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Sexy woman salute with usa flag, independence dayIn the name of freedom, I say we make it mandatory for everyone to stand whenever the national anthem is being played, except for those who don’t really feel like standing as long as they aren’t being politically motivated.

And another thing, while we’re on the topic of freedom. Whoever decided the national anthem is mainly about sports was stupid. We should require it to be played at the start of most things we do. Like going to the store. When the stores open in the morning, they should all play the national anthem, and just a regular version, not one of those times when the singer wants to “change it up.” Same thing for other businesses, too. Maybe at the start of the workday and after the lunch break unless that just seems like overdoing it.

We should be required to listen to the national anthem at the start of movies and plays and concerts. Especially concerts because the instruments are already there.

Funerals and weddings are important so I don’t understand why people aren’t already required to start them with the national anthem. Don’t forget that quite a few funerals are for people who were in the military and even more are for people who enjoyed the freedoms that people in the military fought for.  Why should we let them off the hook?

I almost forgot about church. Freedom of religion is one of the main things we have, for now. Let’s celebrate it by requiring the national anthem no matter what color or creed is being observed. All churches, OK. Freedom isn’t free if you can just opt out for your own special reasons.

If you disagree, that’s your choice but don’t expect to be able to make that choice as long as I’m around because I cherish my freedoms and you’d better start doing the same if you know what’s good for you.

Balch Penstock is a pen name used when the author wishes to escape direct consequences. 

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????Ready for Cal Am’s 40% rate increase over the next three years, plus another 60% increase for the cost of desal?

Please show up Thursday and take your three minutes to let the California Public Utilities Commission know this is UNACCEPTABLE!

CPUC Public Participation Hearing on
Cal Am’s Water Supply Project
2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1
Carpenter Hall in Sunset Center, Carmel

It’s time to make it clear to the CPUC  that its protection of Cal Am’s revenue is excessive, unjustified, and wrong. Ratepayers and their conservation efforts are being penalized to ensure Cal Am’s profits. Residential ratepayers bear the largest burden because of the extreme tiered rate structure. Cal Am is a showcase for investor profit, and the CPUC is complicit.

Here’s what Cal Am wants and what it has already received:

• $100 million ($50 million plus $50 million in interest) for water we didn’t use due to our conservation efforts. This would be an 6% increase in Cal Am rates.

• $51 million in General Rate increases for 2017 to 2020. This would be a 16% increase.

• $130 million ($50 million plus $80 million in interest) for the new Monterey Pipeline. This is a piece of the Pure Water Monterey project. This would be another 8% increase in rates.  An alternative route for a base cost of about $15 million was rejected by Cal Am.

Just these first three total an increase of 30% and that’s with no new water! What other business can get away with this?

• $84 million for the Pure Water Monterey reclamation project that will provide new water. This would be a 10% increase in rates.

• $32 million for failed Cal Am projects from 2004 to 2011 was approved by the CPUC and has already been paid by ratepayers.

• 15% increase for the next 27 years is on current bills to cover the San Clemente Dam removal. This charge will move from a surcharge into the rate base, where Cal Am adds to its asset base. But remember, this was an asset that was removed.  So Cal Am can tear down the dam, but add the removal cost as an asset.

• 60% increase for Cal Am’s desal plant IF it ever gets approved.

• Cal Am has escaped any penalty for failing to meet the December 31, 2016 Cease and Desist Order (CDO) by agreeing to a series of milestones.  If Cal Am misses any milestone, ratepayers will be punished with rationing.

Riley is managing director of Public Water Now.

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Monterey County’s oil industry is one of its newest economic drivers — or the oldest.

One beginning dates to November 1947 when the Texas Co. — later to be known as Texaco and today as Chevron — discovered the San Ardo oil field five miles south of the tiny ranch town of San Ardo. The discovery well was called Lombardi 1 and by the time it began daily deliveries of 155 barrels of very thick crude, the county’s far bigger commercial mainstays — agriculture, tourism and military bases — were well established.

DSCN0585 (2)But in another way, the origin of the county’s oil industry goes back 6 million to 17 million years, give or take a few million, when the oil-bearing geologic formation that underlies much of California’s Central Coast settled into place.

