Half Moon Bay Review, May 22, 1996

Carol Cupp

The staff of the Half Moon Bay Review interviewed the three candidates for Half Moon Bay City Council. The newspaper is presenting each candidate's answers. Last week John Maness was profiled. This week Carol Cupp is profiled. David Mier will follow next week. Following publication of Mier's profile, all three interviews will be posted from May 23 until election day on the Review's Web Site at: http://www/montara.com/HMBReview/HMBReview.html/elections.html

Any opening remarks about why you are a candidate?

I feel my candidacy is just a result of a continued involvement in the community. It's just the next step?

What are some of the previous steps you've taken and previous involvement?

They started out with neighborhood issues and public safety, working with the city and moved from there to ordinances, such as the abandoned vehicle ordinance. Then went on to Measure A to various elections, Measure G, saving the blufftops and then the North Wavecrest referendum.

What kind of involvement?

For the referendum I walked various neighborhoods getting signatures, and then I actually took out fliers and was involved in discussion groups sort of behind the scenes.

What made you decide to run for City Council?

"I was the only candidate that interviewed and was nominated during the appointment process. After working very hard on the November election and having the success that we did, when Larry Patterson resigned I basically saw it as an opportunity to get involved, and of course that was partly due to fact that Mayor Ruddock suggested that I run too.

Would you run again in November 1997 if you are elected?

Probably.

What about Devil's Slide? Do you support the tunnel, the bypass?

I've really put myself in a position where I'm very anxious to see the tunnel study. I've been recently reviewing some literature on the tunnel. I like the idea of a less interfering alternative than the bypass. Basically, I'm very pro-permanent repair of Highway 1 because I don't feel the community can tolerate another situation like we had (in 1995).

You had suggested not necessarily a tunnel or bypass, but fixing the road as it is.

Permanent repair of it, my concern is can we stabilize the current road and I don't think that's very realistic. I personally love the road the way it is, but that's not realistic for the community. I don't think we can put ourselves in a position to always be concerned that one of our main arteries will be closed.

So a repair of the existing road is out?

"I don't think it's realistic unless they can come up with some new plan. At the time we spoke before there was someone who had come forward that thought that drainage was the issue. But I understand that recently they are having another section of the road that is falling away. . . . It seems like the road is getting smaller and smaller.

There's been some questions whether it is wise to have the tunnel initiative vote before you have the study. Do you feel it was wise to put the initiative on the ballot before you have the results of the study?

No, I think they need the results of the study before the vote. That's why I spoke at the City Council meeting to encourage the council to do what they could to encourage that that study be completed. Even (Rep.) Anna Eshoo is very supportive of that."

What about another big issue in town, North Wavecrest? Now that that was voted down last November what do you want to see in North Wavecrest and how would you see that it was implemented.

"The biggest concern I have is that the city look at the area as a pristine area that should attract certainly the best alternatives for land use. We should not look at it as blighted land as it was before. I think that we could certainly attract a lot of options as far as creative plans. I'm not an architect or planner so we kind of have to go to the experts. But I think that people would be willing to submit plans . . . whatever they think would be a good use. That's a huge amount of acreage."

The people had an alternative before and they didn't like it. If that's one alternative what's an alternative that's acceptable in your eyes?

"I think that the best alternative, truthfully, for North Wavecrest would be to do like we did before, to give voters an option. But I don't know if that's very realistic. We first need to come up with a plan and maybe have them vote on it. Certainly what I would like to see, one of the things that we've talked about before, is first of all light industry, A business park I think would be an excellent choice for that land. The second would be an area for therapists to be out there. We have a huge amount of therapists that are working downtown. In fact, I just spoke to one yesterday who mentioned that he takes his clients out for walks. They go out on the bluffs for walks and that's part of their therapy. It would be really conducive to that sort of . . .

What were your problems with the (North Wavecrest) plan as it was presented?

"There were several things I didn't like, but the main thing I didn't like was 750 homes. I don't think residential development is what we need to increase right now.

Do you see any residential development out there taking place?

"I think a small amount. I think around 200."

You had mentioned light industry. That's an idea that's been floated a number of times. What type of industry?

