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Half Moon Bay Mayor Calls Newsom's Legal Threat Over Farmworker Housing Unhelpful

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A person with a goatee stands in front of a large group of people sitting in fold-out chairs in a room painted bright orange.
Half Moon Bay Mayor Joaquin Jimenez speaks during a roundtable discussion at the ALAS Sueño Center in Half Moon Bay on Jan. 23, 2024, marking one year since the mass shooting at two farms claimed the lives of seven people on Jan. 23, 2023. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Gov. Gavin Newsom weighed in on a debate over affordable housing in Half Moon Bay today, calling on the city’s planning commission to move swiftly to approve an apartment building for senior farmworkers.

In a statement, Newsom told commissioners to “stop delaying” approval of the 40-unit project and threatened legal action against the city if they did not.

“The delay is egregious and jeopardizes the well-being of Californians,” Newsom said. “The state’s Housing Accountability Unit is reviewing the city’s actions and will take all necessary steps to hold Half Moon Bay accountable if the project does not move forward as state law requires.”

The proposed five-story apartment building is one of two low-income housing developments for farmworkers the city has pursued in the wake of a mass shooting last year on two Half Moon Bay mushroom farms that brought to light squalid living conditions for farmworkers.

Newsom visited the city after the Jan. 23, 2023, shooting rampage where a disgruntled farmworker killed seven co-workers and gravely injured an eighth. After touring the mushroom farms, he voiced outrage over the deplorable housing that lacked heat or running water, telling reporters: “Some of you should see where these folks are living, the conditions they’re in. Living in shipping containers.”


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The planning commission held two meetings in late April with hours of public comment, but did not vote on the proposal. A third meeting is scheduled for May 14.

Half Moon Bay Mayor Joaquín Jiménez said that Newsom’s comments were unhelpful, and he denied that the approval was delayed, saying the commission was simply accommodating members of the public who wished to speak.

“If he wants to meet with me and sit down and talk about housing, I would love to sit down with him,” said Jiménez, who added that Newsom did not reach out to him before weighing in. “He needs to understand that this is a process that we have to follow. There’s nothing being delayed.”

Jiménez, who sits on the city council, declined to give an opinion on how the commission should vote because any appeal of its decision could go to a vote of the council. But Jiménez is a long-time farmworker advocate and has been leading the call for more affordable workforce housing in coastal San Mateo County.

“This is not new to the coast. We know we need housing. Ten years ago we knew that,” said Jiménez. “We need to provide housing for low-income farm workers. We have to and we want to.”
City staff has recommended the commission approve the 40-unit apartment building, on a city-owned parcel at 555 Kelly St. in downtown Half Moon Bay.

In 2022, the Half Moon Bay City Council directed staff to work with nonprofit developer Mercy Housing and a local community organization, Ayudando Latinos A Soñar. Mercy and ALAS are jointly developing the project, and the city has received millions of dollars in state and county funds for such a development.

If Newsom follows through on the threat to take legal action against Half Moon Bay, the responsibility would fall to the state’s Housing Accountability Unit, an enforcement agency that has wielded its power to push other cities to comply with state housing laws and build sufficient housing under the state’s housing element law.

Another Half Moon Bay farmworker housing project — 47 manufactured homes for very low-income families on city-owned land — is due to break ground in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved $6 million for that project, which is expected to be ready for move-in by early next year.

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