This Monterey Formation is a huge swath of shale and sandstone that stretches below rolling hills from the Salinas Valley to Ventura County and inland to Kern and Fresno counties. It holds potential for more untapped oil, though estimates of just how much vary widely. But the prospect of a 21st-century oil boom reliant on controversial, water-hungry methods to extract oil from the drought-parched Coast Range has sparked a fierce and growing environmental battle over the past decade.

In Monterey County, where the oil industry has been tucked away in a faraway and nearly forgotten corner for almost 70 years, the new oil war spurred a citizens’ push to put Measure Z on the November ballot. The measure would ban fracking and other “extreme oil extraction methods,” primarily as a protection against potential contamination of groundwater needed by farms and people. It also would prohibit new oil or gas wells, and phase out wells and ponds used to dispose of wastewater from current oil and gas drilling.

Measure Z puts the county’s oil industry squarely before voters throughout Monterey County. (Here’s a link to the website operated by proponents of Measure Z, Protect Monterey County. The opposition hasn’t created a site yet.)

The Monterey Bay Partisan will be delving into the coming shootout between environmentalists and oil industry boosters, but first we look at how we got here.

San Ado Oil Fields | San Ardo, California by Drew Bird Photography

The Salinas River runs through the San Ardo oil fields. Photo by Drew Bird Photography

DISCOVERY

The story starts near the community of San Ardo, a town town of 500 residents halfway between King City and Paso Robles. That’s where miles and miles of flat Salinas Valley cropland finally give way to rugged hills more fit for grazing cattle.

The town was laid out in 1886 when the railroad arrived and needed a water stopover. After a year, its Spanish-era rancho name of San Bernardo was changed to San Ardo to avoid postal mix-ups with San Bernardino.

From the beginning, the community had closer ties with northern San Luis Obispo County and Paso Robles than it did with the Monterey County seat in Salinas 70 miles to the north. As one old-timer put it in 1980: “In Salinas, they really aren’t sure we’re part of the county.”

After World War II, when operators began tapping wells in the San Ardo oil field, those ties extended eastward over the mountains to where bigger oil-producing areas had already grown up in Fresno and Kern counties.

The Monterey Formation had been extensively mapped and studied by geologists by the 1930s. The presence of oil around San Ardo was obvious to those who’d seen crude seeping from the ground in various spots.

When early oil ventures in Paris Valley, near San Ardo and west of Highway 101, didn’t pan out, oil prospectors turned to the east side of the Salinas River a few miles south of San Ardo. They drilled the 1947 discovery well in the Lombardi pool, and found two other pools in the San Ardo field by the next year. A county use permit was issued in 1949.

Getting the heavy crude out of the ground was a problem. More than 60 wells were drilled in hopes of tapping less viscous oil, to no avail. In oil industry parlance, San Ardo was a “reluctant” field.

DSCN0575

This map from the Drilling Edge website shows most of the inactive oil wells (purple) in Monterey County. San Ardo is in the middle of the image. King City is in the upper left corner

MOVING THE OIL

The San Ardo field was largely idle for four years. But as post-war demand for gasoline and other oil products grew, General Petroleum, a West Coast affiliate of Mobil, moved in and spent $36 million to buy half of the San Ardo field to compete with Texaco.

General Petroleum’s idea was to import light oil to mix with San Ardo’s heavy crude and heat the mixture so the blended oil would flow through a pipeline. But with the Korean War going, there was a shortage of steel to build new pipeline, according to the company’s 1972 history.

General Petroleum scavenged material from an oil pipeline between Lebec and Mojave on the southeast side of the Tehachapis. That pipeline had been made obsolete, ironically, by the switch of Santa Fe freight trains from steam to diesel engines. At a factory in San Miguel, the old pipe was reconditioned and fashioned into a 40-mile line from San Ardo to an oil tanker terminal at Estero Bay between Morro Bay and Cayucos in San Luis Obispo County.