"Companies like Odwalla and Passport Designs, software companies. There are hundreds of companies out there and I think we've sort of missed an opportunity to have companies come here because we haven't stressed the huge labor pool and talent we have on the coast. We have lots of people living here who are commuting over the hill. Why not have them work here as well as live. I think that more and more people are thinking of that as an alternative. I do think we need to attract businesses. I don't think we've done a very good job. I think we've concentrated our efforts more on attracting tourists."

When you say businesses, you're talking about light industry?

"Right. Companies, environmentally sound. We certainly don't want anything that's going to be polluting the air.

Do you think that the city has a business friendly reputation?

"I've never seen very many ideas explored as far as companies go because they've all been visitor-serving type ideas. If you go out of Half Moon Bay you get people's perspective on Half Moon Bay and they see us as sort of a resort type area and that's not the kind of area people think of putting their business in because they think there's going to be a high cost to the land. I think that's why when the consultant that they employed to look at the North Wavecrest area, when they looked at the economic feasibility they said `Oh, this isn't really economically feasible. One of their reasons was because there was not a sufficient labor pool. I disagree with that completely. I know just for myself in applying for jobs, and women that I know and men who would much prefer to be working on the coast. It would work. A lot of moms would stay home because they know that commute over the hill makes it unfeasible.

Overall, would you characterize the city as business-friendly?

"No, I don't think they've been business-friendly. I don't think they've even explored the area. I think it's something we haven't placed any attention on."

The city focuses its efforts toward visitor-serving, that's what the Land Use Plan focuses upon as well, and that's what the Coastal Commission has decided the coast should be as well.

"The Land Use Plan is very residential."

It envisions 20,000 people here in town. Is that an acceptable number?

"I think if you looked at the picture of how much housing (there would be) if everything is built, you'd see a huge imbalance of residential housing development. We would be basically a suburb, and I think that's going to put a negative impact upon our city resources and services _ that we have no financial revenue to support unless we have lots and lots of hotels."

How do you feel about the Land Use Plan? Do you think the Land Use Plan is relevent in today's Half Moon Bay?

"I feel the current Land Use Plan is inconsistent with the views of the residents. I think the voters have clearly said that they want limited residential growth and the Land Use Plan was developed in the 80s. . . . There's a very small amount of people that have really been involved when you talk about public input and City Council meetings. The amount of people that go to those meetings is really quite small, so you can't say that's representative of the city. Who's been running the city has been who's been on the City Council and the Planning Commission up to this point. We're talking about 10 individuals.

"I think the demographics of Half Moon Bay have changed dramatically in the past 10 years and I don't think that a lot of our visions from 10 years ago are the same as they are now."

How have they changed?

"First, I think we were sort of an agricultural area and saw, oh, we have this opportunity to be sort of a touristy area. And then people said, `Wow, but we can make a lot of money by selling off all this land that we have and building homes,' and we headed off in that direction. Now, once people are here and we've got a pretty good population and the home values are not as low as they used to be you're sort of attracting maybe a different type of people that are moving into the homes. Middle class, white collar labor."

There's been a lot of criticism of that as NIMBYism. Do you think that is a fair criticism?

"I don't think that anyone really feels that way. I think that most of us just feel there has to be some limitation because the reasons we moved here are going to be destroyed if we allow it to be built up like San Mateo. When you talk about closing the door, I have no problem with people moving here, but do we have to build more homes so that people have brand new homes instead of buying the current ones that are already here."

What rights do landowners have to utilize their property and if property has been zoned for a particular use since 1986 would it be fair to come in at this point and rezone it to a less intense use?

"It would have to be up to the voters to do that. But I do think the City Council certainly cannot go in and change the Land Use Plan now if that would just open us up to legal problems."

"I do think there is a need (to change the Land Use Plan). I would support it if that's what the voters voted."

How would that process work?

"Hard to say. I'm not exactly sure how that would work. If the City Council would come up with it. I don't know if they necessarily need to be involved.

It would be an initiative-type of arrangement then?

"I think so."

Conversely, what rights do residents have to control development?

"You mentioned about property rights. I feel that people have property rights and I'm not going to tell anyone how they can use their property except if it impacts the rest of the community. I think at that point, anyone that's developing needs to pay or do their part for the impact that they have on a community."

You say "When it impacts a community." At what point does that take place and what then are the city's rights?

"Depending on how large the development is, what they're planning to do, I think that they need to look at the ramifications of that development. Certainly, in North Wavecrest if we said to the developers `You have pay for your sewer and water and roads to be built, and you also have to give us traffic mitigation so that we can enlarge the roads to handle the additional traffic,' it's not going to be as attractive to them. Or if it is, at least the city won't be suffering financially."

