Wednesday, January 27, 2010

City Sewer System - City Council Accountability

Continuing the conversation, also see comments on  "Nurdle Beach" (1/25/10) and Sewer Enterprise Discussion (1/19/10)

Cost to property owners: 
1.  Refunding of (balloon payment) bonds paid by property owners,
City of Pacifica Budget, 2008-09, pages 111-112.
Matured bonds $2,066,000: $1,610,000 paid, interest expense $456,000, -28% .

2.  Sewer Lateral replacement cost changed about 6 years ago from from City to property owners.  
Municipal Code section 6-9-02

   "(a) The owner or person in possession of property connected to a main sewer of the City shall be responsible for the side sewer, from the structure to the main line if no clean out exists, up-to-grade, within two (2') feet of the property line and visible at all times.  The clean-out shall be constructed in accordance with the provisions of the Plumbing Code of the City."
3.  Payments transferred out of Sewer Enterprise Fund to City General Fund, estimated at $700,000 annually until 2006-07.*
4.  Cost increase for service, 3 years, 30%, 6 years about 200%*
5.  Fines - multiple over several years, latest $2.3 million for illegal sewage discharges into the ocean (called a "tar spill" by city council).*
6.  50 year old Sewer upgrades needed:  Underground collection pipes, sewer laterals.  And, underground utilities? $50 million?
* Primary citizen research:  Jeff Simons. 

Reference comments from "Nurdle Beach" 

1) "... in the 1999 time frame that the City sewer mains and laterals needed to be completely replaced."
Ian: Personally I am more concerned with the neglect and abject failure of our City sewer system and the untold millions of gallons of waste that have been released into our environment. The responsibility for this lies squarely on the shoulders of our City officials. I was told by former public works director Scott Holmes back in the 1999 time frame that the City sewer mains and laterals needed to be completely replaced. Unfortunately, he was only given funds for makeshift repairs by Council.Since then, our City officials have shifted responsibility for the replacement of the laterals to individual property owners. Additionally, our City officials have failed to replace sewer mains and our sewer rates and taxes continue to escalate. You and your buddies from PSD seem to be environmental opportunists rather than true environmental advocates. 1/26/10, 6:19AM, Pen name,  Sammy the Sewage Saturated Sea Lion
  "...they were spending about $125,000 per year when they should have been budgeting over $1 million a year to be effective in fixing the sewer lines." Identified and repaired several sources for reduction of inflow and infiltration. Reference "Continued sewer lateral replacement in Linda Mar Basin to reduce I&I problem, Oversaw 200+ sewer lateral replacements."... yeah but . . . the RWQCB report says they were spending about $125,000 per year when they should have been budgeting over $1 million a year to be effective in fixing the sewer lines. To say they replaced sewer lines therefore I'm full of crap is like saying the fire department put out 1 out of every 10 fires so they're doing a heckuva job. "Oversaw" 200 sewer laterals replacements?? You'll have to ask Smelly Mel's how involved the city was with that process . . .3. " the City Code clearly stated that the lateral repair was the responsibility of the City as long as the requisite cleanout was in place. 1/26/10, 12:16PM, Jeffrey Simons
3)  "... the City Code clearly stated that the lateral repair was the responsibility of the City as long as the requisite cleanout was in place." Thanks, Jeffrey. Your knowledge on this subject is always insightful. For those of you scoring at home, the firing of former City Manager David Carmany was based upon his directiion to City workers to repair the lateral for a rental tenant of one of former Mayor Barbara Carr's clients. BTW, that tenant was no other than former City Council candidate Julie Weismann. The property had a serious/unsafe sewage backflow problem which was characterized as a public health hazard. At the time, the City Code clearly stated that the lateral repair was the responsibility of the City as long as the requisite cleanout was in place. In order to justify Carmany's firing (initiated by Vreeland, PSD et al) and establish precedence for future lateral repairs, City Attorney Quick perverted the interpretation of the Code. Henceforth lateral repairs were considered the home owner's problem. Very convenient for those who wanted to redirect allocated sewer funds towards other ventures. Again, TGWNM - Thank God We're Not Montara! Right Anonymous?. 1/16/10, 2:37PM, Pen-name, Completely covered in Pacifica sewage and all I got was this lousy t-shirt 

Posted by Kathy Meeh


Kathy Meeh said...

Huh, there is more to the bond refunding. $2 million is far from total funding which needs further consideration, and tracing...another time for that. I remember Vi Gotelli indicating there was balloon funding, this was one.

Jeffrey W Simons said...


the sewer bond issue is very complex and confusing (go ahead and ask Ann Riztmaa to explain it to you, see what happens), but the bottom line is that the city used this refinance to continue supporting their no-growth agenda and hide the bleeding of the General Fund, even during 6 years of economic growth in the San Francisco Bay area. As a result, they saddled the future citizens with millions of dollars in additional interest to maintain short term appearances of functional city staff.