Operating oil well profiled on dramatic cloudy skyThe first barrel of San Ardo crude arrived at Estero Bay in June 1951. The ocean-tanker terminal was active until 1999. Today, San Ardo oil is hauled by trucks and southbound trains to refineries in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas.

Of those early oil days in San Ardo, “Nobody was more surprised than I was that it became lucrative,” Margaret Barbree Rosenberg said in a 1980 interview for a University of California oral history project.

Rosenberg came from a pioneer San Ardo family, and the Rosenbergs, along with other pioneer families, still have some of the most productive wells in the San Ardo field on their land. Rosenburg said her family lost a little pasture from its 12,000-acre ranch, but cattle ranching and the new oil boom were an easy fit.

“Sometimes you go down there and see the cattle wandering through the oil fields,” she said.

Rosenberg said her family didn’t get extravagantly rich off its oil holdings.

“They bought more cars and things like that; but they’d always bought cars, so it really didn’t seem that different,” Rosenberg told the UC interviewer.

But the extra income helped keep ranch fences and roads maintained, and paid for costly irrigation equipment. That argument remains in vogue with South County landowners, who face the boom-or-bust cattle business, when they discuss efforts to block oil development.

BARRELS OF NUMBERS

Monterey County is the fourth-leading county of 20 California counties that produce oil.

Virtually all of it comes from the San Ardo field, which offers motorists and train passengers near the San Luis Obispo County line a few miles of scenery beamed straight out of West Texas.

Today, the San Ardo oil field ranks 41st in terms of productivity among U.S. fields, and is the 13th largest producer in California.

In 2015, 7.8 million barrels of oil were pumped from San Ardo, slightly more than 4 percent of the state’s total onshore production. Kern County alone produces three-quarters of California’s crude. Los Angeles and Ventura counties also out-produce Monterey County.

San Ardo isn’t the only oil field in Monterey County. Others discovered in South County, mostly in the 1950s and 1960s – include Lynch Canyon, McCool Ranch, Monroe Swell, Quinado Canyon and Paris Valley. They have produced little oil. The only one to yield “significant” amounts of oil besides San Ardo is the King City field, located near the hills west of Highway 101 six miles south of King City.

San_Ardo_Oil_Field_MapOver the years, wildcat exploratory wells have been drilled in Fort Ord, Laguna Seca, Seaside and the foothills above Spreckels, county planning documents say.

The group Protect Monterey County reported this year that 3,876 oil and gas wells have been sunk countywide, of which 1,108 are active. An oil industry trade publication says this year there are 551 producing wells in the San Ardo field and 3,683 wells on file.

The two big players in San Ardo are Chevron Corp. and Aera Energy LLC, which are also the two biggest oil producers in the state.

This year, Chevron has about 300 producing wells in San Ardo, a trade publication says. By contrast, Chevron has 16,000 wells in the San Joaquin Valley.

Aera Energy, a Bakersfield company formed in 1997 and owned by Shell Oil and ExxonMobil, has about 240 San Ardo wells in production. A smaller operator, Eagle Petroleum, has 22 producing wells.

A 2013 industry study said there were 190 employees in Monterey County working in oil and gas extraction, another 23 in well drilling, 126 in oil-and-gas support jobs, and two in pipeline construction.

A total oil industry work force of 1,233, the study said, included 721 employees in gas station jobs, 117 in petroleum wholesaling, 35 in natural gas distribution and 19 in fuel sales. In all, the number of oil industry jobs represented 0.8 percent of county employment. Total employee income came to $116 million.

A REALLY GOOD YEAR

In Monterey County, 1967 was a special year.

It was the Summer of Love, when performers Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin blew minds and ushered in a new era in pop music at the Monterey Pop Festival under oaks at the Monterey Fairgrounds.

At the other end of the county, San Ardo oil field workers labored on another chart-buster. Fifty new wells were drilled that year, a frenetic pace of almost one new well a week. Chevron was pumping 27,000 barrels of crude a day.

By year’s end, 1967 would go down as the most productive year in San Ardo history. The 20-year-old field yielded 18.1 million barrels from 885 producing wells, well more than double its output in 2015.

