Pacifica is blessed and cursed by being squeezed between a rising, eroding sea and steep, forested hills. Usable land is scarce. With the great goal of increasing the housing stock in mind, we would suggest the city consider encouraging redevelopment of existing business and retail properties in climate resilient areas with greater density and with mixed uses. Housing on top of stores and offices.
Retail, thanks to our frenemies at Amazon (we indulge too), has become a crippled sector of real estate. It’s all but disappeared and taken local sales and business taxes along with it. The service business and office sectors are way down as well, although it remains to be seen whether they will bounce back after COVID-19.
Many retail and business properties in Pacifica are low density with single story buildings and lots of parking. They are often adjacent to transportation and are already serviced with infrastructure. Redeveloping these properties with low-rise (three- to five-story) buildings that are primarily housing, but with a proportion of retail, service business and offices, would improve the tax base and enlarge the housing stock without resorting to sprawl developments on steeply forested sites or areas prone to coastal erosion. They would help make for a livelier urban scene.
Using prefabricated modular construction — a long time idea which is finally happening — would allow this to happen quickly and economically, in some cases economically enough for low-income housing. I would urge the city to consider this, and for developers and property owners to start pondering.
One obvious candidate is the Pacifica Manor mall at the base of Manor Drive. The inland side of the parking lot could be built on, with resiliency in mind, even while the Safeway and other stores continue in operation. All of the existing businesses could be accommodated in the new construction plus a couple of hundred housing units.
Robert Boles is an architect living in Pacifica.