The first debate of the election season in Pacifica will not include any of the seven candidates running for City Council seats.
Instead, R. Don Peebles, the property owner and developer hoping to bring mixed-use rights to 83 acres of the Rockaway Quarry, and Peter Loeb, who served two years as Pacifica’s mayor during his tenure on the council from 1982-1990, will square off in a debate on the ballot initiative facing the coastside town.
On Nov. 7, voters will not only choose three City Council members but also vote on whether to allow residential development in the quarry.
A 1983 city ordinance requires any development proposal changing the zoning to allow residential building in the quarry to go to ballot. In 2002, voters rejected a proposal from developer Trammel Crow for 315 residential units and mixed-use development, voting 65 percent to 35 percent against the measure.
Peebles said he wants to build a "town center" with commercial, retail, restaurants, a small cinema, a town hall, a library, 355 housing units and a luxury resort hotel with 350 rooms. Forty-five percent of the parcel would be dedicated public open space, he added.
Frank Winston of the Pacifica/Coastside Democrats set up the debate — which will be formatted like a traditional debate, with time limits and rebuttals — and said the issue is whether there should be a proposal at all.
"I’m hoping that they’ll be able to convince the audience that either it’s a good thing to have a commercial and residential philanthropic use of his property or it’s a bad thing to have any development on the property," Winston said.
Peebles said that with the way the property is currently zoned he could build 2 million square feet of commercial space without any input from voters, but it would be a "tremendous bang for the dollar" for the city if a mixed-use development were allowed.
"It’s not a question of ‘if,’ but a question of ‘what,’" Peebles said.
Loeb said his concerns had to do with the size of the project and the public’s confusion about what they’re voting on in November.
"The confusion that’s happening is some people have this belief they’re voting on a project that’s been talked about," Loeb said.
The debate is set for Saturday at the Sharp Park Golf Course Restaurant at 9:30 a.m. Winston will moderate.