"The Dunes" Project
to Commercialize Beachfront
Oceanfront Hotel, Conference Center & RV Park - 47 acres
Proposal to City of Half Moon Bay in Process
“The Dunes at Half Moon Bay” is a serious threat to our safety, environment, and quality of the coastal experience. Road safety and clean water are at stake for both residents and visitors alike without proper infrastructure. It will erase the area’s natural oceanfront coastal habitat in favor of a commercial bonanza. Coastal residents will foot the bill as water, sewer and service costs rise.
The Dunes was unveiled in April 2018, proposing a 200+ room hotel, 170+ space RV park, 15,000 sf conference center/spa and campgrounds. This project in particular highlights the building assault happening on the San Mateo County coast. The proposal covers 47 acres of mostly undeveloped oceanfront land, comprised of prime agricultural soils, and the only beach area in the City of Half Moon Bay with scenic ocean views from Highway 1, other than Surfer’s Beach. Opposition to this out-of-scale project remains strong, with the realization that this habitat could be lost forever. Click here to see the Dunes marketing website
Status and Next Steps
A formal permit application with full project details was submitted to the City of Half Moon Bay on September 20, 2019 and was updated on January 9, 2020, to revise the project’s request for changes to the City’s Land Use Policies. It proposes to amend the City’s Local Coastal Plan and seeks approvals of:
Planned Unit Development (PUD) Application/Specific Plan
Coastal Development Permit
Tentative Subdivision Map
As of October 2020, the City Staff is still reviewing the application and will determine when it is complete to be processed. The City will then select an environmental consulting firm to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) at the developer's expense. The environmental review and public comment phase will begin after. Let your voice be heard - see our "Take Action" box!
A proposed 170-unit RV Park threatens this coastal land north of Young Ave off HWY 1 (Google street view)
The open space property south of Young Ave is threatened by a proposed Hotel and 15,000 sf conference center / spa (Google street view)
The Dunes: Our Recommendations
Midcoast ECO supports the position of Sierra Club, Green Foothills and Surfrider Foundation that the Half Moon Bay City Council should direct staff to decline to process the application for the proposed Dunes project. We are in support of Half Moon Bay’s Local Coastal Program, which states that large scale visitor-serving facilities are not needed.
Opposition to this Project
Opposition to this project has only been compounded by the ongoing pandemic. Midcoast ECO believes this project is inappropriate and that the application should be declined by the City as was proposed in a joint letter from Green Foothills, the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, and Surfrider Foundation. Their joint letter of April 23, 2020 clearly outlines how this large-scale project is out of step with the local visitor-serving economy devastated by the pandemic. The Local Coastal Program (LCP) states that there is no need to add large scale visitor serving facilities. The City’s existing visitor-serving businesses need support, not competition. The City will add unnecessary stress by entertaining the possibility of revising/amending the existing LCP.
Opposition to this project was immediate and strong. Concerns about the destruction of the coastal environment treasured by all is well documented. Various organizations have commented on the potential significant adverse impacts on the coast’s infrastructure. Its inconsistencies with the Local Coastal Plan are a basis for denial. Yet, the developers are attempting to change the LCP in spite of the project’s conflicts with the Coastal Act.
Read early comments on the pre-application from offices of the City of Half Moon Bay, Cal Fire, Coastside Water District, and the CA Coastal Commission
Why this project is inappropriate:
Coastal resources protected by the Coastal Act must be respected. Not only is the project area comprised of prime agricultural soils, its historically significant wetlands have been greatly diminished over time. Half Moon Bay provides habitat to many species including the federally protected western snowy plover. We strongly urge the protection of environmentally-sensitive habitat areas and that restoration of the wetlands take priority over any new development along this coastline.
Razing of Natural Coastal Beauty
The vision for "The Dunes at Half Moon Bay" displays a blatant commercialization of scenic coastal land that graces Half Moon Bay with natural beauty. The 21 acres north of Young Avenue are currently in use for open field agriculture. It would be transformed into a 170 space RV Park. The 26 acres to the south are currently open space with some equestrian and visitor serving uses. This area is slated for a 200 room hotel and 15,000 sf conference center with parking facilities, artificial fire pits, etc. This level of density pretends to offer more beach accessibility yet it destroys the coastal character that makes it special.
