The San Mateo County Harbor District’s debated sale of a 2.5-acre long-vacant lot was awarded to the Coastside Fire Protection District Wednesday, despite some members of the public hoping for a community center.
The El Granada post office lot, which has never been built upon and has no sewer or water systems, was sold to the fire district for $845,000 just below the Harbor District’s asking price.
Several people spoke out at the meeting in favor of awarding the property to the newly revamped Granada Community Service District, which pledged to build a community center, but the fire district ultimately offered the Harbor District Board of Commissioners the best deal.
“[We’re] very excited. We’re moving forward with the project and the plan is to build a fire station somewhere on the 2.5 acres,” said Assistant Fire Chief Paul Cole.
Station 40, which currently occupies a more than 50-year-old building across the street, would have a new home and be able to offer a drive-thru bay at the post office lot, Cole said. The fire district has the funds budgeted and the new station is called for in its strategic plan, Cole said.
Without sewer or water infrastructure, the Harbor District’s Realtor Jan Gray previously said no institution would lend on the property and the buyer would be paying cash.
Three were bidding for the property that carries split-zoning requirements — commercial and the unique El Granada gateway, which requires a community benefit.
The somewhat mysterious Global Quality Foods, a Hayward-based seafood wholesaler that no one seems to know much about, also sought ownership of the property.
The fire district had shown interest in purchasing the property for years and offered a few hundred thousand dollars more than the Granada district, said Commissioner Jim Tucker.
“The best deal for us was the fire district. It gave use the money we wanted plus it was to a public agency that’s involved in public service,” Tucker said.
About 10 people spoke out at the Harbor District board meeting with hopes the Granada district would win the bid and construct the unincorporated town’s first community center, said Tom Mattusch, who will be sworn on to the Harbor District board after winning Commissioner Will Holsinger’s seat in November.
“I’m just hoping the fire district can make something that additionally brings satisfaction to the community,” Mattusch said. “There’s just been so much of an outcry and so many people speaking up for a community center.”
Cole said constructing a new station is for the public.
“It’s an absolute benefit. There is no question as to the benefit to the community. That fire station has served that community well,” Cole said. “Locating right across the street continues with that ongoing benefit.”
With incumbents Holsinger and Tucker leaving their posts, Mattusch contends the Harbor District board should have waited until he, newcomer Nicole David and re-elected Commissioner Robert Bernardo were sworn in Jan. 5.
The fire district was awarded the property with approval from Tucker, Holsinger and Pietro Parravano, president of the Harbor District Board of Commissioners, while Bernardo and Commissioner Sabrina Brennan voted against the sale.
Bernardo said it was a difficult decision and while he respects the fire district, would have preferred the Granada district’s plans.
“You have two very capable agencies with two missions that are equally valid. You have one that’s public safety, which is the fire district, and one that is community serving, so I struggled with this decision. But I personally felt that sometimes you can’t always just look at the money, you have to look at the greatest benefit for the community. And at the end of the day, that’s what tipped the scale for me,” Bernardo said.
Mattusch said one might question if the outcome would have been different had the sale waited a month.
“The lot was [donated] in 1953 and what difference would it have made if we waited a few weeks. The one thing I would have liked to see from all parties was how they … were going to work with the community to bring something that’s directly needed in El Granada. We’re unincorporated out there and a lot of people wanted a community center for people to have classes. There’s so much going on, there’s just no place to put on some of these public activities,” Mattusch said.
All might not be lost for the Granada district as board President Matthew Clark previously said there were informal discussions between his district and fire district representatives about sharing the large property.
Cole said he wouldn’t comment or speculate on any possible partnership and the fire district is focused on building a station.
“We’re very preliminary at this point. The first thing was to acquire the land and start working on the zoning, then we’ll see if there’s something we can do to allow us to maximize the use of the property and if that does mean we can accommodate other entities, that’s one thing, but the primary purpose was to put our station there,” Cole said.
Tucker, whose last meeting was Wednesday after 16 years as a commissioner, said he hopes the property will be used to its fullest.
“I understand they don’t need all that land and I understand also, although I’m not privy to it, that they’ve been talking to Granada,” Tucker said. “I’m hoping that they’ll work with Granada and let Granada put in some kind of park or something there.”
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