Author: Catherine

End of the Year Donation

Happy holidays!


The end of  2012 is fastly approaching!  Please consider making a donation to The Big Wave Project before December 31st, 2012.


Thank you for all your continued support.

“Experts brace for wave of autistic adults” from SF Chronicle

Article copied from: October 6th, 2012.


Saturday Oct 06, 2012 9:38 AM PT

Experts brace for wave of autistic adults

Erin Allday
Published 11:05 p.m., Thursday, October 4, 2012
  • Guido Abenes, 25, who is autistic yet making it on his own, heads into Peet's Coffee on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. "I'm resourceful," he says. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF
    Guido Abenes, 25, who is autistic yet making it on his own, heads into Peet’s Coffee on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. “I’m resourceful,” he says. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF
Guido Abenes appreciates their concern, but he’d really like his parents to stop worrying about him.  He’s 25, he says, and he’s doing fine. But he’s also autistic, part of the generation of young adults who were born during the first big wave of autism cases in the United States two decades ago and are now struggling to strike out on their own.

“I tell them sometimes, ‘Stop it, I’m doing things, I’m resourceful,’ ” said Abenes, who is a student at Cal State East Bay. “They’re getting the message, I think. But they still worry.”

Abenes, who wants to be a therapist someday and travel the world, is fortunate. He joined the College Internship Program in Berkeley, which provides him with a two-bedroom apartment he shares with a roommate, along with intensive, daily academic and developmental support to help him continue to thrive into adulthood.

But Abenes’ situation is unusual, say autism advocates and experts, who are bracing for a flood of adults with autism who lack the support they had as children, and are entering a world that isn’t ready for them.

Guido Abenes (left), a 25-year-old who is autistic, checks out cards at a game store in Berkeley with his social mentor, Ben Nomura-Weingrow. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF       

  Skyrocketing rates

It was in the late 1980s and early ’90s that rates of autism started skyrocketing in the United States. A condition that once was considered rare, with fewer than 2 cases per 1,000 births in the United States, is now thought to afflict 1 in 88 children, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s unclear exactly what has caused the increase, but factors could include greater awareness and better diagnosing of the condition, as well as an actual rise in cases, perhaps related to environmental factors.  


For those born in that first wave and now entering adulthood, it’s a tough, uncertain future. Some, like Abenes, will go to college or find jobs and eventually move out on their own.

But most will not, studies show. Most will continue to live at home and will, at best, find part-time, minimum-wage work – or no work at all. Many will suffer setbacks in their condition. Two recent studies found that only about a third of autistic young adults had jobs or went to school. 

 “A majority of our adults are underserved or not served at all. They can’t access the same services as adults that they had as children,” said Jim Ball, board chairman of the Autism Society, a national advocacy group. “We are doing a lot for our kids, but these kids are going to live to 80 or 90 years old – they’re going to live the majority of their lives as adults. What are we doing for them in that realm?” 

Guido Abenes (middle) walking with his social mentor Ben Nomura-Weingrow (right) to Peet's coffee in Berkeley, Calif., on Thursday, September 27, 2012. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle / SF

Twenty-two years old is an important turning point for many young people with autism. That’s when they officially age out of the public school system that offered them educational and other supportive services.


Kids in the middle

Kids with intellectual disabilities – most notably, an IQ under 70 – often have post-high school opportunities for continued improvement and some measure of independent living. Most of them will continue to get supportive care daily for the rest of their adult lives from state and federal programs.

And the young people at the opposite end of the spectrum – the ones identified as having Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, who may have above-average IQs or skills that will aid them in college and careers – often manage adult life just fine.

It’s the ones in the middle who suffer the most, autism experts said. They don’t have enough of a disability to get major supportive care, but they’re clearly disabled enough that they have a hard time finding, and keeping, jobs or attending college classes.

“These are kids who seem like they could do things and be successful, and they just end up staying at home because there are very few resources for them,” said Dr. Carl Feinstein, director of the Stanford Autism Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

“Their parents are frustrated because they don’t know how to help and they aren’t so happy with their kids living in their home,” he said. “Meanwhile, these kids grew up thinking they would have a driver’s license and an apartment of their own, and they’d get married and have all these things that aren’t happening.”

That’s where something like Berkeley’s College Internship Program comes in. The program was started in the 1980s on the East Coast by a man who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in his 50s. It serves young adults ages 18 to 26 who have autism or other types of learning disabilities, many of whom fall in that middle range of needing support.


Preparation for life

The goal of the program is to provide the support services these young people may need to be successful in school and start a career, as well as teaching life skills to help them become independent adults.

