Developer who tried to buy park won second property in Moss Beach–again with wrong photo

The Pacifica developer, Mike O’Connell, who attempted to buy the Moss Beach Park also won a second Moss Beach Park property in that same July 23rd auction.

A review of this second auction raises perplexing questions in that the auction photo is once again of the wrong property and the new lot has already been cleared.

The property is located at the intersection of Sunshine Valley Road and Seabright Court (near the intersection of Sunshine Valley and Etheldore). Like the Moss Beach Park parcel, the second parcel was sold by the county after the owner failed to pay property taxes. The total tax bill at the time of auction was $8500. The final auction amount was $35,000 with thirty bids. Like E-bay, bidders can bid more than once.

O’Connell has built a name for himself by buying at auction Pacifica school surplus properties and converting them to residential use. He was offered an opportunity to comment on this article but did not respond.

Like the auction for the Moss Beach Park, the auction for the Sunshine Valley Road parcel has an erroneous parcel photograph. As the photograph constituted the only substantive description of the parcel in the auction, aside from the parcel number, the error raises further questions about the county’s process for selling properties.

The Sunshine Valley Road auction photo shows what appears to be public land. This image shows bluff top chaparral located just above Montara Beach and taken from a position just north of the La Costanera Restaurant in Montara. Devil’s Slide is clearly visible in the background.

This first photo is from the auction for the Sunshine Valley Road parcel.

Auction Photo


By lining up the call box sign and the distant ranch gate I was able to determine the location from which the photo was taken. The photo below was taken today. (The precise vantage point of the auction photograph is about five feet further into the thick brush–it was not so thick when the auction photo was taken.)

Photo taken today from same vantage point


A wider view of the location of the auction photo vantage point–the red circle indicates the position from which the auction photo was taken with the auction photographer (presumable a county employee) pointing his camera toward Devil’s Slide.

A wider view showing position of auction photographer


The actual Sunshine Valley Road property won by O’Connell is on a small flat lot in Moss Beach. A fire hydrant is installed at the front of the property. A capped well sits in the center if the property, which is bounded at the rear by a creek (apparently Dean Creek).

The property has recently been cleared. Google Earth and Google Maps photos show the property in June 2011 overgrown with trees and brush. Cut marks on branches and trees looked to have been made in the last few weeks. It is not yet known who performed the clear-cuttung. It is not obvious why the former owner, in default over taxes, would make the expense. Nor has the sixty-day period within which the county has the right to cancel the auction ended, so it seems unlikely that the property has been already deeded over to O’Connell. If the county cleared the plot in order to make the property more attractive at auction that would raise questions about the Moss Beach Park auction–if the county was inspecting and improving properties prior to auction then employes must have realized that Moss Beach Park, when it was inspected, was indeed a park.

Google Earth aerial view of the property, roughly outlined in red.

Actual property, 2011

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Google Street-View of the same property from Sunshine Valley Road

From Sunshine Valley Road, 2011


A visit to the property today showing that it has been cleared of vegatation.

The property today, newly cleared



A recently cut tree 


O’Connell also won a third bid in that same auction, for a plot in Pacifica. Like the previous two examples, this one also has an erroneous photograph, showing a steep, treed hill when, according to images on Google Maps, the parcel is on a named dirt road in Pacifica, apparently without trees or steep hills.

 Sunshine Valley Road auction page

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3 Responses to Developer who tried to buy park won second property in Moss Beach–again with wrong photo

  1. Jenny Zarate Sep 17, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    What does it all mean?

  2. MINDY Sep 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm #


  3. Harry Morgan Sep 20, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Hmm, The son of the Assistant Manager of San Mateo County’s building department has another opportunity to buy choice real estate under a false description and incorrect photos. This is a remarkable coincidence that might lead one to assume possible criminal behavior. It’s a little to similar to another recent scandal to pass without investigation. Does the County concern themselves with potential criminal behavior within their own ranks?