Friday, April 30, 2010

KTVU - Concrete Restraining Wall Fails; Pacifica Complex Evacuating

A massive piece of a concrete restraining wall has busted loose from below a cliff-side Pacifica apartment complex, forcing new evacuations and putting the structure in danger of tumbling into the sea.

Helicopter video early Friday revealed the scope of the problem. A concrete section about 25 yards long has broken loose and was sliding down the hillside.

The erosion of a crumbling cliff began in December and has wreaked havoc on the lives of complex’s residents at 320 Esplanade.

One complex has already been evacuated and now a second will soon begin emptying out.“The other day, we looked down at the cliff and really saw how bad it was,” said one woman who asked not to be identified. She moved into the precarious perch just six weeks ago.

“Has it changed?” she said. “Oh yeah. It certainly has. It's really eroded. The cliff has eroded tremendously, even in front of the other building.”

Read more (and view raw video) ...

Posted by Steve Sinai

Pacifica Officer Injured After Being Dragged By Car During Traffic Stop

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Trash system

Fast start toward "zero waste" begins week of May 3rd
REMINDER THAT THE NEW PROGRAMS AND CARTS BEGIN THE WEEK OF MAY 3RD ON YOUR REGULAR PICKUP DAY AND YES, YOU CONTINUE TO USE YOUR OWN GARBAGE CAN ALONG WITH THE OTHER TWO CANS. Chris Porter, Recology of the Coast, General Manager 4/26/10 comment and continuation from "New Programs..." (4/20/10)....

Initial pick-up easy as 1, 2, 3...
1. Regular trash (your can) - no change weekly pick-up.
2. Greenwaste/organics (green can) - begins week of May 3rd, put out with regular trash pick-up weekly.
3. Recycling (blue can) - schedule cycle begins week of May 3rd or May 10th, then put out with trash every two weeks.
Schedule link , scroll down: Blue = May 3rd; Yellow = May 10th.

Can contents easy as 1, 2, 3
1. "Greenwaste/organics" (green can), week of May 3rd:
  1. Kitchen - vegetable, meat, bones, coffee/tea grounds, soiled paper plates/food wraps/table napkins, waxy cardboard cartons.
  2. Yard - floral/branch/tree trimmings.
2. "Recycling" (blue can), week of May 3rd or May 10th:
  1. Hard plastic, cans, glass containers, bottles, jars, buckets, pill bottles.
  2. Light plastic containers (1-7), including pastry/food clam shells, cups, buckets, bottles, cottage cheese/yogurt/pudding/soup/salad cartons.
  3. Light aluminum containers, including pie pans, foil, can lids.
  4. Paper magazines, newspapers, bags, cardboard, tubes, paperback books, cereal and other boxes, clean paper bags.
3. Trash (your can), ongoing:
  1. Soiled plastic bags, plastic forks.
  2. Kitty litter, dog and other pet droppings, soiled dippers.
1. To outside top of recycling can: household batteries inside a plastic zip lock bag.
2. To recycling yard, 1046 Palmetto Avenue: CFL and fluorescent light bulbs, Styrofoam blocks, larger items.
3. Clean plastic bags to where every you are recycling them now, mine go to the Safeway customer service desk.
4. Online basic information from Chris Porter
5. Questions 650-355-9000. Recology of the Coast office, 2305 Palmetto Avenue, Pacifica, CA.

Who would have thought collecting, decomposing and recycling garbage would turn-out to be cool? The "New programs..." referenced article (above) also includes a related compost list of interest offered by Anonymous (4/23/10) . Information above is compiled from Recology picture guides, questions answered from Chris Porter and her helpful and friendly staff. Any related information you wish to offer can increase our community effort to affect "zero waste" and is appreciated.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Eureka Square business is gone

Just thought I'd point out that the little video store that's been at Eureka Square for years is now gone. Video stores are a dying business, so that may have been the main problem, but Jeez Louise, it looks like Eureka Square is at least 50% empty.

Pacifica teen's tree-planting project wins grant

By Neil Gonzales

San Mateo County Times

Updated: 04/25/2010 12:10:54 AM PDT

A national tree-planting project launched by a 4-H member in Pacifica has garnered a $10,000 grant from the SeaWorld Foundation.

The 4-H Million Trees project also won the conservation nonprofit's Environmental Excellence Award.

The funding will bolster tree-planting missions of 4-H youth across the United States and Canada, organizers said.

In 2007, Pacifica teen Laura Webber helped start 4-H Million Trees. The project's goal is to see 1 million trees planted across North America to help reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.

So far, more than 27,000 youths in 44 states and Canadian provinces have planted more than 103,000 trees.

The project not only tackles environmental issues but also provides youth leadership, public speaking and other skills.

"It's pretty amazing how an idea can take off," said Marilyn Johns, a 4-H adviser and director of UC Cooperative Extension in San Mateo and San Francisco counties. "Not only is this good for the environment, but it has been good for everyone involved along the way."

For more information, visit the project's website at

Original story...

Stolen solar panels hurt Pacifica school

By Joshua Melvin
San Mateo County Times

Updated: 04/25/2010 12:08:37 AM PDT

A plan to cut energy costs at Oceana High School was less than two months from going online.

Workers had already attached 108 cells, worth about $43,700, to the roof of the building. And officials from the Jefferson Union High School District were looking forward to a little budget relief.

But sometime in the past month thieves got onto the roof, unhooked the cells and carried them off. So now the district has to start all over again.

"It's a setback," said project manager Bob Devine.

Finding who took the panels could be tough. It's not clear exactly when they disappeared. Police think it was sometime between March 24 and April 5, said Pacifica police Sgt. Dan Steidle. The school was empty while students were away on spring break from April 5 to 9.

A lucrative black market that would readily absorb the panels won't make finding them any easier. Stealing solar panels has become a growth industry in California as the installation of the green-energy producers has exploded, said Marc Feyh, a manager at Santa Rosa-based GridLock Solar Security.


