Half Moon Bay Review, May 22, 1996

David Mier

Why did you decide to run for City Council?

"Because I did not see any candidates coming forward that I could support. It's a real simple answer. I've always found in the past I could find candidates I could support."

So is this something you're really interested in then, or something you feel needs doing? It doesn't sound like that was your first choice, to run?

"No, it wasn't my first choice. However, I have had what I consider to be the best interests of Half Moon Bay at heart for close to 25 years. When it's become necessary I've become involved. I'm just going to attempt to increase my involvement.

What were you looking for in a candidate that you didn't see a candidate you felt could represent Half Moon Bay?

"Somebody that is reasonable, articulate, that is intelligent, has no vested interest by gaining membership of any political organizations."

What do you think you bring to it that makes you the kind of candidate you were looking for?

"I lack one of those reasons. I am not necessarily as articulate as I would look for in another candidate."

Let's talk about vested interest in political groups.

"I have never belonged to political groups. I have never belonged to an organization that has only espoused one point of view."

And yet your image in town is of being clearly associated with one side of the two-sided political debate in town. Why is that?

"I believe society has reached a point where unless there is 100 percent support, not consensus, that you become their enemy and you're perceived to be against them. So when there is consensus on an issue, even though there may not be 100 percent support for it, then you're labeled being on the side that even though the consensus was there, the minority continues to label you being against them.

"Developers, over 15 years of being on the Planning Commission, don't like to come in front of me. . . . I'm on the record . . . I did not like that hotel (the Conservatory), but you've got balance. I've been labeled Old Guard. The new people who have come to this town . . . came here because they liked Half Moon Bay. Who made Half Moon Bay what they liked. Who in 1972 when this town was in a shambles, when Main Street was dying, created what is here today. Not the new people. The, quote, Old Guard? No. Old Guard is the wrong term as far as I'm concerned. It's not a political group. It's a people who've been here. Who've put their effort into this town and made this town what it is."

You've said in the past that as a planning commissioner your responsibility is to implement the laws that are on the books. And yet you've been on the commission 15 years. Isn't there more that you could have done to affect city policy than to just serve on a commission that implemented rules you didn't agree with?

"Sure. But you can't make it happen. Let's go to an example that I have a reputation for almost all those 15 years of fighting. Parking. I've implemented and tried to adhere to the parking ordinance. It goes all the way back to Bob Mascall and the Tin Barn where it all started. I told Bob, `These are the rules. I'm not going to stand up there and bend the rules because you don't happen to like it. Go change the rules. The Planning Commission turns down an applicant who can't supply the parking and the applicant appeals. That puts the pressure on the City Council."

As a planning commissioner, are you happy with the policies on the books? Do you feel they are sufficient?

"Obviously, this only has to do with zoning laws because that's all a planning commissioner deals with. The zoning laws are based on the LCP. The LCP was written basically in 1979, even though it took four rewrites of it before it was approved in 1985. There are things within it which need to be changed. However, until the city and the City Council give the direction, and city staff are given the direction to complete the implementation you couldn't change it. And it took them 10 years to change it. I screamed and yelled individually at Fred Mortenson, Les Clark Allen Parker and Mark Weiss (all former city officials), `Quit dragging your feet. Get the implementation done. Give the city back its permit authority. Then you can start to make some changes.'

What things do you think need changing?

"I think the chamber a couple years ago brought forward some suggested changes in land use designations on properties that are currently zoned (Planned Unit Development). I think some of those need to be changed. I think maybe the whole concept of the PUD needs to be looked at. Especially PUDs where there is multiple ownership. Every one of those is going to create a monster just like North Wavecrest."

What would you consider acceptable to be developed in North Wavecrest?

"I have nothing specific in mind. Honestly, I do not. Whatever is put in there, a city can plan and draw up a plan and put it in writing and say this is the law. But the city cannot implement anything. It takes private people, landowners to make something happen. You can take North Wavecrest and say we want very few homes down there, we want senior housing and that's all we want. It's never going to happen because economically the people who own the land can't do it."

