Half Moon Bay Review
TalkAbout Start a topic Login Create Login Forgot Password  
All Categories Around Town Elections Entertainment/Dining Schools
City Council Environment Sports Beyond the Coastside Catch All
Clay Lambert's Blog Mark Foyer's Blog Stacy Trevenon's blog Mark Noack's blog Bill Murray's Blog

The Gateway to anytown

I spent a summer studying architecture at the Graduate School of Design a long time ago. It taught me a few things. 1. That I didn't want to pursue architecture. 2. That Cambridge has some of the best pizza that I've ever tasted. And 3. Always consider the context of structure before planning its design. And that's what gives me problems with the 'gateway' building being constructed at the corner of 92 and Main. It feels like it could be picked up and moved to just about any central valley community.

Of course, it is easy to nitpick architectural drawings and it's impossible to please everyone, but for the entrance to our community, I was hoping for something a bit more unique. I'd hoped for a more modern flair, something more forward thinking, something more memorable. It's too easy to see the influence of Harbor Village in the design and too easy to see a chain restaurant occupying the lower level.

Its an improvement over the gas station that once occupied the space, but that's a pretty low bar. This could have be an opportunity for our most used intersection on the Coastside to reflect the creativity of our community. Swing and a miss in my opinion. What do you think?


"What do you think?"

You really want to know, Bill?

I was present at the Planning Commission (PC) meetings that entertained and approved this project. There were more than a few comments that fit snugly with yours; that this project's location is part of the "gateway to HMB" - and it is. But here's the rub:

The PC follows HMB's LCP/LUP and HMB's muni-code. Those policies/documents are the basis of any and all development in HMB. The discussion by and the Findings of the PC are based on them. The idea is that those documents set the table equally for all, and abide by State law. This project meets those requirements.

That means that for those that are disappointed that more attention wasn't provided to part of HMB's "gateway" and that this project not only dodged a bullet, but is an affront to the senses because it isn't what you (Bill & others) have described as more desirable (& I'm not arguing that point), you need to sit down, stop and think why that is?

The project applicant followed the rules. The PC followed the rules. The project should have been approved, as per the rules - the very same rules that apply to anyone and everyone. There was/is no distinction in any of the documents I've mentioned that segregate that intersection in any way what-so-ever.

So, what does all that mean? It means that no attention has been given to the "Gateway to HMB" by anyone that sets Policy (HMB City Council).

The place to look for answers to the concerns mentioned above would be to look to the HMB City Council. They are the ones that could have (and still can) provide guidance and charge the PC with coming up with the language needed to add-on to the above mentioned documents to identify HMB's gateway(s) and provide additional requirements to highlight any gateway structures going forward.

Well Bill....you asked.

Odd that you feel the Central Valley needs to be deprecated to make your case. But I am not surprised.

George..I did ask. But couldn't decipher your answer! What do you think of the building? Like it? Hate it? Purely from a design standpoint, does it float your boat? I could very well be in the minority. Maybe others think it is terrific and is exactly what they hoped for...

And August, does this not remind you a little of shopping centers in Tracy or Brentwood?

August, I think you mean "denigrate", but I also thought that was odd, since when I think of gateway's in California, that's exactly what I think of - e.g., Modesto's old-timey downtown arch:

Web Link

Would have been cool to have an arched ocean wave over the entrance to town. A little kitschy, but memorable and in-line with our coastside town.

That Main/92 intersection is relatively small. There is nothing building-wise you could put on that corner, of any significant size, which would not over-power the intersection. The rendering Bill attached, like the new Princeton "mall", is not attractive or evocative of a seaside town at all (IMHO).

Coasters: I do like that arch. Thanks for the link. Pretty interesting story with it:

Unique, both loved and reviled, the Modesto Arch might well have been emblazoned with the winning city slogan, "Nobody's Got Modesto's Goat." Cooler heads prevailed, and the second place winner was used instead and has been with the good citizens of Modesto ever since - "Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health." One of the stories heard often is that Eleanor McClatchy, publisher of The Modesto Bee, so disliked the arch that she banned its picture from being used in the newspaper.

I think it is fun to spend other people's money and to tell them what to do with their property.

On one corner there is a gas station that could be plopped down anywhere in California and feel at home. Same with the 7-11 on the kitty corner and the office building kitty corner to Nehran's newest addition to our community.

How about this Bill. Show us what you think should be there and then pay for anything that exceeds what Nehran would have spent.

I say Nehran should be forced to build a structure that resembles a Red Legged Frog and that folks who live on the Coastside should pay for it.

I'm probably the wrong person to ask about architecture, Bill.

Here's how I look at it: It's better than what's there now. It's certainly better than the Olympic station that was there (hated that). It seems to fit with the rest of the architecture on that part of the corner and will make that the best looking of the 4 corners, by a bunch.

