Mier: City should encourage more tourism

The staff of the Half Moon Bay Review recently interviewed the three candidates for Half Moon Bay City Council. The newspaper is presenting each candidate's answers. Previously, John Maness and Carol Cupp were profiled. This week David Mier's comments are provided. All three interviews will be posted from May 25 until election day June 4 on the Review's web site.

Space limitations in the newspaper prevented us from printing the interviews in their entirety. For an extended version of the interview with David Mier click here.

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.

"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. 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."

As a planning commissioner, are you happy with the policies on the books?

"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. 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."

What do feel would be a good economic fit for North Wavecrest 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. 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 some visitor-serving use of North Wavecrest is appropriate?

"To me I think so. . . . 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. . . . Cities 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 see 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."

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.

"For a long time this was an old town, this was a sleepy town. 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.

"Westinghouse came to town; promises were made. They were trusted as if they were people who had been here all their lives. . . . 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."

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 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.

"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 (eight) 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."

What was your personal opinion of the plan that was devised for North Wavecrest?

"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."

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."

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."

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."

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."