Thursday, July 12, 2012

Our city economy includes our beautiful coastline

Pacifica Tribune, My Turn guest column, 7/10/12. "Boosting our economy" by Paul Slavin

"I certainly wish our environment was our economy; right now, the environment's in a lot better shape, and is likely to out-perform the economy for some time to come.

Not to pit one against the other, but, as we search for every scrap of additional civic revenue, it might be interesting to take a look at some of our environmental highlights and see what, if anything, they are contributing to the city coffers.

Looking south at the free fishing pier
Pacifica has more than six miles of coastline, beaches and bluffs, mostly accessible, occasionally not. Much of it is stunningly beautiful. I'm sure all of us have, at one time or another, paused at the top of Hwy. 1 and looked down at the whole sweep of Pacifica from the cliffs just outside the windshield, past the fishing pier and the golf course, to the bold headland of Pedro Point far to the south. The endless blue of the Pacific on the right hand, and on the left, the coastal hills receding in an ever-changing combination of sun and fog, fading successive lines of hills like a Japanese watercolor. Oh, we've got environment and then some! 

Linda Mar, at the south end of town, is our busiest beach by far, with a long, curving, picturesque sweep of sand and sea ending at Pedro Point. On weekends a couple of hundred surfers are bobbing around the two foot waves. They support a couple of local surf shops, plus a few surf schools, which adds something to the municipal pot. The other big winner, of course, is the Taco Bell on the beach.

Free Parking
Cheap best view Taco Bell
Pacifica furnishes a large parking lot at the beach and has been prevented from charging for its use by (if I remember correctly) the California Coastal Commission. One of the major frustrations of trying to do anything around the coast is having to deal with the jurisdictional snake pit of conflicting or overlapping State, County and Federal agencies.

Heading north from Linda Mar, just past Rockaway, we come to the largest piece of undeveloped land, and the most contentious piece of real estate in Pacifica: The Quarry! But let's save that discussion for another time, shall we? Except to say that at the moment, I don't believe Pacifica is receiving any income from the property at all.

Free downtown GGNRA Mori Point 110 acres
Just north of the Quarry is Mori PointPacifica, of course, receives no revenue from this Federal property., a magnificent area that rises from marsh to meadow to bluff, and extends seaward high above the beach. The GGNRA controls Mori Point, and has done a very nice job constructing a boardwalk over some marshy road, putting in a few signs and benches, and building stairs right up the side of the Point. I'm out there often, walking my dog, but I seldom see more than a few hikers.

From the top of Mori Point, looking north, you can usually see quite a few golfers enjoying Sharp Park. This historic seaside links course has been owned and operated by San Francisco for 80 years, but discussions are underway that would transfer control to San Mateo County. This welcome event could result in Pacifica, or at least San Mateo, realizing some revenue from the course. 

Free Golf Course Seawall path
One of the most popular venues in the city is the seawall that separates the golf course from the beach. It seems constantly in use with joggers, strollers, dog-walkers and bike-riders. Entire families, from toddlers to nonna, are often encountered. The path is easily accessible from Beach Blvd. at Clarendon Road, and offers an easy walk of a little more than half a mile to the southern end at Mori Point Road. It's a packed-earth structure, maybe twenty feet across the top, and ten to fifteen feet above the beach. There's always a great ocean view and a fresh ocean breeze. It could use some occasional maintenance, a few buckets of fill when erosional cracks open. And a bench, about halfway down the path, would be nice for a weary nonna. (Maybe we could borrow one from Mori Point.) Again, this is an area we don't make a dime off of, and I can't imagine how we could.

No revenue 88 acre quarry
And finally, just up the beach from the seawall, is one of Pacifica's most unique environmental attractions, the municipal fishing pier. Anglers from around the Bay Area flock here to fish and crab in season. For free. Right now, they're awaiting the return of the striped bass, which seem to be running late this year.

So Pacifica cannot look to its most famous attractions for help with its depleted budget. We can try, and we certainly have been trying, to extract a few extra dollars from tourists coming here to fish or hike or surf, to sell them a meal, or a T-shirt, or a room for the night. But it's a tough sell these days.

I think we're going to have to pay our own way, with our own money.  An over-abundance of environmental glory is a bonus, a reminder of why we live here, a thank-you for the hard work and sacrifice it's going to take to keep on going."

Posted by Kathy Meeh

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