Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The cities of Seaside and Marina are one step closer to making their development dreams for the former Fort Ord come true.
A current state law, passed after Fort Ord's closure, prohibits cities from assisting commercial redevelopment on 5 or more acres of vacant land unless it’s been previously developed for urban use. Fort Ord’s military history doesn’t qualify as “urban,” so local cities aren’t allowed to offer financial perks to its would-be developers.
Peninsula officials have blamed the law for hampering redevelopment of the former military land. Seaside City Manager Ray Corpuz says many Fort Ord reuse projects can't go forward until the law is changed. “We could take the risk, but we could get called on it," he says.
But Central Coast Assemblyman Bill Monning’s AB 1791 would make an exception for the Fort Ord reuse area.
AB 1791 is consistent with the Fort Ord Reuse Plan, which was adopted with the support of the Sierra Club and Monterey Peninsula cities on the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, he adds.
“For all intents and purposes Fort Ord was an urban area—gas stations, schools—but because it was military it wasn’t considered urban,” Monning says.
With the minimum 21 votes needed to pass, the bill squeaked through the Senate Aug. 24 with the support of brand-new Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-15th District), who won the vacated seat of now-Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado in a special election Aug. 17.
Because it was amended in the Senate Local Government committee, which removed language regarding visitor services, AB 1791 is now back in the Assembly for a concurrence vote.
But ironically, it’s being opposed by LandWatch, a local land use watchdog group Monning helped found.
LandWatch Executive Director Amy White says AB 1791 would entice developers to build on Fort Ord's vast open space, rather than the more difficult and expensive work of rehabilitating blighted areas such as old military barracks and out-of-commission infrastructure.
“[Monning's bill] goes against the basic premise of redevelopment law, which says [taxpayer] financing can only go to areas that are blighted,” she says. “The blight’s either never going to get developed, or it’s going to get developed in 150 years.”
A June 8 LandWatch letter cites the Senate Local Government Committee's concern that the bill contradicts the intent of state redevelopment law to remove blight.
"We think this legislation is a 'slippery slope,'" the letter state. "LandWatch hopes the state of California does not want to create the precedent of using redevelopment funds to subsidize private construction on bare land."
The group's opposition has not swayed Monning. “We just disagree in our interpretation of what this does," he says.