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Larry Rosenstein
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Here's a more complete summary of the flaws in Zoom and what you can do to protect yourself:
The agenda item is for the City of Pacifica to send a letter to Caltrans asking it to redirect the funds allocated for widening Highway 1 to other infrastructure in town.
Toggle Commented May 19, 2017 on Pacifica City Council: Fix Highway 1 at RIPTIDE
Dan: The money you're talking about (~$73K) was not from the hotel tax; it was from the separate Business Improvement District (BID) funds. The BID assessment is $1/room/night, while the hotel tax is 12% of the room rate, and totals at least 10X that amount. The BID money does go to the chamber, but the hotel tax goes into the city's general fund. Back when the chamber operated an actual visitor center that was open when people were interested in visiting (e.g., weekends), the city gave the chamber tens of thousands of dollars from the general fund. That was cut back over the years, and I haven't kept track of the city's budget closely enough to know if the city still gives the chamber anything.
Most of the property is designated as Open Space Residential, which requires a minimum of 5 acres per house; the rest is Very Low Density Residential, which requires 1/2 to 5 acres. In addition, it's in the Hillside Preservation District, which limits the site coverage to 6 acres. This restricts the development to the approved 12 units, and I believe it would require a General Plan amendment to change that.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2017 on HARMONY @ 1 HOUSING PROJECT DEFAULTS at RIPTIDE
The Office of Special Counsel wrote an advisory opinion in 2009 answering the question about when a nonpartisan election becomes partisan:
There are two glaring issues with this application. Figure 2 of the restoration plan is inconsistent with the development application submitted to the city. The application shows a public road from Highway 1 that cuts across part of what the restoration plan shows as wetlands, with part of the wetlands being designated as a park. It also includes a private road parallel to Highway 1 that isn't shown at all in the restoration plan. Second, the Public Notice says: "Coastal Zone Management: The project does not occur in the coastal zone, and a preliminary review by USACE indicates the project would not likely affect coastal zone resources." That is obviously false. There's no mention of the actual development that would occur right next to the restored area.
Toggle Commented Oct 14, 2016 on Quarry Public Comments (Follow-Up) at RIPTIDE
It's not a question of conflict of interest per se; it's that the Hatch Act prohibits covered federal employees from being "candidates for public office in a partisan election": Bottom of the first page. From the letter, it looks like the US Special Counsel has taken the position that if any candidate in the election is endorsed by a county political committee, then the election becomes partisan. For me, the key point is that four years ago, Mary Ann Nihart and Karen Ervin agreed to not accept an endorsement by the San Mateo County Democratic Committee so that Mary Ann could run for re-election. The computer hacking is a factor only to the extent that Mary Ann was trying to get the committee to withhold endorsements again, and the hacking prevented her from emailing them in time. Had she been able to do that, it would have deprived Deirdre Martin of the committee's endorsement. Also, at this point, her preferred outcome is for the committee to take away that endorsement.
Practically, I don't think there can be 600+ individual units, because the initiative restricts the housing to a designated part of the site. (But I could easily see the developer try to get a few more than 206.) The important takeaway is that the initiative is poorly drafted and doesn't even define something as simple as what kind of housing units it covers.
Toggle Commented Aug 3, 2016 on Quarry Initiative Numbers Racket at RIPTIDE
Ian: In one sense, this is about approving housing, since that's the only reason why a public vote is needed. The initiative establishes limits on the size of the project that correspond to the concept the developer is proposing. For the housing component, that means no more than 206 units, of which at least 25 are live/work and the rest apartments, with 20% affordable. Also, the housing is limited to a designated area. The net effect is to give the city the ability to approve any project that fits those limits without a subsequent vote. But it doesn't mean that the project the developer is proposing is what will get built. In particular, there's no requirement in the initiative to build the hotel or commercial space. (There's only a maximum size for these pieces.) Because of that, there's no way to know what the ultimate financial benefit would be. Most of the revenue would come from the hotel tax, but the amount depends on the number/price of the rooms and the occupancy level. (Is there enough demand for hotel rooms, given the Holiday Inn expansion?) Since there's no longer a redevelopment area, the city wouldn't get much benefit from property taxes, and the revenue from sales taxes is hard to predict without knowing what businesses occupy the space. (In the adjacent Rockaway Beach area, a lot of the businesses are services that don't generate sales taxes.) One concern I have is whether the terms used in the initiative are specific enough. For example, exactly what is a "live/work unit" and a "hotel bungalow"? Election Code section 9212 allows the city to prepare a report on the effect of the initiative. In 2006, the city gave people a chance to submit questions that were answered by the report, and I would like to see something similar done this time as well.
