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Larry Rosenstein
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Norm: Thanks for posting the county alert info; I forgot to include that originally. The alert you mentioned was about the accident. There was no notice about the planned work Monday or the subsequent backup. There was an alert Monday afternoon about planned work on Tuesday, which ended up being cancelled. As for what happened, according to the accident caused a delay in the planned work and then Caltrans ran out of asphalt.
A second notice says that the closure will be from Fassler Ave. to Reina Del Mar Ave.
I got a notice on the county email list that this will be happening again tomorrow: On Tuesday, August 4, 2015 between 9:30am and 3:30pm Caltrans will be doing road work in the northbound #2 (right) lane of SR1. The right lane will be closed and you should expect traffic delays. Please plan accordingly.
"Based on the information on page 7 of the Planning Commission staff report, the trucks would take up a total of 29 of the 406 available parking spaces -- not ideal, but certainly not 'half' the available spaces." According to the staff report, the 406 number includes all the public parking spaces in the area, including the Community Center and SamTrans Park & Ride lots. From the diagram in the agenda packet, the trucks are going to take up about one-third of the spaces in the north parking lot. It looks like this is being treated as any other applicant seeking permits for a similar event, and I wonder if the Planning Commission can even take forecasted revenue into account. (My guess is that it's not going to be much, based on the projected number of attendees.) It seems like this event is something that should be discussed at the City Council where these types of questions can be answered. Finally, Sharp Park Beach is not being considered as an alternative venue for Off The Grid. It's being considered for an entirely different event that has no event operator, and is vaguely described as being for "On-going community gathering and socializing..."
I don't think the situation is as simple as the council thinks. My suspicion is that Airbnb will take the position that it is not in the hotel business, but that it is just facilitating transactions between hosts and renters, and the hosts are responsible for following the laws in their cities. This includes collecting taxes and applying for business licenses. The way the company frames the tax question on its site ( is that it has agreements with some cities to collect the tax on behalf of its hosts. I think it makes those agreements largely for political reasons. These types of rentals either fall into a gray area or are technically illegal in some places, and it wants to avoid cities cracking down on the practice. In San Francisco, there has been a battle about exactly how to regulate these rentals. Pacifica isn't big enough to have this kind of leverage, so it might be a struggle to get Airbnb to collect the tax for the city.
Even if you give Victor Spano all benefit of the doubt about the Fix Pacifica blog, which I don't, the fact remains that his response was to call up the letter-writer and threaten a lawsuit. Someone like that doesn't belong on the city council.
As they say on the legal blog, "vagueness in a legal demand is the hallmark of frivolous legal thuggery." Spano could have just sent his rebuttal to the Tribune or left a polite offer to talk, but instead he played the defamation card. If this is how he deals with criticism, then he is unfit to serve on the City Council. It's fortunate that we get to see Spano's true nature before the election rather than after.
Hillsborough isn't a good example for price comparisons. $27.50 is the monthly bill, but there's also a $25/month charge that's added to the property tax bill. See
What does "smaller" even mean? It's not as if Caltrans can make the lanes narrower or eliminate the shoulder or only add a lane in one direction. And even if there was a way to make the project smaller, any redesign would at least require a new traffic study to show what the benefit would be, which would require some sort of EIR revision.
Big Banker: As I said before, I don't object to the Harmony @ 1 project, provided it's built according to the agreed-upon conditions. My objection is with the idea that development projects are the way for Pacifica to solve its financial problems. Despite all the development projects that you list, East Palo Alto needed a parcel tax to solve the city's crime problem, and all that development still didn't solve the city's structural deficit. The original article ends with the line that Harmony @ 1 is "a start in the right direction," but there's no evidence that this is the case. I would also support a parcel tax. The one that the city tried to pass would have raised 10 times the revenue of the Harmony @ 1 project. So for Harmony @ 1 to start in the right direction, the city would have to approve nine other similar projects, which means 90 more $4.5 million homes. For homes that are more typical of housing available in the city, the number of units would have to be three to four times that. But it's going to take a lot of work by the city before the voters will approve any kind of tax increase. Rather than focusing on housing development, it would be better to focus on commercial development. The city projects that developing the old wastewater treatment plant will bring in almost $500 million/year, on a site that is currently an eyesore. It's also a parcel that the city owns, so it has more control over the shape of the project.
