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Framing Community

C. Cook: Framing Community

To answer that we need to know how we define ourselves. “Framing Community” expands our vision within and about our community using images. With photos taken from McNee Ranch to Smith Field and anywhere in between, it creates a mashup of the printed word and the photographic image to pose a few questions in hopes of forming the answer. It’s part slideshow, part slam poetry and part of the Coastside.

[Publisher’s note: C. Cook is our newest video columnist at Montara Fog. Cook will be exploring the nature of our community here on the coast in pictures and words, offering to us a unique and insightful view of what it means to be a Coastsider.]

Choose your video format (see key, at left):


Video by C. Cook

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A House on a Hill?

Sometimes things that seem so clear at a distance become indistinct up close.

Here’s a photograph of 1050 Acacia (the big house in the background looming like a yuppie version of Dracula’s castle over the helpless single-story house in the foreground). Obvious example of greedy developer building a house too tall? Going as far as to bring in dirt to raise the ground level in order to make the house even taller in order to secure those ocean views?

Here’s another photograph.

Peek through the trees, squint one eye, and if you stand in just the right way you’ll see the back of Rob Carey’s house. Rob is upset. Rob is very upset. Rob built a web page. Rob says that Ron (Ron Nelson, the builder) broke the law in building his tall–nay–looming, house and now Rob’s privacy is greatly infringed upon.

Lots of “Ron’s” and “Rob’s” in that last paragraph. It’s confusing.

It gets even more confusing. Rob’s house is a one story house. Ron’s is a two story. Given how close houses are here in California that is sort of a recipe for one house looking down into the backyard of the other.

But in the end we are talking about a few feet–did Ron (that’s the builder) raise his house beyond the legal limit? I don’t know. There sure is a lot of fresh dirt there. But getting into the blueprints and building codes is a matter best left to others.

More important, though, is the underlying question–whether he did or he didn’t, does a few feet matter in terms of the privacy of the house to the rear, Rob’s house (that’s the neighbor).

I went up to the second floor of the new house and looked out the window. I looked down into the neighbor’s yard. I looked at Rob’s rear windows. I could see everything.

Then I got down on my knees and looked out the second story window again. Sort of like lowering the house by a few feet. I could still see everything. There was no difference at all.

So I don’t know. If Ron (the builder) raised his middle finger to spirit and letter of the law then I hope he gets what he has coming. I hope he will be made an example to others. But otherwise I’m finding it hard to get worked up about this one.

(Read an earlier report on 1050 Acacia at


Photos by Darin Boville

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First Approximation: The HMB Police Budget

Is the Half Moon Bay police department budget too high?

When I was in grad school my professors, mostly economists and policy wonk types, loved to use the phrase “first approximation.” First approximation this, first approximation that. It was used to refer to everything from an outright guess (without even the pretense of analysis) to a sort-of first pass look at a question, both to get a sense of what the answer might be and to see whether the result was interesting enough to warrant a deeper look. This second sort of “first approximation,” the kind I am utilizing here, doesn’t pretend to be highly refined–it isn’t. It also doesn’t pretend to be error-free. No doubt corrections can be made.

The first chart looks at HMB’s police budget in terms of what it costs per person. Of course that’s not how it really works–the City gets money from all sorts of sources so people don’t actually pay this amount. But by breaking it down this way it gives us a useful way to compare the HMB police budget against cities with different populations.

This second chart takes a crack at the question from a slightly different angle. Here we are looking at how big the police budget is compared with the overall city budget (general fund). The idea is to get a sense of whether the police budget is crowding out other spending.

What jumps out at me in this comparison is that Half Moon Bay’s police budget is high both relative to the size of its population and to the size of its budget. More worrisome is that the budget continues to rapidly rise–another $500,000 or so is to be added to the police budget, changing HMB’s number in the first chart to about $417 per person. Yet looking at the police blotter there doesn’t seem to be a crime wave in the area or an expansion of police responsibilities that are commensurate with its drain on City resources.

Yet this growth, which is placing great constraints upon the City–greater than any potential $30 million judgment–has taken place with little to no public discussion.

This is a first approximation. Please send corrections and ideas for further refinement to us or discuss them in the Forum.

Click here to download high resolution versions of these charts.

(Observant readers will be saying to themselves, “Hey, what happened to Colma in the first chart?” The answer is that Colma has a little over a thousand living residents but a large police force due to the high density of visitors and businesses located there. This odd situation throws the numbers way out of whack–the price per person for their police in Colma is $4480, so high it would make the other bars unreadable if it were plotted to scale.)

(Ahem. Super-observant readers (thank you) will be saying to themselves, “Brisbane?” Whoops-like I said, this is a first approximation! Brisbane’s population is 3597 and their budget is $12,600,000–but their online budget documents are incomplete and do not include the police budget. I’ll contact them and add the info as soon as I can.)


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Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

Farallone View Elementary has a weekly after-school program for “gifted and talented” fourth and fifth graders. This year one of their projects is the production of Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, a sort of Cinderella story of African origin, complete with handmade masks and intricate drum rhythms.

It is the story about two daughters and the making of a queen. It is also the story about students eager to learn.


Farallone View isn’t a big money school like some of those over-the-hill. There is only a small budget to fund the gifted and talented program. The music director is part-time and paid for by fund-raising. The single microphone at the school cuts in and out to the point where it is barely usable. This is a situation where small donations can make a real difference. If you want to donate $5, $25, $50, or $100 to next year’s program please contact the school or click the “Donate” button above and indicate in the comments section that it is for the gifted and talented program and we will forward the money and work with the program to make the best use of it.

If you would like to make a more significant contribution or if you’d like to sponsor the program contact us and we can discuss the program’s needs in more detail.

Choose your video format (see key, at left):


Video by Darin Boville

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Where Am I Now?

Neil Merrilees: Right Here In the Middle

“Where Am I Now”

In this third installment of his powerful video column, Neil plays a game with the viewer–sort of a cross between “Where’s Waldo?” and “Hide-and-Seek” as he continues to explore the rules that are changing our community and creating a new coast.

Charting a path that is neither “no growth” nor “pro-growth” Neil highlights the absurdities of our current development laws and suggests a few new ideas.

Don’t watch it if you are happy with the “Hatfields vs. the McCoys” nature of our politics here on the Coast, but do have a look if you think we can do better.

First published in

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Video by Darin Boville

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A Common Fear

Kenny Howell: Messing Around In Boats

“A Common Fear”

Drowning. In a kayak it seem so easy with your body tucked way in there and the spray skirt holding tight. In this second installment of his video column Kenny Howell addresses this fear head-on with the help of kayak rescue expert John Lull (a resident of El Granada).

If the video doesn’t tell you all you need to know check out John’s book Seakayaking: Safety & Rescue. It’s the standard text in the field.

First published in

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Video by Darin Boville

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Sundog Over Montara Mountain

On Sunday, my family and I went for a walk on Montara Mountain. On the way down my Mom spotted what looked like a miniature, rainbow-colored sun! My Dad identified it as a Sun Dog. As I looked closer at it I saw that there was a white, cloudy ball at the center. As we moved on I tried to keep track of both the Sun Dog and the Sun as we moved into a patch of trees. When we came out of the woods the Sun Dog had faded and all that was left were several bright wisps of cloud.

After we returned home I looked on the Internet and learned that Sun dogs are formed by the Sun being reflected off ice crystals, water, fog or mist in the air. They most commonly occur at sunset or sunrise. A good web page to learn more is at Wonderquest.

See more photos of the sundog:
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Photograph by Elizabeth Boville

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