The students live in housing provided by the program in downtown Berkeley, and they usually attend classes at nearby community colleges. At the program center, students get lessons in cooking and banking and other basic living skills. They learn how to budget their time, how to apply for jobs and how to get along with co-workers and bosses.

But it’s expensive: The program costs $30,000 to $70,000 a year, not including housing or tuition at other academic institutions. Scholarships are available and insurance may cover some or all of the expenses.

For those who can afford it, or whose parents have the time and energy to seek the help, there are other, similar programs. Many college campuses, including Cal State East Bay, offer extra services for autistic students.

Some businesses are starting special programs for hiring autistic employees, especially if those employees possess skills like focus and an attention to detail that can come hand-in-hand with autism. One company, Palo Alto-based Semperical, is based entirely around a model of hiring high-functioning autistic employees as test engineers.

But those jobs and support programs aren’t large and there aren’t many of them. Meanwhile, the group of autistic adults needing these services is only going to grow. The first generation is entering its 20s – but they’ll be hitting middle age soon enough, and there are even larger generations on their heels.


Worried parents

It’s not just a problem for the autistic children and adults, but for their families – especially for the parents, many of whom worry they won’t be able to care for their adult children much longer.

“I hear from parents in the Baby Boomer generation who have kids in their 30s now,” said Kurt Ohifs, executive director of Pacific Autism Center for Education in Santa Clara. “They come to me and say, ‘I’m afraid to die, because who’s going to care for my son or daughter?’ “

Erin Allday is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:

Press Release: Next Step


Press Contact:
Jeff Peck
(415) 999-0145

California Coastal Commission Sued by Coastal Families of Individuals with Special Needs
Big Wave, LLC and the Big Wave Group File Legal Actions Against the California Coastal Commission
SAN MATEO, CA – OCTOBER 4, 2012 –A local non-profit, the Big Wave Group and Big Wave, LLC, and Devon Yoshimine filed complaints against the California Coastal Commission (“CCC”) today. Both suits are related to the Coastal Commission’s decision to revoke the Coastal Development Permit issued by the County of San Mateo to create the Big Wave Project – a privately funded project designed around the needs of adults with special needs.

“Our organization is dedicated to providing housing and work opportunities, in a sheltered environment, for developmentally disabled adults,” said founder, Jeff Peck. “Typically, as parents of these adults age and become unable to care for them, the developmentally delayed become a burden to the public. By developing this program, with both housing and work opportunities, we create a system where they are able to give back to their community. After seven years of working tirelessly to vet the program through a grueling and thorough permit process, we’ve been forced to take legal action. It is our hope the courts will see the clear benefits of such a solution – and prevent this ongoing discrimination by the Coastal Commission.”

The complaints filed today include a Petition for Writ of Administrative Mandamus and for Declaratory Relief challenging the Coastal Commissions actions in San Mateo County Superior Court.
Additionally, Devon Yoshimine, as a representative of a Class consisting of developmentally disabled persons is filing complaints with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) for violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by the California Coastal Commission for its denial of Big Wave’s Permit. The complaints allege that the CCC’s denial results in illegal discrimination against developmentally disabled persons as it denies them equal access to housing and employment. In response to a public records request the CCC could not identify any housing project it had approved for affordable housing for the developmentally disabled in its forty year history.

Big Wave Project
Big Wave is a privately funded innovative project to provide housing and work opportunities in a sheltered environment for persons with developmentally disabilities. These individuals require special services throughout their lives. All too often, however, this responsibility and public duty is left unfulfilled and these special needs citizens are left to cope on their own.
The Big Wave Project is two synergistic developments zoned for commercial use west of the Half Moon Bay Airport. A five-acre parcel on the southern portion of the property, the Wellness Center, will provide 57 condominium units exclusively for the developmentally disabled.

Legal Challenges
Big Wave has been thoroughly vetted during a six-year permit process within San Mateo County, after an extensive review which generated a 5,000 page Final Environmental Impact Report. The Planning Commission approved the project and issued a Coastal Development Permit (CDP).
After opponents appealed, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors held additional hearings on the project and unanimously determined that the Planning Commission acted properly and sustained the CDP. During the appeal, the Supervisors commended the project for using private resources to address a public social responsibility and for addressing the need for commercial office space on the San Mateo coast. The writ of mandamus filed today contends that the Coastal Commission acted illegally in revoking the CDP granted by the County of San Mateo and in so doing violated The California Coastal Act.