Big Banker: Your suggestion that the wealthy people who buy these homes will generate a lot of sales taxes is just a variation on the trickle-down economic ideas that haven't worked at all. But the bigger issue is that the city benefits only from sales made in town, and even after these houses are built, the businesses in Pacifica will still be the same. Pacifica just doesn't have the kind of businesses that generate a lot of sales tax revenue; if it did, then the city's financial situation would be better. Even if you ignore all that, and assume that each of these 10 new families somehow manage to spend (say) $100K/year within Pacifica (a tall order since that's almost $300/day), then the city will see only $10,000/year of sales tax revenue (1 percent of $1 million). Sure, there's a bunch of other revenue from utility taxes, franchise fees, permit fees, etc., but those are even less. Bottom line: There is no "big picture" when it comes to Harmony @ 1. As a development project, it's fine. The original property owners gave a lot of thought to creating an environmentally sound project, which is why it was approved without much controversy. (Hopefully, the current owners will adhere to those conditions.) It will generate more revenue than the typical 10-unit development, but not enough to make a significant difference. But it's also a unique project that can't be replicated throughout town. BTW, the situation in East Palo Alto doesn't seem to be as rosy as you imply. Regarding the crime problem, the city passed a $100/year parcel tax specifically for that: In February, East Palo Alto also looked at outsourcing its police service due to a $1 million budget shortfall: And in the fiscal year 2014-15 budget, East Palo Alto's city manager warns that "the City's expenditures are outpacing the City's revenues, creating an ongoing structural deficit." Sound familiar? So despite having several big-box retail stores, East Palo Alto faces many of the same problems as Pacifica. The same is true of most cities in California, since the recession caused a drop in both property tax and sales tax revenue that is just now recovering.
The idea that this is going to build Pacifica's tax base is fantasy. The total property tax from this project is about $500,000/year, but the city gets only 12 percent to 15 percent of that. The jobs, permit fees, etc. are not sustainable revenue; once the project is finished, those things go away. So in the end, the city will get about $75,000/year in revenue, and that amount will go up only 2 percent a year. This is certainly enough to pay the cost of services for 10 houses for a few years, but it's not going to be a windfall for the city. Plus, it's not something that can be replicated elsewhere in town. There are only a few places where $4.5 million homes are financially viable. For example, the article mentions the project on the other side of Fassler, and I doubt those homes will be in the same price range.
The San Mateo study was about general land use issues, but there was no study about whether housing pays for itself. The paragraph Bob posted even says: "Although this kind of fiscal analysis has not been performed specifically for the City of San Mateo..." It provides general conditions where housing might be expected to pay for itself, without anything to back up those statements. I would also argue that those conditions don't apply in Pacifica: (1) housing prices here are among the lowest in the county, (2) the cost of city services is known to be high, and (3) there's a lack of retail to capture sales taxes. The Harmony @ 1 project will likely pay for itself, since the home prices are so high. But that project is not the norm in Pacifica, and it's certainly not going to make a dent in the city's deficit. Regarding the number of units, there are 10 luxury homes, but there are supposed to be a number of affordable units built as well. The FEIR has a statement from the original developers about this and the other proposed CCRs:
Chris: I was at the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce office two Saturdays ago, and the office was closed with a sign on the door that says it is open only Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The same information is on the chamber's Visit Pacifica website: Some of the chamber activities you listed elsewhere on Riptide are also part of the chamber's member benefits, and it's difficult to separate the two. Even if the city cuts the $10,000 funding for the visitor center, the chamber will continue to market the city to help its members, since that's what a chamber of commerce does.
I did some digging on the county website, and I could find only one parcel in the area (APN: 022-055-140) owned by someone from San Francisco. On the parcel map, it looks fairly large, so perhaps the owner is planning to subdivide it into two lots. At the other end of Oddstad is a project approved by the city in 2006. Since then, the property changed hands, and the current owner has gotten development permit extensions every year since then. Recently, the parcels next to this project have been put up for sale: When I looked at the MLS the other day, I noticed two other lots in the area up for sale.
Toggle Commented May 14, 2014 on Odd Doings on Oddstad at RIPTIDE
I got a notice directly from the city, and it was also posted on the Nextdoor site. The city has mailing lists for General Plan info as well as City Council agendas; you should be able to sign up here:
You can get DSL service from other providers besides AT&T. The service is the same, but the ISP takes care of dealing with AT&T so you don't have to. We have 3Mbps DSL service from PacificaNet (which I think is really in HMB) for $30/month, but in the past I've also used, based in Santa Rosa. DSL is likely better than the PacificaNet wireless Internet, but slower than what you can get from Comcast. (That's unlikely to change anytime soon since AT&T is trying to get out of the wireline business.) We recently switched our cell phones to T-Mobile and I've found that its wireless data speed is surprisingly good in Pacifica. But this will come with a relatively low data cap per month (e.g., $70 for 11GB/month).
big banker: I was the one who posted the numbers, not Todd. The point of my comment was to make a back-of-the-envelope estimate to show that different types of projects provide different benefits to the city. On my current property taxes bill, the general tax rate is 1.1171 percent. Actually, now that I look at it more closely, the base rate that should be used for any revenue estimates is only 1 percent. The other .1171 percent is for various school district bonds that are not relevant to calculating how much the City of Pacifica gets. The same is true of other bonds, sewer charges, etc. None of that revenue goes into the city's general fund. To estimate the price of the condos, I did a search on for recently sold condos that matched the size mentioned in the original proposal. The first page of results ranges from $411,500 to $725,000, so I think $700,000 is a generous estimate. Remember, this is an average price for all 63 units, some of which are only 1,140 square feet in size. Even if you increase the average price of the condos, it doesn't change the fact that the city won't see very much revenue from this project as it's currently envisioned. On the other hand, a 40-room hotel, which was originally approved for the site, would generate much more revenue. A conservative estimate would be 40 rooms at $125/night, rented an average of 250 nights/year times 12 percent tax = $150,000. A more luxury hotel would bring in more. In addition, hotel rooms are smaller than the condos being proposed, so the project itself would be much smaller. And the commercial space associated with a hotel is more likely to generate sales taxes.