Dream Machines - Half Moon Bay Airport

An annual event, this year held today Sunday, April 25th, 10 AM to 4 PM

From Pacifica Tribune "...antique tractors to heavy tanks, more than 2,000 flying and driving machines of every description will be displayed during Pacific Coast Dream Machines. Entertainment includes monster truck rides, extreme motocross demonstrations and live music."

Event machinery and activity pictures, background and description information

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Senate Bill 919: Overhauling State Pensions

"Schwarzenegger called public pensions "the single biggest threat" to California's future and cited a recent Stanford study commissioned by the Governor's Office that found California's unfunded pension promises total $500 billion." Read more:

State Senate bill 919 would affect pension reduction for new workers: 1) pension age would adjust upward from 62 to 65, 2) pension income for police, safety officers and firefighters would be reduced from 3% to 2.7% still based on their highest paid year, 3) health benefit vesting would require 25 years of service, rather than the current 20.

In its current form Senate Bill 919 would trim an estimated $110 billion from the State budget over 30 years. During this recession making these employee pension adjustments could be easier for State legislators. The proposed adjustments may not go far enough by federal social security and private employment standards, but if this Bill passes and is realized in its approximately current form it should solve about 20% of the State's structural long-term pension obligation problem.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Spring is breeding season for coastal birds

Consider avoiding the "rugged Cliffs of Devi1's Slide Rock"
Wonderful picture and informative text below from

With breeding season underway, NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary urges coastal visitors, whether boaters and paddlers or small aircraft pilots, to avoid disturbing nesting seabirds. In Spring, seabirds often favor the protection of rugged coastal cliffs and offshore islands, and will form dense, noisy breeding colonies in areas such as Devil’s Slide Rock, Pt. Reyes and the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco, and the Farallon Islands.

Although seabirds spend most of their time at sea, they must come to land to rest, nest and rear their chicks. Colonies of several hundred thousand may form adjacent to fish-rich ocean waters that also attract fishermen, boaters, pilots, birdwatchers and other wildlife enthusiasts. Seabirds will neglect their young if disturbed repeatedly, and may abandon a colony altogether.

“Seabirds are indicators of change in ocean conditions – an early warning system for scientists and managers of fisheries and marine protected areas,” said Maria Brown, sanctuary superintendent. “Healthy colonies are the best baseline for detecting the type and severity of changes that occur.”

Coastal users can also download maps of sensitive areas and overflight information at

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thieves steal Pacifica school's solar panels

Thursday, April 22, 2010

(04-22) 15:48 PDT PACIFICA-- Students at Oceana High School in Pacifica had an unfortunate math exercise to consider on Earth Day.

How long does it take to steal 108 solar panels from the school's rooftop, and how much will they bring on the black market?

First answer: The police don't know. Second: at least 50 cents on the dollar.

Police said Thursday that sometime between March 24 and April 5, thieves made off with $43,740 worth of just-installed solar panels from the school on Paloma Avenue, a block east of Highway 1. At 25 pounds per panel, it was no smash-and-dash job.

San Mateo County Supervisors Election articles

Should San Mateo County Supervisors be elected by district, or on an at-large basis? -
District election idea moves forward

People think there's something fishy about the way the San Mateo County Democrats endorsed April Vargas for County Supervisor -
Democrat asks for endorsement re-do

Posted by Steve Sinai

After 58 years, Pacifica Lumber closing its doors

Tim Perry and Mike Goodnol, co-owners of Pacifica Lumber, will close their doors for the last time on April 30. The company started out 58 years ago in Sharp Park as Sharp Park Lumber. It was owned by Marvin Compton and managed by Bud Perry. Several years later the company expanded with the addition of Suburban Lumber Company, owned by Donald Perry and Marvin Compton. In 1962, Pacifica Lumber was built at its current Highway 1 location with Bud Perry continuing on as manager. In the '70s, Bud became the owner, teaming up with another relative, Fred Schoenduby. Bud retired in the '80s. In 2001, Schoenduby sold the business to his managers, Mike Goodnol and Tim Perry.

Read more... 

...Tim said the closing of Pacifica Lumber has really spurred him to talk to the community and to speak his mind.

"As the owner of a local business, which has now failed, it has become even more important to clarify the need for Pacifica to rise up again and become a community. The Gusts of Nick's Restaurant and Motel, Hal Ash's Vallemar Station, Bill Meyerhoff's Seaview Tire and Brake, Mike Freutel's Freutel Roofing, and Dave Nannini's Dave & Lou's Service, all business friends, these are businesses owned by second and third generation families who are most loved and have worked in Pacifica for a great many years."

"As Pacifica consumers we have to make good choices that help our friends and neighbors. Do you want to drive to Costco for tires or trust Bill Meyerhoff who personally inspects for safety? Do you want a reheated microwave dinner at Applebee's or a great seafood dinner at Nick's served by someone you might just know? Freutel Roofing is a small family business struggling against low competing bids, a weak economy and high insurance costs, yet, they are there everyday, loyal to the community and backing their work. Dave Nannini, from your local corner service station Dave & Lou's, is there for your Monday morning fill-up, a window cleaning and a brief and friendly chat. That takes the edge off a stressful morning commute. Hal and Barbara Ash get up each morning to make the sauces and soups at Vallemar Station. These businesses have spent all their remodeling dollars at Pacifica Lumber, not because our prices were the cheapest, but because they wanted us to succeed, to build community, like all our great customers have."

"Currently, there is a climate that is eroding Pacifica. The elected officials want higher sales taxes, to float more state bonds and acquire more beach parking for out-of-town surfers. The quarry owner, Don Peebles, was forced to forgo any forward progress for the property he bought in Pacifica. Every time he is on CNBC, which is a lot, hundreds of small towns and cities just like Pacifica call his offices to plead with him to come to their cities to make things happen. If the tax base erodes enough — and the closing of longtime businesses will erode it — then this city will lose its right to be a city. We need better leaders and more of a sense of community."