What then do feel would be a good economic fit for the land that meets landowners' desires but is also something that the city wants to see?

"I think you need commercial recreation. The existing plan says there will be an RV park, or something like that. You maybe bring in some type of industry to generate taxes. I don't believe software companies, people like Odwalla bring one dime in income to the city at all. I've said this to other people. Everybody's jumping up and down because Odwalla moved to Half Moon Bay. What did Odwalla bring to the City of Half Moon Bay? They moved into an existing building, so they created no more property tax. They sell nothing here, so they create no sales tax. What do they bring? Nothing. Not one dime you can identify in hard cash to the coffers of the city."

So for an industry that generates taxes you're mostly talking about visitor-serving?

"That's exactly what we're back to."

So some visitor-serving use of (North Wavecrest) is appropriate?

"To me I think so. The direction that this town has gone. In the writing of the LCP, it supports one thing and one thing only. We have got to become a tourist-oriented economy. That is what has made Main Street viable."

Do you agree with that orientation in the LCP?

"Yes, I think I do. I said this four and a half years ago. City's across the country build things to attract people. Anaheim built Disneyland, Orlando, Florida, built Disney World. Six flags in Texas because it draws people and creates tax dollars. This city doesn't have to build anything to attract people. They've got the biggest visitor-serving attraction in the world. It's called the Pacific Ocean and you can't make it go away. It's there and you can't get rid of it so you have to take advantage of it. So your benefit's gotta come from visitor-serving."

There's a perception in town that developers have always gotten an easy ride. Do you feel that is still the case?

"I will agree that in the past, and I will go back a long way, this city did not get probably what it should have gotten. I think in the last six years that they have. There's only problem with that. You can't it. Dykstra Ranch is creating two parks, one private, one public. But Dykstra Ranch isn't built because we don't have Foothill Boulevard and we don't have sewer capacity. Foothill Boulevard is going to be paid for like 70 percent, by Dykstra Ranch, but it's not there because we don't have the infrastructure to support it. The development down from Dykstra Ranch, that creates another road all the way out to the highway (that) links to Foothill Boulevard. It goes all the way out to the highway and it gives the city, if you look at the traffic master plan that was created, a light where you can block off Kehoe, go across to the inner drive and have a four-way signal at Highway 1 and give it a loop around. That's been extracted from the developers. But you don't see it because the infrastructure's not here so they can't build it.

"Let's look at Bob Marchant. What was extracted from Bob overall.

A fire truck?

"Voluntary. It was not required. Bob called up and said I'll give you 10 percent . . . The Coastal Trail. From the harbor to Mirada Road was his responsibility. He had to do it. Three-hundred and fifteen thousand dollars for a water system. There was no fire protection on that side of the highway. Bob put it together, got it done. Paid for it.

"So yes we now are extracting what is due from a developer."

You say that we're now extracting from developers what other cities did 20 years ago. The people who were on the City Council over the past 20 years were largely really good friends of yours. Could you not have helped convince them?

"Do you always agree with all of your friends? Naomi and I don't agree now on parking and we fought for years about it. We're friends. People want to label us together. We disagree.

"For a long time this was an old town, this was a sleepy town. A bunch of people got together, they created the city and everybody was friends with each other. There were guys coming in here who lived here, were building houses because they needed houses. They didn't want to stick it to them. They were building houses for $25,000 and making $400 a house and being happy. The people who were elected were their friends and neighbors. They had grown up with them and they didn't want to stick big fees on them. That's what happened and it carried forward. Hindsight is wonderful, and there was a tendency to take care of your own. But that's what was here. Take care of your own. Westinghouse came to town; promises were made. They were trusted as if they were people who had been here all their lives. They promised a hotel (in Ocean Colony) after 250 homes, and then it gets bumped to 300, and then it just fell away and it never happened. Promises were broken. I think that's what brought about the change and the council people started to look and said we need to do something about what we're not getting. It was an evolution. The Coastside, up until recently, has always been 10 years behind the rest of the world. It was 10 years behind the rest of the world when I moved here in 1972."