If you look at the financing for that $9.25 million bond, you'll see the city will pay over $8 million in interest over the life of the bond, and balloon payments will come due during the last 3 years of the bond.

Grab your lederhosen, kiddies. The puddle just keeps getting deeper.

Kathy Meeh said...

Awesome, so much more sewage there. You know after Anonymous posted a link to the $1,610,000 State bond, thought I'd look at the year prior, (that link and updated city information I can't seem to find BTW).

Then on "Nurdle Beach" there was intelligent dialog regarding the WWTP history, which needed to be brought forward in an article.

And, bingo, the prior 6-9-02 city ordinance, when property owners didn't pay for sewer lateral replacement about 6 years back. Now presented to property owners from the city as we're doing you a big grant favor by taking 20% off the cost to replace.

This city council has been in office 8 years, the memory from 3 of them who were on city council stretches further back 10,12,14 years. The WWTP financing was raided by the city, the cost for sewer lateral replacement was passed to property owners, cost for service doubled, and maintaining infrastructure of the system was neglected. Now we have another big bill ahead of us (maybe as high as the initial cost of the plant itself), and the ecological consequences have caused multiple fines.

Moral to this discovery, with more coming (the bond you mentioned is another eye opener): "our environment is our economy" is going to bury this city if not the property owners (affecting all citizens) of this city if excuses for not developing to promote really smart tax revenue doesn't occur.

At this point, personally I don't think I care what business is developed in what's left of this city as long as it produces maximum tax revenue, and its not a flaky private-public partnership with the potential to blow-up the WWTP, the area, the elementary school, and the entrance to Vallemar (oh wait, have to think about the last one).

Bark Nuggets said...

Exellent article and commentary, everyone. What a mess!

Anonymous said...

Aging pipes force sewage into San Francisco Bay
Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, January 30, 2010

Joan Petrosh and her friends were tossing fishing lines into the bay last week, hoping for bites from the striped bass and stingrays they usually catch.

The setting? On the Richmond-area shoreline - in front of one of the main outflow points for partially treated sewage in the Bay Area.

"There's no way we would eat anything we catch," Petrosh said, watching one of the lines buck with what looked like a bite. "Just think of the bay - it's too contaminated. We just catch 'em for fun and throw 'em right back."

Little did she know how contaminated the water really was.

During the storms that howled through the Bay Area a couple of weeks back, a total of 630,000 gallons of raw sewage spewed into the bay at 47 spots, according to environmental watchdog group San Francisco Baykeeper.

That was small fry, however, compared with the 170 million gallons of under-treated - meaning only partially processed - sewage discharged from three East Bay Municipal Utility District "wet weather" overflow plants on the eastern side of the bay, Baykeeper reported. The plants are there to process overflows during storms, but in big drenchers like this month's the water is sullied more than usual by sewer overflows.

One of those "wet weather" plants is at Point Isabel, right by where Petrosh was fishing.

Nasty stuff

The raw sewage was the worst - pure product from toilets, kitchen sinks and dirty creeks, rolling into the waves after mixing into runoff water through cracked sewer lines, overflowing manhole covers or similar breaking points.

The under-treated sewage had at least been mixed with rainstorm water, screened of solids and run through a chlorine cleansing process before being released.

But given that even the best of the sewage still had chemicals such as pesticides and heavy metals such as mercury - the kinds of things that give people stomach aches and rashes, and that kill or sicken fish and birds - none of the gunk was harmless.

It's a problem that's been building for a while: Many of the Bay Area's sewer pipes and processing plants are so outdated that spills are a given every time big storms overwhelm the draining systems. And with an El Niño winter having set in, the sight of brown, scuzzy water wending its way toward the fishing and swimming spots will be common.

Spills happen "all over the bay," Baykeeper policy analyst Sara Aminzadeh said on the organization's boat last week. "It's a lot of work for everyone just keeping track of them, let alone stopping them.

"It's a serious health and environmental issue for Bay Area ecosystems and communities," Aminzadeh said.

Anonymous said...

A bit at a time

In the Bay Area alone, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued dozens of cleanup orders over the past two years, and the state Regional Water Quality Control Board has levied millions of dollars in fines. But the necessary renovation and repair jobs are so numerous that taking them on all at once would be impractical, officials said.

The federal and state agencies, often assisted by Baykeeper, file actions to force communities and water agencies to upgrade - but the goal is really to spur action toward fixing things a bit at a time.

A case in point: Last year, the EPA filed a federal lawsuit with the state water board to get six cities and the Richmond-area Stege Sanitary District to assess their systems and figure out how to fix them. Baykeeper joined that action Thursday, and the aim now is to get everyone moving on a strategy for upgrades.

The cities involved are Albany, Oakland, Alameda, Emeryville, Berkeley and Piedmont.

San Francisco has one of the most advanced storm and sewer water processing systems in the state - a series of underground vats ringing the city. But even with that, enough contaminants drained out during the recent downpours that five beaches had to be closed.

