Thursday, August 26, 2010
Maybe it’ll bring the TED conference back to the Peninsula, or give Central Coast soccer players a complex of their own. It could turn East Seaside into a mini green Silicon Valley, or draw thrifty musicians up from SoCal. Or all of the above.
Seaside officials have high hopes for the redevelopment of more than 500 acres east of General Jim Moore Boulevard, from the Coe Avenue intersection to the Del Rey Oaks boundary – now mostly dirt roads and chaparral on the former Fort Ord.
The process got a jump start when California American Water proposed putting two 3-million-gallon storage tanks in the redevelopment area as part of the regional water project. City officials worried the mammoth tanks would constrict their ability to develop.
“We did not want them to place anything up there without having a clear view of what can be done in East Seaside,” Deputy City Manager Diana Ingersoll says. “We informed Cal Am that we weren’t going to discuss anything with them until we heard from the community.”
In July the city convened the East Seaside Conceptual Master Plan Task Force, made up of a dozen community members, city and Cal Am staff, and Cal Am-funded consultants.
“The coolest part is, [East Seaside] can be anything that the community wants and that the traffic will bear,” says task force member and Monterey County Business Council President Mary Ann Leffel. “It’s like a blank slate.”
Leffel’s jazzed about the potential for a green-tech research park and an 85,000-square-foot convention center, which could attract groups needing more space than the Monterey Conference Center offers.
She sees possible synergy with neighboring CSU-Monterey Bay: “It makes a lot of sense to put things there that are compatible with the school, so that the students would have jobs.”
City Manager Ray Corpuz also likes the sound of cutting-edge recording studios (he notes the direct Monterey-Los Angeles flights) and a regional soccer complex. “There’s so much soccer around here – people will play in every little corner they can find,” he says. “There’s just not enough room.”
Ingersoll stresses that the brainstorming is strictly conceptual at this point. None of the imagined projects could move forward without revisions to the Fort Ord Reuse Plan and the city’s General Plan, which designate East Seaside redevelopment as mostly residential and light commercial.
Those planning documents were created before the housing bubble burst and Seaside suffered one of the county’s highest foreclosure rates. Subsequent market studies showed better prospects for heavier commercial development, Ingersoll says.
Officially changing the East Seaside blueprint would require rezoning, district-specific plans, public dialogue and vetting by several agencies – not to mention outside funding.
One more wonky hitch, which Corpuz describes as the “cloud” over Fort Ord redevelopment: A current state law 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 for its redevelopment.
Central Coast Assemblyman Bill Monning’s AB 1791 would make an exception for the Fort Ord reuse area. The Senate passed the bill Aug. 24; it now returns to the Assembly for a concurrence vote.
Ironically, it’s being opposed by LandWatch, a local land use watchdog group Monning helped found.