The Land Use Plan calls for buildout in the city of about 20,000. Should the city look at cutting down on that number?

"Understand history, an ungraded history I guess. The argument made in developing the Land Use Plan the way it was, and it was a big argument with the Coastal Commission in the late 1970s and early '80s. There's 87,000 acres of open space in the mid-San Mateo County Coastside. Half Moon Bay needs to be the support center for that acreage. For the farming, the agriculture. The county said these 87,000 acres are going to stay in open space in their LCP. But you need a service center to support that type of land. That was the big argument with the Coastal Commission about the city's LCP. They wanted to take all the land and say it's prime ag. land. It took a lot of work. They said you need floriculture, so you've got to have land set aside for floriculture. Then the floriculture industry came together and said none of us are going to expand. We don't want to expand. So the argument was made that Half Moon Bay needs to become the core of the rest of the mid-Coastside.

"If you live in Half Moon Bay then you've got 87,000 acres of open space all around you. Maybe in 20 years you're not going to look out your window and see open space. When I moved here I moved into Arleta Park. I lived on Granelli Avenue and it went down to the 400 block and there was a barricade because there was no street past that. And it was open to the beach. Now you go down there and you've got Alsace Lorraine. But it was private property. The LCP took all the land that was zoned for residential and said two units per acre. That's it. Is that too much growth. I don't know. I think it's reasonable. You look at Dykstra Ranch, 114 acres, 215 homes are going to go on it. Twenty-five percent of it has to be kept in open space. Another 31 percent is an environmentally protected area. So 50 percent of that acreage stays open. Is that density too high? I don't think so."

You brought this back to density. When you have gridlock on Highway 1 coming onto the coast, when you have increasing numbers of people regardless of the density of the homes, that access to the coast is extremely limited as it is and that the more people we're adding we're going to be seeing more of that gridlock. Do you agree with that?

"If you did not build another house in Half Moon Bay and you had weather like you had (the weekend of April 27) you will have gridlock on Highway 92 and 1. Period. That is the price that you pay for living next to our Disneyland. You cannot make that go away. Without one more house the gridlock's here."

Is there an argument then that with more houses, the gridlock will occur more often, on weekdays as well as weekends?

"From a practical standpoint have you ever seen highway's built for future growth? It doesn't happen. You think about Highway 101 south of San Jose into Gilroy. It killed people big time. Blood Alley. How long did it take to get it done? It took people. Without people you're not going to get highway improvements. I'm not even touching the issue of Devil's Slide. I'm just saying the reality is if you don't put any more people here, you're not going to get the highway improvements that are needed now. Highways have always lagged behind people?

How about Devil's Slide? How would you like to see that issue resolved?

"I have a personal opinion and a political opinion. My personal opinion is that I would prefer to see the bypass built as opposed to the tunnel. I have lived in country where I have gone through tunnels. To get to Canada we used to have to go through a tunnel under the Detroit River. I have driven I don't know how many times, in the eastern United States on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where there is seven or 11 tunnels through the Appalachians. I don't like tunnels. I feel unsafe in them. I feel claustrophobic. That's my personal opinion. For the Coastside I don't really care what they build. But give us a road that's going to stay there 365 days a year through the next 50 years.

Do you think a tunnel is capable of doing that?

"Yes. With a codicil, that the engineering reports support that."

If the bypass can be done cheaper than the tunnel do you feel the environmental restraints should be considered in deciding which of the two options even though it might cost more?

"It seems to me that the environmental work has been done on the bypass for 10 years. That it has been court-tested . . . and the environmental issues have been dealt with. Is the tunnel going to create more environmental issues? Is the approach to the tunnel going to go over different land that has maybe sensitive habitat that the bypass route doesn't? I don't know.

I think that if the bypass is cheaper to construct, that the overall cost benefit in long-term maintenance and long-term operation adds to that dollar difference. PG&E right now, within the last six weeks, has told CalTrans that for the power generation they would need for ventillation only it's a $1 million a year PG&E bill. That's fact. With the amount of air that they have to move and the horsepower it takes to move it, it's a real simple calculation. It's $1 million a year at today's rates. Just for ventillation."

