Letter to the Editor : Sell City Properties

Pacifica Tribune/Letters to the Editor, 7/1/14.  “Sell city-owned properties to erase deficit.” by Victor Spano

“Editor: According to City Manager, we have a $4 million deficit. The city of Pacifica is holding on to three properties which could quickly erase the deficit.

Long ago, I was a licensed commercial real estate appraiser down in the South Bay. I believe Beach Boulevard and the old wastewater treatment plant is worth $3 to $3.5 million “as is.” The corporation yard could sell for about $1-1.5 million. The seldom used Francisco Boulevard parking plot could sell for $500,000 to $1 million.

All together the three properties could realize $4.5 -$6 million. That is enough to pay off the debts, and fund community services, such as the Beach Coalition, Resource Center and the Chamber. 

Simply putting these three properties into private hands at these prices would generate a five figure annual property tax stream for Pacifica. If the new owner(s) were to develop them, even more property taxes could be brought in. Now as city properties, they are generating nothing. There are better places for the corporation yard in town.

All three of the properties happen to be ideal hotel or retail sites, so sales and transient occupancy taxes are possible. It’s high time for the city to get out of the property management and real estate development business. Now is the best time to sell, the real estate market is at all time highs and there is a lot of interest out there for great development sites such as these.

Letter to the Editor : Fairmont Stepchild

Fairmont stepchild


During the past few months, Mike O’Neill has been taking his Capital Improvements Projects Lecture and Powerpoint Presentation to various groups and organizations, of which I attended the Chamber lunch. Mike is to be applauded and commended for providing this valuable information (with some good humor) and I hope that he and others on the Council can continue to keep us posted in the future with such informative presentations.

What is astonishing to me, though, is that none of the projects are in my neighborhood, Fairmont, Westview or other Skyline neighborhoods. I pose the question to our council members: What about Skyline Boulevard, it could stand for some improvements, it is often congested, bumper to bumper between Manor and Hickey during commute hours?. There have been a number of collisions at the Hickey / Skyline intersection, including a fatal pedestrian strike. Skyline is Caltrans bailiwick, but could Pacifica be proactive with neighboring jurisdictions to work with Caltrans on looking at improving Skyline Boulevard?. One of the candidates in the last council election talked about a sound wall to help those residents living on Gateway last fall, and I agree with him, that’s a great idea for Skyline — attractively designed soundwall(s) would benefit the neighbors of that freeway (north of Hickey) and two lane road (south of Hickey).

Gateway / Hickey might benefit from a signal. Could this be studied?

Hickey / Skyline and Manor / Skyline are gateways to Pacifica, some attractive landscaping and more prominent signage might boost the area’s identify as part of Pacifica, Fairmont is often confused as a part of Daly City and blends in well with Daly City due to the architectural styles.

Imperial Park, also located in Fairmont neighborhood, is in need of help and could be improved.

Why are the benefits of capital improvements only located and benefitting the areas of Pacifica down the hill?. This town is more than those areas Can a more “City-wide approach” to capital project planning be implemented so that all neighborhoods may benefit evenly from Capital Improvement Projects? One of my elder neighbors, an original Fairmont owner observed, I am paraphrasing, “Fairmont is the unwanted stepchild of Pacifica.” Perhaps he was being melodramatic, but I kind of get this feeling too..

Victor Spano


Letter to the Editor : Maverick’s

My Turn Column: Let’s adopt


Updated:   02/11/2014 05:04:34 PM PST

Let’s go Pacifica! We have a world class event on our door-step but we do not participate.

Every year the Mavericks Surfing Festival brings tens of thousands of visitors to the coast. The visitors pass through Pacifica and head down Highway 1. On the way, they spend a lot of money on food at restaurants, room nights at hotels and other services south of Pacifica — in Montara, Half Moon Bay, Moss Beach, El Granada and Princeton. Many, including myself have wondered, “How can Pacifica capture the excitement and spending power that Mavericks attracts?”

Our hotels and restaurants could coordinate with each other to advertise in surfing publications and websites to make the surfing community inside and outside of California who might travel here to witness the event more aware of Pacifica as a surfing destination. Let’s tie in our art galleries and history museum. Surf-related shows could be assembled and quality artwork is always of interest to visitors. Could a surfing film festival be held at Terra Nova Theater, showing the many great surfing films, such as “Men who Ride Giants.” or “Chasing Mavericks”? Could the Mavericks event be televised to Terra Nova Theater on a big high definition screen for a viewing event? I can think of at least a dozen restaurants and bars who could host viewing events on short notices.A simple banner sign on one of our Highway 1 bridges that says, “Welcome Mavericks Fans to Scenic Pacifica, Stop here for a bite” would not hurt.

Since visitors can no longer access the Mavericks’ site because of safety concerns, all public participation has been off site in south coast hotels and bars. All the media reports showed the celebration kicking off at 7:30 a.m. and running all day. Bands, dining, watching the heats, shopping. Tents were set up, and patios expanded. All the media reports said folks had a blast and mentioned all the venues. But Pacifica was not mentioned. The waves will return in 2015. Pacifica has to step up to become a partner in this ideal tourist and coastside focused event.