Posted by Steve Sinai

Council moves forward on plans to fix city's 'structural' budget deficit over time


Pacifica City Council put into motion steps to reduce the city's budget deficit by finding ways to increase revenue and cut expenses.

Council unanimously approved Monday, April 12 the recommendations from the Financing City Services Task Force to move forward on a plan to try to reduce the city's $14 million structural deficit over a five-year period. After meeting over the last year and a half to figure out what to do, the committee presented its final report in three options.

Option one is the committee's favored option as it does not cut the budgets of any city department nor does it cut personnel positions. It calls for the city to revisit labor agreements to try to negotiate a wage freeze and a freeze to the city's contribution rate to retirement benefits, among other things. Revisiting labor agreements, the task force expects to save $8.5 million over a five-year period.

Under this option, voters will be asked to approve three revenue-generating measures — an increase of the temporary occupancy tax (TOT) hotel guests pay, a public safety assessment and a revised utility users' tax. The TOT would increase from 10 percent to 12 percent to generate $72,000 over five years if voters approve the measure in November. Next spring, voters will be asked to pass a public safety assessment to raise $4 million over four years. The revised utility users' tax, expected to provide $2 million in additional revenue over three years, will come before voters in November 2012.


Posted by Steve Sinai

An example for Pacifica

Half Moon Bay employees’ salaries cut

April 22, 2010, 02:28 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Half Moon Bay’s city employees agreed to salary and benefit reductions along with taking furloughs to help trim about $900,000 from its current budget.

“It was through the cooperation of the four union groups that we were able to work on the gaps in our revenue shortfall,” said Mayor Marina Fraser.

City Hall will be closed the first and third Friday of the month, Police Chief Don O’Keefe is reducing his time by 40 percent and three positions were eliminated including a planner, a police officer and an administrative position to help the city meets its shortfall.

The city’s main source of income, the hotel occupancy tax, is down dramatically by 18 percent or about $720,000. Hotel taxes make up about 35 percent of Half Moon Bay’s general fund revenue, which is projected at $9.1 million for fiscal year 2009-10.

Sales tax revenue is expected to drop 11 percent, or about $196,000 for this fiscal year, and construction-related service charges are down 50 percent or $550,084.

The city eliminated 16 positions last year and is strapped with paying more than $1 million a year to pay off a court-ordered settlement for the botched Beachwood development. The city is stuck with the Beachwood expenditure for the next 30 years.

A sales tax hike is being considered for the November ballot, Fraser said.

“With the current economic situation we have been hit hard due to Half Moon Bay being a tourist destination,” Fraser said. “Our hotel tax has suffered. The budget cuts now will help but we will still need a long-term source of revenue. No one likes to be the one to raise taxes, but we have to explore a sales tax increase.”

But Councilman Rick Kowalczyk is not supporting a sales tax increase at this time.

“Tax increases are debilitating for business,” Kowalczyk said.

The key to Half Moon Bay’s recovery, Kowalczyk and Fraser agree, is filling up the city’s hotel rooms with tourists.

“We need a return to tourism,” Kowalczyk said.

The city’s Ritz-Carlton has lost corporate clients, Fraser said, which hurts the city’s budget.

“We don’t have big retail or large office buildings. We rely on tourism,” Fraser said.

The city is looking to form some citizen advisory committees to address the poor economy and whether taxes should be raised or services cut.

The city will use about $1.2 million of its $5 million reserve to help solve this year’s budget.

The city’s preliminary fiscal year 2010-11 annual budget will be presented May 4. Half Moon Bay will save about $1 million a year going forward based on the service and salary reductions it just implemented.

“It has been painful to go through,” said Kowalczyk, who is serving his first term on the council.

Original Daily Journal story here...

Posted by Steve Sinai

No new taxes

What's new in Pacifica? Or should I say, old? Well, we all know we are over 50 years old. Nothing new except more new taxes coming our way. The little green flyer you probably threw away is your new increase in your sewer tax. It should have been on a ballot but now you must write a letter telling them you're against it, otherwise you'll pay, pay, pay. You are not only paying an interest upon interest, not on the principal, yet we are sitting on an old sewer plant that should have been sold 10 years ago to pay for the new state-of-the-art one we have so many problems with which has cost us millions in fines.

The ordinance is so outdated that last year I approached the city manager and he assured me it would be revised but it has not been to this day. The county counsel and the assessor's office said, and I quote, we can either sue the city or put it on the ballot as an initiative. If you don't want to sit and take signatures, I suggest you at least write a letter and protest it. Whoever heard of taxation without representation? The city of Pacifica.

Next, the Financing City Services Task Force suggested the following other taxes: a TOT hotel tax increase from 10 percent to 12 percent on the November ballot. Potential revenue of $72,000 over five years minus the cost of the ballot.

Tax #3 — Public safety assessment scheduled for the ballot in 2011. Remember the fire assessment tax? Same thing except for the police. Revenue $4 million in four years minus the cost to put it on the ballot. Tax #4 — Revised utility users tax lowering by 6.5 percent and added to telecommunications tax by how much? No transparency. Ballot 2012.

Now divide all these taxes by years minus the cost of putting them on the ballot. It amounts to less than one million a year. I'll bet we could sell that old sewer plant for a million and maybe even get some revenue from whatever went in there. It's been vacant for over 10 years. Is this the kind of planning you want? I was the only one who spoke against these taxes at the last City Council meeting. Where were you? We are a ghost town and the only thing left is to put a cemetery in the Quarry so at least we can be buried locally. Take a look at Colma. They pay no taxes so one would assume that the high cost of living outweighs the cost of dying. We used to have a furniture store, car dealership, bank and Safeway in Park Mall. Now we have closed storefronts in Eureka Square, the lumber yard and Antiques & Collectibles. Vote no on everything until they sell the sewer plant site. Bankruptcy here we come.

