After more than 60 years of owning a 2.5-acre dirt lot, the San Mateo County Harbor District may move forward with deciding to which three prospective buyers it will sell the El Granada post office lot.
On Wednesday, the Board of Commissioners will review proposals from two public agencies and a private seafood wholesaler that have made offers on the long-vacant property with no sewer or water connections and has a split zoning — commercial and the unique El Granada gateway requiring a community benefit.
The Harbor District sat stagnant on the land since the Italian widows of two fishermen donated it in 1953; but the property has generated quite an interest since it went on the market at an $850,000 asking price in April, said Realtor Jan Gray, who represents the district.
The Coastside Fire Protection District, the newly revamped Granada Community Services District and the Hayward-based Global Quality Foods have each made offers and, based on the fact no bank would lend on a property without water or sewer infrastructure, the winner will likely be paying cash, Gray said.
The Harbor District will be discussing the price, terms of payment and sale at its board meeting Wednesday night and Gray said she’s fairly confident a decision and announcement will be made.
But soon-to-be harbor commissioner Tom Mattusch, who ousted Commissioner Will Holsinger in the November election, is concerned the district is rushing into selling.
Mattusch said the Harbor District should consider what potential sellers would do with the property and questions why the decision can’t wait until he, newcomer Nicole David and re-elected Commissioner Robert Bernardo are sworn in Jan. 5.
Bernardo said the board isn’t rushing as it’s owned the surplus land for decades and has acted judiciously by hiring Gray.
“We can delay things and delay things, but it doesn’t serve the district well. … We need to have forward movement on projects,” Bernardo said. “We hired a real estate negotiator for a reason, so she can look out for the district’s best interests in terms of getting the best deal. Because we have a fiduciary duty to county tax payers.”
Mattusch said rumors are spreading and he questions why the seafood wholesaler Global Quality Foods would want to buy a property far from the waterfront and what it could offer as a community benefit.
“The more responsible view, in my opinion, would be to see how is this going to benefit the community. And there shouldn’t be any rush to get this done by the end of the year. There’s absolutely no benefit to getting this done in December,” Mattusch said.
Bernardo said commissioners will need to weigh the pros and cons of each offer in closed session and there’s no guarantee the long-vacant post office lot will have a new owner by Wednesday.
“It’s a delicate balance really,” Bernardo said. “When you’re talking about taxpayer money and you’re weighing that against the local community’s needs and what’s best for the community.”
Global Quality Foods employees said the owner is out of the country and representatives did not return requests for comments.
Mattusch said the fire district proposed using the lot to create a drive-thru station and relocate its El Granada administrative offices. Granada district board President Matthew Clark said he’s interested in building a community center and possibly open space.
“Given what the restrictive zoning is and the interest in the community and a community center and other potential uses, I think that we would be the best fit for this property,” Clark said. “It’s almost like the zoning was designed for a community service or parks and recreation district to have that property.”
The Granada district arose from the reorganization of the Granada Sanitary District in October and now oversees parks, recreation, garbage and recycling in unincorporated coastal areas such as El Granada, Princeton and Miramar.
Clark said there have been informal discussions with the fire district about potentially working together on the lot, such as having a fire station and community center constructed on the property.
“The ultimate decision is way down the road because this is a coastal zone, the property has a unique split zoning and we are committed to soliciting as much public input as we can from our constituents about what they want to see and how much they’d want to spend,” Clark said. “And it’s clear to me that our board remains interested in cooperating with the fire district or any other local agencies where we can make the highest use of the property.”
Clark said the Granada district has enough surplus cash to purchase the property and although hopeful, it’s hard to tell which way the Harbor District will swing.
As a surplus property that’s never been improved, Gray said the district has a decent pool of prospective buyers from which to choose.
“No institution will lend on it, you don’t have sewer, you don’t have water, you don’t have approved plans, you have a piece of dirt,” Gray said. “So I’m very pleased and surprised that we have three offers.”
The Harbor District Board of Commissioners will meet Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Sea Crest School, 901 Arnold Way, Half Moon Bay. The board will discuss the sale in closed session and if an action is taken, report out of the meeting publicly.
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