I think you need to look at the dollars even if the cost estimates come out equal. People don't like to pay additional taxes when they don't have to. They don't like to pay them when they do have to."

How did you stand on Mesure I? How did you vote on it?

I did not actively support Measure I. I did not actively oppose Measure I. I stayed away from Measure I. Measure I was a no-win situation. Measure I could not pass, in my opinion, because of the environment that had been created over four or five years over redevelopment in that no argument could be made to offset that picture that had been painted."

You mean by the Neighbor's Alliance?

"I didn't say that. There were other people beside the Neighborhood Alliance that painted that picture."

Was it an erroneous picture?

"In my opinion, it was an erroneous picture about redevelopment in general. I think you can point to a lot of redevelopment projects in the state of California that have been very very successful. I think if you look at what the City of San Jose has done with redevelopment that it can be a good thing. Redwood City , they've done good things with redevelopment. Redevelopment is a financing tool. It couldn't win because of the picture that was painted by the way it was presented originally, by maybe some of the players involved, city staff who did not, I think, do a good job."

What was your personal opinion of the plan that was devised?

"I thought it was a good plan. In my view it created income-generating uses for the city. It gave us a school site that this bond issue that is currently in front of us wouldn't have to pay for. It gave them an amount of money from the developer to the school district to the tune of $5 million or whatever the number was. It gave us close to a 40-acre park site which this city cannot afford to go buy, especially if you look at $6 a square foot, according to the judge. Forty acres is multi-millions of dollars. So there was a lot of pluses to it. It created 20 percent low- and moderate-income housing which is sorely needed. The people that we depend upon for services cannot live here right now."

The Police Department suffers from chronic turnover. Is there a problem in the department?

"To my knowledge, no."

So everything's running fine in the Police Department?

"To my knowledge, the problem with the Police Department is the same thing that it has been for a long time. Money.

So it's all a matter of how much the officers are being paid?

"That's my perception.

No problems with the leadership in the department?

"At the present time I'm not aware of any.

What about the past three or four years?

"Yes, there was a problem, but I think it's resolved itself. I think that problem has gone away."

Was the City Council's lack of involvement beneficial, or should the council have done something about it back when it was a problem?

"That is a very difficult question for me to answer. My perception is that a council sets policy and they hire a professional to run their operation. The only person that the City Council . . . hires and fires is their general manager.

Should the council have been more insistent with (former City Manager) Mark Weiss that he deal with the problem?

"That's correct. My personal belief is that Mark was not extremely capable in the personnel department. He couldn't handle personnel. He couldn't relate to personnel."

What should be allowed to be developed on the property to the immediate north of the Conservatory that has been proposed for a 32-room addition? Is that a good proposal? Do you want to leave the land the way it is?

"If you want to leave the land the way it is, the land has been for sale for five years with a big For Sale sign on it. Go buy it. You currently have zoning laws that were just adopted. As long as it conforms to that I find it very difficult to stop somebody. However, I will tell you a comment I made to Bob Marchant less than a month ago. `Bob, if you bring your phase two forward you better find a way to make it subterranean because that's going to be a very difficult decision for anybody to make."

But you said if he conforms to zoning laws he could build. So he could go 35 feet, one foot shorter than what he has?

"I believe he can. The challenge then becomes, what is the basis to make him alter it, to bring it down to a single level."

If you meet all the regulations you can't force someone to do something a different way can you?

"Yes you can. The regulations say, allow a maximum height, width. They are maximums. It doesn't necessarily mean it has to be that tall. So you can go that tall. The city doesn't have to allow him to go that tall.

"It's a matter of pressure and it's a matter of having the fortitude to stand there and say, `These are the reasons why.' " . . . Think about this: He's proposing another 32 rooms or 34 rooms. He currently has 54 rooms on 340 feet of frontage. There's 300 feet of frontage there in the remaining open space that he has an option on for half the units. So, logically, for half the units with the same frontage tells me you can drop the height to one story. Is one story going to be acceptable to the people in El Granada? I don't know."

