|The HMB Police Station: the city's 1987 jalopy|
Police Capt. Mike O’Malley remembers moving from Delano back in 1985 to start his new job as a Half Moon Bay police officer.
Now 49 years old, he recalls the police station, then located on the second floor of City Hall, as an absolute nightmare. O’Malley remembers being unable to get to his locker if it was raining, because the roof leaked so much.
After the old City Hall was condemned by Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Half Moon Bay demolished the Main Street building and the police moved into a prefabricated trailer off Kelly Avenue. While City Hall was rebuilt quickly, the Police Department’s makeshift trailers have instead become a de facto town fixture.
Today the city police describe their station the way they would an old jalopy: it costs so much to fix up and maintain that it’s a better bargain to buy a new one.
“The promise when I came here was that the city would be building a nice new police facility,” O’Malley said. “Here we are, 23 years later, and that’s come and gone.”
O’Malley says that after years of wear and tear, the cheap trailers are structurally unsafe and could topple if a true disaster such as a strong earthquake or gale-force winds hit them. When the 1989 Loma Prieta quake hit the Bay Area, the walls of the trailers buckled, making the door frames in the station crooked.
“Loma Prieta was small for us since Half Moon Bay is located on bedrock,” O’Malley said. “But if a major disaster hit, your Police Department isn’t going to be standing. And isn’t that when you want your police station standing?”
Other than the danger of a building collapse, O’Malley cites a host of nuisances the old facility has endured, including rotting walls, holes in the floor, and walls shaking from the seasonal winds. And at least twice every year, some type of critter dies under the building, emitting a nauseating smell throughout the building, he says.
But both O’Malley and Police Chief Don O’Keefe say that the lackluster facility hasn’t impeded their ability to fight crime. And that, O’Malley says, is part of the problem: Coastside residents don’t view crime as a big concern, and thus a new police station hasn’t been a top priority for taxpayers’ dollars.
But talk of a new police station has been revitalized in the last week with news that Half Moon Bay could receive as much as $750,000 from the federal government. The news has raised high hopes for many Coastside officials, but O’Malley is skeptical that Half Moon Bay will ever see a new police station.
“I have a right to be suspicious at this point,” he said. “How I look at it right now, I may retire before this department sees anything.”