Monday, December 9, 2019

[Monterey County] Pacific Grove hotel project reviews public comments

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
PACIFIC GROVE –The first step in a long process to breathe new life into the American Tin Cannery in Pacific Grove got off the ground Tuesday night when planners heard public comments about what should be contained in a key report needed before any shovel ever hits the ground for a new hotel.
The study, called an environmental impact report, is a state-mandated requirement for new construction of this size. The developer, El-Segundo-based Comstock Properties, is proposing a 225-room, two wing hotel on the 5.59 acres that will include 20,000 square feet of retail, a restaurant, lounge and meeting spaces, said Rob Mullane, the contract project planner during Tuesday’s meeting to begin soliciting comments on what elements should planners include in the impact report.
The project will be bordered by Ocean View Boulevard, Eardley Avenue and Central Avenue. The remaining side is bordered by homes.
The meeting, held at the Pacific Grove Community Center, saw roughly 20 people asking questions and suggesting elements to include in the scoping of the impact report. A report of this size could take up to a year to complete.
Concerns addressed in any impact report include aesthetics, biological resources such as plants and animals, air quality, geologic concerns such as fault lines, hazardous material, cultural or tribal protection, transportation and hydrology — mostly water availability and quality.
Mullane stressed that the scoping session was about receiving input on elements that should be contained in the environmental report and not a debate on the merits of the project itself.
Among the points raised by attendees was the use of story poles, those poles erected on construction sites often with orange netting to provide a sense of what effect the height of the project will have on surrounding views. But while story poles are required for residential construction they are not called for on commercial projects.
Another audience member asked whether there would be a water demand analysis to ensure the project would be in compliance with a court cease-and-desist order on pumping from the Carmel River basin. The consultants said such an analysis is being prepped by the developer.
Another person asked that construction noise be studied for the effects it would have on seals who pup on the narrow beach at Hopkins Marine Laboratories across the street from the project, noting that too much sound will flush seals away. The biological effect on seals will be a part of the environmental study.
Traffic and parking is another element that should be studied, another participant suggested. The consultants said that while traffic circulation will be an important part of the study, parking would be mitigated by a design calling for more than 300 parking spaces on-site, including 260 spaces that will be part of an underground garage.
The application for the project was submitted to the city in June after a lease agreement was hammered out between Comstock and the Cannery Row Co., owners of the property, said Debra Geiler, the head of entitlements for Comstock. She said Comstock determined that the site was underutilized and ideal for investment.
The Tin Cannery is currently home to roughly 20 small retail shops, far from its capacity.
Mike Zimmerman, chief operations officer for Cannery Row Co., told the Herald in June that there is no better place in Pacific Grove to put in a hotel.
“This is going to be great for Pacific Grove,” Zimmerman said. “It will give PG one of the finest hotels in Northern California and provide great financial benefits for the city of Pacific Grove for years to come.”
An earlier 160-room hotel project dubbed “Project Bella” came apart at the seams after launching in 2015 by developers Domaine Hospitality Partners. In February 2017 the permit for that project expired leaving the city of Pacific Grove in the lurch for more than $100,000 worth of expenses only partially recovered from the developers, according to a civil grand jury report issued in July of last year.
Up to the point of failure, the project had cost nearly $250,000 plus the cost of a $31,000 investigation. Domaine Hospitality reimbursed the city roughly $180,000 of that.
Pacific Grove was the subject of severe criticism in the report, accusing it of moving ahead “without proper due diligence,” the report read.
After the public scoping closes on Dec. 13 the consultants will begin assembling a draft environmental study, which will be circulated for 45 days requesting further comments.
December 4, 2019
Monterey County Herald
By Dennis L. Taylor


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