Those were the plans in North Wavecrest. They just didn't go far enough in getting the mitigations that were necessary for that project?

"I had said earlier there were several problems in North Wavecrest. The second one being that it was using redevelopment, putting the city in a position that they were then financially responsible for the project which I felt was definitely a negative. There were certainly no guarantees. What we were voting for was even something of a misnomer in that we weren't voting for 750 homes and a golf course. We were giving him a green light to do whatever he wanted. I felt it was giving too much power to the redevelopment agency.

"More and more we see leadership by initiative. Where does the council come in and say this is what we think is right and this is what we're going to do. Is that a role of the council, or is the council just putting together plans and then letting them go to voters.

"I don't think it's that black and white, but certainly we've had five initiatives and they've all been successful. The voters, residents, here do have the right to have a voice. The voice that comes to meetings is not very realistic. It's not representative of all the people out there, so it's a good alternative to use initiatives. But on the same respect, the council has to have enough leadership to know at what point they have to make a decision."

"I think that the role of the council people needs to be that they're representing the people and have to have a pretty good ear to the ground to know what residents really want. Unfortunately, since Half Moon Bay has incorporated, they've had their ear to the developer. They've got the money and basically, I feel, have listened to those promises rather than to the residents. It's only been recently that we've got a large amount of residents that the leadership has finally said maybe we should listen to our residents."

There's a pretty big split right now in terms of a 2-2 council, but even in the political factions in town. How do you propose we go about healing that?

I don't think the split is as big as people make it out to be. I do think it's a difference in vision. I still think everyone has the best interests for Half Moon Bay; they just have a different vision as to how we get there."

You say it's a different vision and yet the accusations are that people people are cowtowing or taking bribes from developers. That's not a vision question, that's a question of ethics. There have been ethics charges leveled against people, not vision questions.

"I certainly haven't made those accusations in any discussions I've had, especially in terms of what's been done by the Planning Commission, or previous councils. It's just that we can look out our front door and see what kinds of things they've done. It's fact. If we just look around and say `Gee, do we like what we see?'

You (had) a sign down at Cheaper! that says `Tip the balance in favor of us.' Who is the us?

"Residents."

All residents or just residents who believe in the things you believe in?

"I think all residents. I think that all residents like Half Moon Bay for the same reasons I like it. I've talked to other people that `were on the other side,' people who voted for Measure I and were heavy supporters of it. Their only reason they supported it was that they felt it was a good deal. It wasn't that they wanted 750 homes. They just felt it was the best deal we were going to get. I don't think it's black and white. They still come over Highway 92 and experience the same thing that I do in that, Wow this is a slow-paced community. They feel this different feeling being in Half Moon Bay than they do over the hill. They don't want Half Moon Bay to be like over the hill. I think all of us would agree to that."

Who is them?

"The only thing I see as being on the other side is the developers. I think that too often the developers have had our attention."

You're going to need developers if you're going to develop light industry?

"But you work with those developers. You don't just let them come in. It's like what we used to allow people to do to the forrest, just come in destroy them and leave you with nothing. There's a difference. You can come in and log correctly or you can take everything."

"There's ways the city can take control of what is designed and built. I was reading the article about the fire station. They say `Jeez, it's not very attractive, not very pleasing.' There are towns that have decided there's a certain structure or architecture they want to have throughout their town. Do you want to build a Jack in the Box, you can build a Jack in the Box, but it's going to conform."

Do you like the Taco Bell in Pacifica? That was built to a ceratin architectural style, but it's still a Taco Bell on the bluffs?

"That's right. They had to conform to a wood structure, but at least it's not . . . It could be a lot worse for a Taco Bell. I came from a very small town that didn't want fast food at all. The first fast food place was Jack in the Box. The Jack in the Box still had to have the tiled roof and look like the rest of the shopping areas. They still went in. They weren't allowed the big sign, the drive thru. There's ways you can at least compromise."

What are the top three priorities that you would like to see the city make happen?

"Probably within the next 18 months the top priority should be, well we have the goals and objectives laid out before us. One of the big things is establishing and trying to fund a Coastside park. I've been involved on the task force on that. The second thing is coming up with a plan for North Wavecrest. The third thing is the sewer expansion.