Upgrades tough to do

"There is a multibillion-dollar backlog in upgrades that need to be done, and not enough money to do it, so we really try to work with the districts and cities all over the state as much as we can," said William Rukeyser, spokesman for the state water board. "We would much rather cities fix their systems than spend money on fines."

EBMUD's managers say they can't afford big upgrades immediately. So in the meantime, they are working with the communities in the EPA lawsuit and elsewhere to assess what it would take to overhaul the area's sewer systems, many of them decades old. EBMUD serves 1.2 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

They are also working on an ordinance that would require residents to have their sewer pipes inspected, and repaired if necessary, every time the home is sold.

The idea, said EBMUD spokesman Charles Hardy, is to stanch the leaking sewage water coming into processing plants, so the plants won't be overburdened.

"This has to be a collaborative effort between everyone involved - us, the homeowners and the communities," Hardy said. "We can't do it by ourselves."

Kathy Meeh said...

Anonymous, good newspaper information article... which does not excuse irresponsible 8 year city council management of our city sewer system to the detriment of property owners of this city.

Kathleen Rogan said...

I think I'm gonna be sick.

Jeffrey W Simons said...

It is important to note that while these sewer issues are widespread, in no way should that excuse this city council from diverting funds from the Sewer Enterprise into the General Fund, while neglecting the maintenance needed on the sewer infrastructure.

Instead of being one of the worst polluters in the Bay Area, Pacifica could have been a leader in environmental and coastal protection.

Kathleen Rogan said...

like the plastic bag ban? That seems to be more important to them. If I had to choose what needed fixing first it would be the sewer system. That sewage problem is huge and scary, more than the plastic bag ban and forcing restaurants to buy expensive bio-degradable to go boxes in very rough economic times. At least if you see a plastic bag blowing by you you can grab it, and then we recycle the plastic bags and make pretty jewelry and stuff. Raw sewage backing up and flowing over? too too late.

Jeffrey W Simons said...


I supported the plastic bag ban during my campaign last year, but I was very insistent with the Beach Coalition and Sierra Club that if I had been elected to City Council, I would have allowed a 6 month transition period, and I was very adamant that the Chamber of Commerce work with the businesses to help offset any cost they incurred during the transition either through promotions or incentives. Heck, I would have probably insisted on some tax breaks for businesses making this transition. (This eventually happened, but it took over a year).

But I agree that plastic bag bans are but one small element to cleaning up the city, environmentally speaking. Our grossest polluter is still HWY 1 and guess who has blocked its development? "Environmentalists". #2 gross polluter? The sewer plant. And guess who lied about a 7 million gallon sewer spill and raided the coffers of the Sewer Enterprise to offset the city's lack of development, weakening the sewer infrastructure?


You can lay the blame for these problems squarely at the feet of John Curtis, Pacificans for Sustainable Development, even our so-called environmental City Council led by Jim Vreeland.

How the heck can a guy who works for the EPA oversee a city that has been repeatedly fined for sewer spills, sending contaminated sludge to other counties, and gone nowhere in fixing Highway 1?

Kathleen Rogan said...

I totally agree with you. In my perfect world, plastic bags would disappear.

In my education through fix pacifica I have changed my opinion on our local issues and now think that maybe our local environs should have made our sewage problems their first priority over the plastic bag ban, which in turn is creating greater hardships of our local business. I refuse to do what they ask and stop shopping at my favorite local business just because they give out plastic. Bllzzztt! on that! Plus, I use them when I get them home. Plastic bags have many uses and can be recycled.

Kathy Meeh said...

Otherwise in agreement with Jeff and Kathleen, in a perfect world plastic would be biodegradable, and maybe some variation on that technology will occur in the future. As it stands cloth bags can carry unhealthy bacteria build-up, as described in a recent newscast, so I would say periodically spray these cloth bags inside with disinfectant or wash them from time-to-time.

Similar to Kathleen, I recycle these useful, easy-to-use, access and transport plastic bags, and think of doing so as eventually making "earth friendly" carpet for houses or other such recycling purposes. No bags are released into the oceans, streams or land environment; and, no bags are hauled with plastic bottles and Styrofoam containers to "nurdle" at the shores of Ian's secret waterfall.

From my view much of the beach clean-up work should be a paid endeavor if this city had an actual balanced economy, rather than working on its 3rd world deficiency status.

Beach signs, and plastic disposal trash cans might be helpful with separate or regular trash can for dog poop. Fines for those who are non-compliant, fine. No guarantee what washes-up on our ocean shores comes from Pacifica anyhow. And, it seems the plastic, Styrofoam accumulated continent in the middle of the ocean should be dismantled piece by piece. Think we have the technology to do that, and assuming this is a shared world issue, invite other contributing nations to participate.

Kathleen Rogan said...

Excellent, Kathy. Ewwww.....on the bacteria build up on cloth bags. You learn something new everyday, glad I don't use them, I'm a freak about germs.