But I wouldn't go so far as to call it unique, distinctive, eye catching or in any other way memorable.

That corner lost its charm when the 39 cents per gallon gas sign that stood there for years when the gas statin that was originally there in the 60's went defunct.

Yeah it was 38 or 39 cents...

A little kitschy.. -- Web Link

Yeah, that's the ticket!


Maybe this BMTHOTB: Web Link

Compared to the paint job at Stone Pine Center or the HMB post office, I think it's swell.

Or most of the sculptures around town.

Like to see more fish.

The reason we have a PC is to judge a project in its unique setting and circumstances. They would have been within their rights to ask for a redesign.

My review-- I'm a little disappointed too. It's a bland El Camino building. Not ugly, but no charm. Visually much too big for the space, but at least it's broken up into smaller blocks and not monolithic. The second story of the main building should be set in a bit because it's out of balance and overpowering, as is its roof. Did it really need to extend up so high? Maybe that's a trellis in the drawing... vines would soften the lines of the building. It might look nicer than we imagine but it's still boring and not gateway material.

Keet did a nice job with the Comfort Inn and updating the Shell station, but that Oceano Hotel and restaurant complex is an affront in every manner, sorry. And yes, I see the Oceano in the new design.

The developer should be stopped from designing/building more blight on the Coastside. The vacant Harbor Village shopping mall and attached restaurant are examples of why architectural design and landscaping matter. The Harbor Village project is an economic and architectural failure.

Why wouldn't the Half Moon Bay City Council protect us from blight at the "gateway" to our beautiful coastal community? Why do our elected reps continue to saddle us for decades with architectural misery?

"They would have been within their rights to ask for a redesign." And "they" did just that.

For those that are under the impression that this project just sailed through at first view, that is not what happened.

As I mentioned above, there was discussion, extended discussion about the gateway to town and how this project fit or didn't.

In the end, again as stated above, the applicant met the rules and the PC had the Findings required to approve the project and that's what they did.

For those that are not happy, satisfied or in some other way disappointed with what has been done and what now will be, may I suggest that you lobby the City Council to take a look at our LCP/LUP and our codes with an effort to change the rules for our gateway design future.

In reviewing what I have written on this thread, it occurs to me that some may get the idea that my arguments are a bit defensive; and perhaps they are. Here's the thing: we see what I might refer to as Monday morning quarterbacking all the time in life and there is no shortage of it right here in HMB. It is a fine topic and discussion point, but where was this talk before the project was approved? Where were the rules that we all abide by discussed before this project was submitted for approval? How many years have we been told by our elected that an LCP/LUP Update was critical and long overdue?

Perhaps I'm a bit too sensitive on land use issues and people's property rights, but isn't it a bit late to now complain about what that property owner has submitted, gotten approved and started building?

As one poster above noted, seems some are very willing to spend someone else's money and commit the resources of others, but in the end, all we can do and expect is that the rules are followed - and in this case they were.

If we are to see changes to what has been offered to date, we need to change the rules. That lays squarely in the lap of our City Council and nowhere else.

The approved structure that is going in at that location could be better, more "fitting" for a gateway I suppose, but it could be one heck of a lot worse, too...like the Olympic gas station that was there before.

PS: @ Mike; "blight"? I guess that is a matter of perspective. I would say that what was there before would be an example of blight. What is going in now is a vast improvement to that.

I should have added at the beginning of my last post that the PC did not approve this project the first time it came before them. They asked the applicant to redesign with more focus on being a gateway project, and the applicant did. The approval took multiple meetings and the applicant worked with City staff to make the adjustments to get the project approved.

Frank Lloyd Wright would never have gotten approval to build around here.

Frank Lloyd Wright would never have gotten approval to build around here.

He might but for the next 100 years people would be asking why do our elected reps continue to saddle us for decades with architectural misery?

"...why do our elected reps continue to saddle us for decades with architectural misery?"

It's called Planning. Did I mention that our City Council has outsourced our Planning Department to over-the-hill consultants? Did I mention that we had a Planning Director for six (6) years and that each year he was Director the Department got worse? Did I mention that the very folks responsible for hiring the Planning Director fired that one, then promptly entertained bids to outsource the Department?

George, I sometimes get lost reading your lengthy posts.

While length of his postings may confuse some, George has been the ONLY voice on the Coast calling on our City Council to update our LCP/LUP. The ONLY voice publicly opposing the farming out of our Planning Department.

The Review and its editorial staff has been absolutely silent on the issues and now takes shots at a "fait accompli" that conformed to every standard imposed by the City.

This is an instance to paraphrase Mr. Milton, where those who stand and wait do not serve the community.

