Shue look forward to that fix? It’s scheduled for construction in mid-2024.

A final point. None of the people who responded to Shue are anything other than responsible public servants. In fact, all seemed to respond quickly and earnestly and to provide their best estimate of the problem and correct jurisdiction. The problem isn’t of their making; we are all to blame. By weaving this incomprehensible web of overlapping responsibilities, we ensure that the answer to so many simple questions on the coast will require a master’s in the calculus of local, state and national bureaucracy.

For his part, Shue says he has no plans to take up the state of the intersection with the MCC or any other letters of the alphabet. “I’m not going to make this my life’s mission,” he said.

Who can blame him?

— Clay Lambert

Clay Lambert is the editorial director for Coastside News Group. After years working at regional daily newspapers, he began as editor of the Half Moon Bay Review in 2004.

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(1) comment

A. Coopersmith

Thank you Clay. This story is a great illustration of the wacky concoction of government agencies within which infrastructure happens or doesn’t happen here on the Coastside. As a 40-year Coastsider I can only shrug and laugh!

And David, wow! You make the perfect straight-man for this story. I can just see you going patiently from agency to agency. Glad you’ve done this, and glad you’ve decided not to make it your life mission!

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