Oil and gas well profiled on sunset sky

San Ardo’s biggest years — in which annual output regularly topped 10 million barrels — began in the mid-1950s and lasted through the 1970s. It was regularly among the state’s top 10 producing oil fields.

Though it was by far the biggest, San Ardo wasn’t the only Monterey County field that produced oil in 1967. The King City field yielded about 135,000 barrels, and other fields produced crude by the hundreds and thousands of barrels, state records show.

Technology changed to keep pumping the crude. By the mid-1950s, San Ardo operators were turning to “thermal recovery” techniques, which were widely used in other California oil districts, to coax more of the extremely thick crude from the ground.

In 1957, an estimate for the “ultimate recovery” from the San Ardo field was pegged at 200 million barrels. By the mid-1970s, that estimate rose to 530 million barrels based on San Ardo’s response to “reservoir stimulation” techniques.

The thermal recovery methods to squeeze stubborn crude from the ground go by a variety of names — steam injection, steam flooding, water flooding, steam cycling, fire flooding. They all heat underground oil to make it move more easily through rock and push it toward production wells.

At a 2014 industry conference in Bakersfield, Chevron predicted “many more years of successful production” in San Ardo. Steam injection is now used throughout the field. More new technologies — 3D-modeling and horizontal drilling (where well boreholes turn to the side to follow layers of oil-bearing rock) are being employed, the company said.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, the Monterey County oil industry embodied by San Ardo generated little media attention, aside from occasional feature stories or “local reacts” to wild gyrations in world oil markets. The subject of oil never arose during a decade-long fight over the county general plan.

But the oil industry’s low profile vanished dramatically in recent years. Measure Z puts it front and center.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

In 2004, Chevron applied in Monterey and Fresno counties to build a 58-mile oil pipeline from San Ardo to Coalinga to connect with a major north-south pipeline on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Unknown-1The big project didn’t attract notice until two years later when Monterey County commissioned the project environmental study. Chevron wanted the pipeline so it could stop using trucks to haul San Ardo crude. The company was using 20 trucks a day, but said increased pumping could require up to 200 trucks per day.

A big increase in South County oil production appeared afoot, but public reaction remained mute. The county approved the pipeline in 2008 and subsequently renewed the permit twice. The pipeline hasn’t been built.

By 2009, the national political winds were shifting dramatically, as fracked natural gas wells in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado were linked to methane contamination in drinking water. A federal oil and gas lease auction in Monterey County — the first in a decade — was blocked over environmental questions about impacts on water and air quality, wildlife and greenhouse gases. Monterey County’s oil industry was no longer a forgotten cousin in a distant town. Increased scrutiny was putting it in the crosshairs of environmental politics.

It’s not the first time the oil industry has roiled county politics. In the 1980s, Congress had stopped auctions of federal oil and gas leases off the Central Coast six straight years. The issue hit the back burner with the 1992 approval of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. That put waters from San Francisco to Cambria off limits to oil rigs.

In an earlier watershed event, county residents in 1965 blocked Humble Oil Co. from building a huge oil refinery on Moss Landing wetlands. A referendum drive to reverse a county supervisors’ 3-2 vote for the refinery forced Humble pack up and go away.

What led to the present showdown? Put simply, speculation that there is a lot of untapped oil on the Central Coast.

In 2011, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said the Monterey Formation could yield up to 15.4 billion barrels of shale oil, making it the biggest such reservoir in the country. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the common technique used to extract shale oil. Opponents say fracking threatens groundwater, increases seismic risks and uses too much water. The oil industry says it’s been safely used for years in California.

That bullish estimate for the Monterey Formation, which cast the Central Coast as the nation’s next oil capital, was dropped to 600 million barrels in 2014. Others have since put it as low as 21 million barrels, figuratively a drop in the barrel.

But a dizzying race for Monterey shale had already started. Oil operators reported inking exploration deals for tens of thousands of acres in Monterey County. Meetings on mineral rights were pitched to rural property owners. Federal auctions were readied for oil and gas rights on new blocks of land in South County.

As the shale-fracking story swelled, the pushback from environmental quarters grew.