What about it?

"We're just putting it out to bid. We don't know if it's going to come back higher or lower, and if it does come in higher what do we do? I think we've still got some decisions to make."

Do you support the expansion as it's been approved and going forward at this point?

"I would say with the more recent cost-cutting measures we've done. It's something you have to constantly work with."

Do you support the current capacity that would be built into the plant?

"I think it's a bit much, but I know they are very concerned with not having to do this again so I see both sides of it. Part of me says, gee, would you build an eight-bedroom house just in case you might have more children, when you know, in fact, you're not going to have more children. We're sort of in a Catch-22 with the sewer expansion. We've already spent all this money to design it one way and at this point to go back it's really like our hands are tied. My feeling is we might as well go ahead with the way it is, because if we back out now we're looking at fines."

Why does the city need to come up with a plan for North Wavecrest? Isn't that something that the developer should do?

"The city should be in the driver's seat. That's been the problem all along. If we truly want to keep it a redevelopment project, then it's up to the city.

Do you want to keep it a redevelopment project?

"I think we need to look at alternatives both ways."

Doesn't redevelopment, as you said, put the city in financial risk?

"No, that was only because it was a residential development. Redevelopment can be a very useful tool. But you just need to be extremely careful with that amount of power.

What about the Police Department. It's got problems in terms of turnover, personnel. What's the problem and what would you do to fix it?

"First of all, the city manager has been tasked with doing an operational study. I haven't seen the results of that study."

As a council member aren't you in charge of ensuring that it runs smoothly?

"It's not my job to make sure the Police Department runs smoothly. No. The council people are elected to oversee the Police Department, but you've got to remember we've got several levels in between the council and the Police Department. I think that the first step is getting this operational study, looking at the results of that and then making decisions from that. But I feel the situation is under control. We have a current council person who is a police officer, understands . . . "

So do you feel there is a problem in the Police Department?

"I feel the high turnover is an issue. It concerns me that we have basically low-experienced people, but I've talked to the police chief in person and he's told me that we're starting to hire people with more experience and we've got full staff. They now have gotten their numbers back up where they should be."

Is there a need to increase the size of the Police Department?

"That would be up to the police chief. Personally, as many cop cars as I see driving up the street I don't think we need to increase it."

What should be allowed to be developed on the undeveloped property to the north of the Conservatory, the one that is proposed for the 32 additional rooms? Is that something you would like to see there?

"What's being proposed is another substantial building like Phase I, and that's really going to impact the scenic corridor."

What should be done with that property and how do you propose to pay for the land if you don't want to do what the landowner wants to do?

"The biggest thing with any project is we need to look at all the impacts of the project. I don't think we should restrict beach access. I think we do need to be aware of ocean views because that is going to affect land values in that area."

"The fact is we have this wonderful ocean view. Our town is named after Half Moon Bay. We should be able to see that Half Moon Bay shape. We shouldn't have it lined with condos. That certainly isn't my idea or vision for the future of Half Moon Bay?

There are certain areas of the coast that have been designated for development. One of those areas was that around the hotel you would see hotel development. Do you think that the LCP or the Coastal Act needs to be readdressed?

"Most definitely. If you go up around San Francisco and (the Great Highway), all those condos were built on the other side of the highway, so you still have the protection of the beachfront. When you fly up and down the coast of California you see various aspects of beachfront development.

"If you look at the problems they've had in Southern California. You end up with a big storm, how do you present disaster. Being sort of environmentally conscious my concern when they started building the hotel was what if they had a sewer break. Then we'd have a whole harbor full of raw sewage. Any number of things going wrong that could now cause a problem being that close to the water."

What was your first reaction when you heard about the Conservatory fire?

"My first reaction was that it was like an April Fools joke. My second reaction was who was responsible , sort of disbelief that it could happen. But yet at the time I wasn't surprised. I know that probably sounds contradictory, but it's something that I think all of us looked at that and said `I wouldn't be a bit surprised if someone burns it down,' but not thinking it would ever really happen."

"A lot of people were concerned about the loss to the owner of the property and what a terrible thing, but on the same side they said, `Geez, it's better for us.' That's the way they looked at it."

Do you think it's better for you?

