Thursday, December 27, 2007
A coyote cuts across a grassy hillside on Armstrong Ranch north of Marina. As cars hum by on Highway 1, Marina City Councilman Ken Gray points out patches of coastal dune scrub and a bright green, meadow depression. If it were spring, Monterey spineflowers, a federally listed threatened species, would be in bloom.
This is where Creekbridge Homes plans to build phase eight of Marina Station, a 1,360-home, mixed-use development. But Gray wants to conserve the 50-acre area as a park. “Because of its habitat value and its proximity to Highway 1, it should be preserved as open space,” says Gray, who is also a State Parks planner.
Chris Luffman, director of site development for Creekbridge, says the project has about 60 acres of parks and recreation space, three times what is required in Marina’s General Plan. Creekbridge wants to put up 99 homes, a baseball and soccer field in the project’s eighth and final phase. This phase, which mainly has villas and large market-rate homes, is critical for the project’s economics, Luffman says. “It’s very important to have those housing units there to make this project feasible to build.”
Marina Station’s impact on plant and wildlife habitat will be a contentious issue when the project goes before the City Council in February. Armstrong Ranch is home to native grass, wildflowers, black legless and coast horned lizards as well as the California tiger salamander, a federally threatened species.
While Gray likes Marina Station’s pedestrian-friendly and sustainable design, he says the development doesn’t go far enough in protecting biological resources. Among other environmental impacts, the project will result in the loss of 51 acres of Monterey spineflower, 33 acres of dune scrub and 21 acres of native grassland.
Creekbridge will mitigate the loss of habitat but they are still looking for replanting sites. Gray points out that Creekbridge plans to restore the spineflower habitat at a 1 to 1 ratio while special status species are often mitigated at a 2 to 1 or higher ratio. As a solution, Gray proposes combining the 50 acres of phase eight with a 125-acre parcel immediately north of the project site to create a 175-acre park and habitat preserve for Marina Station. The Sierra Club’s Ventana Chapter also supports this concept. But Gray, the lone environmentalist on the City Council, will need two more votes to change the project.