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Consultant Presents its Evaluation of Half Moon Bay Planning Department

For those who are interested in Half Moon Bay, planning, land use and more, read this report, which will be presented at a joint meeting with the Planning Commission and the City Council Nov. 27.

Some time back, the City hired a(nother) consultant (over the hill firm) to evaluate the Half Moon Bay Planning Department. I have spoken to this matter multiple times.

The Report is currently on the Agenda for a Special Meeting next week, at 5 p.m. Nov. 27. The meeting will be a joint meeting with the Planning Commission and the City Council. The consultant will be present. The topic will be the report they have now published.

Click here for the Agenda, complete with the Report in its entirety.

For those that have concerns or are interested in Half Moon Bay, planning, land use and more, this is a must read. This is what we paid for and what the Council will use as their touchstone going forward.

I would strongly recommend that this meeting be packed with residents and property owners. To that end, read the report and write your questions and concerns down so you are well prepared; then provide that to the Council and Planning Commission at the meeting.

There are some very valid points, points that I agree with in this report. There are also points that I disagree with and some that make my neck hair stand up.

The report is here. Check it out and form your own conclusions.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

George Muteff November 23, 2012 at 06:07 PM
For those that might need a reason to look at the consultant's report, I would offer this: one of the conclusions provided in this report is the elimination of the HMB Planning Department in favor of outsourcing. Big surprise, huh? We need to think about that. Is the Planning Department efficient now? Has it been in recent years? Better questions might be: isn't evaluating the Planning Department the most important function of the Planning Director? and if, for some reason, the Planning Director can't do his/her primary function, wouldn't that then fall on the Planning Director's boss - the City Manager? Realize, of course, that the City Manager reports to and serves at the pleasure of the City Council and all Department heads report to the City Manager. I mention this because.....
George Muteff November 23, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Over the last decade+, what has been the most glaring achilles heal for the City? The answer to that question is simple and the evidence is overwhelming - Stevie Wonder could see it; Land Use Issues. HMB is 100% within the Coastal Zone; an enviable spot to be in. I can't think of another municipality in CA that is entirely within the Coastal Zone. That means that whoever has planning authority in HMB had better be intimately familiar with the Coastal Act, which is the Law in CA. Now I will readily admit that HMB has demonstrated very poor judgment for over a decade in its land use actions. We need look no further than Beachwood for an example. Further, although Beachwood is without question HMB's albatross, it is clearly not the only 'mistake' or error in judgment on land use matters in HMB over the last 10-15 years. But - would over the hill consultants do better? Does anyone out there really think that someone from RWC or San Carlos or ... pick a place would be better? that they would be more familiar with the Coastal Act? our LCP? our history? There are some very valid points made in the report, without question; and we need better results from planning - no question about that. But is farming out our Planning Department really is our best interests?
Laura McHugh November 24, 2012 at 08:44 AM
The development activity in HMB over the past several years (at least 2-3) has been very low due to a poor economy and tough financing. In fact, I think my home was the single variance, permit, etc. issued in 2011 that is referred to in the report. To base outsourcing this department on data from this period seems short-sighted. The HMB area is due to get a lot busier as the economy rebounds and having an outsourced planning function would create inefficiencies due to individuals not being familiar with the city, requirements, it's history, etc. It seems inconsistent to me that the report recommends improvements in customer service and outsourcing. I experienced great customer service, attention to detail and timeliness with my permit process. I also paid a LOT of money. It is hard to believe that more than $55,000 in fees (which included $28K in sewer equalization) didn't cover costs. My situation was fairly straightforward and was a single story residence - nothing really special about it. I think before this function gets outsourced so that there is more distance between applicants and approvers, the City of HMB should focus on hiring a competent and progressing Planning Director as a FT employee who is manager-doer to augment the competent planner currently employed. Then, as demand for projects increases, it would be time to look at expanding staff. Don't outsource Planning. This is ill-conceived and a foolish recommendation.
George Muteff November 24, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Thank you Laura. You make multiple good points, plus you lend recent personal experience to the mix. Good stuff and good observations. Starting out with a bad economy and not much to do is as good a spot as any to start; and I agree with you. Forecasting a pickup in activity as the economy gets better is logical and likely. I agree with that, too. Your offering of your personal experiences in protocol and fees is particularly interesting and important, partially because you're right again in that $55,000 in fees should cover a lot of expenses. And I certainly agree with your wrap-up; and that is a huge concern to me. I've already seen the beginnings of it, and it ain't pretty. Bringing in outsiders, with zero skin in the game puts HMB at risk and I, for one, think HMB has taken all the risks affordable and then some already. To up the ante is about as short sighted as I think it can get. I don't know what the outcome of Tuesday's Special Meeting will be, but I will be there providing my 2 cents (+ some) and I have a suspicion I'll be sharing the event with Patch. Thanks Laura for your insight. Much appreciated.
Laura McHugh November 26, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I will try to make the meeting.

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