ARTICLE. Insights, Infrastructure, and In General topics on Sustainability by Gregg Dieguez
(Speech given at the 1/8/2020 Midcoast Community Council Meeting).
I speak to you tonight about the lack of sustainability on our mid-coast, and what it means to you: the residents, ratepayers, and taxpayers.
You are aware that the Big Wave development, placed on an earthquake fault, in a tsunami zone, in the 14th worst fire evacuation location in the state, has been approved. You should be aware that the County has sponsored via non-recourse loans a development by Mid-Pen on Cypress Point which would add hundreds of residents in a small area, and slow traffic to 23 mph at all times via a series of round-abouts to cope with the massive and dangerous traffic congestion which will result – turning “Highway” 1 into a residential back road.
But you are likely not aware of the burdens, risks, and costs to your public works infrastructure.
The first effect you will feel, if these population expansions are allowed, is a reduction in your water security. The hydrologist for Montara’s water district reported that the mountain aquifer does not replenish during multiple years of a drought. Yet the county Planning Department is blocking Montara’s attempts to expand water rights to more lands, even while it burdens the MWSD system with increased population demands. If you use CCWD water, largely purchased from Hetch Hetchy, you should be aware that SFPUC documents detail a series of cutbacks in the event of climate change and multiple year droughts which will reduce that source by over 50%. Yet the county wants to continue to add population here.
The second effect you will feel is stress on the sewer system. That system is already under-funded, and taxed to the breaking point during severe wet weather events. During those events, sewage from the north is cut off at the SAM plant because HMB uses 100% of capacity. The sewage backs up 5-6 miles into expansion tanks at Portola and Montara, until such time as the peak water passes. Yet I am aware of no assessment of the sewer burden by GCWD which reflects the increased flows from hundreds of new residents and a commercial center on the inter-tie pipeline system, or on the SAM plant, nor an analysis of the costs of expanding those capacities, nor any guarantee and indemnification of existing ratepayers from the costs of expansion and/or from fines resulting from the next spills from overloading the system.
The third effect you will feel is on fire security. Current (silly) fire code requires that you only have enough water to fight one 2 hour single home fire at a time, which is why Montara only has 240,000 gals of such storage. The deputy fire marshall told me that Big Wave would require 600,000 gallons of fire storage, and that commercial fires often run to 1 million gallons to fight, but I am aware of no plans to build that fire storage, nor who would fund it in perpetuity. Further, as I shared with you last fall, less than 1% of fire hydrants in both CCWD and MWSD have been tested annually for the past decade. What is likely the effect on our fire security of further dilution of water resources by these new developments? – obviously, more risk. Given our current rate of testing, we won’t know how bad it is until we need it, which will be too late. Another effect, as some of you have seen already, could be the loss of your fire insurance, or higher cost policies.
There are others here better prepared to speak to you about the environmental and toxin risks from these developments, and the evidence repeatedly ignored and the necessary studies repeatedly avoided, because the consultants, funded by the County loans, are chosen by the developers. There are others here better prepared to speak to the traffic congestion and disaster evacuation hazards arising from cramming more population into this limited area. But welcome to the next Paradise.
But there is a fourth effect, I must also bring to your attention. You alone will bear all the risks for these unsustainable expansions. And you will bear the bulk of the costs, now and in the future, to fund the consequences of these burdens and to enable real estate and financial services firms to profit now at your expense later.
As an example, should Big Wave “donate” a $1m pipeline expansion to service its site, that pipe will bear extraordinary risks and costs during its lifetime, and should it require replacement in 40 years, it will then cost $4m, and all the existing ratepayers, or their descendants, will pay about 98% of the costs to replace it.
A similar situation will result in GCSD and SAM for the sewer capacity burdens, current ratepayers will pay more than their share of the costs for projects from which they derive no profit, and only harm. There must be immediate policy changes in our Public Works agencies to charge new joiners the full cost of the pro rata share of infrastructure they join, and asset replenishment fees to fund the replacement of assets they burden. Yet existing residents will get NO BENEFITS from these population time bombs. You and future residents will only see your quality of life diminished, while risks to your health and safety, and your costs, increase.
So what must be done?
1. First, we must demand a better impact assessment on all fronts: financial, environmental, traffic, et al BEFORE any such developments are authorized.
2. Second, we must oppose any amendments to the LCP that do not halt population expansion on the coast, until – if ever – the necessary fire, water, sewer, and traffic or evacuation concerns are fully defined, funded, and prepared IN ADVANCE of those population increases – AND we must DEMAND A MORATORIUM on all new multi-unit construction until these actions are taken. Potentially this will include moving the SAM plant (already identified by the county Office of Sustainability as ‘highly vulnerable’ to the impacts of sea level rise).
3. Third, we must vote into office elected officials who are willing to take sustainable actions, binding on their successors, rather than avoiding preventing adverse long term effects which do not occur during their term of office.
4. Fourth, we must consider all civil and legal actions at our disposal to block profiteering – hidden in the guise of social justice concerns. When they strap the babies to the bulldozers, we must see the bulldozers, and stop them. While I have not discussed a potential lawsuit with them, the only organization I’m aware of who might help here is Resist Density, to which I encourage you to donate, immediately.
5. Finally, we must insist on county governance that is fully accountable to us for their misjudgments. Just as a commercial contract has a performance bond, we must have ‘outcome bonds’ from the county which pay to truck in water when we run out due to their overpopulation, which pay to demolish dwellings which cause traffic congestion, and which pay to redo the infrastructure they overtax with their decisions. If the county can grant non- recourse loans to a $2 billion “non-profit” to induce them to make money on more housing, they then could instead use those funds to protect the health, safety, and quality of life of its resident citizens.
Your county is bent on increasing our population in spite of the risks, costs, and dangers to quality of life for residents, ratepayers, and voters here on the Coast. It is fine to be pro-growth, but let’s be pro-Growth in QUALITY of life, not QUANTITY of life. There are 7.5 billion people on the planet, we cannot fit them all in the US, in California, in San Francisco, and certainly not here.
Please pass this information on to your fellow residents and neighbors.
If Michelle will allow it, I plan to author, hopefully CO-author with other knowledgable residents, more detailed articles substantiating, augmenting, and updating each of the problems and solutions mentioned above.
If you have information which could assist our community in preventing or correcting the imminent damages we face, please contact us at https://www.coastsidebuzz.com/contact/
Finally, this speech was given at the MCC before the county presented their traffic proposal, which I’ll call DIS-CONNECT THE COASTSIDE, featuring up to four (4) Great Barrier Roundabouts, meaning I’ll never see HMB again and have to shop in Pacifica. But that’s another article….
~ Insights, Infrastructure, and In General topics on Sustainability
by Gregg Dieguez, Montara Jan. 8, 2020