Do you regret having voted for the Conservatory, given that it was three stories tall and given what we saw going up?

"If you had told me before I voted for it that it was going to be burned to the ground I might have changed my vote. You're asking me to answer a question where I have more information now than I had then. With the information I had available to me when I voted for it, I would still vote for it.

Would you vote for another three-story structure if it met all the zoning requirements?

No, probably not. Because whatever comes forward this time, the permit authority will lie with the city. There will not be the outside pressure that you're taking the man's land, which was something I saw based on the Coastal Commission dictates at that time. They said make it three stories."

How do you reconcile the rights of a landowner to develop their land and the rights of a community to say this is not what we want?

"I was educated that there were three types of rights: There was personal rights. There was property rights. And there were civil rights. Personal rights and civil rights are the same thing. Your property rights lie with the property you own. You can do what you want within the confines of the police powers of the agency that controls your piece of property. Zoning laws are police powers of the city. You cannot take away a person's right to use his land. Now, if by your police powers you have said this is what you can do on this land then that's what can be done. When I first got on the Planning Commission in 1980 the big issue at that time was that Bill Crowell owned the west side of Pilarcitos Avenue. Now when he bought that it was zoned for R-3 _ apartments. He subdivided it into large lots that would hold six apartment buildings. That was back in the 1970s. The city subsequently downzoned it from R-3 to R-1, so by using your police powers, you've told this particular property owner that you can't build what you first thought you could build when you purchased the land. But we haven't taken all of your rights away. You can still build single-family homes. The neighbors went absolutely bonkers. That's where Ken Johnson surfaced from. They wanted nothing. So, there was a balance done there if you look back at it. If you hadn't downzoned it from R-3 to R-1 you would have had a wall of apartment buildings across there. So, yes the residents rights were taken into account, but property rights were left there too. Otherwise you better buy the land."

"Another example a number of years ago when somebody started the rumor that the area west of Railroad was going to be developed with a bunch of condominiums. There is a PUD on the land west of Railroad, 35 acres, that allows 60 homes. David Iverson and company were yelling and screaming about it and a committee was put together and some state people were brought in and it was laid out to him. You want that in open space, then form an assessment district with your neighbors and buy it.

"I think the residents have a right to a point, but if you want to maintain your view, buy it. Don't take away somebody else's property rights."

The Conservatory will generate $173,000 a year in transient occupancy taxes. What would your priorities be for spending that money?

"I think there's some infrastructure that has to be taken care of. We have streets that are coming apart. If you walk down Main Street at 6 o'clock in the morning when there's no traffic and tell me how many failures there are. I think we've neglected our infrastructure. The city has budgeted to buy a new street sweeper. Street sweepers are needed, if nowhere else, in the business section. They haven't bought it.

"We're losing police officers. I would like to see more money budgeted in that area."

Do you feel it's the city's role to make contributions to organizations like the Opportunity Center or Adult Day Health Care Center?

"Yes. It's an uncertain yes in one regard since I happen to sit on the board of directors of the Adult Day Health Center."

Specifically, then the Opportunity Center."

"It used to be years ago that city's provided social services. Most full-service cities provide social services. This city has never been able to. But I think it is their responsibility to take care of a full range in age of their citizens. A timid yes. I would increase it only when there was excess funds available and there was no place to put them."

Looking back, the city increased the TOT from 8 to 10 percent and that brought in quite a bit more money. It has a new golf fee that it just instituted. That will continue to grow for the next year and a half or so. It has a new golf coming on with its own fee after a loan to the developer is paid off. You've got the Conservatory generating $173,000 a year assuming that is a correct estimate. When are you going to a point when there's enough money to give to these agencies?

"Just in sewer replacements there's something like $9 million that's been identified. The sewer funds that are in reserve are for the plant, not for infrastructure. We've got substandard roads all over the place. We just spent $35,000 to oil and screen Railroad Avenue and Alameda Avenue. Did they budget any money in maintenance to go back next year and re-oil those roads because it takes three years after that's done to oil them every year to give yourself even a fairly permanent surface. I've watched it in the county when they started to oil their roads.