Toggle Commented Mar 21, 2016 on Quarry Initiative on November Ballot? at RIPTIDE
A large part of the open space is dedicated to mitigation wetlands, which the developer is using to help pay for the project. It's a reasonable idea, since it means the development is smaller, but it also means that those areas will be off-limits to people and pets. Also, with a smaller development, the potential tax revenue to the city will be smaller. My back-of-the-envelope guess is that it would be $1.5 million to $2 million, most of which comes from the 200 hotel rooms. I would hope the developer doesn't try for the November ballot. The deadline for submitting initiatives is only about four months away, which isn't enough time to nail down more of the details and do any kind of environmental studies.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2016 on Rockaway Quarry Again a Battleground at RIPTIDE
Deutsche Bank is the trustee, but it doesn't own the buildings. The lease agreement is between the City of Pacifica and the City of Pacifica Financing Authority, which is another of those cases where the City Council acts as a separate agency. This is described on page 10. The financing authority assigns its rights under the lease agreement to the trustee (page 11), which generally means that the lease money goes to Deutsche Bank for distribution to the holders of the certificates. But in case the city defaults on its obligations, Deutsche Bank as the trustee could re-let the property (page 46). Also, this agreement wasn't done in secret; it was a consideration item at the June 23, 2008 meeting, and the main purpose was to convert to a fixed interest rate: According to Wikipedia, the purpose of these agreements is to provide financing without requiring a bond, which would require a vote. Doing this obscures the city's debt situation, but the decision to do this goes back to at least 2006, when the city did have a finance director.
Toggle Commented Mar 15, 2016 on Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap at RIPTIDE
The city already has to administer the TOT tax funds, and I doubt that adding the BID tax requires much extra work beyond writing the check to the Chamber of Commerce. As for why the hotels don't do it themselves, it's probably simpler to do this as a BID tax, rather than have the hotels collect and manage the funds.
Toggle Commented Mar 6, 2016 on Surprise: Too Much Information at RIPTIDE
The rest of the amount that Dan mentioned comes from check #28787 ($706.54) for something called "CA EMPLOYER POSTERS". From what I read, the hotels vote on whether to continue the BID tax, and if they didn't find the Chamber of Commerce management fee worthwhile, they could decide to discontinue it or complain to City Council about the fee. As for whether this is public money, the agenda packet for the 5/27/14 council meeting says: "Mayor Nihart thought it would help if the City Attorney or City Manager could give a brief explanation about how a BID works, because it sometimes sounds like it’s our money but it isn’t. It is money that the hotels, with the Chamber, have chosen to tax their guests." The same packet also has a report from the chamber on what it does with the money.
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2016 on Surprise: Too Much Information at RIPTIDE
For more background on the project, look at the original draft EIR available here: In particular, compare the original Project Description document to the new scoping document to see how drastically it has changed. It's normal practice in cases such as this to prepare a supplemental EIR. It will be important to insist on studying most of the same environmental issues again (e.g., traffic, aesthetics) since the original EIR is almost 10 years old. I read elsewhere (I believe it was the notice for the study session) that the density transfer is permanent, so whatever concessions were made for that are out the window. Otherwise, the entitlements expired, so I don't think there are any conditions of approval to be jettisoned in this case. But the project will have to adhere to the current development rules (e.g., green building ordinance). The Planning Commission agendas from this time are archived on the city's website, so if someone remembers exactly when it came up for discussion, it would be possible to find the right agenda and get some additional information from that.
Toggle Commented Oct 28, 2015 on Nightmare Prospects: Fight Fassler FUBAR at RIPTIDE
Direct from Lorie Tinfow: "Our other funds -- 24 to be exact -- are 'special', mostly because the source of the funds has strings attached as to how the money is spent. We keep these outside the General Fund so we can properly track the accounting activity individually."
According to an article in the Chronicle a couple of weeks ago, Pacifica has the lowest police staffing in the Bay Area among cities with more than 25,000 people: 1 employee per 1,052 residents per capita.
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.