In Monterey County, after decades of fights over pesticides, development sprawl, munitions cleanup at Fort Ord and water, the oil rush triggered new alarms.

Aged Oil Pump on Colorado Prairie with Mountain Hills in the Background. Oil Industry Theme.At first, the concerns were over risks from fracking wells; then over the compatibility of an industry that uses and pollutes great amounts of water with the water needs of Salinas Valley agriculture. The state’s five-year drought sharpened the debate.

In June 2009, local officials tried to slow the express train by delaying U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to auction mineral leases on 35,000 acres near King City and Lake San Antonio. By 2011, environmental groups were in court over BLM auction plans for land in Monterey and Fresno counties. They said the potential dangers of fracking hadn’t been analyzed. A planned 2012 BLM auction for 12,000 more acres fueled more protest.

In 2011, Denver based Ven0co Inc., which reported having leases for 300,000 acres of Monterey shale, abruptly withdrew its application for nine exploratory fracking wells near Bradley in the face of environmental pushback. The company complained to the county it had already spent $10 million.

This March, Venoco, one of biggest operators in the Monterey Formation, reported filing for financial restructuring under Chapter 11 bankruptcy law. The company website lists two current major oil projects, both in Southern California.

By the end of 2014, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties had anti-fracking laws on the books. Several other local jurisdictions followed suit, accusing the state of dragging its feet on fracking regulations.

Attention turned to longtime oil industry practices to dispose of contaminated wastewater — injection wells and percolation ponds. There were reports of illegal wastewater dumping. And there were concerns that injection wells put aquifers at increased risk of contamination from chemicals in wastewater and fracking material.

In May 2015, environmental groups sought to stop operations of 2,500 oil wastewater wells, which they said were polluting protected aquifers. The group Protect Monterey County says there are 109 oil wastewater injection wells (44 operational) in the county, most of them near the Salinas River in the San Ardo oil field.

Without a phaseout of these disposal methods, Measure Z says, “Water contamination could have devastating impacts on agriculture, our local economy, and our water supplies.”

As the campaign heats up over Major Z in Monterey County, another oil industry battle continues to burn in San Luis Obispo County.

Phillips 66 Co. wants to expand its Santa Maria rail terminal to greatly increase oil train deliveries to its underused Nipomo refinery. Several jurisdictions along the proposed rail lines, including Monterey County, have objected.

Citing the possibility of an environmentally devastating oil-train derailment on the coastal line through Elkhorn Slough, Monterey County’s top planner wrote to San Luis Obispo County officials earlier this year.

He said Phillips 66 hasn’t looked closely enough at bringing crude to its Nipomo refinery via pipeline. And he pointed to Chevron’s long-proposed San Ardo-Coalinga pipeline as evidence “a local pipeline is feasible.”

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Antique water fountain, detail of a source for drinking water, drinking water

Antique water fountain, detail of a source for drinking water, drinking water

Editor’s note: The following by Tom Moore of the Marina Coast Water District originally appeared as a response to a previous Partisan post about the advertising for the Sea Haven development, formerly Marina Heights, planned for Marina. It is reposted here to expose it to a wider audience.

Now that we’ve gotten out of our system the national politics associated with the “Coming Soon Marina Heights” development or whatever misleading marketing names they will come up with for it, let’s get back to water and why you should not worry/worry.

The Sea Haven/Marina Heights project, along with all of the former Fort Ord, is served by Marina Coast Water District (MCWD). While most of you know the following facts, they are included here for any new readers:

