Project for developmentally disabled under debate 

A controversial proposal to construct office buildings and a live-work center for the developmentally disabled faces appeals and a possible legal challenge despite an initial victory by proponents.

The Big Wave project, located near the Half Moon Bay Airport and Pillar Point Harbor, has drawn a torrent of criticism from local residents and the Federal Aviation Administration, among others. Opponents say the project calling for eight office buildings and a “wellness center” for 50 developmentally disabled adults would be out of place on the proposed site along Airport Street in unincorporated San Mateo County. 

The San Mateo County Planning Commission narrowly approved the plans and the project’s environmental review in a 3-2 vote last week despite opponents’ concerns, but that will not be the last word.

The Committee for Green Foothills, which opposes the project, will almost certainly file an appeal either to the county Board of Supervisors or the California Coastal Commission, said Lennie Roberts, a legislative advocate for the group.

“This is the first step in a very long process,” Roberts said.

Also, a lawsuit challenging the environmental impact report is “certainly a strong possibility because the [review] is so poorly done,” he said.

Project supporters, who say it would bring jobs to the coastside and allow disabled adults to live independently and have secure employment, were buoyed by the vote.

“It’s a milestone,” said El Granada resident Jeff Peck, the president of Big Wave, who has been working on the project, inspired by his 22-year-old disabled daughter, for a decade. 

The plans call for the construction of 225,000 square feet of office buildings with a 640-space parking lot, which would help fund the nonprofit 57-unit wellness center. Residents of the wellness center would be given jobs such as helping with nearby wetlands restoration and tending an organic farm.  

But while many opponents acknowledge the merits of the wellness center, they point to traffic studies showing that congestion would worsen, raising safety concerns in the event residents had to evacuate during an emergency.

The FAA also has weighed in, saying in a July letter that building the center for the developmentally disabled 500 feet from the Half Moon Bay Airport runway represents an “incompatible land use.” 

Still, the project would provide a crucial benefit that currently does not exist on the Coastside, said Scott Holmes, the project’s engineer.

“There’s no other place where Thea could live independently,” Holmes said of his 23-year-old disabled daughter.

 

Big Wave project

  • Located at Airport Street and Stanford Avenue, Princeton
  • Four two-story office buildings
  • Four three-story office buildings
  • 225,000 square feet of mixed-use office space
  • 640 parking spaces
  • 57-dwelling wellness center for 50 developmentally disabled adults and 20 staff members
  • 10,000 square feet of commercial public storage space
  • Wetland habitat creation

Source: San Mateo County Planning Commission

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Shaun Bishop

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