Pacifica's government appears to be making progress toward gaining approval to convert a former wastewater treatment facility into a mixed-use development that would feature a boutique hotel, beachfront restaurants, retail stores, residential units and a state-of-the-art public library.
The old sewage treatment plant, located at 2212 Beach Blvd., was decommissioned in 2000 when it was replaced by a new facility adjacent to the Pacifica Quarry. The 3.5-acre beachfront parcel contains a pump station that is still in use and would not be altered by the proposed development. Also on the premises is Pacifica's City Council chambers building, which would have to be relocated if the site is developed.
For the project to move forward, the city must rezone the property — which sits in the coastal zone — from public use to mixed use, and it must receive the approval of the California Coastal Commission. According to commission enforcement program supervisor Nancy Cave, the commission recently responded in writing to a city request for input regarding the Beach Boulevard project proposal.
When a local news site posted the commission's letter to the city, Cave said many residents were confused because if the commission's suggested changes to the plan are taken out of context, that could create the impression that the matter was controversial or that the Coastal Commission had an adversarial relationship with the seaside town's officials.
“The city requested suggestions, and that's what we offered,” Cave noted. “The point is so we're all in agreement when the city is prepared to move forward.”
One possible point of contention is the commission letter's requirement that the project include “low-cost visitor serving units if feasible,” a statement which some in the community have interpreted to mean that the commission is requiring the inclusion of a youth hostel. But Cave said that is a misunderstanding, and the commission is not insisting that a youth hostel be included.
Another area of potential disagreement is whether the site should host free or paid parking. While the Coastal Commission would like to see existing free parking spaces on Beach Boulevard retained and says the development should contain at least 138 free parking spaces, with several more free parking spaces added to the neighborhood, officials of the cash-strapped city would prefer to charge for parking.
Councilwoman Sue Digre said the city was recently successful in winning approval to charge for parking at Linda Mar Beach and might similarly receive authorization for paid parking at the mixed use site.
Digre noted, however, that the Coastal Commission's letter to the city was consistent with the California Coastal Act, a law she supports.
“I'm not saying that this is a perfect project or that the Coastal Commission is a road block,” Digre said.
Councilman Mike O'Neil said he's in favor of the development, partly because it could provide the city with about $500,000 in annual revenues.
Florey's Book Company owner Aaron Schlieve said customers have asked him if he's worried that the project's inclusion of a new library just steps from his front door might hurt his business. Schlieve explained that the existing library is already at the opposite corner from his Palmetto Avenue business, and it tends to bring “book people” into the neighborhood, many of whom wind up shopping at his store.
O'Neil refuted an early report that the project proposal called for the demolition of some existing businesses, saying no businesses in the area would be forced to relocate.