About the Big Wave Project
Founded in 2000 by Steve and Jamie Barber and Jeff and Valerie Peck, the Big Wave Project will provide a place where individuals with developmental disabilities are able to reach their full potential while providing local coast-side businesses with the commercial space to thrive and grow. Big Wave Group is a non-profit group, led by a Board of Directors chosen from a cross section of community leaders. For more information, please visit or call 415-999-0145 or email

Big Wave Featured in Half Moon Bay Patch Newsletter

Article copied from:


Big Wave Supporters Continue Community Outreach Efforts with Annual Harvest Festival

Proponents for Big Wave, a live/work community for adults with developmental disabilities, gathered on the project’s property in Princeton Saturday for the 6th Annual Big Wave Harvest Festival.


Big Wave Harvest Festival       

 Big Wave Harvest Festival

Big Wave Harvest Festival        


On Saturday, more than 200 people attended the 6th Annual Big Wave Harvest Festival, a fun-filled autumn celebration with friends, family and supporters of the Big Wave Project, an office park and housing complex for the developmentally disabled that would include 225,000-square-feet of office space and housing for about 50 developmentally disabled adults in a Princeton plot behind the Half Moon Bay Airport.

It’s been a couple of months since the California Coastal Commission put a kibosh on Big Wave, maintaining the piece of property was not the right place for such a project.

But the decision to kill the live/work community for adults with developmental disabilities hasn’t stopped the proponents of Big Wave from moving ahead with future plans for the project. The partners in Big Wave LLC have already started the process to move forward with a law suit against the California Coastal Commission. They are also increasing their outreach to the community, other government agencies and legislators.

This includes events like the Harvest Festival, which coincides with October being National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month and is “a celebration for our future residents and all the people who have dedicated so much time to this project,” said Big Wave president Jeff Peck, an El Granada resident with a 24-year-old daughter with developmental disabilities. Peck has coached Special Olympics basketball for 15 years and knows a large majority of those with developmental disabilities on the Coastside, he said.

The festival, held on the Princeton property near 333 Airport Street, is not a fundraiser necessarily, although it does raise enough money to cover costs with funds primarily used for the organization’s organic farm operations and other activities for the developmentally disabled community such as educational activities and sports teams.

Big Wave Group, a nonprofit 501 (c) (3), owns the five acres on which the live/work community for those with developmental disabilities would be built. Big Wave LLC, a for-profit company, donated the land to the Big Wave Group on Dec. 27, 2011. The 15 acres, parcel immediately to the north, is where the business park would be built, “the financial engine for the Wellness Center,” said Peck, who purchased the land with his wife Valerie and good friends and business partners, Steve and Jamie Barber, over 12 years ago “to build something that provides lifetime benefits for the developmentally disabled while at the same time benefitting the entire Coastside community,” said Peck.

The Harvest Festival was created for “community good cheer” for the Big Wave community, explains Peck. The funding for the Wellness Center design and permitting process came from private individuals.

Festival activities included arts and crafts, planting, group games, pie eating contests, an old-fashioned cake walk, silent auction, raffle, a pumpkin patch, live music, and dancing.

The highlight of Saturday’s event was when all attendees at the party sang the Big Wave Song, which can be heard on the organization’s website.

“This is my life’s work,” said Peck. “I want to provide independence, purpose and opportunity to those with developmental disabilities. I want every person, regardless of abilities, to have the opportunity to develop their talents and special gifts.”

Big Wave’s Harvest Festival is only made possible by the help, creativity and dedication of volunteers.


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Related Topics: Big Wave Project and California Coastal Commission

Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert

Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert

      Organized by musician Neil Young and his wife, Pegi, the Bridge School Benefit Concert is an annual, all acoustic, non-profit charity event held every October at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. All proceeds directly benefit the operations of The Bridge School.  

Our Mission

The Bridge School is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their communities through the use of augmentative & alternative means of communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) applications and through the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative life-long educational strategies. The Bridge School is an internationally recognized leader in the education of children who use augmentative and alternative communication and has developed unique programs and trained highly skilled professionals in the use of state of the art assistive technology.

The first concert was held October 13, 1986 and, with the exception of 1987- the year the educational program was launched- it has become a highly anticipated Bay Area favorite.


The 26th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert will be on October 20, 2012 at 5pm and October 21, 2012 at 2pm!

Announcing the lineup for the 26th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert:

*All acts are subject to change. Not necessarily in order of appearance.

  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse
  • Jack White
  • Guns N’ Roses
  • The Flaming Lips
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • Foster the People
  • Lucinda Williams
  • Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers
  • k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang
  • Gary Clark Jr.