Conflicts with LCP
Because the LCP requires that the whole 50 acres have a "Specific Plan," the developers have swept in parcels that may have dissenting owners such as the Coastal Land Trust (17 parcels) and some by private entities (9 parcels), and the City of Half Moon Bay, which owns one parcel. The proposal also falls short by almost 3 acres of the 50. Fortunately, beyond Half Moon Bay approvals, a "Specific Plan" must be evaluated by the California Coastal Commission and certified to be in conformance with the LCP.
Overview of Key Concerns:
Major Impact on Traffic & Road Safety
With Highway 1 as the ONLY road that offers access and exit and the ever-increasing influx of tourists and visitors, there is a real danger with further escalation of density through the Midcoast to Half Moon Bay corridor. The cumulative effects of large developments in this area are not being adequately addressed in light of its fixed infrastructure. This danger is further compounded by the looming probability of rising seas, fire risks, and earthquakes. How will it impact our roads in an emergency or evacuation crisis? Creating a destination for more RV and tourist traffic is simply not sensible or responsible.
The coastal sewer system is stressed, in need of significant capital upgrades for both existing sewage infrastructure as well as for the sewage treatment facilities owned jointly by three coastal entities. Discharges of raw or partially treated sewage into Half Moon Bay have been documented. Adjacent Venice Beach and Pillar Point Beach are frequently on the State of California’s list of impaired water bodies for indicator Bacteria. Midcoast ECO’s published study of Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) documents a total of 101 SSOs from 2011 to 2017, 20 of which reached ocean water in violation of the Clean Water Act. Under threat of imposing new penalties, the San Francisco Water Quality Control Board is evaluating the actions taken by the Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside (SAM) to remedy the situation. Major capital improvements are required and must be funded by coastal residents. New development proposals need to be critically reviewed with respect to their impact on our outdated and overburdened system infrastructure.
Read Midcoast ECO’s Sewer Failure Report
Future coastal water resources are concerning as climate change impacts are becoming increasingly evident. Half Moon Bay is currently dependent on sources that prioritize allocation of water resources in potentially disadvantageous ways under drought conditions. In terms of extreme needs such as during wildfire events, a large-scale project such as this needs further evaluation to assess how the project will cover its own needs without compromising existing requirements.
Cumulative impacts of large-scale projects
This project will add to a growing list of large projects on the coast in various phases of the approval process. Yet, there is a lack of any meaningful study which takes into account all of these projects and their impacts on traffic, road safety, sewer, water, and the environment. Who is looking at the big picture?
The Dunes Hotel & RV Park - more info
• Dunes Beach formal application
• Sierra Club, Green Foothills, Surfrider Joint Letter 4.2020
• Green Foothills and Sierra Club's joint Letter 4.2018
• Half Moon Bay Local Coastal Program, Chapter 9, #9.3.2 Specific Planned Development Policies through #9.3.3 Surf Beach/Dunes Beach (P. 141-148)
• Half Moon Bay PUD map July 2014
• Pre-Application early comments
• Midcoast ECO's Failing Sewer Report
• Half Moon Bay - City website
Send your Comments
There’s no better time to get involved. The more that people get involved, the better the chance that important decisions reflect our shared values.
Half Moon Bay Community Development Director, Jill Ekas: firstname.lastname@example.org
Half Moon Bay City Council:
Phone: 650-726-8250 (leave message with Clerk's office)
- Harvey Rarback, Council Member: HRarback@hmbcity.com
- Adam Eisen, Mayor: AEisen@hmbcity.com
- Deborah Penrose, Council Member: DPenrose@hmbcity.com
- Debbie Ruddock, Council Member: DRuddock@hmbcity.com
- Robert Brownstone, Vice Mayor: RBrownstone@hmbcity.com
CA Coastal Commission Coastal Program Analyst, Patrick Foster: email@example.com