Anonymous said...

With one quick shrug of the shoulders, you blow off what so many other cities have been struggling with. Agreed, it's not something to ignore, but Pacifica is not alone in trying to do everything a city has to do on an ever-shrinking budget (remember, the state's been stealing money from cities the past few years).

"But the necessary renovation and repair jobs are so numerous that taking them on all at once would be impractical, officials said."

Anonymous said...

Oh, and, "... 170 million gallons of under-treated - meaning only partially processed - sewage discharged from three East Bay Municipal Utility District "wet weather" overflow plants on the eastern side of the bay..."

Think they'll be getting a proportionately-larger fine than Pacifica?

Jeffrey W Simons said...

If those cities were diverting sewer funds to their general funds and neglecting their infrastructure the way Pacifica was, they deserve whatever fine they are dealt.

Kathy Meeh said...

Anonymous, you've again offered deflected nonsense. The issue is not that "every city is having sewer problems" or "the city economic problems here are the State's fault". No the sewer plant system in Pacifica was raided, and additionally sewer lateral cost was passed along with the deficiency cost to property owners. Proper care was not taken in oversight by this city council, they just didn't do the right thing.

Also, economic problems in Pacifica are not the result of an alleged 17 year history with the State, but with failure of this city to develop a balanced economy when opportunities were offered.

In both instances 8-13 year city council members are responsible for this Pacifica mess, not some outside "bogeyman" monster.

And, of course I agree with the comments Jeff just made in this regard as well.

Anonymous said...

Which Peninsula cities pay for property owners' laterals to be repaired?

Do you support the city paying to repair your neighbors' laterals?

Do you support paying more so your city can keep all the infrastructure in good working order? Every budget report I've read shows every city trying to do as much as possible with underfunded sewer enterprises.

I just read several budget reports from Peninsula cities. If you think Pacifica is faring far worse than other cities, think again. If you think Pacifica could have built the same kind of shopping centers the Colma and SSF have, how would you support that kind of claim?

Jeffrey W Simons said...

Do you support the city paying to repair your neighbors' laterals?

This is actually kind of funny because one of the issues that sank my interview for SAMCAR's endorsement is they clearly did not understand my position on point of sale ordinances that require sewer lateral repairs at the time of purchasing a home. So don't feel you are a unique flower if I criticize you; I think BORPAC (SAMCAR's committee to review candidate endorsements) are a bunch of dimwits. Getting Sue Vaterlaus as their President last year was a step in the right direction. Getting rid of George Mozingo (Pete Dejarnatt's old boxing buddy) was a good call, but his replacement Michon Coleman didn't exactly wow me.

In all honesty, I would support paying whatever was needed to maintain the sewer infrastructure. I will not support paying for mismanagement of the Sewer Enterprise from a City Council that opted to raid it instead of supporting much needed economic growth in Pacifica.

Kathy Meeh said...

Anonymous you said, "If you think Pacifica is faring far worse than other cities, think again." Prove your point, two years ago I made a comparative study of San Mateo county cities and their general fund spending per resident. Pacifica was #1 again at the bottom, 12% lower than East Palo Alto.

From that data, it could be argued that citizens who live in this city receive few city service benefits, which most of us have also observed, know and understand through direct experience. Also, this city inadequacy should not be confused with the sewer system property owner rip-off, and city council management fiasco.

Anonymous said...

Kathy, when you have lower revenues, you have lower per capita spending. Even East Palo Alto has Hwy 101 access, so that shopping complex anchored by IKEA has boosted their revenues.

Deus ex machina quarry developments aren't going to raise that revenue any time soon.

Nevertheless, your comments deflected my point, which is that even cities doing comparatively well have been crushed by revenue drops and cost increases.

All I'm saying is criticize whats worth criticizing. Throwing everything in one bucket does not advance your argument.

And Jeffrey, me, too. But I do empathize with a city that's been underfunded, and understand making some hard choices about where to put the money that's available. If you think you can manage for a year or two, hoping that some sewer infrastructure manages to last a wee bit longer than planned, I can understand trying to save a few jobs. Calculated risk, perhaps, but understandable. I'm loathe to sit in judgment on them since I wasn't sitting there explicitly responsible for making the decisions with the information that was available at the time. This isn't apologetics. It's an attempt to really understand what the city is faced with. Without, statements about plans to fix things don't amount to more than opinion.

Jeffrey W Simons said...

Deus ex machina quarry developments aren't going to raise that revenue any time soon.

I beg to differ, but at least we can agree that working against 2 separate development proposals doesn't bode well for the people who said they had a plan. Apparently, their plan involved raiding the Sewer Enterprise in lieu of revenue generating development. I think we can also agree that the Quarry has been a redevelopment district for over 25 years and has yet to generate 1 cent of revenue for the city. Like Dr Phil says, how's that working for ya?