 Information about ticket sales, pricing, seating charts, parking, etc. can be found on the Live Nation site.

California Coastal Commission Decision and Our Response

The Big Wave Project

                    A live/work community that fosters independence for


                                       adults with developmental disabilities




September 5, 2012


Re: California Coastal Commission Decision and Our Response


Dear Supporters:


On August 8th the Commission issued its decision to kill our project. To reach its decision the Commissioners ignored the six year County process that led to unanimous approval, a 6,000 page environmental impact report, and overwhelming community support. Ninety-four of our supporters gave up an entire day to attend the hearing. Sixty-seven of our supporters from all walks of life offered eloquent and honest testimony on why our project was so important not only to the Coastside but as a model to communities throughout California and our entire country. The Commissioners however not only ignored our overwhelming support but one commissioner, Blank, gave a long monologue in which he impugned the motivations of the project founders and parents who have dedicated their lives and fortunes to provide a financially sound project for our most disadvantaged. The one thing that became obvious in the comments from the Commissioners is that they based their decision on something other than the facts.


The decision by the Coastal Commission has by no means killed Big Wave. The partners in Big Wave LLC have already started the process to move forward with a law suit. We also will be increasing our outreach to the community, other government agencies and legislators. Although we would rather be allocating funds to directly provide a better life for those with disabilities, the Coastal Commission’s decision to outright kill the project instead of negotiating a reasonable solution has forced us into this position.


We will keep all of you updated as we move through this process and we welcome your continued support which we will need now more than ever.




Jeff Peck

Big Wave Farm Day 9/’12


 Hello farmers!

Thanks for supporting the farm by making it out this month to weed!  We removed more than 10 wheel barrow full loads of weeds.  Now that the weeds are removed, we can begin to put down the bark mulch to prevent this many weeds from growing.

 Check out the pictures below, including the before and after pictures of the vegetables.





Join us for the 6th Annual Harvest Festival

Join us for the 6th Annual Big Wave Harvest Festival


You’re invited to a fun-filled autumn celebration with friends, family and supporters of the Big Wave Project. 

This event will feature activities that are fun for all ages! Activities include arts and crafts, planting, group games, pie eating contests, an old-fashioned cake walk, silent auction, raffle, live music and dancing.

Don’t forget to purchase the perfect Halloween pumpkin from Big Wave’s bountiful pumpkin harvest!





When: Saturday, September 29th, 2012 from 1:00pm-5:00pm.

Where: Big Wave property in Princeton-by-the-Sea (near 333 Airport Street).  See below for map and directions.

Questions: Contact Kim at or call (415)-517-9447.


Event Details and Announcements 

Please help with this year’s event!  Big Wave’s Harvest Fest is only made possible by the help, creativity and dedication of our volunteers. Contact Kim at or call (415)-517-9447 to learn more about volunteering this year’s fest.  


We have some fun items for this year’s auction, including gift certificates to local hotels and restaurants, hand-made jewelry, artwork, wine, tickets to Disneyland, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and more!     



Please bring a side dish to share. Last name A-M, please bring a side (ex. Chips, nuts, rice, raw or steamed veggies, cut fruit) and N-Z, a salad (ex. Potato, leafy greens, fruit) Consider bringing something gluten free as there will be a separate table for gluten free dishes.


Big Wave will provide hamburgers, hot dogs, vege burgers and all the fixings, plus pumpkin pie for dessert! 



Bring a creative, homemade cake for the Cake Walk.  Everyone can participate, fun for all ages!    



This year Tehya, a talented group who performs in the local area, will be our guest musicians. Tehya incorporates classic rock and blues music that encourages you to sing along and dance the afternoon away     




Letter to Supporters

The Big Wave Project

Dear Big Wave Supporters,


I want to thank all of our supporters of Big Wave. We had such an amazing turnout for the Wednesday hearing. We had people from all walks and locales, some people I didn’t even know, that came together for a singular, shared purpose, to help build our Big Wave community.


Well things did not go as planned. The Coastal Commission outright vetoed the project and Commissioner Blank even gave an abusive tirade about the sinister motivations of the project founders. Unfortunately he had learned nothing from the civility and the honesty that every one our speakers naturally displayed.


My day of mourning and devastation is over. It ended when I reviewed the video of our future residents and supporters speaking at the hearing. I am going to take one week to think about things as will the Big Wave team and close supporters. We will formulate the next steps we need to take for getting our project to the point of construction.  


Thank you all for your unabated support, without which Big Wave would have never gotten this far. At the next meeting let’s have 200 speakers.  


Jeff Peck