Todd: What zoning changes are needed? According to the staff report, the existing zoning supports up to 63 residential units (based on 1 unit per 2,000 square feet of lot size). It seems to me that, as long as the developer includes some commercial, he can build the 40 or 63 condos. The end result is that another commercial site in town is going to be developed as housing, which will be a missed opportunity at economic development. Sixty-three condos would bring in only about $75,000 in property taxes a year. (A $700,000 condo generates about $7,700 in property taxes, of which only about $1,200 goes to the city.) The city has no control over what commercial goes in, so it may or may not generate any sales tax. (The original concept of a 40-room hotel would bring in two to three times the revenue in hotel tax alone.)
The staff report for the study session is interesting. It confirms that the planning permits from 1995 have expired. Also, the site is part of the Rockaway Beach Planning Area, and the property is supposed to be used for highway-oriented, visitor-serving commercial uses. Further, it says that size of the buildings and garage "do not appear to be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood" and "the project appears to be more of a residential use than a truly mixed-use project." It's rare for the staff report to have anything negative to say about a project.
My overall comment is that the so-called plan wasn't worth whatever the city paid for it. Look at the recommendations at the start of the report; these are all basic things that people have been saying for years. The report seems fixated on the idea of developing Class A office and laboratory space. Different areas in the city are evaluated as to whether they could support this type of development. The idea is to attract high-tech startup companies. I've worked at a series of high-tech startup companies for the past 15 years, and I don't think this is a viable plan. Once a startup gets to the point of needing office space, it is going to locate in a place that is convenient for the employees. The companies I've worked at were in Foster City, San Bruno, and San Francisco, which are easy to reach by car and public transportation. (I could see companies starting in Pacifica, since these days high-tech companies can get started in a coffee shop or someone's living room. But companies of that size don't need office space.)
Twenty-five businesses have hit the $500 cap already. It isn't fair that these businesses completely avoid a tax increase, while everyone else has to pay. When the council members discussed this, they got bogged down on questions about indexing the cap, when it would have been very simple to just raise the cap to something like $750. Based on the city manager's comments at the last council meeting, the proposal is estimated to be something like a 60 percent to 70 percent increase in the utility tax, so increasing the cap by 50 percent would have been reasonable. The main reason why these issues didn't get addressed is that the council wanted this on the ballot in November, and to do that, it needed to approve it in July. There was no time to go back and refine the language of the ballot measure. This is the third time the city has tried to increase revenue, and the previous two attempts failed mostly because of a lack of credibility on the part of the city, and it's not any better this time around.
The definition of what is/is not included is confusing. Is Netflix a video streaming service? If so, then it's unfair to not tax cable TV video services, since the cable company is moving toward providing video services using very similar technology. (And I have no idea what a data streaming service is.) The $500 limit still seems to apply only to businesses. Since there are already businesses that have reached that limit, this tax increase won't apply to them, and it seems likely that additional businesses will reach the limit and be subject only to a partial tax increase. Finally, the proposed ballot language is very misleading. It starts with "Without raising the current 6.5% rate." This implies that it isn't a tax increase. Then it lists a number of city services that would be funded, and "citizens oversight," even though the tax proceeds go into the general fund and there's little oversight possible. Finally, it mentions "equal treatment regardless of technology used," when the tax doesn't apply to cable TV but does apply to video streaming. Even if the latter is intended to apply only to video services offered by cell phone companies, it's not equal treatment.
A $187 tax increase is pretty big, especially compared with the proposed fire assessment that failed. And that's supposed to be the average for a household. The point about it being a general tax is key. The proposed ballot language lists a bunch of things that the tax could pay for, but the reality is that the city can't promise that it will actually be used for any of them. And while there's a review committee to monitor expenditures from the tax, it's meaningless because the tax goes into the general fund. Also, it's sneaky that the suggested language starts off by saying the rate isn't going up, as if it's simply a renewal of an existing tax rather than an increase. In general, the UUT is probably the most regressive tax the city can impose. Even though this increase involves telecommunications services, in 2013 these services are almost as important as water and energy. Also, most telecom companies are big and have little competition, so they are free to raise rates anytime.
"The last commercial buildings to be built have been Kragen's and the dentist office and pet hospital." The dentist office and pet hospital are primarily service businesses. These types of businesses do not provide much revenue to the city because they generate very little in sales taxes. The same is true of residential development. The city's share of property taxes is small, and the entire Connemara development (23 homes + 2 commercial buildings) probably results in only $40,000/year in revenue to the city. The idea that new construction will result in significant economic development is simplistic; the type of development matters. Unfortunately, the city's planning code for commercial sites allows developers to build projects that are primarily residential, with only a token amount of commercial. And even then, it's possible to end up with service businesses that generate little sales tax revenue.