Road Closed: Devil’s Slide (on April 2, 2006)

Almost sixteen months ago Devil’s Slide, one of only two practical routes in and out of the coastside, was blocked by a collapsing road brought on by unusually heavy rains.

Thus began four months of high-pitched tension and frustration, the echoes of which still reverberate today.

Over the next three weeks, as we lead up to the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Slide on August 2nd, Montara Fog will bring you Road Closed, a series of videos from last year (some re-edited and all re-processed to new quality standards) to both mark the occasion and to remind ourselves that it was not so very long ago…

Today we present Road Closed, Turn Around, footage of the damage at Devil’s Slide filmed the day after it closed with additional footage from later that same week (showing the surprising rapidity with which the road was disintegrating).

Footnote: In the footage from Wednesday of that week (three days after closure) you’ll see a large boulder sitting on the road. The rock actually tumbled down the cliff the previous Monday–just two hours after Barry Parr (of Coastsider) and myself were standing and filming at that exact spot.

“Road Closed” will appear every Monday and Thursday from today until August 2nd.

An earlier form of this video was published in Coastsider.

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


Video by Darin Boville

HMB City Council goes to the Coastal Commission

On Thursday, Half Moon Bay Mayor Naomi Patridge and Vice-Mayor Bonnie McClung went before the California Coastal Commission to argue the case for a house project on Terrace Avenue. Judging by the posts on the various online forums this project has become something of a sore point for those on the Coastside who favor development.

Montara Fog presents the relevant portion of the Coastal Commission’s hearing so that coastsiders can judge for themselves what transpired.

Click on the links below to view the videos. A full length version is available at the end.

Introduction and Commission’s summary:



Lawyer Consultant for the Applicant makes his case:



Mayor Patridge defers to McClung; Vice-Mayor McClung speaks for Half Moon Bay: Quicktime


George Muteff wears a suit! (Like I should talk…)



HMB Planning Commissioner Tom Roman gives it a shot:


Additional citizen voices: Quicktime


The lawyer consultant rebuts: Quicktime


The Commission ponders and votes and the application is withdrawn: Quicktime


The video in its entirety for die-hard fans of local politics: Quicktime

Videos by the California Coastal Commission


Photo-Illustration by Darin Boville

Kid’s View: Surf Camp

The week I went to surf camp with Dave Alexander was magical. On the second day I really stood up! Dave Alexander and all of the instructors were being very patient with me. Then, once, an instructor pushed me into a wave and I decided that I was going
to stand up on my board no matter what. Finding my balance, I crawled into a standing position, and rode the wave as long as I could before jumping off. It was the best feeling. That feeling kept making me paddle out to an instructor and trying my best to
stand up every time.

Annika, age 10, Moss Beach

Surf Camp
Hi, my name is Ally and I’m taking Surf Camp. As soon as I got to Surfer’s Beach on my second day there I realized I would be getting photographed. So when it was my turn to go surfing I got a surfboard then I got in the water. Once I was up to a staff member I got on my board, then I was turned around he pushed me toward the beach and told me STAND UP! STAND UP! After that I did it again. But on my third time he told me to take the band off my ankle then he took me out again and told me to stand up. But this time I did stand up and rode the wave in. After that I had lunch. When I was surfing my last wave it was fun… but scary.

Alexandra, age 8, Montara

I really enjoyed surf camp because I was able to express myself on the surf board. On my first time standing up, Alex (the surf instructor) pushed me into a great wave and I actually stood up! I was so proud of myself. I didn’t feel that the water was
cold anymore! I have learned to enjoy surfing.

Petra, age 10, Montara

Surfing is really hard–but now I love to surf! My favorite moment was on Wednesday when I stood up and rode the wave all the way to the beach and voluntarily jumped off the board for the first time.

After one week of being out in the ocean I was amazed by how different the water could be. On Monday the waves were small and the water cold but on Friday the waves were large and the water several degrees warmer (at least that’s what it felt like). Also, I noticed how the water varied between blues and greens, sometimes mixing them together.

My favorite thing about surf camp is that every wave is a new experience and with every fall you learn a little more about staying on your board.

Elizabeth, 10, Montara


Photographs by Darin Boville

Election Results 2007

The election is over and the results are in. I’ve put together a few colorful tables to show us not only who won and who lost–in terms of the candidates–but to show us who won and who lost–in terms of the interest groups and political philosophies of the coast.

In the election tables you can see the candidates’ names. These are ranked by the results of their vote. Blue background candidates have won their election, Green background candidates have failed.

In the next column you can see the results of the Montara Fog online poll and can easily compare those to the real results. More interestingly, I’ve displayed for easy reference stars to indicate endorsements from the variety of special interest groups and media sources here on the coast (Montara Fog does not endorse candidates for office).

In the text I’ll point out unusual or interesting results.

Midcoast Community Council

Of all the races on the coast this one was the quietest. There were no accusations of wrongdoing in the press, no over-the-hill labor organizations swooping in to support any of these candidates. And the Council which the candidates were running for was generally considered moribund: Council members focusing on minutia, Council members vanishing without a trace, council members boycotting meetings to prevent a quorum and thus any action by the Council.

But yet we had five candidates actively running for seats. They apparently see great potential for the Council.

