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Cars in a parking lot

This is not what the framers of Marina’s general plan intended




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:

  1. Inflict long-term economic injury to city of Marina, and by extension, the region
  2. Reduce potential job opportunities in Marina
  3. Reduce opportunities for small business
  4. Underutilize Marina’s valuable land
  5. Promote “strip mall” development
  6. Discourage use of public transportation
  7. Discard smart planning principles
  8. Eliminate requirements that encourage people-oriented, mixed-use “destinations”
  9. 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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Devin Podeszwa August 13, 2015, 8:54 am

    I would like to see photos of similar examples and architectural renderings of the types of developments in question. Marina has an opportunity to build something resembling a real downtown for the enjoyment and benefit of everyone. A development that will attract residents and visitors alike, promote community living, and support small locally owned businesses. I would hate to see the opportunity squandered on a boring shopping center with sprawling parking lots, big box stores, and fast food chains. I would also hate to see it strangled by inadequate parking.

    • Luana Conley August 13, 2015, 10:25 am

      Tens of dozens, a veritable gross of public meetings were held throughout the process for DECADES, since the ’90’s, with renderings, drawings, powerpoints, flipcharts and index cards filled with citizen’s questions and input from review after review on the “Revitalization of Downtown” then University Villages reviews, then the morphing into The Dunes and discussions. Will all these thousands of hours of citizen input be neglected and ignored?

      The Marina council simply must not allow prospective developers to hold them hostage for what they want over what the city laboriously planned, otherwise Marina will develop into a cookie cutter replica of every other city across this country with nary a square inch for anything original, or any room for locally owned creativity sparking from the university next door.

  • Jane Haines August 13, 2015, 9:58 am

    The type of mixed-use, high FAR this commentary is advocating for can be seen in the Fort Ord Base Reuse Plan, page 65 in Volume I, at http://www.fora.org/Reports/BRP/BRP_v1_ContextAndFramework_1997.pdf . The type of sprawling, automobile-centric development this commentary is trying to prevent can be seen in strip malls in certain local communities. The difference is much more than a Marina-only issue. The entire Monterey Peninsula will be affected if development at the former Ft. Ord is allowed to deviate from the high-density, mixed-use development pattern required by the adopted Base Reuse Plan because Fort Ord, particularly the Dunes development, comprises the gateway to the Monterey Peninsula.

    • Glenn E. Robinson August 13, 2015, 10:10 am

      Jane’s point is right on the mark: these Marina issues are everyone’s issues because they will impact everyone on the Monterey Peninsula.

  • Lloyd Jones August 13, 2015, 10:26 am

    One major mistake in planning the North Salinas mall sprawl was not requiring that single story building designs include rooftop parking, which would have saved considerable land for other purposes (farming?). Such requirement should be included in any Fort Ord development plans. Buildings that cannot serve roof parking should be required to be covered in photovoltaic panels, the cost of either to be footed by the developer. \

    Thinking outside of (and on top of) the box.

    • Jane Haines August 13, 2015, 11:29 am

      Photovoltaic cells on rooftops would be desirable. However, a Dunes specific plan was approved years ago so the developer cannot now be compelled to add additional features. Nonetheless, compelling the developer to remain consistent with development principles in the Ft. Ord Base Reuse Plan is, and should be, the City of Marina’s responsibility.

  • Matthew Sundt August 13, 2015, 11:32 am

    I concur with Margaret. De-intensifying land use is contrary to what I consider good planning. The Fort Ord Reuse Plan and the University Villages project documents were written to make the best use of available land. However, one could easily argue the planning documents that support Fort Ord Reuse did not go far enough. The City of Marina potentially going the opposite direction of what the Reuse Plan and the University Villages project planning documents would be a big mistake and should be challenged.

  • Liz love August 13, 2015, 7:05 pm

    Would the developer be Bob Schaffer? I’m not sure of the spelling of his last name, but I oppose anything he is involved in. I think the Dunes is awful. Regardless I will sign the petition. Your beautiful area is now the last of untouched places here. Mayor Delgado please save the day. And Gail Morton too.

