TO HEAR SOME FOLKS SPIN IT, THE MARINA CITY COUNCIL IS OPPOSED TO RESTAURANTS IN OR AROUND THE DUNES SHOPPING CENTER AND HAS VOTED AGAINST THEM AND THE WILL OF THE SHOPPING PUBLIC.
IN FACT, THE ISSUE BEFORE THE COUNCIL HAS TO DO WITH WHETHER MARINA SHOULD ALLOW DEVELOPERS TO BUILD WHATEVER THEY WANT, LEADING TO A CITY OF STRIP MALLS AND PARKING LOTS, OR IF THE CITY SHOULD STICK BY ITS PLAN TO TRY TO CREATE SOMETHING BETTER, MIXED USED, PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY RETAIL CENTERS.
THIS ARTICLE BY MARGARET DAVIS, ORIGINALLY POSTED IN THE PARTISAN IN AUGUST, HELPS SPELL IT OUT.
Since 1994, thousands of Monterey County residents have participated in public hearings, charrettes, symposia, and workshops on the reuse of Fort Ord, working with planners and electeds to craft a vision for well integrated, prosperous destinations and neighborhoods from the ruins of the former base.
Marina was the biggest recipient of federal land and its properties are for the most part highly visible–especially what became the Dunes development, along Highway 1, south of Imjin Parkway.
The Fort Ord Reuse Plan’s prescription for Fort Ord is replete with keywords such as sustainability, physical and visual linkage, concentrated development next to open space, major employment centers, transit and pedestrian access, special identity, integration, environmental stewardship, and, in sum, “sensitive site and facility planning and design.”
Marina was responsive to this Reuse Plan direction in 2003 and called for extensive citizen participation in hammering out how this would be expressed at the Dunes. This public–council–staff collaboration is reflected in the Dunes on Monterey Bay Specific Plan.
The Dunes (or University Villages, as it was formerly called) was to be an urban center built according to modern, tried, profitable, and humane design principals, enjoying the buzz and appeal of creative mixed use consistent with the Reuse Plan and Marina general plan. Multiple-use commercial parcels were included as economic drivers to provide multiple benefits to the city. The general plan sets the standard for multiple-use properties, explaining, “The intent of the multiple-use commercial category is to permit and encourage a mix of different land-use types in a planned and integrated manner [and] … serves a number of functions, including reducing the total number of vehicular trips by encouraging multiple- purpose trips and access by foot to many destinations.” –General Plan Primary Policy 2.4.5.
Multiple-use zoning includes a minimum density requirement, so you don’t waste your best commercial land on a small development that won’t bring in revenue. The density is measured in floor-area ratio, or FAR. High FARs permit denser developments that lead to greater revenue streams for a jurisdiction. At the Dunes, high density encourages a walkable and integrated shopping experience like Del Monte Center’s, rather than widely spaced retail dominated by parking lots. Concentrated, “intense” development creates room for adjacent open space and connections to parks, trails, and public areas.
With that background, the issue is as follows: at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 1, the Marina City Council will vote on an amendment to eliminate the minimum density requirements from multiple-use properties.
This amendment to the general plan is proposed to accommodate a single developer at the Dunes and his extremely low-density project south of the REI/Target parking lot.
The specific plan for the 3.7-acre project site calls for a total of 57,230 square feet of floor space, stacked in three two-story buildings. The developer proposes 21,000 square feet of floor space, a reduction in FAR from .34 to .13.
A .34 FAR is not high to begin with. For comparison, the Grocery Outlet shopping center at Del Monte and Reservation has a FAR of .32.
The proposed project features several fast-food chains, including two drive-throughs running along 2nd Avenue, a hair salon, a Verizon outlet, etc.
I am asking Partisan readers who understand the long-term value of Fort Ord land and support economically robust, socially rewarding design at the Dunes to endorse an online petition asking the Marina council to deny the request to modify the general plan.
The petition is here.
The proposed general plan amendment would:
- Inflict long-term economic injury to city of Marina, and by extension, the region
- Reduce potential job opportunities in Marina
- Reduce opportunities for small business
- Underutilize Marina’s valuable land
- Promote “strip mall” development
- Discourage use of public transportation
- Discard smart planning principles
- Eliminate requirements that encourage people-oriented, mixed-use “destinations”
- Influence overall development patterns throughout the Dunes, shifting from an emphasis on walkability towards a “park and re-park” automobile orientation
The economic effects of the proposed amendment are summarized in the staff report to the Marina Planning Commission (May 28, 2015):
In addition to maintaining sufficient intensity of use to promote a pedestrian-oriented pattern of development, the intent of a minimum FAR is to ensure economic development that provides a strong fiscal base and prevent underutilization of land. Land appropriate for community development is intended in the General Plan to be allocated and phased in a manner that enhances local employment and economic opportunities and provides the City with a strong economic and fiscal base (General Plan Primary Policy 2.4.12). A diversified and sound economic base is consistent with General Plan Goal No. 9, in that it will permit the delivery of high-quality public services to city residents and businesses (Section 1.18.9). The proposed text amendment would allow development that underutilizes the potential intensity of land uses and, therefore, minimizes enhancements to the City’s economic and fiscal base.
Marina now has a wellness center, hotel, shopping center, VA clinic, university campus, MPC, cinema, and 1,200 new homes underway at the Dunes. The location is prime for the type of development that includes restaurants, retail, business suites, and lofts.
The vision of the Fort Ord Reuse Plan, Marina General Plan, and the Dunes on Monterey Bay Specific Plan is within Marina’s grasp.
Margaret Davis is a member of the Marina Planning Commission and executive director of the Friends of the Fort Ord Warhorse. She is a recipient of Supervisor Jane Parker’s Instigator of Excellence Award.