New bill proposed to save wetlands

A new rescue bill for Half Moon Bay, the second to be introduced since March, would save the city from “falling apart” due to a potentially crippling $18 million settlement in a land dispute.

In November, a federal judge ruled against the city and said developer Charles “Chop” Keenan was not allowed to build on his 24-acre Beachwood property due to the city’s installation of drainage measures on his land. The drainage measures, according to environmental reports, created wetlands, which would have to be protected from development under Coastal Commission standards.

In March Assemblymember Gene Mullins, D-South San Francisco, introduced  AB 1991, a compromise of sorts, that would allow the developer to build on the property or pay him $18 million if he could not build on the wetlands. Environmentalists were in up in arms over the bailout bill. Mullins’ bill appears to have died on the state Senate floor because of environmental concerns.

Now, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Mateo/San Francisco, introduced legislation Monday that would allow the city, which has just a $10 million operating budget, to receive $10 million in state parks bond money and buy the land from Keenan. In turn, the city would build a park on the Beachwood property and avoid wetlands-damaging development.

The city, however, would still owe Keenan the remaining $8 million. The state bond money comes from Proposition 1C, a rural-parks bond California voters approved in 2006.

The new rescue bill would put to end a nearly 30-year dispute over the controversial Beachwood property, located north of Terrace Avenue and east of Highway 1.

Yee will have either one or two weeks to pass his bill, SB 863, before the Legislature’s annual bill deadline.

But the bill could be shut down if Half Moon Bay leaders decide against the idea during a special 30-minute session prior to tonight’s City Council meeting.

Mayor Bonnie McClung, who is the lone spokeswoman for the council on the Beachwood issue, said she would wait until tonight’s meeting to issue an opinion on Yee’s proposal and what impact it would have on city finances.

“Anything, at this point, we would view as progress being made,” said McClung.

Yee, who said AB 1991 was dead the instant it arrived in the Senate because it would set the wrong environmental precedent, added that his solution is “no slam dunk,” either. <br />
“There needs to be some solution for Half Moon Bay,” Yee said. “I just couldn’t allow it to go bankrupt, and just literally fall apart.”

Keenan said AB 1991 would have been much better for him and the city financially but he was not disappointed with the news that it appears dead.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.comBay Area NewsLocal

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