Neil Merrilees is far and away the winner in this race. Neil is an unusual candidate for the coast in that he doesn’t fit neatly into one of the two polarized camps that dominate our local politics. He was endorsed by both the League for Coastside Protection and Put Community First (the political action committee philosophically if not legally related to Coastside Community First). He garnered nearly one third of the vote in this three-seat, five candidate election.

Endorsed by all sides? Won by a large margin? A candidate that ran on changing the way the Council functions, perhaps its very purpose? In politics that equals a seven-letter word: M-A-N-D-A-T-E. Congratulations to Neil.

Deborah Lardie, a newcomer to coastal politics (although not to the coast), came in a respectable second with just over one-fifth of the vote. There will be a few new faces at Council meetings.

Midcoast Water and Sanitary District

If you like dirty politics this was your race. We had two established incumbents pitted against a newcomer.

The newcomer, Richard Bulan, came with a lot of baggage. Chat boards and the Half Moon Bay Review highlighted his embarrassing financial gaffe where, after presenting himself as a wise financial steward of a fiscally mismanaged district, it was discovered that he hadn’t paid his taxes–or his water district assessment!–in several years. (His supporters shot back at Slater-Carter, not quite effectively, raising issues about residency and tax evasion (which turned out to be not true) to her own late tax payments–less than two weeks overdue.)

The Bulan campaign would have been better served by taking the hit and moving on rather than dwelling on tax issues.

Then there was a confusing issue about a business Bulan ran and a legal dispute over a URL in which the judge had harsh words for Richard.

Finally, there was the odd display of support (indeed, it appeared to be guidance) by political activists outside the district who are politically opposed to the incumbents and the so-called “slow-growth” or “no-growth” political philosophy that they represent. This in Montara and Moss Beach which just four years ago purchased its water system from a German industrial firm.

So the challenger, weighed down by all of this, and added to it the fact that he has lived on the coast only two years and this was his first foray into politics…he was utterly destroyed at the polls, right?

Out of over fifteen hundred votes cast he lost by only forty-five. Twenty-three votes shifted from Kathryn Slater-Cater to Bulan would have given him the victory.

That should give both incumbents pause and food for thought. I’ve met many people from all over the political spectrum who have strong feelings about MWSD. Most people seem to have mixed views: recognizing that it s a difficult, thankless task, in a general way agreeable to a slow growth philosophy, but at the same time frustrated by what seems to them to be abrasive personalities on the Board, and frustrated about inaction in areas where the way forward seems clear.

I was surprised to hear again and again about the Moss Beach Park toilets. This is becoming something of a lightning rod for water issues. I bet if Richard Bulan had run on a platform of Moss Beach Park/Moss Beach Park/Moss Beach Park then he would be in the victor’s seat now.

Fire Boards

The Montara Fog online polls did a great job predicting the MCC and MWSD races but were worthless as predictors of the Fire Board races.

The real winner here is the firefighter’s union, IAFF Local 2400. They put their time, their phone bank, their money and their organization into this race in the hope of stopping the erosion of their base by the rival union that represents the firefighters under CalFire (CDF Firefighters). The IAFF 2400 is feeling under threat from the expanding CalFire and has already been successful in pushing them back in Belmont and San Carlos. We’ll see what the future holds for Half Moon Bay.

Oh, what? Didn’t realize it was union vs. union? Did you think it was about “local control”? Firefighters keeping their jobs? Maybe about having a paramedic on every truck?

Who did you think was paying for all those fancy signs and mailers?


Charts by Darin Boville

A Litte Cruise (The Farallon Islands)

Kenny Howell: Messing Around In Boats

“A Little Cruise”

When the air is reasonably free of mist and fog we can see them out there, marking the horizon. The Farallon Islands rise up enigmatic on the edge of the continental shelf, familiar and yet mysterious. The islands themselves are protected and off-limits. Few coastsiders, though they often see them in the distance, have ventured the twenty-six miles out to visit with them.

Kenny Howell, in this third installment of his video series Messing Around In Boats takes us there on a scientific research vessel, NOAA’s Fulmar.

If you haven’t been to the Farallones this is a must-see fourteen minutes. (It took us over seven hours on the water.)

Kenny’s trip to the Farallon Islands was generously sponsored by the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

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


Video by Darin Boville

Fantasy Fireworks Video

These are the Half Moon Bay fireworks as you’ve never seen them before. The video begins with the real grand finale and ends with a with a fantasy grand finale made up of the first forty minutes of fireworks transformed into a two minute spectacle. The whole thing is over in under five minutes.

While the video is a make-believe creation it does try to capture a little of the real magic of fireworks on a dark night, a little of that child-like wonder.

I hope you enjoy my little fireworks fantasy.

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


Video by Darin Boville

Fireworks Are Back!

July 4th, and once again there are fireworks at the harbor!

Elizabeth, my daughter, made these images (the one above and the eighty-seven others in the Photo Album–see links below) and she would like to share them with you.

Soon, we’ll have video of the fireworks and perhaps a few composite photos. Stay tuned.

See more photos of the fireworks:
Browse the images

See images as a slideshow


Photographs by Elizabeth Boville

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

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

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.)