Half Moon Bay’s Local Coastal Land Use Plan Update – and Encouraging News for Dunes Beach

Photo Credit: Beth Pielert

On Tuesday, October 20, the Half Moon Bay City Council voted unanimously to submit the city’s updated Local Coastal Land Use Plan (LUP) to the California Coastal Commission for certification as to the Plan’s conformity with the policies of the Coastal Act. We sent a letter to the City Council thanking them for the diligence and collaborative approach that has resulted in a strong Land Use Plan. 

Any necessary modifications that the Commission recommends will come back to the city for final adoption. In the meantime, city planning staff will be working on the Implementation Plan (IP) that will include a comprehensive set of zoning code and subdivision regulations that also require Coastal Commission certification.    

A great deal has changed since the 1996 Land Use Plan was adopted. Impacts from climate change pose very real challenges to the city; these challenges will surely increase. Sea level rise – now accelerating – threatens loss of coastal beaches and bluffs, increased flood and fire hazards, as well as impacts to the city’s watercourses, groundwater resources, and environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA). The LUP appropriately prioritizes protection of coastal resources, including prime agricultural lands, sensitive habitats, and coastal access. A new designation of Town Center, generally located south of Highway 92 and east of Highway 1, emphasizes locating housing (including affordable housing), and commercial/visitor serving uses within this core area of the city.

Significant progress on farmland and open space protection

We are especially pleased that the LUP calls for long term protection of many of the open farm fields and open space lands that are highly valued by residents and visitors alike. Half Moon Bay’s coastal foggy summers and mild winter temperatures provide ideal conditions for growing a wide variety of crops. Innovative farmers on the coast are employing new practices, including regenerative soil management, diversified crops, inclusion of wildlife-friendly practices, and direct marketing to people who appreciate the value of local, fresh, and healthy food sources. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the strategic importance of local farms and farm workers to our food security.

Half Moon Bay’s farmlands will help with CO2 emissions reduction

As highlighted in the American Farmland Trust’s Greener Fields: California Communities Combating Climate Change, an acre of farmland in California produces 58-70 times fewer greenhouse gases than an acre of urban land. New LUP policies that require protection of Half Moon Bay’s farm fields and prime soils will help achieve the city’s goals for reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs). They will also meet two key city guiding principles: (1) maintaining Half Moon Bay’s small-town character and quality of life, and (2) enhancing the city’s scenic visual quality and coastal landscape setting and ensuring protection of environmental and agricultural resources through conservation and sustainable development.

Dunes Beach gains greater restrictions on development

The LUP’s new Planned Development (PD) policies for the Surf/Dunes Beach Area call for continued agriculture, agriculture compatible and residential uses on this iconic site just north of Frenchmans Creek. Requirements for protection of scenic views will further restrict any non-agricultural development. Two years ago, we presented the City Council with nearly 5,000 signatures on a petition that calls for permanent protection of Surf/Dunes Beach.  While the LUP Update does not outright prohibit all development, the notorious traffic jams that people already experience daily along this stretch of Highway 1 make large scale development extremely problematic. The attorney representing the developers who own 90% of the property urged the city to include commercial recreation-visitor serving uses which would accommodate their proposed 212-unit luxury hotel and 177-space RV park. But the city council heard the public and resisted the attorney’s importuning.

Keeping up the pressure!

While the new LUP is a significant step forward, we will be keeping up the pressure on the city to permanently protect Dunes Beach, and we’ll also maintain a watchful eye out for other poorly located or inappropriate development.

You can help save Dunes Beach!

Send a letter to the City Council thanking them for approving a strong Land Use Plan, and ask them to permanently protect Dunes Beach.

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