Therese M. Dyer
Linda Mar

Highway 1 fix already looks kaput

According to a blurb posted by Todd Bray over on Riptide, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority is putting the Highway 1 fix on hold until they receive further input from city leaders. Anyone who's watched how the Gang of Four (Lancelle, Vreeland, DeJarnatt, Digre) operate know "further input" will never be forthcoming, so this project's likely dead.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

County of San Mateo - Treasurer/Tax Collector

Home page
The office

The following is the result of some follow-up research to the Pacifica Democrats Forum article by Laurie Frater 4/17/2010 . Laurie's statement summary about each candidate adds a perspective to what little is viewable on google. The candidate statements for 6/2010 did not seem to be available at this time.

What does the Tax Collector-Treasurer do in San Mateo County? From the Smart Voter guide6/2/1998, written by Lee Buffington.
Mainly accounting of incoming and outgoing county monies, investment in Treasury bonds, low cost administration. Buffington achieved a model management program.

Who are they replacing? Lee Buffington background 6/2/1998

San Mateo Treasurer/Tax Collector Candidates for 6/2010
1. Sandie Arnott - Deputy Tax Collector-Treasurer, Acting Assistant Tax Collector achievements
2. Joe Galligan - CPA, MA Taxation, Councilmember Burlingame 8 years.
3. Richard Guilbault - Registered Investment Advisor, MS Systems, BA Business Management, 1998 candidate 6/2/1998
4. Dave Mandelkern - San Mateo College Board, and Entrepreneur, 6 start-up companies

Related articles of interest
4/20/2010 Sandie Arnott, experience and an investment pool 10 year average of 3.5%, responsible management
3/26/2010 Treasurer and other San Mateo County candidates campaign monies spent
2/8/2010 candidates race with links

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beware of the Bear, eh?

From a sign near Fort Steele, British Columbia.  You have to read the whole thing.

Submitted by Jim Wagner


Hi everyone...I have gotten some e-mails from people saying they are confused about what or what not to do with the new garbage/recycling programs.  I am going to attempt to answer all questions and give all the information I have right now...

Yes, the two carts we delivered are in addition to your own garbage can.  We will be providing a choice of new wheeled garbage cans in the summer.  You will receive a card in your home asking you to choose between a 20, 32, 48 or 64 gallon can and these cans will be delivered around August/September.

All the recycling items that previously went into the bins, along with all plastic containers marked 1-7 (we will now take bakery and deli items, berry baskets, pill bottles and microwave dishes  but NO PAPER BAGS), all your cardboard boxes and tubes, aluminum foil and pie plates and household batteries (put in a plastic ziplock bag on the top of the bin)

All the greenwaste you were putting out in the 4-30 gallon cans every other week as well as fruits, vegetables, meat and bones and soiled paper (butcher paper, McDonald's wrappings).  If your child eats at McDonald's, the paper bag would go in the recycling, the hamburger and fries wrapping would go in the greenwaste/compost cart along with any left over food and the soiled napkin.



All pickup days remain the same except your recycling now gets picked up every other week and your greenwaste/organics gets picked up every week.
We will have smaller carts for both recycling and greenwaste/organics available June 1st.  We ask that you try the carts you have for thirty days and if they still do not meet your individual needs, call or e-mail us and we will pickup the one you have now and deliver an alternate size.  On the other hand, if you need an additional greenwaste cart, we can supply another one for a fee of $3 a month.

Please review and advise if this helps anyone!  If you have any other questions, shoot them through (no, don't shoot me!).

Chris Porter, the Pacifica Garbage Queen!

Parties play blame game over latest Pacifica cliff erosion

By Julia Scott
San Mateo County Times
Updated: 04/20/2010 09:56:32 AM PDT

PACIFICA — There was plenty of blame to go around Monday for what caused the concrete wall to peel away from the cliff behind 330 Esplanade Avenue like a piece of cardboard last week when the rain washed out the bluff behind it.

The company that installed the soil "nails" in late January — metal rods embedded in a spray-on layer of concrete over sandy soil — blamed the owner of 320 Esplanade for not extending the concrete cover onto that property, which let water in around the edges.

Layers of concrete were left in concave shards like a broken balloon made of papier-mâché, hanging over the ocean. Swales of sand, some more than a foot deep, were exposed underneath.

The engineer for 330 Esplanade, meanwhile, blamed the company, Engineered Soil Repairs, for installing a defective drainage system behind the evacuated building. The city of Pacifica inspected and approved the work when it was done, and city officials don't know whom to blame.

Losing the only solution put in place so far to hold the cliff together — aside from ocean boulders that have been placed at the base of the bluff — isn't the only problem. The bad news highlights the inability of the owners of the apartment buildings all along upper Esplanade Avenue to agree on a comprehensive engineering solution to stop the erosion that affects them all.


Posted by Steve Sinai

Hugging our City Council Leaders

In reference to the prior 4/19/10 article question "What's the plan?"
And, taking another look - Pacifica Tribune, 4/14/10, letters-to-the-editor,

"I was struck by the recent letters in the Tribune which were so very critical of our mayor and the City Council. Some time ago, I made a public promise on this "Letters" page that I would end my cranky and argumentative written remarks which had been, in part, so harsh on our city leaders. I found out that it's very easy to demonize the "folks in charge" — to make all sorts of accusations and raise all sorts of questions and disagree with everything that the current administration has done, is now doing, or has failed to do. It's so simple to do this, to say to the leaders of Pacifica, "you got us into this, now you get us out." I regret my own past criticisms of our elected officials here in this beautiful city by the ocean. To those who continue to take their shots at the mayor and the City Council, I offer this brief comment from my collection of quotations. The author is Kenneth Tynan: "A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car." Maybe the recent contributors to these pages who have been so negative about our current situation could come up with some specific, practical and feasible ways to "drive the car." I'd be most eager to see what they propose for the good of Pacifica." Father Piers Lahey

