HALF MOON BAY -- After defeating the City Council at the polls Tuesday in a fight over the 114-year-old Main Street Bridge, downtown merchants have turned their attention to a second bridge-related ballot measure in November, while the council mulls its next steps in addressing the bridge's structural problems.
The merchants and council offered competing measures in Tuesday's election over how to deal with the bridge, which serves as the main point of entry to downtown from state Highway 92. Measure F, backed by the business owners, prevailed with 64.4 percent of the vote. Measure E, which would have allowed the council to demolish the bridge, got just 38.3 percent.
Charles Nelson, owner of Toque Blanche on Main Street, said he was delighted but unsurprised by the lopsided result.
"The public has been consistent. The difficulty has been getting the council to pay attention," he said. "They're forced to listen at this point."
Measure F requires the council to come back to the voters for approval before demolishing and replacing the bridge. The council voted last year to pursue that option, touching off the ballot fight. Merchants argue the bridge can be fixed, which they view as a cheaper, less disruptive option.
But even though it prevailed Tuesday, the fix-the-bridge campaign is considering whether to follow through with its original plan to place a measure on the November ballot. The merchants were gathering signatures this spring for the November measure when the council, rather than prolong the bridge fight, decided to place dueling measures on the June ballot.
In crafting Measure F, however, the city changed the wording of the business owners' proposition. Deborah Ruddock, a former Half Moon Bay mayor who is supporting the merchants, said some in the save-the-bridge camp feel the language of the original measure would stand up better to any future legal challenge.
"My general sense is that the group intends to proceed to November," Ruddock said Wednesday.
Tony Condotti, Half Moon Bay's city attorney, said he is analyzing whether the city has the right to block a second measure as redundant.
"It's kind of an absurdity," he said of putting forth a measure that reflects existing law.
Council members will discuss the measure at their meeting June 17. Meanwhile, the council must resume its deliberations over how to bolster the bridge.
The challenge now will be finding money to repair the bridge, if that's how the council proceeds, said Mayor John Muller. The city had lined up a federal grant to cover most of the $8 million cost of replacing the bridge, but has not found a similar source of revenue for merely fixing it.
"We don't know if we'll be able to continue on doing what Measure F wants us to do," said Muller, who was frustrated by the outcome of Tuesday's election. "We fought really hard to do the right thing for the community, but a group has come out with an opinion and we will abide by the law."
Councilman Allan Alifano also expressed disappointment over the vote, but said he wants to repair the rift with the merchants.
"The community is doing so well, having come back from the verge of bankruptcy," said Alifano, referring to the city's budget nightmare during the recent recession. "We really need to get refocused on the positives."
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.