Thursday, May 23, 2002
Pacific Grove Donnybrook? Pacific Grove was the scene of an alleged altercation between a city employee and a private citizen at a public meeting on May 14.
City detective Chris Hunkel is investigating an incident concerning Community Development Director Dennis Boehlje and resident Jennifer McKnight, which allegedly took place at a meeting of the Architectural Review Board.
The board was reviewing plans for the expansion of the Forest Hill Manor senior citizens'' home. As reported in this newspaper, those plans have riled some neighbors due to the size and scope of the project, which was approved a decade ago. An otherwise disparate citizens'' group called the Pacific Grove Action Committee (PGAC) had formed to call for a full public review of plans to expand the facility.
McKnight, an accountant who lives within sight of Forest Hill, has been researching the project extensively at city hall for PGAC. She and others say that during the meeting, an attorney for the development spoke for what seemed like an inordinate allotment of time. Someone in the audience loudly protested, at which point, McKnight says, Boehlje approached her at her seat.
"He came down from the podium and shook me and yelled at me," says McKnight. "I have bruises on my arm."
McKnight has filed a complaint with the police. She says she is "not a rabble rouser" and says the incident left her "in shock."
Det. Hunkel says he has interviewed close to 20 witnesses and plans to write a report and forward it to the District Attorney''s Office for review. He says the case is being investigated as a possible battery. Hunkel has interviewed McKnight and says he did observe bruises on her arm. As for what happened at the meeting, Hunkel says, "It depends who you talk to."
Dennis Boehlje is mum. "There''s no validity and I have no comment. I''m stunned by the accusation," he says. He says he does not have a lawyer.
Landlord Rules Still In Place
Results from the first six months of voluntary rent guidelines in the cities of Monterey, Marina, Seaside and Pacific Grove were released recently, and the numbers show a relative lack of complaints from tenants against landlords.
On October 24, after months of hand-wringing over exorbitant local rents and seemingly arbitrary rent increases, the Monterey City Council adopted general guidelines to encourage fair treatment of tenants by landlords. These were followed by similar moves in the other cities.
According to the progress report, only 32 complaints were filed from residents of the 20,600 rental units in the four cities. More then two-thirds of the complaints were over rent increases.
Bob Humel, housing and property manager for the City of Monterey, concludes in the six-month report that "...a total of 32 complaints in four cities over this period, with most cases withdrawn or resolved, could indicate that many landlords, property owners and tenants have become aware of the program and appear to be cooperating."
Humel says he has spoken with hundreds of tenants and the city staff has spent hundreds of hours on the program. He estimates it has cost the city $25,000 to organize the program and complete a city-wide mailing. Monterey also paid a $15,000 grant to the conflict mediation service already contracted with the city.
"Only time will tell," Humel says. "I don''t want to say it''s a success yet."
Sam Lipsky, a Pacific Grove tenants'' rights leader, is critical of the mediation program. He says tenants are at a disadvantage when their landlord shows up to a mediation session with a lawyer.
"People don''t want to go to conflict resolution because they feel it''s stacked against the tenant," Lipsky says.
Lipsky says he went to conflict resolution but the proceeding was declared an impasse, leaving him to pay a rent increase that he had protested.
Humel says he''s only heard of one session where a landlord had a lawyer. There is nothing in the guidelines to preclude legal or other representation for either tenant or landlord, Humel says.
-Andrew Scutro, Jessica Lyons