"We have neglected infrastructure in this town from the get-go. We have residential streets that were done 40 years ago with no base under them. Out of 15 people _ Parks and Recreation Commission, Planning Commission and City Council _ there was one no vote on spending $135,000 for Kelly Avenue bike lanes because the rest of Kelly Avenue is junk. There's nothing underneath it and you're going to create a problem that's worse than what you had to start with. I was th only one who said no. You've got money coming in by 1996 that you can do the whole street, do it all at once, and get it done. No. So they went ahead. So what started out at $135,000 because they hadn't planned for the excess water and they didn't look at it completely, with change orders it cost them almost $200,000. And they still have a substandard street."

"We've got all kinds of needs like that and we need more income to take care of the needs of the city."

What is the biggest challenge facing Half Moon Bay?

"The biggest challenge is the challenge of people. The challenge of somebody being able to remove the line that has divided the people in this community."

Do you think your the person out of the three candidates running to remove that line?

"I don't know if any of those three people can remove that line. I think it's going to take a very special person to do it. Do I have the capability to do it? No. Do I have the desire to do it? Am I willing to try to do it? Yeah. Will I accomplish it? Probably not."

What's the biggest misgiving or reason you wouldn't vote for each of the other two candidates?

"I don't think I'll answer that question on the record. I said when I decided to run and when I talked to people within the community I told them one thing. I will not attact the candidates. I will not bad mouth. I will not attack Carol. I will not attact John. I won't do that. It has been suggested that, well, maybe somebody needs to run a negative campaign. My response was `If you do, I'll pull out.' "

Do you see yourself running again in 1997 if you're elected in June?


If you're elected, what would the one or two things you would to have seen accomplished?

"One, I'd like to see discussions about changing the LCP and where it needs to change with input from the community. Two, I'd like to be able to say that we've reached a point with people that we're no longer slapping labels on them. I think that's important. I think when we stop putting labels on people maybe we can start to communicate."

How do you feel about the label you have?

"I don't care about labels. There's only one thing important to me. That when I get up in the mirror and look myself in the face and say I've been honest, I have shown integrity and I haven't lied to anybody. I'm important to me. If I don't feel good about it, then I've got a problem. What other people think about me, that's their perception."

Perhaps your answer would be the same, but how would you respond to someone who said you've only been part of the problem for 16 years?

"That's that person's perception that there is a problem."

When you first heard about the Conservatory fire, what were your first thoughts?

"I got called at 12:25 by county communications. The fire chief had requested me on the scene. My wife said to me, `What's going on?' I said they just burned Bob's hotel down."

They meaning?

"They. It was no accidental fire when county communication told me it was at three alarms."

Should the city try to talk Charles Keenan into redesigning the hotel?

"I'm going to answer this in a roundabout way. After the comments that our mayor made _ and by doing so I think she absolutely convinced Keenan not to talk to anybody, but to rebuild it _ I was asked if I would attempt to intercede for a group of people to see if Keenan would consider redesigning it including the additional units over all 700 feet of property to make it lower. I said no I would not because he's been ticked off to the point, and he's type of man from what I know of him, that you'd be wasting your time."

But you don't necessarily think that had he not been ticked off, a redesign would be a bad idea in and of itself?

"Given the uproar and if you could have struck a medium that would have given him everything at once and shown him a reason why he should delay if you could fast track what he wanted. No. But I think the whole wrong approach was used by what Deborah (Ruddock) went out with. I think it's too late to ask him to do that. I wouldn't have the guts to ask him to do that."

Do you think that in asking, it capitulates to an arsonist?

"I think if you went to him and talked to him privately, which is the only way you can start any type of negotiation like that, I don't think that it is."

"I'm not even saying you would go to him and request him to do it. I think you would go to him and say how would you feel about it. Is it something you would even want to discuss or do you just want to use what is rightfully yours and go build it back the way it was. It's all in the approach. You don't go after him with an illegal hammer as I feel was done. I saw politics written all over that and I think it's backfired."

Half Moon Bay Review