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Perception Versus Reality — Some Say They Are the Same

Is the playing field level when it comes to planning project approvals and denials in HMB? Do the same rules apply to everyone? Judge for yourself.

There was another Planning Director’s meeting in Half Moon Bay this afternoon, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012.

Some may remember June’s Planning Director’s meeting where HMB’s largest infrastructure project was but a pen stroke away from approval — and no doubt more land use litigation for Half Moon Bay.

Fortunately, the new Interim Planning Director listened to the few members of the public that were present and denied the requested Coastal Development Permit (CDP) in favor of placing the Item in front of the Planning Commission for public input and discussion, which is where it belonged.

At today's Planning Director's meeting there was only one item on the agenda: an application for a CDP from John Muller, a sitting City Council member. It is PDP-039-09.

I can certainly understand the need for water. Water issues are nothing to mess around with and need to be addressed. What concerns me is not the "project" although anyone looking at the staff report would certainly have questions.

No, what concerns me is process/protocol. The question I keep stumbling over is simple and direct: If that were me, or you, would the same rules apply?

We have a project in an area that has had issues before. The request is 3 years old and all the supporting documentation (bio reports and such) are also three years old. The project was originally submitted in August 2009. A few of the questions that crossed my mind would include:

  • why would someone requesting a CDP submit the request without having all one’s ducks lined up and ready to go? 
  • why would someone requesting a CDP for a water line extension for crops seek a 6” line? Subdivisions use a 6” line.
  • the location of where the water is going to be used for irrigation is land locked. Why is it that the owner of the property that the line has to cross didn’t submit his approval until July of this year?
  • there are more, but I suppose the biggest question I would have is perception based: why does a sitting Council member not want this to go in front of the Planning Commission where the same project would have to go if it were someone else?
  • this is an election year in HMB, and his seat is open. If this went in front of the Planning Commission, one has to wonder if the scrutiny of the Commission and public would interfere with his bid for a Council seat that he is striving for?

All fair and reasonable questions, I believe. It centers on and around transparency.

I do not begrudge the Muller’s their water. If they need it, and it sounds like they do, then why not embrace the process that everyone else has to use? Why provide the perception that something doesn’t smell right? What questions are lingering out there that Muller is concerned with on this?

One would think that as a sitting Council member, past Mayor and lifelong resident of Half Moon Bay, that he would embrace public scrutiny to get what he wants. For many, perception is reality and the perception here lends itself to legitimate questions. Questions we may never get to ask or hear the answers to, as the Interim Planning Director approved the project this afternoon calling it a health and safety issue.

Really? Is it really a health and safety issue? And it’s been in the “loop” for three years? Really?

One would think that Half Moon Bay would be a little more careful with land use issues seeing as how we have another 27 years of $1.13 million per year coming right off the top of our budget to settle Beachwood and the Settlement Agreement ink on the Kehoe Ditch matter (which cost us just short of $1 million in penalties) is not even dry yet. That, btw, doesn’t include Oak Park; a City project built on land the City didn’t own. That litigation cost us as well. 

I’d say our land use track record needs help, certainly more attention than it’s been getting to this point.

I don’t know where it will go from here. Maybe it gets appealed and maybe it doesn’t; but the point that perception is reality and the perception here doesn’t favor Muller should concern a sitting Council member. But I’ve been wrong before ... many times.

It concerns me, and I believe it should concern all Half Moon Bay residents. If it does get appealed, that appeal will chew up yet more City resources (our money and staff time), and we just don’t have the resources, can’t afford it.

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 September 13, 2012 at 07:31 PM
When the Interim Planning Director gave her approval to this project, she followed that with who her decision could be appealed to. She stated that that her decision could be appealed to (in order) the Planning Commission, then the City Council and to the Coastal Commission. As a follow-up, I called the City this morning to learn more about the process of appeal for this case. I was told that I would have to pay 1/2 of the cost the applicant submitted to appeal it to our Planning Commission. That's $650.00. So for this to be public, with the full engagement of the five individuals that volunteer to sit on the PC, the fee is large. Of course appealing the decision to the Coastal Commission is free, but is that really what we want? Is it really worth it. My only goal here was to see this matter in front of the PC for public input and discussion. Once that happened, I'd be done with it. Whatever the PC decides would be fine with me. And I feel the urge to again say that I do not begrudge the Mullers' additional water. If they need it, get it. It is all about process. Did Muller get a break that you and I would not get? Is the playing field level. Do the "rules" apply to everyone equally? Those are the real issues at stake here. Despite what Muller believes and is saying, this is nothing personal. It is solely about process. IMHO, Muller took a shortcut that most aren't offered. Some might even call that abuse of position. Don't forget to vote in November.
Cid September 14, 2012 at 08:59 AM
George - All good Farmers know that their land might eventually have a higher and better use as a housing complex or a new residential subdivision. He may need the water now for his crops, but in the mean time he is assuring a potential smooth re-zoning transistion for his heirs. how big is that pipe on Redondo Beach Road? Better get it "supersized" now while the newly installed "Planning Director" is being hoodwinked by the current Council.
Brian Ginna September 14, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Cid Young - while George stops short of making this kind of accusation, you come right out and make the accusation with no basis in facts. Why anyone in their right mind would hire you to sell or buy a house is beyond me. You have absolutely no integrity.
Cindi Jacobs September 23, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Hi George - This isn't a reply to your article, just a hello from old friends on the east coast. We know you from Crestview Gardens days. You, Bobby Sheldon, Kenny Sigda, Russ Hawes. Does the last name Jacobs ring a bell?
George Muteff October 18, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Cindi; I'll start with an apology for taking so long to get back to you - I'm sorry about that. In somewhat of an excuse, I have been talking to some old friends in the DC area looking for more of a back channel way to communicate with you. After all, we wouldn't want to share some of those experiences from those days here. What would folks think? :) I have not yet had success, but am still trying. I hope all is well with you.
Cindi Jacobs October 18, 2012 at 01:31 AM
No problem at all. Great to hear from you though :-) I absolutely agree with you. If you have an email address that you don't mind putting on here, I can reply back to you. I'm doing good and hope you and yours are doing well~
George Muteff October 18, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Here ya go: gmuteff@comcast.net Now I have a question for you - how'd you find me on Patch? I have been contacted by more than a few from 'the day'. Seems that my name has traveled through Facebook even though I don't do Facebook. As a result, I have been fortunate enough to hear from quite a few of our friends from those days. It's all good. Technology has made the world such a small place, and quickly, too.

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