I empathize with a city that is underfunded. However, actively working to keep it underfunded (as this City Council has proven to have done) seems a rather ignoble direction. I also can understand trying to save a few jobs, holding off for a few years . . . but we're talking 8-10 years of understanding the problem and doing NOTHING to solve it. The OWWTP site sits vacant. The Quarry sits vacant. There have been interested developers for both parcels.

Remember, it is not a conspiracy theory if it happens to be true . . .

Anonymous said...

False dichotomy, Jeffrey, in your "in lieu" statement. Raiding a fund to keep employees on staff is a separate issue from whether the city's supporting developments.

As to the Quarry, you make my point about "any time soon".

Saying "NOTHING" seems a bit over the top.

Making sense of nonsense said...

"A deus ex machina is generally undesirable in writing and often implies a lack of creativity on the part of the author. The reasons for this are that it does not pay due regard to the story's internal logic and is often so unlikely that it challenges suspension of disbelief, allowing the author to conclude the story with an unlikely, though perhaps more palatable, ending.[14] Genuine and obvious examples, not meant ironically, are therefore hard to produce as their existence in a plot generally indicates a poor quality work which is unlikely to be well-known."

Jeffrey W Simons said...

no my point about the Quarry is to illustrate that a revenue generator and anchor for the city has sat vacant for 25 years. Sure as hell isn't my fault. The people who opposed both development proposals said they had a plan for the city, I assume the plan involved some type of revenue generation in lieu of developing the Quarry. Like I have stated, that "revenue generation" consisted of raiding the Sewer Enterprise, selling property, and the fire assessment. It certainly didn't involve encouraging smart growth or increasing revenue by other means.

Steve Sinai said...

Some people here have ideas for improving Pacifica's financial situation.

I'm not seeing any ideas from council-apologist Anonymous, though.

Yet another example of Pacifica's "can't do" attitude.

Kathy Meeh said...

Anonymous, no I didn't "deflect" your prior comment, I "discounted" it. And, I question your one "cherry picked" Burlingame payroll budget example without reviewing history in comparison with, say Pacifica and other cities in San Mateo county. And, does this compare with cities of similar size, and does this only apply to this recession year or prior years as well? It seems you didn't do a fair study. As you mentioned, you brought up the issue. If you do the study, be sure to post it as an article then well talk.

Now you say "when you have lower revenues, you have lower per capita spending". This statement makes no sense to me, because the shell of the city must be maintained (fixed and accelerating cost), and even with no frills would tend to drive up cost. Think similar to small business vs. large business.

On the other hand, is the issue also 1) a city with services, vs. 2) a city with few services, and a large volunteer labor component. Volunteer labor costs citizens of a community individually. Is volunteer labor to replace paid jobs fair? Does volunteer labor produce an efficient, effective result similar to a city payroll component? Is denying individuals paid work in the community and with the city a good thing? How does this kind of impoverished attitude affect the social fabric of a city?

You say "Even East Palo Alto has Hwy 101 access, so that shopping complex anchored by IKEA has boosted their revenues." Oh, boohoo for poor 'ol Pacifica on Hwy 1, which has wasted every significant economic development opportunity available over the past 8 years of this city council management. East Palo got smart, that IKEA doesn't take-up a whole lot of space and it provides jobs, services and tax revenue for the city as well as the entire San Mateo county peninsula.

As Steve just commented your view is "Yet another example of Pacifica's "can't do" attitude."

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Steve, but you apparently ignored my earlier posts about enhancing Pacifica's current businesses.

When I asked what it would take to increase hotel TOT 5%, others tried to change the subject.

When I asked what it would take to pull tourist traffic off the highway and into centers like Linda Mar, what did other participants suggest?

The former Food Town has made some remarkable improvements, but I can't say much for their marketing efforts. Anyone got some thoughts on how to get the word out so their traffic increases? People will drive further to get to quality if they know it's there. Eureka Square could sure use the stronger anchor tenant. Several businesses could improve with a modest marketing effort for the supermarket.

You want can't do attitude, just look at some of the responses to such suggestions.

When a technology company wants to create and sell a new product that's still many months out, what's the best approach? Do like Osborne and destroy your company with vaporware promises? Or sell what you have and develop at the same time?

East Palo Alto has the luxury of high traffic volume by virtue of being on 101. Pacifica does not. All the wishing in the world is not going to change the economic implications. IKEA gets to reap the benefits of a high traffic corridor. Pacifica will have to build demand for any such big box (or boxes, in the case of the suggested outlet mall).

When the folks here can't even engage in the simple thought process around enhancing current businesses with additional traffic, the only way a new development will drive new traffic to its doors is to rely utterly on its own marketing skills.

Jeffrey W Simons said...

When I asked what it would take to increase hotel TOT 5%, others tried to change the subject.

I could have sworn I said join the SMC Convention and Visitors Bureau for real and promote the hell out of Pacifica. And build more hotels. Yeah, I did say those things. I think TOT could be triple what it is now.

