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.”
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