Half Moon Bay History and Local Elections

In 1989 Dave Iverson was elected to the City Council. Iverson was part of a new local group that called themselves the League for Coastal Protection (LCP). This group had formed in response to what appeared to them to be a threat of uncontrolled and widespread development here on the coast. Two years later Deborah Ruddock, also part of this faction, was elected to the City Council. Iverson served only one term on the Council but Ruddock remained on it for the next 12 years.

In 1996 with the election of Carol Cupp the LCP faction gained the controlling majority on the Council. For the next 9 years the LCP faction had a controlling majority on the Council. Their elected majority during this dominant period included Deborah Ruddock, Carol Cupp, Dennis Coleman, Betty Stone, Mike Ferreira, Tony Taylor, Jim Grady, Sid McCausland, and David Gorn.

The LCP faction lost its majority control of the City Council in 2005 when Naomi Patridge and Bonnie McClung replaced Mike Ferreira and Tony Taylor on the Council. By this time David Iverson had become a critic of the LCP faction he had helped to organize. The consequences of their policies while in the majority control of the Council have not been good for Half Moon Bay or the Coastside. Their decisions and policies will impact the community negatively for years to come.

The LCP majority on the Council opposed a plan by Caltrans to expand Hwy 92 as it nears the entrance to Half Moon Bay. The highway improvement had been originally planned to include a new intersection at Foothill Blvd. that runs behind the Half Moon Bay High School. Foothill had been planned to continue northward behind all of the existing residential neighborhoods until it reached Frenchman’s Creek. This would have eased the traffic congestion on Hwy 1 north of Hwy 92 during rush hours and on weekends.

Foothill Blvd had also been planned to go south into Half Moon Bay connecting to Stone Pine Road near the Post Office. The LCP majority voted to have the City purchase the land owned by Nurserymen’s Exchange where the southern portion of Foothill would have connected to Stone Pine Road. They designated this property a park ending the possibility that Foothill could connect to Stone Pine Road. The city eventually defaulted on the land purchase and that property now belongs to POST.

The Ailanto development just north of the high school was approved during the LCP majority control of the Council. The site plan approved by LCP majority placed 63 large 5,000 sq. ft. houses into the path of the planned northern route for Foothill Blvd. The LCP majority recommended this site plan to the Coastal Commission and it is now approved ending any possibility of a northern extension of Foothill Blvd. to relieve rush hour traffic north of Hwy 92 on Hwy 1.

The LCP majority opposed the replacement of the El Granada pipeline arguing at the Coastal Commission that the line would be growth inducing despite the pipeline replacement plan not including any new sources of water. The pipeline’s larger size had been the recommendation of civil engineers to enable gravity flow to fill storage tanks eliminating the need for costly pumping.

Charles Lester, who now heads the Coastal Commission, hosted a meeting at the Commission’s San Francisco offices attended by two Councilmen associated with of the LCP and two members of the CCWD Board of Directors. At this meeting Councilmen Ferreira and Coleman claimed the pipeline would be growth inducing and insisted that the community did not want the bigger pipe. They claimed that voters would express their opinions in the next election by voting current CCWD Directors out of office. That election proved Ferreira and Coleman wrong. The Coastal Commission approved the pipeline but with restrictions recommended by the LCP majority on the City Council to limit the use of water. When several residential wells in Half Moon Bay failed these restrictions had to be rescinded by the Coastal Commission before the water district could provide emergency hookups to public water for these unlucky homeowners with failed wells.

In 1996 the community rallied behind the idea that it was time to build a second middle school. The last new school in Half Moon Bay had been built in 1963. The City Council, including the LCP majority, voted unanimously in favor of building the new middle school at Wavecrest. A Boys and Girls Club was to be built adjacent to the new middle school at this location which was also to include the Smith Field complex. This site selection produced more than a decade of political fighting within the community.

The LCP faction, including those on the Council who had voted unanimously for Wavecrest, opposed this location despite initially committing the school district and City to it. Every other site in the community was always found to have some disqualifying defect and no suitable site could be found. Instead of a new middle school the decision was made to renovate the old middle school. A renovation costs more than building a new school and it prevented the repurposing of the older school for new educational services.

