Muir Beach faces election divided by varying opinions on water hike

10/26/2017

Some of the roughly 300 registered voters living in Muir Beach will head to the polls on Nov. 7 to choose three seats on the board of the Muir Beach Community Services District, which oversees water quality and distribution, recreation, fire protection, roads and infrastructure in the coastal village. The five candidates vying for the positions are split into two camps. Foremost among the divisive issues in the election are how to raise funds for infrastructure improvements. Incumbents Peter Lambert and Lynda Grose and newcomer Frank Schoenfeld have spoken in support of the current direction of the board—which also includes Gary Friedman and Victoria Hamilton-Rivers. In particular, they support a recently proposed doubling of water rates. “No matter which party affiliation you have, everyone agrees there needs to be a rate increase,” said Ms. Grose, a design and sustainability professor, has been on the board since 2015. The financial stimulus would be the first rate hike in seven years and the proceeds would help replace degraded water pipes and repair the community center and deteriorating roads, trails and public lands. The two other candidates, who are campaigning as a pair, call the 100-percent rate increase an overreach. Leighton Hills, who runs the internet service Muir Beach LAN and is a former two-term board member and district manager for Muir Beach, has united with Steven Shaffer, a fellow former longtime board director and jazz musician, to represent an alternative to the current board’s direction. “I think they’re making mistakes when calculating their rates,” Mr. Hills said. “I’ve run through the math. If I were district manager, I’d do a 20 or 25-percent rate increase. You can keep that level for a few years to manage the rest of your costs. I don’t understand why the folks on the new board are threatened by this. We did a good job before, and why would you want to ignore that level of experience?” The divisions among the candidates are also felt by community members. “We have the ability here to argue with our neighbors,” resident Leslie Riehl said. “But I do not feel the comfort of passing certain people on the street.”