Tuesday night, the Half Moon Bay City Council voted 4-1 to replace the Main Street Bridge. This means that Half Moon Bay’s 110-year-old historic bridge will be demolished and a new span will be built.
Council members chose Option 2 from their plans, a project that will involve replacing the bridge in a big one-stage construction job over the dry months of one year, despite protests from a crowd of citizens in support of preserving the century-old bridge instead, according to a report in the Half Moon Bay Review.
Council members in favor of replacing the bridge say it’s the quickest way to guarantee a safe passage into the downtown area, reported the Review. To allow some access during construction, there will be temporary crossings for pedestrians and limited traffic.
What does this mean for downtown business owners?
That the City Council majority (Kowalczyk, Fraser, Patridge, and Muller) “have demonstrated clearly and unequivocally that they do not understand the basic economics of their City,” writes local business owner Mike Harding in a blog post.
Harding, who owns Oddyssea on Main Street, fears the “little guys, the ones who operate businesses on Main Street, can’t go for the year or so it will require to replace the bridge without getting paid.”
Harding is part of the “Save our Bridge” campaign, a group of "merchants, local historians and environmentalists" who campaigned for the city leaders to repair the bridge instead of replacing it, he said. They collected 1,400 signatures in the past week to deliver to City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.
In his blog post, Harding makes it clear that by limiting access to Main Street even for a year, local businesses will not survive:
“About $4 million of the City’s budget is provided by sales tax revenue and a large portion of that comes from the collection of small, independently owned businesses on Main Street. A majority of customers for the Main Street corridor are visitors to the San Mateo coast who are looking for a fun time with a minimum of hassle; any barrier to this outcome reduces foot traffic, which reduces sales, which reduces jobs, which reduces sales tax revenue."
Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce CEO and president Charise MuHugh says she was taken by surprise by council’s decision to build a new bridge in one season.
"I am very concerned about the impact to our Main Street businesses," she said. "Extensive signage will be imperative if this is the course taken, and I will work endlessly to see that we get it since that will be a lifeline for our Main Street."
She also added that the Chamber staff and PR person plan to "work tirelessly" to keep the perception that Half Moon Bay is open for business during construction time, which won't happen for at least 2 years from now, she said.
Still, local merchants like Harding are concerned that Half Moon Bay is still yet to make a comeback from the economic downturn over the past five years. Harding writes: " ... Fundamentally, City Council has aimed a loaded gun at the City’s head and pulled the trigger with this decision. … The City is only now recovering from the 2009 meltdown, which saw about a third of businesses close on Main Street. Now the City is voluntarily starting the next downturn. It’s crazy.”
Read Harding’s full blog post here.