Fed up with a surge of visitors each weekend crowding beaches and occupying parking spaces amid the COVID-19 crisis, a growing number of Half Moon Bay residents are calling for a permit parking program to limit access to the area.

One suggestion even asked for checkpoints into the city, but officials Friday said the city will not be moving forward with that.

The concerns appear to be motivated by a fear of the virus spreading in town as well as frustrations over increased traffic and a lack of parking spaces in neighborhoods as beach parking lots remain closed. A handful of residents spoke about the impacts at a meeting Monday and officials also suggested their inboxes have been flooded with emails about the problem in recent weeks.

Hundreds of citations have also been issued to visitors since the shelter-at-home order took effect for both crowding at beaches and illegally parking near them.

Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock, during the meeting, expressed support for a temporary parking program to reserve spaces in neighborhoods on the west side of the city for those who live there. But she also acknowledged such an effort would make the city’s relationship with the Coastal Commission “adversarial.” The Coastal Commission regulates land use and public access on the coast.

Ruddock feels framing the program as an emergency action might make the Coastal Commission more amenable to it.

“I feel if we frame it as an emergency action that’d give us some traction,” she said. “I’d like to see us proceed with that.”

City Manager Bob Nisbet will reach out to the Coastal Commission early next week about the proposed program, and during the meeting also noted it’s something “the Coastal Commission generally frowns upon.” He said about as many proposed parking programs submitted to the Coastal Commission in the past have been accepted as rejected.

Nisbet and councilmembers envision the program would span roughly four months if it were to proceed.

“It needs to be easy to identify who the residents and non-residents are,” Ruddock said, adding she wants the program to rely on stickers to draw the distinction. Nisbet noted the traditional way parking programs are implemented is residents are given a placard that’s placed in their car indicating they are a resident of the neighborhood, and those without the placard could be ticketed.  

Councilman Harvey Rarbach expressed concerns about the program requiring too much administrative overhead, but Nisbet said there are likely new, higher tech ways to implement the program.

Nisbet also noted participating residents would likely pay a fee for the program and the cost would be intended to cover the administrative work associated with implementing it.

Public Works Director John Doughty outlined several challenges associated with implementing such a program, including strict rules about signs.

“We’re talking about thousands and thousands of dollars in signage that would take months to produce,” he said.

Councilwoman Deborah Penrose said she’s interested in a program without signs to lower the cost and time required to implement it if the Coastal Commission will allow it.

Doughty said residents should address the problem themselves by occupying public parking spaces with their own cars rather than parking in driveways.    

“That’s the best permit program I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Councilman Robert Brownstone is also concerned that implementing a parking program in one neighborhood would cause those residents to just park in other neighborhoods, thereby transferring the problem from one neighborhood to the next.

Some residents want the city to go further than a parking program to limit access to the city, and have called for checkpoints at each entrance to the city.

“On New Year’s Eve there have been checkpoints set up when people are possibly driving drunk and may inflict harm on a coastsider. In this current situation we know the people coming from a denser area of this county are going to inflict harm on us,” said resident Leslie Meyer.

Meyer wants checkpoints at the streetlights on Crystal Springs Road, the Tom Lantos Tunnels and at the intersection of State Route 84 and Highway 101 where police will check people’s licenses for addresses.

“If you did this for two weekends the word would get out that this coastal town is serious about protecting their most vulnerable,” she said. “It’s time to take a more extreme action than just posting signs that are ignored and issuing minuscule fines.”

San Mateo County Sheriff’s Capt. Saul Lopez said checkpoints on state routes would require approval from Caltrans and possibly other agencies as well as the Governor’s Office.

“We can’t impede traffic on a state route without authorization from Sacramento,” he said. “The Sheriff’s Office will not get involved in any type of checkpoints.”

He added checkpoints would create a “traffic nightmare for all.”

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

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(9) comments


Let the county know your opinions they work for us! cgroom@smcgov.org, dcanepa@smcgov.org, tbayudan@smcgov.org, smorrow@smcgov.org


Dear HMB residents, I get it, hordes of tourists threaten your calm existence by the Pacific ocean. You're either rich and retired there, or have lived in HMB for generations - and yearn for the days of yore when American folks took only one grand vacation in their lives and even the few who did come your way were all white non-immigrants.

I get it, you want to use the excuse of the pandemic to get your beach back forever. Every weekend if the weather is nice, tourists pack the "short and narrow" 8 miles stretch of sand, crowd your restaurants, breathe your air, steal your sun and ocean water. This must be stopped, and your council will dutifully help. I mean they're also locals and want what's best for their people. And only for them. The rest of America can stay in whatever dumpholes they happen to live, you'll never visit there anyway.

Why not go one step further though? Maybe the richer amongst you can buy pieces of the beach, make it private and keep the poorer locals out. Extend the gold course a little further, make restaurants invitation-only. God-given rights are even more awesome when they are given to but a few.


Wonder why the article didn't mention that if HMB tourists are cut out of the picture, then taxes for HMB will likely have to increase.

As to checkpoints, this isn't East Germany in the 1980's!


Coronavirus is the final nail in the coffin of highway widening on the Coastside.


Checkpoints? Craziness !!!!!


This is another money grab by our City Council. There are plenty of parking lots for people to park in around here... in fact, near my house, and Dunes Beach, there is a huge parking lot unused for years. So the City wants to put up MORE signs, MORE bureaucracy using this Covid thing as an excuse. It's inexcusable for people who live here to say they own the beaches.

Greg Snelling

They're not your beaches, they're our beaches. If no one goes in, then no one can go out, right? HMB residents should stay home and not venture bay side or to SF, heck not even to Pillar Point.


I live here at the beach, and I totally agree with you. I'm getting to the point that I'm embarrassed to live here...


Seriously - where do these people work? I'm guessing it's (mostly) not HMB.

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