Thank you Father Piers Lahey for your comments. As you've ask, here's my specific, practical and feasible ways to "drive the Fix Pacifica car": remove all 3 incumbent City Councilmembers in the 2010 election, and replace them with 3 pro-economic challengers. With an 8 year legacy and purposeful economic failure track record, some of us think its time for a for a City Council change. Is that specific enough? No need to feel guilty for just or righteous criticism, 10 Hail Mary's.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wavelength Episode

At 6:30 this evening on PCT Cable 26, Ian Butler's local news show Wavelength will feature an Earth Day preview spotlighting some of the activities that Pacificans have done to help the environment. The segments are:

Lynn Adams introduces this year's Earth Day.
Girl Scout troop 1471 beach cleanup.
Secret Waterfall montage.
Global Warming "350" event.
Million Trees project.
Golden Bough song "Modern Plastic" video.
Ian meets an SF Garter.
Linda Mar beach planting.
Emmanuel Williams poem "Singing to the Sea".

The show repeats next week.

Remember, Pacifica's Earth Day action and celebration are this Saturday, April 24th. What difference will you make?

Submitted by Ian Butler

What's the plan?

So here we are at the end of April (almost.) Does Fix Pacifica have a game plan? Any candidates? Any plans  or direction for the November Elections?

Posted by Jim Alex

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pacifica Democrats forum for candidates for County Treasurer

by Laurie Frater

At this morning’s monthly meeting of the Pacifica Democrats, the three Democrats in the race to replace Lee Buffington as San Mateo County Treasurer took part in a candidate’s forum. (The fourth candidate, Republican Joe Galligan, a CPA, was not present.) Perhaps the most striking thing about the event was that so few attended – the candidates and their families outnumbered the members in attendance by 8:7 by my count – which meant that the Q&A session afterwards was considerably more intimate than usual.

The Lehman Brothers fiasco and its direct impact on Pacificans was mentioned often, and concerns about the investment side of the office predominated, but it was also made clear that investment is not the only issue facing that office. Rather than being like fund management and investing for long term gain, it is more akin to managing cash flow – think of an interest-bearing checking account! Income (predominantly property taxes) is typically disbursed within months of receipt, so the investment focus is on preserving capital while making sure that the funds are available to cities, school districts and other agencies within the timeline in which they have budgeted to spend it.

The low turnout was a pity as this is an important race, but each candidate made a strong case for their selection. Why couldn’t two of them have been just slightly awful? Each boasts an impressive list of endorsements, and each voiced a distinctly different perspective of the position:

Sandie Arnott has been with the Treasurer’s office for over 20 years, is the current Deputy, and is clearly itching to take the reins. “I can be effective from day one” she said, adding that if one of the others was elected, she’d be the one training them for the job! She admitted suffering from the “guilt by association” that has surrounded recriminations over the Lehman losses, but made a strong case for being the only candidate who would not be learning the ropes and who could make changes armed with a complete and thorough knowledge of existing processes.

Richard Guilbault, proprietor of Guilbault Asset Management, is a Burlingame-based investment advisor with years of experience of managing local government agency funds. He made the case that he is the only candidate with a long history of working with Wall Street, with an intimate understanding of and experience in the investment business, and that under his stewardship, we’d be best placed to avoid any future events like the Lehman Brothers debacle or the poor investment decisions that caused Orange County to default more than a decade ago. He has long been critical of Lee Buffington’s management of the office (some may remember that Guilbault previously ran for this office in 1994) and is committed to making it a more transparent and financially sound agency.

Dave Mandelkern is a veteran founder of Silicon Valley start-up companies and is no stranger to elected office in San Mateo County. He is currently on the board of trustees of the local community college district and is Vice Chairman of the California State Parks Foundation, among many others, so is fully familiar with funding and cash-flow issues affecting agencies within the county. He is also the only candidate to have been endorsed by the San Mateo County Democratic Party for this race. He made a compelling case for adopting solutions that have been successful in his other ventures – particularly using the best practices from other agencies and external sources to improve both the management and the taxpayer accountability of the office.

It’s a shame that any one of these fine candidates must lose! I’d urge everyone to at least Google each of the candidates before voting, but I came away leaning towards voting for Dave Mandelkern. I felt that he best conveyed his vision of what the office should be, and that he has the track record to turn that vision into reality.

The election will be on the June ballot. If no single candidate garners over 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters from the June race on the ballot in November. Whichever candidate wins, we’ll be writing their name on large checks for at least each of the next four years.

Hotel by the Ocean

Beach Boulevard Anchor to Palmetto Avenue

From Pacifica Tribune, Letters-to-the-editor 4/14/10,

Jane Northrop did a yeoman's job of reporting on the study session regarding the old WWTP site at Beach Boulevard. Several members of the public came up and offered their pet suggestions for everything from a hotel to reviving the Pacifica Ocean Discovery Center. The only problem is that she left my suggestion out in the cold.

I have a pet idea for a hotel, which I think is a great one; however, I resisted the temptation to offer it because I felt that what West Sharp Park really needed was an objective, professional analysis of the entire neighborhood — incorporating everything from an economic analysis to examining the zoning and how it works and doesn't work toward our goal of making a vibrant downtown. Parking is also an issue that we can't overlook. If our intention is to attract lots of visitors to Palmetto, doesn't it make sense to plan for the parking that will accommodate them all?

I specifically recommended that if we pick a consultant, that we pick one not because they're the cheapest or because they'll rubber stamp what the "powers that be" want to hear, but because of their successful track record in other cities. In particular, when I was on WSPAC, I remember meeting a consultant team that won awards for their work in Campbell, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View. Past success should be the main criteria for picking a consultant for our city.

