Charles “Chop” Kennan, the Palo Alto developer who was paid $18 million dollars as the culmination of a decades long, polarizing battle over an uninteresting patch of land squeezed between two housing developments in Half Moon Bay, made an announcement today in a call to city leaders and local politicians.
His message? “I’m giving the money back,” says Chop. “I won the money–they really screwed me over–but I won. At first it was about the money but after a while I was so angry I just wanted to crush them. And I did.”
But in the months since the payout, which has crippled the City, Chop says he has had time to reflect.
“I want to leave more in my wake than just bitterness and regret. I want to do something more than just make a boatload of money off of lawsuits.”
In the call Chop announced the “Beyond Pumpkins” fund, which will match three dollars for every local dollar in making public improvements in town. “If citizens can raise six million for the right kind of causes then I’ll kick in the entire eighteen,” he says. Keenan suggests suitable projects might include a movie theater, prominent signs so visitors to the City don’t miss the existence of downtown, and a full-time business development expert to help come up with a vision for the City’s struggling and early-to-close downtown business community.
Why not just give the money to the City and let them spend it as they see fit? “What, and let them just piss it away?” says Chop. “I saw what happened to the Ritz windfall. It just disappeared. Poof.”
The news swept the coastside like a tsunami. Perhaps a better analogy might be a row of dominos.
Soon after Kennan’s announcement Jeff Peck, the proponent of Big Wave, made one of his own. “I don’t know what the heck I was thinking. That location has to be pretty much the worst location imaginable.” The Big Wave project, says Peck, will now be broken in two. The Wellness Center will be located near downtown Half Moon Bay and instead of building a 225,000 square foot office complex in a remote corner of the coast Peck and his investors will simply buy a set of office buildings in an area with demand for office space.
“When you do the math it sort of just jumps out at you. We can buy for a fraction of what it would take to build and the rents we get will be higher, too. And we can start today, rather than wait ten years. Sort of like magic,” says Peck, who is looking at office locations over-the-hill as well as in Florida and Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, farther north, Leonard Woren was brewing a surprise of his own. “It’s called a ‘Flying Fish.’ It’s custom made by Jeff Clark,” says Woren standing at the beach next to his new surfboard, green with swirls of yellow and blue. “The water is colder than I expected but Jeff suggested a wet suit to stay warm.”
Woren described having a sort of revelation when he awoke this morning. “I simply knew I had to surf. I was spending so much time in meetings–I’m either on the board or in the audience of almost every government body on the coast–that I wasn’t seeing what was right in front of me. I want to surf.”
As Woren paddled out onlookers gathered, prepared to quietly smirk. Instead they were flabbergasted as Woren rode wave after wave with aplomb. “When I’m on the water it just seems so natural to me,” he later explained.
Woren plans to resign from his various board positions and phase out his participation in other meetings in order to find more time to hit the waves. Regarding public service Woren intones, “I’ve done enough.”
Even farther up the coast the biggest surprise of all awaited….
[Readers are invited to contribute their own endings to this report.]