Measure T, the Nov. 5 ballot measure for a tunnel at Devil's Slide, gained its first but probably not last official vote of support from a San Mateo County governmental body Tuesday night when the Half Moon Bay City Council voted 3-1 to endorse it.
"I think the residents who put this measure together have literally climbed a very steep mountain, just like they have climbed Montara Mountain," said Councilwoman Carol Cupp, who voted with Mayor Debbie Ruddock and Councilman Dennis Coleman for the endorsement.
Councilman Jerry Donovan said he believes a tunnel is the best solution, but does not support closing off other alternatives and voted no. Councilwoman Naomi Patridge was absent from the meeting.
Unlike many Devil's Slide discussions, Tuesday night's was comparatively mild with only two members of the public speaking, one for and one against.
Martini Creek Bypass supporter Ed Stoehr said he believes Measure T "is the biggest con to hit the coast since the railroad sold small lots" at the turn of the century that people have still not been allowed to build on.
"This initiative simply blocks other alternatives," he said, stressing that funding has not been guaranteed to build a tunnel if Measure T passes.
Mid-Coast Councilman Jim Marsh, speaking for himself, urged the endorsement, saying Measure T "is a growth-control measure" necessary to prevent Montara Mountain from turning into another Highway 17 in Santa Cruz and the coast into the mega-city envisioned by planners five decades ago.
As for the City Council, the endorsement came easily for the three-member majority _ Ruddock is a signatory rebutting a ballot argument against Measure T. They discounted the unresolved funding question, saying that Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, whose district includes Devil's Slide, would find a way to fund a tunnel's construction.
"The tunnel has momentum and support of over 34,000 people in the county, including 6,000 on the Coastside," Cupp noted. "That's almost our entire voting population."
But Donovan struggled with his vote.
"My gut feeling is if I want something permanent done, I would have to support the tunnel," he said. "I like the safety part (of a tunnel). They answered my question 100 percent on that (with a double-bore tunnel)."
But Donovan said he is deeply concerned about the possible loss of $52 million now set aside for the bypass and the nebulous funding situation surrounding a tunnel.
He also said he does not believe Measure T is an example of voter control because tunnel supporter Chris Thollaug told him last week that if the measure fails, tunnel supporters intend to sue to stop the bypass. That echoes a similar statement by fellow tunnel supporter Zoe Kersteen-Tucker at a chamber of commerce forum last week.
"So there is no voter control," Donovan said. But, he added, if Measure T passes, "I will be one of the first there to get funding for it. Don't think there isn't any support here."
Other governmental bodies are considering taking positions on the measure. The matter is to be considered tonight by the San Mateo County Harbor Commission, and by the Mid-Coast Council at its Oct. 9 meeting. (The Mid-Coast Council held a tunnel forum last week. See story page 8A.) The Pacifica City Council will consider taking a position at its Oct. 28 meeting.