  • Susan Schiavone August 13, 2015, 11:14 pm

    Absolutely, Marina should comply with the high density plans. Community planning efforts and the BRP should stand. As much open space as possible should be preserved… I agree the Dunes is ugly…why weren’t trees saved and replanted? Instead they put in those wimpy sad trees that never grow. There is NO shade. Why wasn’t the parking made permeable so the rain could go into the aquifer? Why are we still allowing the building of ugly, heat sinking shopping centers covered in asphalt that contribute to climate heating and destroy natural systems of the water cycle? Parking can go underground, and trees and shade are desirable and necessary for reducing CO2 and increasing oxygen! Areas to walk and sit within planned sites increases appeal and makes an inclusion of the natural environment (if natives are used) that might just keep a few butterflies and songbirds around. Stick to the plan, Marina. Mayor Delgado, please apply the biological science background you have to ensure this amendment is shelved.

  • bill leone August 14, 2015, 8:29 am

    Unfortunately, we appear to be at the mercy of out of town developers, large corporations
    & cowardly, store-bought politicians. Joni gave us ample warning: ….pave Paradise, put
    up a parking lot.
    Then, there is the issue of Monstrosity Downs!

  • Allan Groves August 15, 2015, 10:14 am

    It’s disappointing to watch as Marina now is making again the classic mistake of building a shopping mall outside of town. Despite all intentions, these suck the air out of the town center and cause businesses and customers to leave the core.

    Gilroy and its malls is the biggest nearby example.

  • Bruce Delgado August 17, 2015, 7:12 am

    As Mayor of Marina of course I have to keep an open mind on this issue until I have the chance to vote on it. I have been meeting with City staff, the developers, and the public on this project since December 2014. To demonstrate how complicated this is, on April 29 the Design Review Board(DRB) approved this project, then Planning Commission approved this project on May 28. Then City staff recommended the developer propose for different general plan amendments which would have had lesser impact on future projects in Marina and Planning Commission’s Aug 4 rejection of that is what is being appealed to City Council on Sept. 1. Many including myself have had a hard time understanding what can be done to end up with the best project we can. There are many important details that are unclear and I am working many hours to fully understand the planning docs, the site design proposed, on-site characteristics, and various citizend and developer perspectives. I attended the DRB and planning commission meetings and was left with more questions. I have submitted 55 questions to staff regarding this project and feel guilty for overloading them with questions when their workload is so high already. We have a skeletel staff at Marina and there are $242M worth of projects under construction or recently completed. Passion is wonderful on these issues, I have it too. Thank you everyone for getting engaged in this and other similar issues. Please know there is a lot to this, not a slam dunk either way. For example it is difficult for me to find out what the specific plan approved in 2005 for this project requires for this parcel. 2 stories? Residential on top of retail? Fronting the buildings to main streets? Minimum FAR collectively applicable to group of multiple-use parcels or to each parcel? If we say no to proposed gen plan amendments how long b4 the only shopping center in the world without food gets food? How can a theater nearby succeed with no place to eat outside? How close is it to what was already approved in 2005 and since for this parcel? If we say yes to the project how does its auto-oriented plan dictate this area’s ambiance or affect this area’s walkability for the next 100 years? I always prefer a dog-friendly, toddler-friendly, bicycle and ped-friendly, native plant landscaped, mixed-use, mixed income atmosphere. This is not easy for me or simple. All communications and ideas are welcome. My email is bdelgado62@gmail.com and my phone is 277-7690. Most important input at this point would be facts and ideas specifically relevant to FAR concept, specific plan and general plan. Deliberation in this case, as with so many others, needs to be based on factual information.

  • Bruce Delgado August 17, 2015, 7:21 am

    Thank you MD for your analysis. Where in the specific plan or General Plan is 0.34 FAR mentioned?So far I can’t find it. Currently the developer is up to 0.19 FAR(31K sq ft with 4th building pad having been approved by Best Buy lease agreement) and City staff represents that minimum FAR is 0.25 and that is why Gen. Plan amendment is proposed. Is the 57K sq feet based on a FAR/parcel size calculation you performed or is it in the specific plan or other document? Thank you again, Bruce.