Voters have overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative in support of preserving an historic downtown bridge in Half Moon Bay.
In the June 3 election, more than 64 percent of city voters backed Measure F, also known as the Main Street Bridge Preservation Act, which was drafted by local residents and prohibits the demolition or enlargement of the bridge spanning Pilarcitos Creek. The initiative amends the city's local coastal land use plan to include language protecting the landmark, which was added to the national register in February.
A competing Measure E, sponsored by the Half Moon Bay City Council, failed with only 38.2 percent of the vote. It would have cleared the way for a roughly $6 million project to replace the old bridge with a wider structure.
The embattled bridge's fate had been up in the air since it received a sufficiency rating of 24 out of 100 in a 2010 Caltrans assessment.
A coalition assembled in the interest of saving the bridge has argued that its structural integrity can be updated to modern-day standards without altering its appearance and that a large construction project on Main Street would disrupt local businesses.
The ballot measure was the latest effort to pressure the City Council not to destroy the turn of the century architecture of the bridge, which was constructed in 1900 and made with surplus reinforced steel from a San Francisco cable car company.
“At this point, they've been told by the people more or less unequivocally, 'We want you to keep this bridge the way it is, if you can do that,'” said David Eblovi, a resident who has supported preservation efforts. “They should pursue funding that would allow them to do that.”
Eblovi said the election result should be a sign “that it's time to move on” for city leaders, who will now Ideally work to re-scope the project and reach out to Caltrans to secure funding provided for historic bridges.
Funding has been a linchpin in the argument in favor of demolition. A Federal Highway Bridge Program grant will cover 88 percent of the cost of a bridge replacement, because a new bridge would address Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues by widening the roadway and correcting a curve that impairs drivers' line of sight.
The money could likely not be applied towards a rehabilitation project, unless the city is successful in arguing for a compliance exemption based on the fact that the bridge's historical nature necessitates that it not undergo major alterations such as widening or straightening.
“We're going to seek out whatever grants and resources are available. I don't know what those are at the moment,” said Councilman Rick Kowalczyk, who led the effort to develop the opposing Measure E. “We may have to give back millions of dollars to the federal government.”
Kowalczyk added, “I respect the vote of the people. That now sets the policy for the city to follow the terms of Measure F. We fully believe the bridge can be rehabilitated. The structural testing will tell us what we can do.”