A study examining vulnerabilities to the southern coast near Half Moon Bay from climate change was presented to the City Council Dec. 21, showing buildings like the Ritz Carlton are at risk from sea-level rise.

Hilary Papendick, climate change program manager for the Office of Sustainability in San Mateo County, presented information about the San Mateo County South Coast sea level rise vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan. The study looked at the southern Half Moon Bay area to the Santa Cruz County line and analyzed areas vulnerable to flooding, erosion, sea-level rise, potential economic impacts and potential solutions. Sectors examined include communities and structures, transportation and parking, Parks and Recreation, agriculture and ecosystems. The study consists of a small portion of the city of Half Moon Bay, including the Ocean Colony. The county in 2018 did a similar survey of the north end of the Half Moon Bay area.

It found the Ritz Carlton and the California Coastal Trail is at serious risk of erosion with just 5 feet of sea level rise, while other structures, residences and trails are at risk. Erosion would affect 123 buildings, including Pescadero Cal Fire Station, the Ritz Carlton, Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Gazos Creek Gas Station. Pescadero, Martin’s Beach and Tunitas Creek are vulnerable communities due to creek and storm wave flooding. Around 15 miles of trails, coastal access and parks are at risk, including Bean Hollow, Pescadero Creek and Pomponio. Cultural artifacts around Ano Nuevo State Park are also in danger. Highway 1 faces 4 1/2 miles of risk from erosion, including Bean Hollow Beach to Pescadero Point. Around 550 acres of potential agriculture land is vulnerable, like low-lying areas east of Pescadero Marsh.

Papendick said the county will release a final vulnerability assessment and adaption plan in 2022 for community feedback analyzing next steps, options, costs and areas to prioritize. The city has discussed the studies with representatives of the Ritz Carlton and Ocean Colony Partners, with both committed to working with the city, a staff report said. Public Works Director John Doughty said given the financial importance of the Ocean Colony area and the Ritz Carlton to the city and its budget, the City Council must discuss future planning for affected areas. He noted looking for grant opportunities to help with plans was possible and something the city was examining.

“Frankly, financially, it’s important. The Ritz Carlton accounts for a significant amount of transient occupancy tax to the community. Those taxes and sales tax and other revenues generated from that facility provide much of the benefits that this community enjoys in terms of its parks, streets, public facilities and services,” Doughty said.

Mayor Debbie Ruddock also echoed the importance of addressing potential erosion issues. The Ritz Carlton is the number one revenue generator for transient occupancy tax and property tax, according to staff. She noted erosion in the area is increasing, with the city running out of time to do something.

“This has got to be a priority project for us, and I’m guessing because of the coastal access issues, there will be some level of grant funding we can apply to it,” Ruddock said.

The council will discuss funding proposals for adaption strategies in the Ocean Colony area at its Jan. 19 meeting. People can go to seachangesmc.org for more information and updates about the study.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

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(1) comment

Terence Y

Hey Half Moon Bay folks – it sounds like tax increases, of all kinds, will be seen in your near, and far, future. It sounds like much of your “donation” will be used to help the “priority” Ritz Carlton operate, and that’s assuming there actually is a 5 foot sea level rise. The bigger question is whether the money given to the Ritz Carlton returns more money than if your taxes directly funded parks, streets, public facilities and services. Oh wait, don’t your taxes already pay for them? Double taxation? I’d say let the sea rise at least 4 feet before taxing yourselves for… anything related to global warming.

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