Victor Spano is the former chair of the Pacifica Economic Development Committee and is currently a member of the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce, Fog Fest Organizing Group and Rotary Club. He can be reached at

Reform Sewer Tax Ad – October 2014

Reform Pacifica’s Sewer Tax”   (center bold largest font)

by Victor Spano  (center bold largest font)
Candidate for Pacifica City Council

In my travels around Pacifica as candidate for your City Council, the most frequent issue and complaint I’ve encountered is the sewer tax.  Two recent letters and an article to the Tribune with complaints about sewer tax assessment underline the need to look at and reform the sewer tax. Proposition 13 was passed to keep seniors in their homes and protect them from tax increases. However, the sewer assessment is immune to the 2% annual Proposition 13 limit. Some seniors on fixed incomes, as well as families with low and very low incomes are suffering.
Council recently approved rate increases.  Because we have lost trust, we wonder if what is collected actually runs and maintains the sewer system, or pays salaries for other departments or other expenses?
One individual at City Hall responds to public inquiries about their assessments.  While this has worked, this is perceived by me as an incredible responsibility for one person, and an incredible amount of power.
I propose the creation of an Administrative Appeals Board, which would include the current staff member from Finance Department, an appointed resident, a councilmember (on a rotating basis), and perhaps the soon to be hired Assistant City Manager.  It would meet once a month to review and act on citizen complaints regarding the sewer bills, where the resident disagrees with the Finance Department.  It would be empowered to interpret the cities ordinances to provide relief in some situations, with a final level of appellate review by the City Council.  Such Appeals Boards often are used in Code Enforcement, I believe such a board for the sewer tax bills would be fruitful here in Pacifica.

Audit North County Fire Authority Ad – October 2014

Audit North County Fire Authority

by Victor Spano

During a June 2014 meeting of the Pacifica Rotary Club, Pacifica City Manager Lorie Tinfow said that after labor agreements with Fire personnel were completed, the City of Pacifica would take a close look at the North County Fire Authority Joint Power Authority Agreement (NCFA).  I Applaud this.  Fireservices comprise a substantial part of Pacifica’s budget.  We should review important agreements such as NCFA every few years.

I have met current and former firefighters from Pacifica who expressed concerns about the NCFA.   I spoke with a former Pacifica Battalion Chief about level and quality of service, as well as the condition of the two fire stations, particularly regarding Seismic Safety.  I propose that a “Blue Ribbon Committee” including some of these current and former firefighters convene to assist Pacifica’s City Manager and Council at “looking at the North County FireAuthority”.  Fire Chief Ron Myers would be welcome.  Perhaps a better NCFA for Pacifica could be the result, and I favor that.  And if not, let’s look at alternatives, such as South San Francisco, who runs our dispatch, or Cal-Fire.

Did you know that Daly City City Manager Pat Martel has ultimate authority over our Fire Chief with regards to Pacifica’s fire services?.  This is according to Chief Myers, who graciously answered my questions, about NCFA.  I asked him under whose pleasure does he serve, all three city managers (Pacifica, Brisbane, Daly City), or just Daly City’s?   “The Fire Chief works directly with each City Manager, but the Daly City Manager has ultimate oversight in the current arrangement, as the Fire Chief has an employment agreement with the City of Daly City.

Daly City has been a strong and valuable neighbor and partner in providing and administering Fire Services, however, Daly City City Manager Pat Martel should not have “ultimate oversight” over the chief with regards to Pacifica’s operations.  This is unacceptable to me. The NCFA JPA needs to be revised so our City Council and our City Manager have that “ultimate” authority over the Fire Chief with regards to Pacifica.

I asked Chief Myers about the condition of Pacifica’s fire stations. Chief Myers said, “Like most cities within San Mateo County there is a need to either seismically retro fit or build new fire stations.  NCFA has applied for grant funds and looked into loan funding opportunities, but has not been able to secure dollars for these projects.  The 2 fire stations have been identified in the City of Pacifica capital plan, but with the financial situation during passed years and present it remains within the future.”  

Acknowledging he is right about the difficulty in finding funding. Our current City Council and our City Manager could and should be more visible and vocal in terms of Leadership regarding the condition of Pacifica’s Fire Stations.  The recent earthquake up north reminds us that we need the Fire Stations to be intact in the case of a major seismic event.  They are a place of respite and hold vital equipment for rescues and lifesaving.  As a council member, I would be more than willing to work with the Chief Myers towards securing funding to retrofit or rebuild Pacifica’s fire stations.  This is most important, a matter of life or death.  If fire trucks and fire fighters are buried under collapsed buildings, where are we in an emergency situation?   I feel the lack of attention on this issue reflects back on Daly City City Manager’s “ultimate oversight” of the Chief, and consequently our Fire operations.

These are the sort of questions that I ask now, and will ask, on your behalf, on many issues, as your Council member.  Be sure to VOTE by mail or in person on November 4th.