West Sharp Park has some things working for it, and some things that don't work for it, which are the root causes of why this area is blighted. All of these issues need to be addressed. Being on target with our planning is too important to overlook and can ultimately make the difference between success or failure. As reported, the study session concluded that the next step would be a highest and best use study of the WWTP site. Although it's not as comprehensive an approach as I suggested, it's a step in the right direction.

Posted by Gil Anda

Fix Pacifica's first petition

Or at least the first that I remember.

A few articles down at is a column by SF Examiner columnist Ken Garcia about how the GGNRA plans to put the lease for Louis' Restaurant, near Lands End in SF, up for bid. It turns out the restaurant is owned by Pacifican Tom Hontalas and his family.

The Chronicle also ran a story on it today -

There's an online petition available if you'd like to petition the GGNRA to cut the Hontalas family a break. I'm not a big believer in online petitions, but it can't hurt.

Bicycle tour closing Pacifica roadways in May

The Amgen Tour of California will again be coming through Pacifica on Tuesday, May 18. As occurred last year, portions of Highway 1 will be closed to all traffic to allow the racers unimpeded access to the roadway.

This year, this stage of the race will begin at Golden Gate Park, and enter Pacifica from Skyline Boulevard. Racers are expected to arrive in Pacifica between 11:30 and 11:35 a.m.

At that time, all of southbound Highway 1 will be closed to traffic. Portions of northbound Highway 1 will also be closed to traffic, from Linda Mar Boulevard through Crespi Drive. These road closures are expected to take effect at 11:15 a.m. and the roadway is expected to be closed for 20 minutes during this event. During that period, motorists should plan any travel through Pacifica accordingly and utilize alternate routes to avoid these road closures. Motorists may avoid closures to northbound Highway 1 by taking alternate routes to Fassler Avenue.

The Pacifica Police Department will be assisting the California Highway Patrol with some of these road closures.

Permission for this race, and the authority for these road closures come from the Office of the Governor. Any comments, complaints, or concerns should be directed to that office.

For additional information about this event, go to

— Pacifica Police Department

County cuts retirement benefits

April 17, 2010, 02:54 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

San Mateo County is tweaking retirement benefits for managers and attorneys over the next three years to help close an ongoing budget deficit — amendments that could leave them with paying a portion of the benefits, dropping older dependents from insurance coverage and working less hours.

The changes — which County Manager David Boesch conceded “may be a hardship” in a memo to the affected workers — pencils out to an average of 1.75 percent of pre-tax gross pay for most. The county currently pays 100 percent of the employees’ share for manager and attorney retirement benefits but as of May 2 will drop to 75 percent each pay period.

Aside from cutting retirement contributions, Boesch’s March 25 memo said the county is considering a number of cost containment strategies based in part on a July 2009 survey in which employees were asked what they prefer to do to help meet budget targets. The most significant include encouraging managers and attorneys to take voluntary time off of 3 percent of total work hours, increasing employee contributions to the retirement cost of living allowance, reducing the maximum age for dependent health coverage, instituting new retirement tiers for new hires and consolidating health insurance carriers.

The time-off provision would be voluntary but if all chose the option, the county would save approximately $2.7 million annually. Dropping the age maximum for dependents on a health plan could save the county $1 million per year. Hiking copays for doctor visits and lab work could save the county $1.8 million and new retirement tiers for new hires could save the county $5 million annually by year 10 and $12 million annually by year 20.

Although Boesch and the Executive Committee approved the recommendations, many can only be implemented as a result of negotiations with employee organizations.

Changes like that of dependent age limits have been approved by the employee organizations and became effective April 1.

At its Tuesday, April 13 meeting, the Board of Supervisors adopted revised resolutions establishing new salary and benefits for management, attorneys and confidential employees for the period of Nov. 1, 2009 through Oct. 31, 2010, said county spokesman Marshall Wilson.

“Everybody realizes these are difficult times,” he said.


More Thanks about the Crime Meeting

This is the kind of story Fix Pacifica should be all over.

Many Thanks.

A very special thanks to Jim Wagner, for setting up the Pacifica Community Meeting at Saint Peters Church. Thanks to Chief Saunders and Dave Bertini from the Pacifica Police Department for doing a great job. Thanks to St. Peters Church. A very special thanks to Mary Ann Nihart, who rushed to the meeting, and Sue Digre.

A very special thanks for all the Pacifica residents who showed up for the meeting. Including our City Manager Steve Rhodes.

Pacifica residents, keep an eye out for people who do not belong in your neighborhood. Some very good ideas where mentioned as motion lights in the front and back of your house, alarms and just keeping a good eye out for suspicious activity.

James Alex
Park Pacifica

Pacifica residential crime prevention information meeting

Pacifica Police Department
Residential crime handbook
Article not associated with the meeting "Neighborhood Watch" article

Okay the meeting didn't go like this, and at this point there has been no formation of peaceful "neighborhood watch" groups. Councilmember Nihart discussed a successful neighborhood "watch group" she helped organize with the important walking door-to-door notification assistance of Robin Reneil in the West Sharp Park area.

Is crime up in Pacifica? Police Chief Saunders said their statistics indicate slightly from 2008 to 2009
What kind of crime is it? Mainly auto theft, and residential burglary and auto break-ins.
Where is it? About geographically even through-out Pacifica.
Who is doing these crimes? Gender neutral, both men and women; and not gang related.

Police Chief Saunders said if you sense something unusual or stolen in your neighborhood call our city 24 hour police line at 355-4151. You are your best neighborhood observer, be watchful. Reporting irregularities also helps our police department also track patterns of repeated crime. If you're not sure its a crime (but it could be) call.

Emergency or noticed crime in process, call 911 on a land phone line, if cell phone call the 355-4151 number and include that number on your cell phone for emergency.

The 355-4151 police station telephone number is usually for a lower priority inquiry, except on cell phones only 911 goes to a bay area central location in Vallejo and will delay response.

