Burnham Strip will be preserved after residents protested development
REDWOOD CITY — In a concession to coastside residents, many of whom are angry with the direction a new midcoast development plan has taken, supervisors on Tuesday agreed to prohibit further housing construction on a 14-acre parcel overlooking the ocean called the Burnham Strip in El Grenada.
While only a part of the greater development plan called the Local Coastal Program was given tentative approval yesterday, some residents hailed the decision handed down by supervisors as a major victory in their bid to protect parts of the coast from overdevelopment.
"We would have had a row of monster houses on the strip," said Leni Schultz, chairwoman of the non-profit Burnham Strip Committee, which opposes housing on the site. The committee recently began a concerted fundraising effort to purchase the only lot on the strip currently for sale. Just two months into the campaign, the group has raised an estimated $10,000 toward the $250,000 price of the .83-acre plot, Shultz said.
Fran Pollard, an El Grenada resident who sits on the Grenada Sanitary District board, said prohibiting housing on the strip would preserve the ocean-facing, amphitheater design of El Grenada that architect Daniel Burnham intended in 1906.
The decision to exclude housing from Burnham Strip was unanimously supported by supervisors, but went against an earlier recommendation by a subcommittee of supervisors Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill.
"I thought more about what that strip meant when it was originally designed for the community," Supervisor Rich Gordon, who represents the unincorporated part of the county, said of his change of heart.
County Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell said he was disappointed by the decision to ban future housing from Burnham Strip. He said he believes the move devalues a half-acre of land the district owns on the strip, which it has used as collateral on loans. "It’s not over yet," Grenell said, emphasizing the district intends to fight for a change at the Nov. 14 supervisors’ meeting.
The controversial update to the 1980 plan — which with Tuesday’s thumbs up is poised for final approval on Nov. 14, before going to the state Coastal Commission — has taken seven years to get to this point. Many coastsiders have objected to the 75 new homes a year the proposed LCP allows on the midcoast, which could add about 3,434 homes to the current 3,719 at maximum build out.
Supervisors, however, argue that 75 homes a year is a compromise between the 125 currently allowed and the average 52 that has occurred over the last 10 years — a lower limit that is favored by those who want to protect the small-town feel of the coast.
Dozens turned up at Tuesday supervisors’ meeting offering numerous amendments to the 170 page plan in a hearing lasting more than two hours. Among the concerns mentioned most often were road congestion, overcrowding and too little existing sewer and water infrastructure to support new residents.
Many groups, however, including the environmentally conscious Committee For Green Foothills, said that after many years working on the plan, they supported its current form.
Frustrated supporters of the Big Wave project vowed to keep moving forward Tuesday, in spite of a decision by county supervisors to reject a proposed amendment to the midcoast Local Coastal Program that would have expedited construction.
Supervisors said they were not comfortable allowing an exception in the LCP for one project; while they support the plan, they said they wanted to see it take the normal Planning Commission channels.
"I’m pretty disappointed," property owner and project developer Jeff Peck said.
Supporters of the residential and commercial development asked supervisors for changes to the LCP that would give priority water rights to residential and commercial portions of the project. Acknowledging the setback, Peck said he is confident the project will still happen.
Funding for Big Wave, located across from Half Moon Bay Airport, is dependent on securing water rights for the offices as well as the residences, Peck said. The plan includes 36 condos and apartments, as well as a community center with a commercial kitchen and a home movie theater, basketball court and gardens for the disabled.
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