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Op-Ed: City Facing Roughly $71 Million in Capital Improvements

The Half Moon Bay City Council hosted two meetings this week, one an open house for the public on upcoming circulation changes, and the other on the "Strategic Plan," which revealed some steep figures for capital improvements over the next fiv

The City sponsored two public meetings this week, both located at the old Police Department turned Emergency Operations Center turned Department Operations Center.

Wednesday evening’s meeting was an “open house” with the Half Moon Bay Circulation Element featured. I was expecting a casual meeting with a more relaxed environment providing Q&A and engagement between the Council and the public, maybe with a moderator.

The Planning Commission recently satisfied a request for two CDPs. One for walking and bike trails and the other for added lights, road widening and third lanes for turning from Pillar Point to Miramontes Point Road. Both CDPs were appealed, so I thought there might be some discussion on that. There wasn’t, well, at least not loudly.

The reason is because that’s not how the meeting was set up. There were a couple of small tables to sit and chat at, a few easels holding overhead pictures of Half Moon Bay and the changes proposed, a suggestion box to drop a thought into, little sticky bees, hearts and post-its to stick on the pic, depending on whether you liked a specific part or didn’t, or maybe you wanted to scribble a thought and post it.

All five Council members were there as well as a couple of the Planning Commissioners.

According to one City official, about half the crowd were staff, leaving the other half us, the public.

There were people meandering around talking and looking at the information, but there was no group give-and-take and aside from the pic, loaded with stickies, there was nothing “tangible;” I walked away thinking no one had really made a point, but there were lots of couple or trio conversations throughout; so I guess, depending on how you want to measure it, it could be called a success. It was also an opportunity for the City to showcase its new Emergency Center.

Thursday starting at 4 p.m., the City sponsored another meeting; this one on the City’s “Strategic Plan,” its short-term position versus its long-term goals.

This one was more structured, and frankly more like what I had expected at the prior meeting the night before. There were no handouts that I could see. The Council members sat at a table facing the audience. The audience, as was noted by one speaker, sure appreciated the new chairs, particularly when compared with those hard plastic seats next door at the Adcock Center. I have to admit, I sure appreciated the cushions the new seats provide.

One by one, each department head walked up to the podium and expressed their short / intermediate / and long term needs and wants and provided some back of the envelop numbers when asked about the cost. Each department head was asked questions by Council members. Each department had their chance and answered Council’s questions. From record management to the General Plan to the LCP, to the Budget and finance, from permits to land use and zoning, to staffing and maps, to law enforcement all were discussed. The Main Street Bridge replacement was discussed along with it’s funding. From Planning to legal, this meeting touched on it all.

Once all staff had their time, the public was invited to give their thoughts and one by one, nine speakers got up and shared their thoughts and concerns and questions. Each had three minutes, which brought out libraries, public parking, downtown business and more.

There was a 30-minute break. The public could come back, but upon return, the Council was to then talk amongst themselves, with no action to be taken. It was almost 6 p.m., and I was hungry, so I left. It appeared that everyone else did as well during the break. I did not attend the Council discussion, but the purpose of it was to discuss what had just been discussed, and try to prioritize it all.

One of the points made early in the meeting was that the City figures we’re looking at roughly $71 million in CIP plan financing (capital improvements) over the next 5 years. That’s a lot of zeros. One has to wonder where it will all come from, or if we can even get it all.

The results of this meeting will be discussed at a December Council meeting. I look forward to hearing that discussion. I must say that everyone involved in this evening seemed to have a common theme; they all had some things that were more important to them than others, but all those things were productive and all geared toward moving Half Moon Bay in a very positive direction.

Let’s see and hear from the Council in December to get the final verdict on this one.

Laura McHugh November 18, 2012 at 03:43 PM
So do you think this format was effective for communicating on some really large decision points? Is process being served properly using this format? I guess if everyone (council + citizens) agree, then this gentle, friendly approach works. But if controversial items are slipped through because they aren't properly presented and discussed, then I have a problem with that. Also, I think the time of the meeting is off because it may not give people who work time to get to the meeting.
George Muteff November 18, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Good questions / points, Laura. First, let's realize that we're talking two different meetings with two different formats. Both meetings, IMHO, were important meetings from both the community's standpoint and from the City's standpoint. The Circulation meeting offered no tangible structure, which I thought was needed. We have a significant part of our LCP seemingly being approached from multiple sides, yet almost completely ambiguous. For example: how does one take such a large "Plan", and turn that "plan" into a single project, with no details? For months now I've been trying to pin down specifics, with no success. That is most likely why it has been appealed three times. This meeting could have been an opportunity for the City to address that and more, but that didn't happen. The Strategic Plan meeting was structured and when I left, I felt there was positive movement. One of the only things that troubled me a bit there was that apparently a Council member (at least) "stuffed the ballot box", so to speak. By contacting and soliciting certain members of our community that all have the same interest to come to the meeting, and speak to their single interest gave more emphasis to that specific element. That element was libraries. A council member admitted soliciting that segment for that purpose. As that group was the most vocal, the Council can now raise that interest higher in their list of priorities, at the sacrifice of other needs.
George Muteff November 18, 2012 at 09:04 PM
As to the timing of the meetings: The Circulation meeting started at 6:00 PM. Although perhaps rough for some, with the public notice provided, most that really had an interest could easily have made it. Question would be - if folks rearranged their schedule to be there, was it worth it? The Strategic Plan meeting started at 4:00 PM. This is a toughie. I'm sure the City was concerned and aware of their employee participation, and also tried to accommodate the public. The flip side is that the Council took no action, but rather sucked up input so they could adjust their efforts accordingly. Let's not forget that this meeting will have a bearing on the Budget - so it was an important step. We'll know more in December, when they have all that input, plus prior input in an organized presentation for all. I hope that helps some, Laura; and thanks for your input.

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