Thursday, September 24, 2009
Glenn Robinson pulls up to Carmel Middle School in a blue convertible Audi with vanity plates that read “CV TOWN.” He’s running for a seat on the Carmel Valley Town Council—which will only be formed if the majority of residents vote yes on Measure G, the incorporation issue on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Three months before the election, the Naval Postgraduate School Arabic language professor stands above Carmel Middle School’s ball fields, where he coaches girls’ softball. Robinson looks at a map of the planned Rancho Cañada Village subdivision and points to a line of trees on the campus’ southern boundary. “These homes are right there,” he says, “just on the other side of those cypress trees.”
Although the subdivision is still in the planning stages—and has yet to be approved by the Monterey County Supervisors—many Carmel Valley residents say it’s a done deal.
“The intent of the county is very clear,” Robinson says. “It’s in the General Plan by name—they are identifying Rancho Cañada as a special treatment area. They are calling for dense residential development. The skids are greased to get this approved by the county. If we lose Measure G in November, it’s very clear Rancho Cañada Village will get approved. If we succeed, the Town Council will get the final say on this subdivision. It is becoming the cornerstone issue of this election.”
Rancho Cañada Village’s planned location sits in a 100-year floodplain, and opponents say new homes will increase runoff into the Carmel River. The 200,000 cubic yards of fill—which would be used to build a berm along the property’s north side—could block the river’s flow and create a chokepoint that backs up floodwaters, potentially threatening retirement community Hacienda Carmel’s senior residents.
Animals will lose habitat and important wildlife corridors between the Carmel River, the Rancho Cañada Golf Course, the Hilton Bialek Habitat and open space north of Carmel Valley Road, Robinson and others worry.
Traffic congestion along Carmel Valley Road—the only road leading into and out of the Valley—will worsen, as will air quality and school crowding.
“Rancho Cañada is a dangerous, foolish proposal,” Robinson says. “There are the flood impacts, and there’s going to be pretty constant construction noise, dirt, exhaust, right next to a middle school. Another school issue related to Rancho Cañada: You’ve read about the overcrowding at River School? What happens when they put 300 new families in?”
A draft county health risk assessment concluded that construction on the housing development would pose significant cancer risks to middle school students and staff. Additionally, the project’s draft environmental impact report drew criticism from environmental groups and neighbors, prompting the developers to send the EIR back to the consultants last spring. The new environmental document won’t be re-released to the public until January at the soonest.
This is because Rancho Cañada developers Alan Williams and Clint Eastwood are working on a “new alternate,” Williams says, a scaled-down version with fewer homes and more open space and parks, connected to the area’s trail systems. Even if the number of houses and condo units drops from 280, 50 percent will still be priced affordable to low (20 percent) and moderate (30 percent) income residents, he adds.
“We want to see if there are any modifications to Rancho Cañada Village that will make more people happy, and still be economically feasible in this climate,” Williams says, adding that the new subdivision plans will be ready in about two months. “We are trying to balance environmental concerns and housing, and we are looking at reducing the housing because we think the parkland may be more valuable to the community.”
When asked how many fewer homes, Williams says, “Quite substantial. Clint and I are a little different developers in that we don’t have to make the same profit margins that other people have to make.”
He disagrees that the subdivision has any relation to Measure G: “There are those people who would like to make this an issue, but even if you’re a new city, the need for affordable housing is there. We’re looking for an alternative that may fit into the community better. We’re trying to do the right thing whether it’s a city or the county.”