Supervisors Vote to Phase Out Hazardous Propane Facility

Green Foothills applauds the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors for its unanimous vote to direct the Planning Department to develop a plan to phase out a hazardous 15,000-gallon propane tank distribution facility. Located adjacent to the 227-unit affordable Pillar Ridge Manufactured Home community and the Half Moon Bay Airport, the facility has been a significant health and safety threat to both. Concerned about the environmental justice issues posed by this facility for many years, Green Foothills and Sierra Club appealed to the Board of Supervisors asking them to take all necessary steps to phase out this facility.

Risky Storage Operations Threaten Residents, Airport

Residents of the mobile home park have endured decades of unpermitted hazardous activities at this facility adjacent to their homes, including release of gas from “empty” tanks. In September 2017, an explosive leak with a visible plume of gas drove dozens of residents from their homes, choking from the fumes.

To make matters worse, the propane facility is a prohibited use within the takeoff and landing safety zones of the adjacent Half Moon Bay Airport, but the Airport’s updated Land Use Plan allows pre-existing hazards such as this to continue.

The county had permitted the initial installation of propane storage tanks on the site in 1964 to supply Pillar Ridge and nearby businesses with fuel. That function became obsolete in 1983, when PG&E provided natural gas to the area. At that point, the propane storage tanks became a regional distribution facility, with delivery trucks refilling at the site and delivering to homes and businesses up and down the coast. Eventually dozens of smaller used propane tanks were also stored on-site.

These risky propane storage operations have posed an ongoing threat to the low-income families living at the manufactured home park for many years, but due to the facility’s establishment back in the 1960’s, County Planning had deemed it a “grandfathered” land use.

In 2015, County Planning determined that improvements to the site that had been made after 1981 required a Coastal Development Permit. In April this year, the Planning Commission approved a Coastal Development Permit that required upgrading dilapidated fencing, removal of invasive weeds, and other safety measures, but did not address the propane tank.

Green Foothills and Sierra Club appealed to the Board of Supervisors to take all necessary steps to phase out this facility. While the Supervisors upheld the Planning Commission’s requirements for near-term site improvements, they also recognized the inherent hazards posed by the facility, and directed County Planning to develop a plan to phase it out. We will be continuing to push county officials and staff for a timely termination of this hazardous land use.

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