General advisement: Be careful, lock your doors at home and doors and windows when not home, get to know and talk to neighbors, pick-up newspapers, garbage cans (always appear to be home), don't leave items in cars, don't make crime easy for criminals, and be aware criminals are always looking for an easy target.

The above is one person's observation of the meeting.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Friday, April 16, 2010

GGNRA message to small family businesses: "Show me the money!"

Garcia: Red tape sinking landmark

By: Ken Garcia
Examiner Staff Writer
April 9, 2010

When it comes to dealing with San Francisco beach icons, the federal government has a penchant for running aground. And that would certainly be the case with a landmark city restaurant that’s gotten entangled with the mindless bureaucracy known as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Last month, the owners of Louis’ restaurant, with its famous perch above the Cliff House, received word that they would have to submit a competitive bid to keep its lease, despite the fact that the family has operated the site for nearly 75 years.

It wouldn’t be so bad, except the Hontalas family — which owns the eatery — tried to sign a long-term lease more than 12 years ago, only to have the GGNRA tell them that they couldn’t accept it due to changes in federal law. And ever since that time, they’ve been on a year-to-year lease, up to the point that they got the notice that the next contract goes to the highest bidder.

Does 73 years of experience running the joint make a difference? Not to the GGNRA, which says rules are rules. If you think you’ve heard something like this before, it’s because it was the GGNRA that almost ended up shutting down The City’s famed Musee Mecanique — the largest private collection of historic arcade games in the world — when it was overseeing the remodel of the Cliff House, where the Musee was formerly located.

A certain columnist launched a campaign to save the Musee, and 20,000 people joined the protest, which forced the GGNRA to relent — though it did require the game museum to move.

Then-GGNRA chief Brian O’Neill admitted the agency handled that issue poorly, but the ever-fair O’Neill died recently, apparently taking all manner of bureaucratic sense with him.

“We’re not here to bad-mouth the National Park Service,” said Tom Hontalas, who runs the popular eatery with his brother Bill and their families. “But I know a lot of people are upset that we could lose Louis’.”

The restaurant, by the way, is named for his grandfather, who started it.

More than 1,500 people have already signed petitions to try and convince the feds to keep Louis’ the way it is, classic San Francisco cafes being in short supply these days. We should know by summer whether there is any sense of justice remaining in Washington and beyond.

“It’s just another bump in the road,” Bill Hontalas said.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner:


Posted by Steve Sinai


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Financing City Services Task Force Final Report 3/19/10


In September 2008 the City Council established the Financing City Services Task Force. The Task Force’s initial charge was to develop a plan to supplement the loss of the one million dollars collected by a Fire Assessment. The five-year, property owner approved assessment was due to expire on July 1, 2009. The City did not pursue a continuation of the Fire Assessment since the public input provided to the consultants who studied fire options for the City found little support for continuing the assessment. The City of Pacifica was in a situation similar to that of many cities across the State that were confronting extreme hardships, and in an attempt to build revenues during the economic downturn many cities were placing a variety of measures on the ballot. On November 3, 2009 over 100 local measures were placed on the ballot including 57 for city taxes, fees and bonds for cities, counties and schools.

The Task Force met from October 2008 until February 2009 to review a variety of revenue generating options and data from a community survey. Based on the survey data and revenue projections, the Taskforce recommended that the Council send a Sales Tax Measure to the voters in a Special Election in May 2009. Simultaneously, the State of California moved to increase the Sales Tax and placed a measure on the ballot. Neither the State nor the Pacifica sales tax measures were approved by the voters at the election.

On July 13, 2009, the mission of the Financing City Service Task Force was revised by the City Council with the adoption of Resolution No. 51-2009. That resolution set out the objectives for the Task Force as:
  1. Work with staff to review service levels and expenditures; 
  2. Explore ways to reduce costs and achieve efficiencies in City operations;  
  3. Examine revenues and explore the need for additional or revised methods to finance City services; 
  4. Develop and recommend to the City Council a Five Year Financial Plan that will incorporate the results of the Task Force’s review of expenditures and revenues and establish a method for resolving the structural deficit. 

The Council also continued the membership of all those who were currently on the Task Force and assigned Councilmember Lancelle and Mayor ProTem Nihart as Council representatives on the Task Force. Members of the original Task Force who remained on the Task Force include: Bruce Banco, Bill Bent, Mary Ellen Carroll, Greg Cochran, Suzan Getchell-Wallace, Karen Ervin, Omar Saleh, Pete Shoemaker and Sue Vaterlaus. Pete Shoemaker serves as Chair and Mary Ellen Carroll serves as Vice Chair.

During that same timeframe the Council also created an Economic Development Committee (EDC) with Objectives that focused on strengthening the economy of the City. Those objectives are:
  1. To work with the City Manager to review and develop plans to improve customer service in departments that work with existing and new businesses;
  2. Help businesses in existing districts to organize and implement plans for improvement;
  3. Devise and implement a plan for outreach and marketing of Pacifica to potential new businesses.

This Committee is seen as a complement to the work of the Financing City Services Task Force since the EDC will be working to increase the long term financial stability of the city and community.

Read the rest of the report...

Posted by Steve Sinai

The end is nigh for crumbly cliffs

More erosion on the Esplanade cliffs.

Posted by Steve Sinai

More on the private El Granada Property

From the article...A San Mateo County couple does not have to comply with a California Coastal Commission order that they use a portion of their property for agriculture, a judge ruled this week.San Mateo County Superior Court Judge George Miram ruled the commission cannot force the Sterling family of El Granada to deed most of their 142-acre property for an agricultural easement as a condition of their permit to build a 6,000-square-foot house. The property is zoned for agricultural use, but the permit condition would have required the Sterlings to reserve land for ranching or farming. The Coastal Commission is charged with regulating development along California's coast, and protecting it for public use. The commission has not yet decided whether to appeal Monday's ruling, a spokeswoman said.

