The latest proposal to redevelop an old rock quarry in Pacifica could head to voters for approval in November.
But the developer might face an uphill battle, as some residents have expressed skepticism about the project, and the town has a vocal anti-development contingent.
Property owner Paul Huele plans to build about 200 homes, as well as a 200-room hotel, retail stores, restaurants, cafes, office space, and a concert amphitheater at the former limestone quarry.
The quarry is located west of state Highway 1, between the Vallemar and Rockaway Beach neighborhoods. It was active for more than two centuries before mining operations ceased in the 1980s.
The 86-acre site is zoned for commercial use. That means a purely commercial development at the quarry could proceed without voter approval, but would require authorization from the Planning Commission, City Council, and California Coastal Commission.
However, because the project includes housing, voters must approve rezoning the property.
Pacifica voters previously rejected plans to build homes on the site in 2001 and 2006.
The 2006 proposal for a mixed-use development included 355 homes. Pacificans rejected that plan by a slim margin, with just more than half of the voters opposing the measure.
The current proposal keeps 75 percent of the land as open space, and includes extensive wetlands habitat restoration, along with new hiking trails, upgrades to existing trails and the removal of invasive species.
But as Heule and his Grand Rapids, MI-based company, Eenhoorn, LLC, attempt to gather signatures for the ballot measure that would allow housing construction at the quarry, some Pacifica residents have become suspicious of their intentions.
Local activist and former Mayor Peter Loeb said the developer’s signature gatherers recently appeared in front of a local market.
Loeb claimed the hand-painted sign the petitioners displayed seemed specifically designed to obscure the professional nature of their campaign, and create the impression it was an amateur effort.
“It looked very grass-rootsy,” Loeb said. “Extremely deceptive.”
The petitioners reportedly admitted they were from out of town, but denied they were being paid for their work, Loeb said.
Loeb said he opposes the development, in part because it would add to the already congested traffic on Highway 1.
“They have some huge problems to solve, the biggest one being traffic,” Loeb said.
City Manager Lorie Tinfow said if the developer obtains signatures from 10 percent of Pacifica’s voters, the City Council would then have only two available courses of action. The Council could vote to enact the initiative, or it would have to place the measure on the November ballot.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike O’Neill said he hasn’t taken a position on the development or the ballot measure, but he acknowledged Pacifica can be a tough place to get any new construction project approved. “Pacifica is wary of developers, whether local or out of town,” he said.
But O’Neill noted the added tax revenues from the proposed development could appeal to voters in a town still recovering from the economic upheaval in 2008.
“We’ve gone through a recession, and people want their streets fixed,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill recently facilitated a meeting between the developer’s representative and Unite Here Local 2, a labor union that would like to see the proposed hotel operated as a union shop.
Union representative Ian Lewis said it would be premature to comment on his talks with the developer.
Heule could not be reached for comment, and Eenhoorn, LLC representatives did not respond to an interview request.