Thursday, March 2, 2000
Measure B, the Monterey Coastal Protection Initiative, is one of the most complex issues Monterey voters have faced in many years. Even though we've been studying the initiative intensively, our Editorial Board was divided on whether to support or reject it--up to the 11th hour.
Measure B--the Monterey Coastal Protection Initiative--would, among other things, downsize development along Monterey's coastline, permanently preserve open space, and save historic buildings from the wrecking ball.
On the surface, that sounds good. The initiative sends a strong message to developers: Open space is not for sale, and if you want to develop your coastal property, you must protect the people's right to access the coast--both physically and visually.
Still, we have reservations about zoning by initiative. Land-use laws are convoluted and complex. It's difficult for a small group of people, no matter how educated and experienced they may be, to write a good zoning law without the benefit of the public hearing process. It's even less likely that the general voting populace would understand the full consequences of the legal minutiae. Like many initiatives, there may be unintended consequences.
For example, it seems to encourage uncovered, street-level parking. Parking lots are unattractive and are an inefficient use of land. We also disagree with initiative backers' opposition to parking lots at Window on the Bay. Coastal access is a key element of the California Coastal Act. Like it or not, Californians love their cars. Bayside parking means safe access to the water for everyone, including children and seniors. We also think that the initiative's ban on casino gambling is unnecessary; it's already prohibited by state law.
Having said that, even laws that do go through the public process are rarely perfect--like the city's kelp-harvesting law, which a court recently threw out.
We concluded that the city's existing land use-plans have serious shortcomings, as evidenced by the Cannery Row Marketplace debacle. Developers, whose project--believe it or not--fit within Cannery Row's land-use plan, endured a heated, two-year struggle, only for Mayor Dan Albert to declare the Marketplace "too big." If it was too big, there's something wrong with the land-use regulations. But the City Council has done nothing to fix them, even in the aftermath of the Marketplace's rejection.
Mayor Albert and the City Council say the process works. If you consider the progress of Window on the Bay and the rejection of the Cannery Row Marketplace, you might agree. But the current rules are contradictory and susceptible to undesirable pressures from developers. Furthermore, the city is out of compliance with the California Coastal Act; it is 23 years behind in drafting a local coastal plan.
It's too bad that the City Council and city staffers have perceived Measure B as a personal attack on their stewardship of the coast. They've responded in odd ways--including citing initiative backer Barbara Bass Evans for gathering signatures at the Tuesday market on Alvarado Street. Their inappropriate response has greatly distorted the debate, if not furthered the proponents' interests.
This initiative isn't about Mayor Dan Albert's performance, nor that of the current City Council. This initiative is about preventing what could happen in the future--10, 20, or 50 years from now. California is under extraordinary development pressures. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are making millions upon millions of dollars, spawning the biggest boom ever in Monterey County's real estate prices.
Let's face it: the value of coastal property--the most desirable--will only increase in time. Regardless of the strength and convictions of the current mayor and City Council, how will future elected officials perform in preserving the coastline?
We believe this initiative will strengthen Monterey's ability to regulate coastal development. It will shift some of this regulatory power to Monterey's citizens, because, in many cases, citizens would have the power to decide whether an exemption from Measure B should be granted. While this could be considered zoning by initiative, major projects proposed along the coastline would have to be supported by the majority of city voters, and quite frankly, would need broad appeal. This will increase participation in our democratic process and keep special interests' influence out of coastal land-use decisions.
The opposition's claim that Measure B will cost the city millions of dollars in lost grants is unsubstantiated. Our research shows it is unlikely that the city will lose public dollars (See "The Truth About Measure B," page 7.)
Finally, it is likely that the initiative will be challenged in court and the city will have to defend it with taxpayer dollars. We hope this does not happen. If it does and Measure B is upheld, the city will have new, stricter, coastal protection laws. If the courts reject it, at minimum the symbolism of the vote will be heard in City Hall and--hopefully--will induce the City Council to become stronger advocates of coastal protection, helping to clarify and strengthen local zoning rules.
Despite its apparent flaws, we believe Measure B says to developers: "This is our coast. Tread lightly here."
The Weekly says, YES on MEASURE B
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
With Monterey County poised to write a new general plan that will create development guidelines for the next 20 years, Tuesday's election is an especially critical one for voterschoosing among seven candidates to fill three seats on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.
In District 1, Salinas City Council-member Fernando Armenta faces public relations consultant Paul Fickas in a race to replace Simon Salinas, who is running for Assembly.
Fickas says his contacts in Sacramento will help him land dollars for much-needed crime prevention and housing initiatives. While Fickas has some good ideas and good intentions, and has expressed concern over excessive growth, his political experience and background on the local level doesn't come close to measuring up to Armenta's.
With nine years on the Salinas City Council, Armenta has demonstrated his commitment to his community. While we have some concerns that he may be overly pro-growth in order to address affordable housing needs, we believe residents will be well-served by Armenta.
The Weekly says, ARMENTA in District 1
In District 4, political newcomer Debbie Bailey has taken on the formidable task of trying to unseat two-term incumbent Edith Johnsen, who is highly regarded by her constituents as the kind of politician who can bring housing, jobs and growth to a district that is looking to fill the gap left by the Army's departure from Fort Ord.
Outside of her district, however, Johnsen is perceived to have little regard for the harm her pro-growth policies have reaped on water supplies, traffic and quality of life. Her reelection would only exacerbate the problems that already plague our county.
While Bailey has no formal political experience, she is a committed neighborhood advocate with an earnest concern and understanding for the need to balance growth with the limitations of our infrastructure, while recognizing that her district needs--and deserves--a larger share of the county's economic pie.
The Weekly says, BAILEY in District 4
In District 5, one-term incumbent Dave Potter faces two opponents, Pebble Beach businesswoman Kathy Martins Fosmark and Carmel business consultant Don Kremer.
Both Fosmark and Kremer say Potter has failed to represent the best interests of residents by working to kill the Hatton Canyon Freeway, opposing construction of a new Carmel River dam, and for pushing through a development moratorium in Carmel Valley.
However, if you look at the outcome of the 1995 Carmel River Dam vote, the vote to overturn commercial development at Rancho San Carlos, and the recent water board elections, it is obvious that most District 5 residents oppose projects and politicians perceived to be overly growth inducing--a position the Weekly also supports.
The Weekly says, POTTER in District 5.
The Weekly recommends...
State Senate 15th District
Democrats... Kathrina Ognyanovich
State Assembly 28th District
Democrats... Simon Salinas
Republicans... Laura Perry
Board of Supervisors
District 1... Fernando Armenta
District 4... Debbie Bailey
District 5... Dave Potter
Monterey County Measure A
(EMS levy)... Yes
City of Monterey Measure B
(Coastal Protection Initiative)... Yes
State of California
Prop. 1... Yes
Prop. 12... Yes
Prop. 13... Yes
Prop. 14... Yes
Prop. 15... Yes
Prop. 16... Yes
Prop. 17... No
Prop. 18... No
Prop. 19... No
Prop. 20... No
Prop. 21... No
Prop. 22... No
Prop. 23... No
Prop. 25... Yes
Prop. 26... Yes
Prop. 27... No
Prop. 28... No
Prop. 29... No
Props. 30/31... Yes