OWN VOICE. ~ InPerspective by Sam Casillas, edited by Gregg Dieguez —
Did you know you’re paying for a seawall tax in your Pacifica sewer rate increase? [Ed Note: Claims in this article have been disputed by the City of Pacifica. Their response is posted in this article.]
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In Fall of 2020, the City of Pacifica started the Beach Blvd Infrastructure Resiliency (BBIR) Project which includes the seawall. Outreach was done to the community within 300 feet of Beach Blvd. 20 people, including Sharp Park community members and City Council decided the direction of the resiliency plan for half a mile of shoreline without accounting for how it would be paid and based solely on opinion. The consultant that presented to City Council on 6/9/2021 explicitly said they were given only the most favored public opinion options to consider and were not allowed to consider infrastructure relocation as an option. The city has the option to move its infrastructure , but has chosen to ignore climate science.
Every household in Pacifica received a notice proposing a “3.5%/year sewer rate increase over the next 5-year period”. What the notice didn’t mention is that this rate increase includes a $40 Million TAX on all Pacificans for the seawall we don’t get to vote on. More alarming is that the $40 Million Tax is only a small down payment on the future costs of this albatross that will eventually bankrupt the city and lay the tax burden on its citizens.
There are several issues at hand– the actual performance of the system, climate adaptation of 0.5 miles of the system, the viability of the solution and most importantly, how our city council is going to fund the whole project.
Pacifica is already charging some of highest rates for sewer services in the State of California. We are paying a premium for a service that is not performing, with no assurances it ever will. On top of this Pacifican tax payers also pay the fines, related legal expenses and clean up costs of recurrent spills that account for 50% of the sewer spills in the County. After spilling over 3 million gallons of sewage into the ocean late last year and flooding a neighborhood with sewer waste and now putting a $40 Million down payment on a seawall that will actually cost more than $120 Million, not to mention the$200 Million+ that will also be necessary for sand replenishment south of the pier and bluff reinforcement north of the seawall, where is the accountability for this city-bankrupting seawall? Our City Council is choosing not to put this $320 Million+ tax burden to a citywide vote and instead have decided to hide it under the guise of a sewer rate increase for a seawall that scientific data shows will not withstand sea level rise due to the climate crisis.
They are also ignoring common sense having to do with that much water force bearing down on that seawall. The water force will not only compromise the seawall itself but will also send added storm surge force to the south, decimating the beach and undermining bluff stability for the homes north of the seawall. The real outrage is that the city is basically taxing the whole city for a sea wall that only a few households along Beach Blvd. would vote for; how is this taxation without representation even legal? This SAMCAR City Council twisted themselves backwards in order to define the seawall as a sewer repair/maintenance issue and can only be opposed if 51% if Pacificans write a letter opposing this $40,000,000 tax that will balloon to over $320 million! Even more discouraging is the data that shows the seawall will eventually be breached with sea level rise, putting Pacificans on the hook for this seawall boondoggle. If this city council feels so strongly about this seawall and believes they are doing what is best for the city why not put it to a vote of the city? Better yet, remember each council member who votes in favor on May 9th [EDIT NOTE: agenda packet not yet posted as of today] for this sham process and ask yourself if you believe they deserve your vote for levying a tax on you that you did not vote for on a seawall that is a fools errand in the face of the Climate Crisis that is now here.
<< Sam Casillas is a biopharmaceutical executive with an MBA in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina who lives in Pedro Point with his wife and three rescue dogs. He wishes he had more time and money to devote himself further to improving our governance.
Mr. Dieguez is a native San Franciscan, longtime San Mateo County resident, and semi-retired entrepreneur who causes occasional controversy on the Coastside. He is a member of the MCC, but his opinions here are his own, and not those of the Council. He lives in Montara. He loves a productive dialog in search of shared understanding. >>