Life on the Coastside
Compromise is built-in
as published in the Half Moon Bay Review, May 9, 2001

Life as a Coastsider involves more than the good stuff tourists love — great events like Pumpkin Festival and Dream Machines, beaches, trails, and blufftop walks along a rare stretch of largely unspoiled coastline.

But the daily commute grinds slower each day as developers turn open spaces and wildlife habitat into more and more houses and the quality of life on the Coastside deteriorates. Quality of life on the Coastside is not just the house we call a home. It includes our neighborhoods, our schools, our open spaces, and many other things. Things we take for granted. Things that we hope will always be here. But that hope rests on shaky ground without the participation from the community.

That’s why lots of Coastside people from Half Moon Bay to Montara have started the League for Coastside Protection. We need elected officials who aren’t afraid to stand up for the people who live here. Individuals like that need our support.

Half Moon Bay has been growing at the fastest rate of any city in San Mateo County for quite some time, and the unincorporated Mid-Coast is working hard to keep up. Look around. We all see it. And we know that it costs us all something significant. So much so that, in 1999, 64 percent of voters in Half Moon Bay said, "Limit growth to 1 percent per year."

In the 18 months since Measure D passed, large developments are looming on the horizon. Developments, some that have been approved, some that are seeking exemption from Measure D, and still others that are in the planning process. These developments threaten to forever cram open spaces, block view corridors, and ruin priceless endangered habitats. In return, we’ll get more traffic and more burdens on our schools, water, and other essential services. We all pay the price. We pay for other people to profit from exploiting the Coastside.

Voters know what’s needed — citizens taking charge, as with Measure D and the Tunnel, insisting on reasonable controls on the things that touch our lives. We have laws that safeguard our way of life. You may have heard of something called an LCP, short for local coastal program. Both Half Moon Bay and San Mateo County have LCPs as their part of the California Coastal Act. Each has zoning and environmental regulations, maps, definitions, and even limits on build-out. Build-out is that magic number meaning "we’re full."

Lots of negotiation and compromise went into each LCP to balance the interests of all of the people who live, work and build on the Coastside. Exploitative developers don’t much care for limits of any kind, however, and claim that further compromise is the path to peace and prosperity on the Coastside. As if to prove their point, developers are suing to deny the city, county, and even the Coastal Commission the right to serve the public by enforcing our laws.

What happens when we allow developers to engage in endless compromise on top of the negotiated and legislated compromise reflected in our LCPs? Do we get to a middle ground? Or is it more like the crocodile and the water buffalo? Says the crocodile, "Let’s compromise. I’ll only eat half of you."

The LCPs already take the needs of developers into account. As a matter of fact, LCPs don’t stop development. Each LCP balances everybody’s interests. Builders don’t get to build everything they want. But residents don’t get the equally unrealistic fantasy of an untouched paradise, either. Each LCP is designed to help keep life on the Coastside eminently livable, in a sustainable way.

We live in a tremendous place. There are people here who care about the Coastside. We have well-balanced laws to protect the Coastside. What we need now are enough elected officials who will honor and uphold our laws.

There are those who argue that upholding the law just begs for lawsuits. They say that lawsuits would drain our communities of money needed for kids, seniors, and the underprivileged. They say the "middle ground" is safer and happier. But guess who makes those claims — the very developers trying to cow our elected officials into submission. These are the very same groups that worked against Measure D.

If we don’t enforce our laws, it’s the same as if we repealed them. To protect the Coastside, every board and council must give LCP-compliant answers. It is, after all, just following the law.

The public is invited to attend a public meeting hosted by the League for Coastside Protection on Monday evening, May 14, 7 p.m. at the Miramar Lodge. Come hear what Coastsiders are doing to help our boards and councils honor the LCPs. Learn about specific issues, and how you can help out.

Scott Boyd co-chairs the League for Coastside Protection