Holy Cow III

May 12, 2008

The Daily News and the Capitol Weekly report Half Moon Bay’s costly lawsuit saga isn’t over yet. A bullfight is now brewing between the city of Half Moon Bay and a coalition of environmental groups. The environmental groups are seeing red over the settlement deal between Half Moon Bay and developer Charles ‘Chop’ Keenan, a Woodside resident.

As we noted in our two previous posts on the issue, (here and here), Mr. Keenan sued the city of Half Moon Bay for turning a development site he owned into man-made wetlands through improper drainage. The City disagreed, but a Judge agreed with Keenan and ordered the City pay him more than $36 million. Half Moon Bay settled with him by agreeing to push for a California State Assembly Bill, AB 1991, that would allow him to develop that parcel and another parcel – if the bill doesn’t pass, the City agreed to pay him $18 million. The City claims that even that amount would put a major dent in their ability to provide services to residents.

The Capitol Weekly has now reported that AB 1991 has passed out of the Local Government Committee and will head to the full Assembly, with an assist by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who seated an Assembly member who was more favorable to the passage of the bill on the committee. The bill also was not forwarded to the Natural Resources Committee as requested by environmentalists.

Environmentalist groups decry the bill – and the settlement – as allowing the developer to overbuild on the coast and say it prevents the Department of Fish and Game and the Coastal Commission from overseeing and regulating the development. Almost twenty groups including the NRDC and the Sierra Club opposed the bill, saying it exempted Half Moon Bay and Keenan from “every applicable environmental law.”

We’ll see where this ends up, and what happens to the finances of the city of Half Moon Bay. As we’ve been saying all along, though, this points out the danger of a city or town thinking that it can do as it pleases in regards to development. When a city or town violates the law, it can be held to account – to the tune of millions of dollars – and forced to obey the law.

We certainly hope that the Town of Woodside grabs the bull by the horns and shapes up it planning procedures, before an UDDER disaster like this Half Moon Bay mess happens to our fair Town!

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