I agree BB. I would like George to continue his work and to continue his posts. I think that, IMHO, his posts would be better digested by the reader if they were shorter. Just an idea.

Marc, you're right. I've been told I talk too much, too.

I've never argued either point.

One of the hazards of a type A, I suppose.

The more I think about the more I wish this could have been set aside for public art (Imagine Claes Oldenburg!) OR maybe a few towering redwoods or a cypress tree like the majestic one that used to grace 92. Revenue would be none. There would no financial incentive. A non-starter I realize.

But as I walked by this afternoon, I couldn't help but visualize something that could be a symbol of Half Moon Bay. In a poll from 2012, the second most popular choice for the location of the giant pumpkin that is at Camerons was that intersection.

Its private property and will be developed to earn revenue. Makes sense for the owner. Just can't help but feel a little deflated that finances and building codes have so much power to shape such a cornerstone of our community.

Just make Caffino's into a drive-thru pumpkin!

Just one question...where the heck are all those additional,people going to park? The lot there is already full much of the time, without the addition of those businesses and their clients coming and going.

And then there's the coming and going - the additional traffic turning into and exiting from that location. I'm sure not looking forward to that traffic jam! Are there no requirements for parking provisions and traffic mitigations for new businesses and business construction? This looks like another Sam's fiasco all over again. HMB wants visitors, but how the heck are they going to get there, especially on weekends? Many of us north of the harbor don't even try to go into town on weekends any more. Now the "over the hill" visitors will know how the rest of the Coastside feels about the traffic standstills here.

Bill, if I may, I'd like to make a suggestion that just seems to fit here, and just might be productive going forward.

Another gateway to HMB would be the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 92. At present, as you may know, there is a very large empty parcel for sale on the southeast corner that stretches from Tom & Pete's to Highway 1. The parcel is depressed, in that it sits very low, sloping down from Tom & Pete's to Highway 1.

I have no idea who may purchase that property, but whoever does will want to do something with it. I know I would.

My point is this: we are in a position now to influence who buys that parcel by changing the type of development now, before the purchase takes place, so that expectations are not violated.

If the rules were altered now to identify and qualify a "gateway", then it would be possible to create rules for gateway properties and whoever buys that parcel would be knowledgable Before s/he/they buy the lot and can use that knowledge to determine whether they can/want to develop there.

As noted above, once it goes up, it stays up and lasts a very long time.

Maybe this thread isn't for naught. Maybe the Review can use its influence to help initiate the process so that 10 years from now we aren't Monday morning quarterbacking, but rather extolling the virtues of a stellar new "gateway".

Just a thought.

I have worked in urban planning for over 10 years now and while architecture certainly isn't my specialty, I do have a fair amount of experience in community planning processes throughout the Bay Area. I have only been a Coastsider for about 5 years now, so I have not experienced many of the land use battles that have occurred here first hand. However, I am always surprised by the number of people who believe building in Half Moon Bay is so difficult. A building like this in Danville, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Napa or any number of other communities would have gone through multiple rounds of design review, planning commission meetings, and City Council appeals.

I saw the story poles go up on the site. Next thing I knew, ground was being broke. I saw very little reporting on it. Heard very little conversation on it. Granted, part of it is my fault in that I wasn't in attendance at the PC meetings, but in many other communities the debate would be brought out of the chambers.

That said, I agree with George in that without proper design guidelines and a broader community vision - one can't fault the developer of any individual site. I would've preferred to have seen a Gateway Specific Plan done first that guided the development of that entire intersection - redevelopment of the fish market property, redevelopment of the entire corner where the new building is going to be (including the strip mall where Twice as Nice is), etc. Perhaps some way to treat the backside of the Rite-Aid building across from the substation where currently pallets and trashcans are stacked (can't we at least get a trash enclosure there? Maybe a mural on the wall?).

Complaining about individual projects is easy - but without the broader vision and design guidelines that guide development in the entire community - there are really no grounds to complain, and no grounds for the Planning Commission to tweak a project too much.

And before any complains about too much government interference, most any developer will tell you that such design guidelines are actually preferred. It gives them a sense, before they invest their money, that they can actually bring a project forward that will be supported and embraced by the community. Because they aren't responsible for the vision - the community has already established it - and the developer can simply do what they do best - invest money - and it will occur in a way that implements a unified goal.


You are asking the leadership of HMB to formulate a vision for the future of the town?


No, Darin - I am asking the leadership of HMB to provide a process and forum to enable the community of HMB to form a vision for the future.

Come on, Brian, we farm out our planning to others so our City Council can do really important stuff. Like building a duplicate Emergency Center.

Add a comment

Please login to comment on this topic.

Login Here

Create a Login

Powered by Podium