Too much of a good thing?

On Friday, visitors to the Mori Point trailhead walk past the only facilities for the park. Some nearby residents are pleading with the city to keep the area clean and well-patrolled. Adam Pardee / Tribune

Pacifica City Council has formed an ad hoc committee to work with Fairway West neighbors who complained about trash, sanitation issues, parking and traffic from increasing visitation to Mori Point.

“We want (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) to be aware of this. We want to make sure we get some sort of level of support from GGNRA,” said Assistant City Manager Tina Wehrmeister. “We want City Council’s approval to send a letter and follow up with an ad hoc committee.”

At the council’s July 12 meeting, members heard an Open Space and Parkland Advisory Committee update on impacts associated with more hikers at Mori Point. The presentation was made by Associate Planner Bonny O’Connor and the committee’s Arlene Patton.

Mayor Pro Tem Mary Bier and Councilmember Sue Vaterlaus will meet in a subcommittee to discuss ongoing issues. Council also agreed to send a letter to GGNRA recommending changes that include adding signs, adding a bathroom and widening Mori Point Road.

Council members said Caltrans and U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier’s office should be included as recipients of the communique. They said the transit agency could potentially help with a new sign directing visitors to a safe undercrossing instead of using the crosswalk separating Fairway East and Fairway West where traffic is moving fast. They said Speier should be notified because Mori Point is a national park under the jurisdiction of GGNRA and the National Park Service.

Councilmember Tygarjas Bigstyck said GGNRA should know that technology is directing people to Mori Point as the top place on a list of hiking trails. Mayor Sue Beckmeyer noted that changing that is probably not easy.

Several neighbors spoke to the increased “us against them” feeling that arises when visitors leave trash, block driveways and relieve themselves outdoors. One neighbor said he was against having GGNRA place portable toilets as a solution for extra bathrooms because he didn’t want to hear banging doors and put up with odor.

Some said the Pollywog Trail is particularly troublesome because it runs behind Seaside Drive homes.

“The trail that goes behind the homes is a big problem. Gather all the agencies involved,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bier.

Councilmember Vaterlaus volunteered to be on the ad hoc committee.

“I understand the issue. I see the line of cars. People move the signs the neighbors put up,” she said. “GGNRA is going to make these decisions. I’d like to get this solved for the neighborhood.”

O’Connor said GGNRA representatives were present at the open space committee meeting when neighbors made complaints in October 2020.

An email between open space committee member Ellen Nateson and Darren Brown of the National Park Service, with questions and answers, was attached to O’Connor’s staff report about maintenance and parking. GGNRA’s facilities division stated the one unisex bathroom is undersized and needs to be increased, but the manner of expansion and number of stalls has not been determined, said Brown. Brown said portable toilets could be added. About parking, there is no plan to add additional parking. But the city and NPS can improve access and parking management of the site to see if there is room for more spaces, Brown states. Maintenance staff spends 14 hours per week addressing trash and cleaning the bathroom, Brown states.

COVID-19 led many to spend more time outdoors, which resulted in increased use of parks in Pacifica, said O’Connor. The increased usage led to impacts in the adjacent neighborhoods about parking, increased traffic, sanitation issues and public nuisance complaints, O’Connor said.

City Council discussed this topic at its goal-setting meeting and asked the open space committee to collect comments and propose solutions. Fairway West neighbors and the committee concluded many issues at Mori Point remain unresolved, said O’Connor.

There are only five spots for parking, so people park in the adjacent neighborhood. Cars have been seen blocking driveways, corners, fire hydrants and not allowing adequate clearance for emergency vehicles, said O’Connor. Traffic congestion is apparent in the neighborhoods, with an unsafe mix of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, she said. Overflow parking can reach the Fairway East neighborhoods, which results in pedestrians unfamiliar with the safer Highway 1 undercrossing using the crosswalk between Fairway East and Fairway West, said O’Connor.

Lack of trash cans at Mori Point and infrequent emptying of trash cans led to overflow trash cans and litter in Mori Point and around the neighborhood. Lack of adequate restrooms at Mori Point have led to reports of public urination and defecation, said O’Connor. Neighborhood residents report noise, public drinking, smoking and partying. Neighborhood residents report theft and vandalism, including bonfires and destruction of private landscaping, said O’Connor.

Potential solutions include a partnership with the Moose Lodge or Sharp Park Golf Course to make their parking lots available to Mori Point visitors, encouraging GGNRA to put up signs directing visitors to park along Francisco Boulevard or Lundy Way and to direct them to the safer Highway 1 undercrossing. GGNRA might widen Mori Point Road to accommodate more parking.

The committee also would ask GGNRA to increase trash pickup and to install wildlife-proof trash cans. O’Connor said GGNRA might also ask visitors to “leave no trace” from their visits.

The open space committee doesn’t know when GGNRA law enforcement patrols Mori Point and the neighborhood. Pacifica police representatives said they noticed more vehicles on Mori Point Road and in the West Fairway area. Pacifica police received complaints about residents confronting visitors about parking in the neighborhood, said O’Connor, so Pacifica police added more patrols in the area. The committee would like Pacifica police to patrol during peak visitation to discourage public nuisances and illegal parking, said O’Connor. 

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