I see the sign near the skate ramp parking lot in El Granada: “Stop the Spread. Locals Only.” I find myself nodding my head and muttering an unprintable affirmation.

I see a long line in front of Barbara’s Fish Trap and mutter that I doubt they’re all locals.

The young woman handing me my to-go fish and chips at Old Princeton Landing says she got stuck in Surfer’s Beach traffic coming to work from El Granada. I mutter some more about interlopers.

I have trouble finding a parking spot at the El Granada Post Office because determined surfers have parked in all but the few 20-minute-zone spots. More muttering.

I’ve seen the electric sign at the intersection of Highway 92 and Main Street in Half Moon Bay admonishing drivers to turn around if they’re more than five miles from home. I mutter, “Why aren’t San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies just stopping every vehicle that enters town?”

I seem to be muttering a lot lately, and I’m not proud of myself for it. But I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

I wonder why I am being so critical and sour. And I’ll tell you — it won’t be a secret to many of you. The shelter-at-home policy has a silver lining: Tourism is down. Roads are open. You can hear the birds. The sea lions. The crash of waves. The bees from the neighbor’s side of the fence, for goodness’ sake.

I can drive down Highway 1 in the middle of the day in minimal traffic. (So what that I have to stand outside Safeway for 15 minutes to get in?)

I drive up to the Miramar Beach Restaurant and line up behind other locals forming a horseshoe queue in the parking lot for my takeout dinner of rack of lamb delivered to my car. And I feel good about being a local supporting a local business, with a generous tip, I might add.

I can breathe in all the quieter, emptier, six-feet-of-separation space.

I feel like I’m back in a time when there was a locals’ season on the Coastside, when we’d have it to ourselves for some weeks between the pumpkin season, the Christmas tree season and the summer season. It’s really, really nice. I feel like we’re a community again, when most of the faces I see are people who live here. And now with the shelter-at-home mandate extended through May 31, I’ll get to enjoy it for several more weeks.

But guess what? It’s not reality. It’s an illusion. And like most illusions of comfort, it has a painful underside. The economic impact on our little community will have lasting ramifications on all of us, and most of all, on the people in our community who depend on visitor traffic. The reality is that we are a visitor-dependent, beach, agricultural and fishing community, employing hundreds of people and generating millions of dollars in taxes.

Our local employers have laid off or drastically reduced hours for their staff, many of whom are like family to them — and to us. The owners and staff of the restaurants we’re patronizing and supporting with our juicy tips are desperate for more business. Sheri Lewis, the general manager of the Miramar, perspires as she hustles back and forth from kitchen to car with bags of food. I’m pretty sure that’s not in her regular job description. Our visitor-dependent neighbors and businesses are not enjoying the shutdown. They’re desperate for it to be over.

So, that quiet emptier space that I am loving? It is also a vacuum, sucking the vitality out of too many of our neighbors. Although the measures we have taken are necessary for public health, don’t forget the cost this shutdown is having on the Coastside. The reverberations of it will be felt for months — and in some cases forever — on some of our friends, neighbors, business owners and employees we count as locals. So, stop muttering about the interlopers — I’m talking to you, Sanborn -— and focus on staying well and looking forward to getting back to normal — even with the traffic.

Katie Sanborn lives in El Granada. She is a regular contributor to the Review.

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(12) comments


Returning to a more diverse economy would be smart. Tourism has become a free-rider on the backs of everyone else in the local economy when it is this out of scale. Back in the 60's there was little of it. The Coastside was less 'wealthy', houses were small and simple, not expensive, no one bragged about living here. Barbara's was Hazels, no lines out the door. The Miramar made it this far. In my opinion gobs of tourist revenue is not worth the price. Tourism does not produce anything of value and makes real estate too expensive to run the small businesses that serve the local community. Local kids saw tourism as a threat and it turned out they were right. Most were run out of town by the rising cost of living it brought.


Re: El Granada Post Office parking spots - reminder to you and your readers that El Granada Post Office actually has its own parking lot next to the building, which is never full. If you can't find a spot on the road because the surfers have taken all the spots (which they are allowed to do - its a public road), then use the dedicated parking lot - it is all of an extra 30 seconds walk to the post office building.


Aren't you from Kansas?

John Charles Ullom

Localism sucks.

Sabrina Brennan

Interesting that this op-ed does not mention public health or workplace safety.

August West

The face of priviledge.


Here August, I completely agree with you. Privileged 'white' entitlement.....Katie, you clearly have a comfortable relationship with Clay but sometimes your opinion is far from what locals want to hear. The sad part? Local businesses, Farmers, teachers and long-time locals leave and are replaced by young, entitled, nuevo riche 'folks' who real estate specualate about how much they'll make and how awesome it is to live so close to the beach. How about Rosa and Carlos who can't afford to eat anywhere or go to the store because one of them was laid off at a local restaurant, landscaping business and maintenance job. Oh yeah, tipping big helps......except to Carlos and Rosa. How about you take care of Carlos (he'll probably do you a huge favor in the future anyways) and the community instead of that rosemary Lamb in the belly? Clay won't like this post!


Edited for the Review:

Here August, I completely agree with you. Privileged 'white' (although it seems to cover most races now) entitlement.....Katie, you clearly have a comfortable relationship with your community but sometimes your opinion is far from what locals (new or old) want to hear.

The sad part? Integral and essential local businesses, Farmers, Teachers and long-time locals (even some short stint fks.....I see you Kofi) leave and are replaced by young, entitled, nuevo riche 'folks' with real estate speculation swirling around and living the dream sooooo close to the beach. With zero acceptance or recognition of the struggle, the glory or plight around them.

Meanwhile, a born and raised teacher (let's call her teacher 'S') is being forced out of their home because her husband was disabled and laid off; her daughter doesn't understand why they have to move away from friends......stimulus check still hasn't arrived yet.

How about Rosa and Carlos who can't afford to eat out anywhere on this side of the hill or go to the store because one of them was laid off at a local restaurant (not Miramar), landscaping business and maintenance job. Oh yeah, tipping big helps......except to Carlos and Rosa.

Let's give back our time because we have some; let's smile more because we can (you and me too, Clay); let's spend more time helping others, outdoors.

How about we take care of Carlos (he'll probably do us all a huge favor in the future anyways), Teacher S and her husband/daughter and the community instead of that rosemary lamb in the belly and a fat trip for the head waiter or owner?



You're really a pandering old hippie, aren't you, Eric?

John Charles Ullom

Who are Carlos and Rosa?


Thank you, well stated!

Moss Beach Mom

Well Said. Thank you 🙏, Katie Sanborn!

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