We did it! On April 15 the California Coastal Commission certified Half Moon Bay's Land Use Plan, ensuring that the people who live, work, and play here will be able to enjoy our spectacular coastal resources now and for generations to come. We have laid out a vision of where we want trails, how to fix traffic, and how we will protect scenic corridors, access to the beach, and sensitive habitat. What’s more, the state endorsed our plan unanimously and without edit. That's right, we got an A+ from a body more widely recognized for handing out F's and incompletes.
So how did this happen and how will it impact all of us?
As an immigrant to California from a land-locked part of Texas, I was blown away the first time I saw Half Moon Bay. Like most of you, I have a great appreciation for the wild open space, the broad ocean vistas, and the unencumbered views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Coastal Act protects all of that. It protects us from our worst impulses and short-minded thinking that have caused so much damage to other coastal communities.
Put simply, the Coastal Commission governs how we use coastal resources for the benefit of the people of California, and the Land Use Plan we just passed establishes the policies around how our community implements the Coastal Act. If the Land Use Plan reflects the Coastal Commission’s main purpose of preserving public access, it helps level the playing field for the public so that a billionaire or politician can’t just take away access to the beach, public trails, or mountain vistas because he has more money, influence, or inside knowledge.
First and foremost, Half Moon Bay’s newly passed Land Use Plan is our plan. When this process started, a bunch of outside consultants famous for defeating the Coastal Act were trying to jam through a plan that did not look like anything I or my neighbors wanted. As a community, we raised our collective voice, and we changed the process. We elected more like-minded people to the City Council and engaged dozens of neighborhood-listening sessions and public hearings. We talked to farmers, farmworkers, and property owners. We captured the will of the people and we put it into plain language.
Then, we did the hard work. We replaced ABC law firm (first in the phone book!) with the preeminent land-use attorneys in the state. We sought the counsel of the former executive director of the Coastal Commission and the best biologists and botanists in the county. We sought feedback from Coastal Commission staff. We also went through every detail with a fine-toothed comb when it comes to the hard science of climate change, sea level rise, and habitat protection. Most importantly, we built nearly everything on existing precedents from the previous Land Use Plan. This approach respects existing property rights, which is an important part of the Coastal Act.
In short, we put together a plan that clearly defines what we want, where we want it, and the rules of the road to make that happen. And to enjoy the fruits of our labor, we need to put the plan to work as quickly as possible. We need to finalize the details of our zoning and local ordinances. We need to break ground on those trails, park improvements and new bike lanes. We will improve traffic because you can be sure that visitors will continue to flock to Half Moon Bay in record numbers. In the light of all the challenges we face as a community, our plan will improve our coastal experience on the weekends. It will make our town more resilient to climate change and economic turmoil. It will set us on a path that is more sustainable, healthier, and vibrant.
Let’s get to work!
Rick Hernandez is a member of the Half Moon Bay Planning Commission. This is the first of a two-part discussion of the new Half Moon Bay Land Use Plan.