The Wavecrest fiasco not only destroyed the possibility of a new middle school and more floor space for public instruction for adult education, special ed, and other programs, it set back the efforts to build a Boys and Girls Club by at least two decades. When a second site for the Boys and Girls Club was found near the Lutheran Church Deborah Ruddock, from her position on the City Council, led the effort to find fault with that location too. Story balloons and disappointed families, not a new Boys and Girls Club, was the result.

During their years in charge of City affairs the LCP majority voted to classify the Kehoe drainage ditch a riparian corridor. A riparian corridor usually refers to creeks and not to drainage ditches. The Kehoe ditch had been dug to drain off storm water. The City had routinely cleaned the Kehoe ditch to clear it of vegetation that blocked the flow of storm water. Cleaning the ditch protected the houses on Kehoe Ave that border it. Declaring the Kehoe ditch a riparian corridor has hindered needed maintenance and endangered the houses on Kehoe Ave generating anger, more legal battles, and no satisfactory solution due to the barriers to reevaluating the riparian status of this drainage ditch.

The City during the LCP majority rule purchased a residential property near the western end of Kelly Ave. They subsequently placed a conservation easement on this property preventing its future development or sale. The easement was presumably for an additional coastal walking trail. The existing Coast Trail is approximately 100 yds. from this property. The need for an additional walking trail at this location and so close to the existing Coastal Trail is certainly questionable. One of the LCP faction’s supporters on the Council during these policy actions had a residence located adjacent to this property.

The LCP majority’s most damaging action was a vote taken by the Council majority in 2000 to declare the Beachwood property a wetland. Water had been accumulating on the Beachwood property because a City installed drainage system had been improperly constructed. The work installing the drains had formed a damn instead of a drain. Additionally the city neglected to maintain this system. Court records show that a City employee had informed his supervisors working directly for the Council that this drainage system required both maintenance and a repair of its faulty installation. All of these findings are documented in a subsequent Federal Appeals Court proceeding over this property and its designation as a wetland.

The Council’s 3/2 votes in 2000 to declare this property a wetland produced a lawsuit against the City. The Federal Appeals Court ruled in 2007 that the City now owed the property owner $40,000,000 for taking his property by damaging it. The LCP faction could have voted to repair the drainage system and to maintain it. They choose instead to rule the property a wetland. This was a costly mistake for the entire community and it drove the community nearly into bankruptcy.

Now a new group supported by the remnants of the League for Coastal Protection and some of their early members want to be returned to power in the November City Council election. Deborah Ruddock is again seeking election to the City Council. She recently recounted the Beachwood events and stated that “To this day I cannot see how I could have voted otherwise” referring to her vote in 2000 to declare the Beachwood property a wetland.

If a $40,000,000 fine cannot convince Ruddock that she had made a mistake, then nothing could more clearly underscore her lack of insight into what constitutes responsible government!

The current City Council, unencumbered by the constraints of the LCP political faction, has put the City back onto a firm financial footing. They negotiated a reduced settlement agreement with the owner of the Beachwood property. That reduced the fine to half of the Court ordered penalty. They instructed the City Attorney to pursue the reluctant insurance company that had indemnified the City against such losses and yet was not forthcoming with insurance compensation. That effort produced a large settlement from the insurance company enabling the city to further reduce the liability they had inherited from nearly a decade of bad management by the LCP Council majority.

These positive actions taken by the City Council in the years after the LCP faction lost its majority control, 2006, have brought the City back from the brink of bankruptcy.

Today the community is again in a position to finally build a new and modern library to meet the growing demand for library services. The library project has been delayed for over a decade because the poor decisions made during the LCP majority’s control of the Council.

Today the City has the funds to make road repairs, improve playing fields, and to install active recreational facilities in our otherwise barren park properties. Th2 City Councils elected 2006 and after the LCP faction lost its majority control, have made steady progress addressing the many problems and liabilities that they inherited from the years of LCP majority control. Their leadership since 2006 deserves our support.

Vote this November to re-elect Allan Alifano, and Rick Kowalczyk two current members of the Council who have guided the City back to financial stability. Elect Deborah Penrose, a retired HMB physician, who has offered her time and her experience as a future leader of our community.