Tuesday evening there was a joint meeting at the Ted Adcock Center with both the Half Moon Bay City Council and the Planning Commission to hear the results of the Matrix Consulting Group, who was commissioned by the City Council to evaluate the Planning Department.
There were roughly a couple dozen members of the public at the 5:30 p.m. meeting, which began with Gary Golitz, an officer of Matrix, providing a 4.5-page overview of the study. A copy of the agenda can be found here.
Following Golitz’s overview, the public was invited to speak, and we did.
A total of eight speakers — from a developer and realtor to a former Half Moon Bay planning director and a resident going through the process of trying to open a business — generously provided comments, concerns, opinions, and ideas.
Of the 53 recommendations contained in the Report, No. 41 drew the most comments. Most speakers that spoke strongly opposed outsourcing Half Moon Bay's Planning Department. Words like continuity, knowledge, background, the Coastal Act were heard in abundance.
“Skin in the game” wove its way through those comments, and rightfully so. All speakers spoke well to point.
The speaker that got the most feedback was Don Godshall, a local resident who is currently going through the process of opening a restaurant called Jersey Joes in the Stone Pine Shopping Center.
His hands-on, ongoing dealings with the Planning Department raised serious concerns with document management, predictability, vague expectations, unknown obstacles, unresponsiveness and more. He had planned on opening his second store here (the first is in San Carlos) in August, but due to ambiguity, lost and misplaced documents, unforeseen requirements and more, he is now hoping for a January opening. That extra time equates to money (expenses) and many other resources expended that should have been clear before he undertook the difficult task of opening a business in Half Moon Bay; and his real-time comments were not lost on both the Council members and the Planning Commissioners. They’ve heard them before.
A few of the primary points addressed from the Report’s recommendations were:
• Updating the City’s General Plan
• Updating the City’s LCP
• Updating the City’s zoning
• Using a GIS Mapping System
• Outsourcing the HMB Planning Department
Matrix did a fine job in their evaluation, but truth be told, there was nothing in the Report that wasn’t already known by all; but by paying for the evaluation and getting the results in an 85-page report that is clear, concise, and element-based, we now have it all in one location, and we now have a clear framework in writing that can be referred to and used as a basis to move forward.
This is a very big deal — but only if it is acted on.
To that end: after the public spoke, it went back to the joint bodies. There was discussion by all members of both bodies; lots of questions, comments, concerns and thoughts on direction, but when 6:30 p.m. rolled around, which was the scheduled closing time of the meeting, the ball was squarely in the Council’s court as they all went back and forth between themselves, Golitz and the City Manager, in a sincere effort to determine the next step — and it bogged down there.
All Council members felt strongly that we should act on this report immediately; they just couldn’t seem to come to consensus on exactly how. Priorities like where to start were at issue.
The meeting had to stop by 7 p.m. because the Planning Commission was scheduled to start their meeting at 7 p.m., and they had a full agenda so that’s when the meeting concluded.
When Mayor Alifano closed the meeting with the gavel hitting the table, here’s what we knew:
• that there will be another Special Meeting (both bodies) in January
• that the Council wanted to get something going now
• that each Council member had a different idea on how and where to start
• that that sorting out the 53 recommendations in terms of priority will have to wait until the next meeting
• that there was a split between Council members on how that would occur.
For example, Naomi Patridge challenged the Mayor and Vice-Mayor when both directed the City Manager and staff to come back at the next meeting with the 53 recommendations prioritized.
Patridge asked, “How is staff going to know what our priorities are?”
She’s got a point, however, the City Manager should have a very solid sense of what they should be, and I was hoping she would step up and offer: “Yes, members of the Council — I will review all 53 recommendations, sort them out in terms of how I understand your priorities to be from what I’ve heard here tonight and present you with 4 to 6 options at our next meeting. I will present them in descending order of how I believe you feel and what I believe fits the needs of the City. We can review them then and make whatever adjustments you deem appropriate at that meeting.”
I didn’t hear that, but I am hopeful that that’s what we see when these bodies reconvene in January. I hope we get traction here because it is absolutely necessary if we are to get Half Moon Bay moving in a solid and productive direction, with structure, goals, a game plan, and the desire that momentum can provide. We so desperately need this and we need it done right, not fast.
I have six pages of notes that I’d be happy to share if anyone has any questions. Ask my questions. I will do my best to answer and if I don’t know the answer, I will say so and will try to find the answer for you.