We have heard about this couple before in El Granada that want to build a large home on a large parcel of land zoned agriculture. The CC wanted them to "deed most of their 142-acre property for an agricultural easement as a condition of their permit to build a 6,000-square-foot house." In my opinion that is one more example of a lack of respect for private property.

Posted by Janet Kennedy

Small carbon footprint, only $179,000 Canadian

It's known as "the littlest house" in Toronto. At just 312 square feet, the nearly 100-year-old house is for sale for about $179,000. "It's a great condo alternative for someone who's never owned anything," real estate agent Antonio Nardi told the National Post. "Instead of buying a space in a building, they can actually own real property, a piece of land even though it's smaller." From ABC News Money 4/14/10 (Courtesy The Little House)

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reminder - Community Crime Meeting April 15, 6 PM


6:00 PM


Please plan to attend and learn what we can do to better be aware of what is going on in our town.  Learn how to react to events in your neighborhood safely and correctly.

Pacifica Police, City Manager Steve Rhodes, Councilmember Maryann Nihart will be in attendance.  Share this date with your friends and neighbors. We all know someone that has been victimized, its time for us to push back against crime in our town.

If you have any questions please email Jim Wagner

Letter to the Editor

As I pick up the April 7th, 2010 Tribune, the lead story is "Council seeks "best use" study for old sewer plant." Wait a minute, another consultant, more consultant fees???
The Waster Water Treatment Plant has a "highest and best use" study done. That was done in the appraisal for the property. Every commercial real estate appraisal has a section that covers the highest and best use for a property.  The very appraisal that City Hall tried many times to hide from the public. You ask why? Cause the highest and best use was not the City Hall at the Waste Water Plant Jim Vreeland was trying to have built.
Jim Vreeland, and Pete DeJarnatt, claimed the current City Hall, was unsafe and unhealthy for City workers to work in. They both, where pushing for the City Hall to be built at the old Waste Water Treatment Plant.

When, I spoke at the City Council meeting regarding the Waste Water Treatment Plant, I mentioned now is the time to get a bid package ready. The economy is not right for this type of project but in time the economy will turn, capital will return to the markets and so will able developers who can built a project, such as this.

The current City Council has failed us again, Pacifican's. The mere people who bankrupted the town by not waiting anything built are the City Councils Sphere of Influence!!

After all our City Council, minus Mary Ann Nihart, gave the exclusive rights to develop this property to Skyfield USA. We all know how that turned out. A group with no money, no expertise in real estate development.

James Alex
Park Pacifica

Yee says Palin contract was shredded

(04-13) 14:21 PDT Sacramento - --

Bags containing shredded documents that students at California State University Stanislaus found evidence of documents related to an upcoming speaking engagement by Sarah Palin at the school. The students appeared at a Sacramento news conference with State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco this morning and said they found the documents on Friday in a dumpster outside the school's administration building in Turlock.

Students at Cal State Stanislaus have discovered evidence that documents related to an upcoming speaking engagement by Sarah Palin were shredded and dumped after the university claimed that no public documents existed, a state senator said on Tuesday.

The students appeared at a Sacramento news conference with State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco this morning and said they found the documents on Friday in a dumpster outside the school's administration building in Turlock. They include four pages of a contract for a "speaker" who will be traveling from Anchorage, though they do not identify the speaker by name.

The senator in March questioned how much the university is paying the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate for her speaking engagement on June 25. The university said a private university foundation contracted Palin for the $500-a-plate event and the contract included a privacy clause preventing officials from disclosing the speaker's fee.

Yee argues that the CSU Stanislaus Foundation includes university officials and that the contract should be a public record. He's sponsoring a bill that would require private university foundations, including CSU Stanislaus Foundation, to comply with the Public Records Act.

Yee claimed the public has a right to know what the university foundation is paying Palin, particularly at a time of rising student fees, and he asked for documents related to her appearance but the university said it had no documents.

The students said they were tipped off that university officials were disposing of documents and found part of the contract, along with other documents - some shredded - after they investigated the tip. Foundation documents were mixed in with official university documents and the foundation is housed in university property, the students said.

The contract pages found intact detail travel and accommodation requirements for the speaker, which Yee said is Palin. Those include two first-class airline tickets from Anchorage, along with two business-class tickets between the destination and the lower 48 states. It also specifies the speaker have a one-bedroom suite and two single rooms in a deluxe hotel. Yee released the documents to the media.

The contract, dated March 16, is from the Washington Speakers Bureau. That organization represents Palin and sets up her speaking engagements.

School officials "think they are in another world where they can do as they damn well please and that's not going to happen on my watch, that's not going to happen on the students watch, that's not going to happen on any watch because that's not how we do business here in the state of California," Yee said.

A university spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment on the documents.

Read more:

Submitted by Jim Alex

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

El Granada landowner wins case over Coastal Commission

By Clay Lambert [ ]
Published/Last Modified on Monday, Apr 12, 2010 - 02:59:54 pm PDT 

An El Granada landowner won a court decision over the California Coastal Commission on Monday.

Dan Sterling and his family live on 143 hilltop acres above El Granada. For nearly a decade, the Sterlings have sought to build a house on the land. In 2005, they applied for a permit to construct a 6,456-square-foot house, complete with water storage tanks and a septic system.

The Coastal Commission ultimately stepped in. The Sterlings say they were required to designate all but 10,000 square feet of the scenic, hilly property as agricultural easement in exchange for the right to build the house. Last year, the family filed suit against the Coastal Commission in San Mateo County Superior Court 

Monday the court ruled the requirement unconstitutional.

“While the (Coastal) Commission may have jurisdiction to impose an affirmative agricultural easement under the Local Coastal Plan, the imposition of the easement here constitutes an unconstitutional taking…” wrote Judge George Miram in his writ vacating the requirement.
Submitted by Jim Alex