Breaking Ground on a Ground-Breaking Community for Adults with Disabilities

Big Wave

It’s a universal concern of special needs parents: What will happen to my child after I am gone?

About 20 years ago, a group of parents in Half Moon Bay, California, came up with a creative solution. The parents—whose children were all Special Olympics athletes—envisioned a unique affordable housing community in which their adult children could live independently among their friends, working at jobs in the immediate neighborhood and receiving whatever supports they require.

Earlier this month, that same group of parents and their now grown children were on hand to witness the historic groundbreaking of the residential community—Big Wave.

According to Fiona Kelliher, a reporter with the Palo Alto Daily News, “The finished project — built under [parent Jeff] Peck’s nonprofit Big Wave—will house 33 adults with disabilities, with the potential to expand. Commercial businesses, along with service provider One Step Beyond, will be built alongside the residential community to both subsidize the cost of the units and provide employment opportunities for residents.”

What took so long? According to Kelliher, the project was sidetracked by a variety of obstacles. There were several environmental hearings and 30 public hearings before local officials approved the project. In addition, funding for the $23 million project was challenging. “Peck and a business partner bought and donated the parcel of land for the project, but otherwise relied on funding from the original group of families, plus grants and donations from philanthropists around the Bay Area,” wrote Kelliher.

The community is expected to be completed in approximately 18 months and 23 of the residential units, which sell for around $60,000, are already spoken for. Kelliher notes that the typical cost for a supported residential unit is closer to $300,000. And even if residents could afford to pay $300,000, they would be hard pressed to find any vacancies. Waiting lists in San Mateo County, where Half Moon Bay is located, are anywhere from one to five years long.

Peck is hoping Big Wave will become a model for similar residential communities around the nation.