Seniors upset with the Half Moon Bay Planning Commission's Jan. 10 decision to approve a housing complex for their peers want to stop the project from moving forward in its current configuration by filing an appeal with the City Council.
Developed by the Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition, the project aims to provide 160 units of affordable housing in the area next to existing 63-unit senior apartment community Lesley Gardens on Arnold Way. Half Moon Village, another adjacent senior community consisting of 60 one-story apartments looking out towards private gardens, is slated to be demolished in phases to accommodate the new buildings. Residents will be sent to live in the new housing units as their units are razed.
Four buildings have been planned as part of the new housing complex being billed as a senior campus.
Lesley Gardens resident Jo-Ann Ordano joined other seniors at Tuesday night's city council meeting to speak to councilmembers about her opposition to the new development.
"This project will result in the highest density of any location on the coast and it will completely change the character of the neighborhood," she said, naming the and hotels as two exceptions to area density.
Ordano, who has lived at Lesley Gardens since it opened in 2001, said she was interested in appealing the 5-0 decision of the Planning Commission to the council as well as the California Coastal Commission. Residents from the Half Moon Village apartments also voiced their interest in filing an appeal.
An appeal must be filed no later than 10 working days after the Planning Commission's decision, and the cost to appeal the housing project would cost $5,200, according to Steve Flint, Half Moon Bay Planning Director.
Citing low incomes and reliance on Social Security, seniors requested that the city waive the appeal fee. City counsel Tony Condotti said he was not sure about the process to seek a waiver, but promised the seniors he would send them a description of how to do so. So as not to hold up the appeal process, Mayor Allan Alifano instructed city staff to allow the seniors to file the appeal now without paying the fee and apply for a waiver later.
"We respect the rights of people to appeal the project," said Adhi Nagraj, Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition's project director for the senior development.
"Fourteen years ago, Mid-Peninsula Housing began work on this project as part of a larger county initiative to bring more affordable senior housing to the Coastside," he said. "In November and December 2010 we interviewed all the residents in Half Moon Bay Village — we went to their homes and got a sense of what they liked and didn't like, and incorporated as much as possible of their feedback in the design."
Ordano said she was particularly upset because she said had not been notified about opportunities to comment on the project, despite previously signing up on the mailing list.
Nagraj said that Mid-Peninsula Housing had held quarterly meetings to get community feedback about the design, including a neighborhood meeting in March targeted towards residents living from Monte Vista Lane to Arnold Way.
The Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition is currently planning to break ground on the project in December, according to Nagraj.
"The story poles [showing the size of the proposed building units] just went up a few days before the Planning Commission voted to approve the project," Ordano said.
"Right now I have open space on two sides of me. I will never again see the sun in my apartment if this project goes through with high rises on both sides," she said.
"The project is within the density allowed in our zone," said Flint to councilmembers. "Half Moon Bay will net an increase of 100 senior units, which is very encouraging in this area," he said.
"We have regional housing requirements and this project does a lot towards achieving this. Change is difficult to face," Flint said. "This project has merit and should be approved."
"This is being rammed down our throats — it's like it or lump it," Ordano said.
If the seniors file the appeal, the City Council plans to review it at its first meeting in February. Councilmembers can vote to affirm the Planning Commission's decision or reverse it, which would likely bring the project back to the drawing board for further discussion.
"We're not going to go down without a fuss," Ordano said.