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Housing project for senior farmworkers in Half Moon Bay faces challenges ahead of vote

By Jose Martinez

April 29, 2024 / 9:39 PM PDT / CBS San Francisco

HALF MOON BAY — A project to help house senior farmworkers in Half Moon Bay appears to be facing some opposition ahead of an important vote.

Belinda Arriaga has been leading the charge on a special housing project located at 555 Kelly Avenue in Half Moon Bay, aimed at providing senior farmworkers with affordable housing in a convenient location.

"We have come to this idea: What about creating a space for senior farmworkers, senior housing. They can go to church next door, they can walk to the mercado, to the tienda, walk to the park," Arriaga, representing ALAS, expressed her vision for the project.

However, the project now faces hurdles with the Half Moon Bay planning commission ahead of Tuesday's vote.

"The RFQs have been passed, MOU signed, some funding has been coming to the project. People are really excited, but we go to the planning committee and now there's a bomb dropped that there's a lot of question asked, a lot of push back," Arriaga explained the sudden challenges encountered.

One of the key concerns raised is whether the project is too large for Half Moon Bay's special "heritage downtown district."

"Here's the problem. This is a great project. I want farmworkers housing. I helped put many of these policies through. The problem is with the way the workforce housing is being interpreted in context with this new state law," commented Commissioner Rick Hernandez.

The crux of the issue lies in whether the senior farmworker housing project must adhere to city building codes or if it falls under the state's Density Bonus Law, which offers more relaxed regulations.

The proposed project consists of a five-floor building with 40 units, exceeding the city's height limit for the public services district by 9 feet.

Parking also emerged as a contentious issue. While the project includes 18 parking spaces in a ground-floor parking garage, the estimated city parking requirement would be approximately 62 spaces without the state exception.

Arriaga argues that the city must adhere to the state density bonus law, which waives some inconsistencies with density, parking, height, and open space requirements.

"Right where we're standing there will be an underground parking garage, and there will be more parking spaces made so this has been done. The parking has been probed through the city and through Mercy housing who is the developer, so they've been very active and careful to say we want to comply. We want to make sure that this is not an impede on the community and that there's ample parking and we believe that we're covered," Arriaga said.

Commissioner Hernandez, however, remains skeptical about the application of state laws and the adherence to the city's specific plans.

"Maybe the state trumps that. Maybe it doesn't. I don't know how that applies to a specific plan but there are other things in the downtown specific plan that call out that should have design that look like a gate. The land use plan downtown is still on the city's website — is it still in effect," Hernandez said, questioning the consistency of regulations.

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