When I asked what it would take to pull tourist traffic off the highway and into centers like Linda Mar, what did other participants suggest?

yeah I said we need more than Linda Mar Shopping Center to generate some solid revenues. Develop the Quarry. Put a major anchor at the OWWTP. Something that will get people off the highway and out of their cars.

East Palo Alto has the luxury of high traffic volume by virtue of being on 101.

Do you have an idea how many cars travel back and forth on HWY 1 every day? Probably not as many as 101, but I certainly wouldn't call it "low volume" or else the guys who built the tunnel talked some serious smack.

When the folks here can't even engage in the simple thought process around enhancing current businesses with additional traffic, the only way a new development will drive new traffic to its doors is to rely utterly on its own marketing skills.

I've read this 3 times and still don't know what it means. Are you saying no development is the best option because then no one will have to worry about not promoting nothing? Is that you, John Curtis??

Bark Nugget said...

Pacifica gets a TON of thru-traffic along Highway One. Not as much as what passes through EPA on 101, but we get a lot!

That traffic is divertable as is evidenced by the size of the line I see snaking from Gorilla Barbeque every weekend.

At some point we have to take ownership of the fact that there aren't very many compelling reasons to stop and shop in Pacifica. What does Eureka Shopping Center offer to eyeballs passing by on Highway 1? Decrepit store-fronts anchored by a grocery store? Is that really going to divert Highway 1 traffic?

I don't care how much the city markets things, unless you're offering a compelling product/service in a pleasing atmosphere, people aren't going to stop to investigate.

As a corollary, putting up a pleasing facade (see Palmeto renovation plan) won't help if there's no substance behind it.

SOLUTION: update store-fronts and entice locally-owned businesses to occupy vacancies

The empty KFC sits empty while thousands of cars pass it each day. Just think of the possibilities. If another fast-food chain goes in there, just think of the opportunity that has been lost to give our town a little bit of character and another reason to stop and shop. The KFC store-front is just one of many, but it's these individual decisions that add up to create the type of community that people either want to stop and check out, or drive on through thinking (rightly), "Just another strip mall."

Steve Sinai said...

Anonymous, if you want me to keep better track of what you've been writing, stop posting as Anonymous. Not only do I discount anything written by someone who's afraid to put their name behind what they say, but I have a hard time keeping all the different cowardly Anonymous's apart.

I don't recall you ever making an actual suggestion. You ask questions, but those aren't suggestions. You tell people why their suggestions won't work, but those aren't suggestions either. Your sole purpose here seems to be to convince others that nothing can be accomplished in Pacifica.

Anything worth doing will have to overcome problems. The problem with the anti-economic-development contingent in town, including the city council, is that if there's the slightest road bump detected in a proposal, it's cause for rejecting the proposal.

Anonymous said...

Eureka Square now has a really good grocery store. I'm not suggesting it as a tourist stop. I'm suggesting marketing assistance to build up its clientele from the Pacifica and maybe south-of-the-Slide commuters. Eureka Square has a diversion challenge that Gorilla doesn't. You can't just pull over. It's going to take messaging, it's going to take signage, it's going to take specials, events, who knows?

Jeffrey, comparing 101 to 1 is ludicrous. You won't get an IKEA here, ok? And when I asked what it would take to divert traffic to existing businesses, you immediately go back to talking about the Quarry fairy. That's as stark a leap from supporting business to get both healthier businesses and healthier city coffers to magical thinking. And you know it. You can do better than that.

Hwy 1 was handling 10,000 trips a day back before the vote on Measure T. It's probably still in that ballpark. There is opportunity there. For example, how many Hwy 1 travelers know about just how good the High Tide Cafe is? Or Fog City Java? Or the Chit Chat Cafe? Or even the fish 'n chips place? or the sushi place near Mazzetti's?

And Steve, you were the one who flatly claimed that you weren't seeing any ideas from Anonymous. Now you say you can't keep up, and disparage me, too. You allow anonymous posting. If you dislike it that much, disable the feature.

I've been asking about what we might do to help local businesses so they'd be more prosperous and so the city would have more revenue. You say I'm just saying nothing can be done. Quite the opposite. I'm encouraging us to think practically, to go after the low-hanging fruit. The can't do attitude is the one that says, "Forget about that. Let's build the quarry." Build the quarry and you won't see a dime in revenue for at least three years. In the meantime, how much more staff gets laid off?

Or campaign to get something into the old PAC. Work with the Chamber to get some shopping-friendly signage onto Hwy 1. Push to get some good stories into the Chronicle about some of the better eateries and getaways. Start a campaign to put Pacifica squarely on the map at Yelp. Publish some stories here on fixpacifica about some of the really good things local businesses have been doing to improve their offerings (e.g., the old Food Town). Start giving out awards to the best local businesses. Tell your neighbors about how much of a difference it makes to the city budget to shop in town.

Do you really believe that there aren't practical things we can do to increase city revenues this year?