"People were just glad to see it gone and they weren't agreeing with the way it was done. It was just that they were so unhappy with the project that they just felt, not that in any means they would condone burning it down, just that somebody had done it and `Oh gee, now we have our views back and now we can see how nice it was without it' "

Do you feel better off with the hotel not there or do you appreciate that the view has been restored?

"Well, I appreciate the view, but when I went out to look at it, it was quite a sight. It wasn't a pretty sight. It was almost like having an opportunity to have something built and then be taken away and then you go, `Now which do we like better. Now we really see what the difference is with or without.' So many times in life when something happens you want to, it's like, that was just a video right? Can I hit rewind and go back. We got to go back. And I think that people are appreciating that opportunity, per se, as a way to go back and relook at the situation. I know the developer doesn't feel that way. I do think this is an opportunity, if he is willing . . . if he comes to us and is open to discussing a redesign. But that's going to be up to him. That's not up to us."

Do you think that sends a mixed message?

"I think that got misconstrued. I don't think that was the way that it was thought about. It was just thought that gee, maybe we did make a mistake and now that we're going to have to rebuild this project maybe we could make some modifications to it to make it more attractive to the community because I really feel that the owner is setting himself up for future problems. Not to say someone else is going to burn it down again. Just think about it. How are we all going to feel even if the project is completed. Do you think anyone's ever going to like it? How attractive is the project going to be to other people coming to buy into hotel rooms when they know the community is very unhappy with the project. I just see himself setting himself up for a lot of vandalism problems and what are you going to have, an armed gate around the place and security guards all the time. I would think it would be common sense just to come up with something more in line."

Have you then not acceded to the rule of anarchy rather than the law? Is it then responsible to react to that than to try and change the source of the problem?

"It's kind of a double edged sword. First of all, I don't think it was the residents that burned the hotel down. I think it was the overall talk and it fell upon ears that decided to do something about it, that didn't have the correct judgment to know that this was not the right thing to do."

In the future then he may resort to vandalism, for example, that's going to be from residents.

"Again, there's going to be this general unease about the project and all I'm saying is that filters down.

If there's a general unease about the project, and yet the project is legal is it not them incumbent upon those who feel the unease to modify their position?

"To me, if I were in his seat I would be willing to say `Gee, maybe we've made a mistake here. Maybe we could look at some other alternatives. Maybe we could be a little more environmentally friendly. The climate's changed a bit."

The Conservatory would generate about $173,000 a year in transient occupancy taxes per year. Do you have any priorities for spending that money?

"Of course, depending on how much that money is we're currently in a deficit in our city budget. So we can't be looking at spending any more than we have. We've been dipping into our (Public Employee Retirement System) reserves."

What most qualifies you to be a council member?

"I have the time. I have the energy. I have the determination, and the experience with my involvement in the community. I feel I'm objective."

At the beginning of this race before any of the candidates even declared to run, you and John had been talking back and forth about `I'm interested. Are you interested?' and it was on a fairly friendly basis. There suddenly seems . . . that it's taken a change in that John would no longer represent, but is the candidate who's been financed by Ocean Colony and developers. Do you think that's a fair characterization of this race?

"Pretty much. He's made it very well known that he's backed by Mike Ferreira and I think that we know Mike Ferreira's past experiences. He was very pro-Measure B, very anti-Measure A, and that is in direct conflict with what John is stating on his candidate's statement. That he would support Measure A to the end. And then he goes on another statement and says he's wavering. He doesn't want the slow-growth faction of the city to have control of the City Council, so he obviously doesn't see himself in that section. So I see contradictory statements being made and I feel that his reasons behind that may not be because he honestly feels that way, but just for other reasons _ whatever it takes to win. I don't think that gives us the kind of person on the council we can trust."

What about David Mier? How would you characterize him?

"Dave has 16 years on the Planning Commission. If you like what we've seen so far, you want to vote for Dave Mier. It's just that simple. I think his behavior at the Planning Commission recently is another reflection of how he would handle the City Council."

"The reason I wouldn't support John Maness, and I told him this in our friendly discussions, was that he is a former city employee who left on terms I don't think were necessarily good. The same police chief still exists. It's almost like a conflict of interest in my view. I think his views and his decision-making would not be objective in any police matters."

"Why didn't he two or three years ago come forth with what was really happening. Why didn't he do anything about it. Why did he just leave, basically. He just basically turned his back and got very discouraged trying to fight the system per se and walked away from the whole thing."


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