Another Anonymous said...

Anonymous for City Council!

mike bell said...

You're all cowards.

Steve Sinai said...

Anonymous (whichever one you are...apparently you think I'm supposed to be able to pick out your particular comments from the half-dozen or so others who post here as Anonymous), I've been hearing "let's promote our wonderful businesses", "let's market Pacifica", "let's revitalize Palmetto", "our environment is our economy", blah, blah, blah for over 25 years. Nothing's come of it. You're simply repeating it. That's why I don't find your "suggestions" to be of any value. After reading what Sue Digre's vision of Pacifica is during her upcoming term as mayor, it looks like we'll be extending that grand, 25+ year Pacifica tradition of "do-nothing" for at least another year.

Why the focus on the Quarry? As you mentioned, Eureka Square is too hard to notice (and poorly managed.) Foodtown/Oceana Market isn't that great. Even though I live within walking distance of the store, when they jacked their prices up so that they were 50% more expensive than Safeway, I stopped going.

Given the hassle the Houmams had just to get approval for their little project on Palmetto, there's no way I believe the current city leaders will accommodate the dozens of similar projects required to make the vision of a revitalized West Sharp Park come true. Linda Mar and Pacific Manor malls have limited space, and you can forget about expanding the available space in any significant amount. Even when existing business space is simply remodeled, as was the case with the Pacific Manor McDonalds and Walgreens, people scream bloody murder.

The Quarry is the only place left in town where there's enough room and easy access to develop a commercial base that can make a difference to the city's economic situation. Maybe something can be built there that would actually give Pacifica an identify. I'm getting tired of the "aw, that's too bad" looks I get when I tell people I live in Pacifica.

Anonymous said...

Ok, well, throw the bastards out then. That seems like all you are offering for anything that's going to help the budget any time soon.

Maybe you just want to complain.

(Did you not even realize that Starbucks is making money for the city, and was just remodeled over the weekend? Who complained besides the people who couldn't get their fix on Sunday?)

It seems beyond your understanding that enhancing business even 5 or 10% would enhance tax revenue by the same amount. You don't need "new" to get "more".

Keep your eyes open for the Quarry fairy. I'm sure she'll visit the city coffers with magical gifts in 2010.

Steve Sinai said...

Replacing the 4 longest serving members of Council is a start. As long as they're running the city, there's no hope for Pacifica's economic future.

What we complain about is the delusional attitude among a small but vocal sector of the city's residents and leaders who believe we can run the city without diversified sources of tax revenue.

How long have you lived here? Don't bother answering, because I wouldn't trust an answer from someone who goes by the name Anonymous. But I bet you haven't been here for more than 3 or 4 years.

You sound like I did when I first moved to town, and heard lots of nice sounding rhetoric about how Pacifica would develop its economy. It took many years for me to realize that it was nothing BUT rhetoric, and there was no substance behind it.

Anonymous said...

Do you want to take this outside Stephanie Sinai? Afraid you might tear your dress? Pussy!

mike bell said...

Anonymouse...Grow up.

Stephanie Sinai said...

Heh-heh. Looks like that's the end of it for Anonymous. (Whichever Anonymous this is.)

Jeffrey W Simons said...

Well here's the problem with that 5-10% sales tax revenue increase plan . . . not that it is a bad idea, but let's crunch some numbers.

Sales tax for the last 4 budgets:

2006-2007 $1,367,419
2007-2008 $1,443,417
2008-2009 $1,386,000
2009-2010 (proposed) $1,450,000

About $300,000 of this is the Motor Vehicle in Lieu Tax, so our city's sales tax has been for many many years about $1.1 million. It goes up slightly when the economy is good, goes down a lot when the economy is bad. But it hasn't been "enhanced" for almost a decade.

So a 5-10% overall increase would net an additional $55K - $110K which is fine, but is it really enough to sustain the growing employee costs? Hardly.

When Jim Vreeland was touting the Walgreens, remodeled McDonalds, and Fresh and Easy as a sign this City Council was "enhancing our revenue base" . . . well yeah a little bit. Certainly not enough to address our heavy financial needs to maintain the roads, fully staff our police and fire departments, fully staff city hall, and provide the revenue the city really needs to bring it into the 21st century.

The Quarry is no mystical beast. It is a redevelopment district that has been established for 27 years as the economic engine of Pacifica. Even the Rockaway Quarry Steering Committee said that as far back as 1985.

Maybe Don Peebles' estimate of $15 million in revenue was high. Let's say development in the Quarry brings half that. But let's say it also brings a few hundred local jobs and establishes a walkable community center. It certainly is the type of development with the magnitude of revenue enhancement the city needs to survive.

The people most responsible for the Quarry NOT being developed are the same people most responsible for the OWWTP NOT being developed, and they're the same people responsible for the city having an utterly anemic economy. They want it that way, they wear poverty like a badge of honor.

So tell me, Anonymous (who mocked my suggestions as bringing in merely $300,000 a year then offered a solution that would bring in 1/3 of that AT BEST) . . . tell me, why would you trust these same people to "get it right" in 2010 when they bungled it so poorly since 2002??

Anonymous said...

The people responsible for not developing the quarry are Peebles' team who seriously misunderstood the voters.

Jeffrey W Simons said...

The people responsible for not developing the quarry are Peebles' team who seriously misunderstood the voters.

I'm talking about Cecilia Quick, Jim Vreeland, and Julie Lancelle. And anyone who supports them. Post-Measure L they are the ones who bungled the discussion with Peebles so badly that they decided to sell and walk.

Anonymous said...

5-10% would be a start. You throw-the-bastards-out folks want one big silver bullet. Real solutions are typically built from 5% here, 10% there, as many times as can be achieved.

5-10% is something to add to the budget this year. Silver bullets take longer. Do both.

Anonymous said...

Peebles, as you TTBO folks have so often touted, is a grown up, an amazing man, a man not held back by the usual limitations, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, you get the idea.

Blaming the city for Peebles' wild fantasies about potential revenue, and the subsequent awakening to reality, you can't have it both ways. Is Peebles Superman, or is the city Lex Luthor?

And you're still bashing the voters. Way to build support!

Kathy Meeh said...

Anonymous you said "And you're still bashing the voters. Way to build support!". Anonymous get a life, we are all voters, and voters deserve factual information and clarity.

You are playing behind an artificial banner of being an obstructive "anonymous", which is not offering much in the way constructive thought. Consider your inquiry may play better on that other blog, where vision for an improved city is limited and city council members are heroes.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you're telling me to get lost? I don't remember that approach from the Dale Carnegie course.

In looking for the economics work a while back that showed housing to not be revenue positive for cities, came across this bit of food for thought:
"Once cities impose impact fees, developers and builders are faced with the choice of increasing housing prices to offset the fees, paying the fees out of pocket, paying the landowner less for the raw land, or decreasing the number of new houses built. The empirical work in this area [Lawhon, 1996; Singell andLillydahl, 1990; Delaney and Smith, 1989a,b] suggests the most probable outcome is an increase in the price of housing. Prior literature predicts that as the cost of new housing increases relative to the price of the existing housing, the existing housing stock will likely experience an increase in demand and value due to community improvements. Such an outcome would have the effect of increasing overall housing values and lead to an increase in property tax revenues without a direct increase in the tax rate."

Kathleen Rogan said...

How about we just need to build more houses because we are losing houses on our coastline. We need to get started asap, building up the quarry. Pacifica population is dropping due to the loss of property on our coastline. We have plenty of open space, thank god we have saved it for a rainy day, that we could build on that is away from our precious coastline. I don't think we can afford to lose anymore property taxes.

Kathleen Rogan said...

Hey, Check out what our Governor is doing and talking about at 9:00am;

He is teaming up with, Gov Ed Rendell (PA) San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and they are going to talk about; Broad Infrastructure Investment and Drinking Water and WasteWater Treatment Plants.

Anyway, that is what he posted on his FB wall, if anyone is interested.

Steve Sinai said...

Unlike pretty much every other city in the Bay Area, Pacifica's population has been dropping for years. It doesn't have much to do with a crumbling coastline, though. It's because lots of people don't want to live in a run-down city with a third-world economy. When I tell people I live in Pacifica, the "Aw, that's too bad" look on their face says it all.

Anonymous said...

Did you read the quote? The bottom line was that you pay more taxes as a result.

Kathy Meeh said...

What is reality Anonymous? Your last two post references were such a waste-of-time, its hardly worth the effort to review additional references. More people, more city services, more business infrastructure, more jobs = better economy, greener = better for the community, we all gain.

Kathleen why don't you post the Infrastructure Investment article from the State, and include the picture?

Steve, for years because of the nature of my business I've talked with people through-out the USA, some of them have come over-the-hill to Pacifica while on vacation or for business, and their comments are the same as your: nice view, but run-down city.

Jeffrey W Simons said...

Ok so eliminate all housing and all our tax revenue problems are solved.

Jeffrey W Simons said...

btw Anonymous . . . I worked for Paradigm General Contractors after the Measure L election. They were the general contractor hired by Peebles Corp. I primarily worked with other clients, but I have a lot of insight on what was done after the election - by Peebles, by Paradigm, and by the City of Pacifica - that has led us to the point of Peebles Corp deciding to sell the property rather than develop.

If you have some specific questions, I'd be more than happy to provide answers. I can also assure you that housing elements in a mixed use development, also in a redevelopment zone, provide such a great profit for the developer and an instantaneous tax benefit to the redevelopment agency (in this case, The City of Pacifica) . . . well, there's a reason California set up their redevelopment districts to encourage this kind of development, and those incentives are specifically designed to offset some of the claims you're making about housing in general.

But hey I'm a open book at this point. Fire away.