  • MCWD is a government organization, not a private company. As such it is prohibited from making a profit off its ratepayers.
  • MCWD has nothing to do with Cal Am or the Cal Am service area (unless you count the various suits filed by Cal Am against MCWD and MCWD’s countersuits against them as “having to do with”…).
  • MCWD owns outright all of the water service and wastewater collection infrastructure on the former Fort Ord and in Marina itself.
  • MCWD owns nearly 5,200 acre-feet per year (AFY) of the 6,600 AFY of groundwater pumping rights attached to the former Fort Ord (the U.S. Army owns the other approximately 1,400 AFY).
  • MCWD owns 2.2 million gallons per day (MGD) of wastewater treatment rights for the former Fort Ord (the Army owns the other 1.1 MGD).
  • By contract (with FORA), MCWD is honoring and will continue to honor FORA’s allocation of the 5,200 AFY of groundwater pumping rights to the underlying land use jurisdictions (Seaside, DRO, Marina, City of Monterey and Monterey County).
  • FORA long ago divvied up the 5,200 AFY and distributed portions to these land use jurisdictions (even though they do not actually own the rights themselves).
  • ALL of this groundwater comes from the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin (SVGB). None of it comes from the Carmel River or Cal Am.

When the “Coming Soon Marina Heights” development proposal came to the city of Marina many years ago (under a different political regime) it got several sweet deals. The one that irked those of us keeping an eye on MCWD was that the city pretended that the development would use less water than MCWD engineers said the development would need. This occurred because the city wanted to entitle not only “Coming Soon Marina Heights” but also the Dunes development and Cypress Knolls. However, MCWD’s engineer told the city that there would most likely not be quite enough water in the city’s allocation of groundwater from FORA to build out all three developments.

Those of us who have been paying attention have noted that the full build-out of these various Ord Community developments (despite even the current rapid pace of construction) is many years away. So there is still time for MCWD to find and develop the additional relatively small amounts of water needed to support full build-out …. (OK, if you want to glom onto the “no worries” viewpoint you should stop reading here)… unless things go badly with our groundwater.

So how could things go badly with our groundwater? There are two broad possibilities:

1. If Cal Am succeeds in using the CEMEX property to obtain source water for the size of desal plant that it wants, Cal Am will be taking at least 27,000 AFY from a location a mere 1.8 miles from MCWD’s nearest potable water well and less than 1,800 feet from the location of the source water well for MCWD’s desal plant. This presents a serious potential threat to the groundwater south of the Salinas River where all of MCWD’s wells are located.

(For comparison purposes, MCWD currently pumps less than 4,000 AFY from its wells — thanks to water-conserving ratepayers in Marina and the Ord Community! However, MCWD has the right to pump more than a total of 10,000 AFY eventually. Just the Ord Community’s build out demand has been estimated at 9,000 AFY.)

2. The new groundwater sustainability act ends up forcing MCWD to forfeit some portion of its current total groundwater pumping rights. The whole point of the act was to make groundwater pumpers behave collectively in such a way as to sustain indefinitely the groundwater basins that serve them. Since the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin has for decades been experiencing seawater intrusion, it is not currently in a sustainable condition. The consequence could be cutbacks in future pumping of groundwater.

And for those of you who may believe that we really don’t have a problem because we live next to the ocean and there is an infinite amount of water there, here is some more bad news. For the past 20 years or so, Cal Am has been proving that it’s not so easy to get source water from the ocean. If it was so easy, why aren’t they getting their source water from Monterey, Seaside or Sand City beachfronts? They could buy up a property in Sand City for the Cal Am desal plant itself and save a whole bunch of pipeline construction. For that matter, if it is so easy to get source water for a desal plant, why not get it from Carmel beachfront? They would avoid tens of millions of dollars of new pipelines through Monterey that are required under their current proposal.

The fact is that desal is NOT easy. Ratepayers don’t want to pay for it, some folks don’t want infrastructure on their pristine beach, regulatory agencies want to make sure the infrastructure causes as little harm as possible, the plants themselves are complicated to operate and maintain, the plants are expensive to build and very expensive to operate (salt and other stuff just doesn’t like to leave water – check the physics involved in the chemistry), the engineering is challenging and few people welcome the disposal of the brine output in their patch of sea. Oh, and did I mention that the ratepayers don’t want to pay for it.

All of these challenges have to be overcome to build a successful desal project that produces water. MCWD should know because it built and operated the first government-owned desal plant on the Central California coast. MCWD knows what these challenges were like and what kind of limitations they put on what is actually feasible. And the plant is currently mothballed precisely because it is too expensive to operate and maintain as long as we have access to groundwater at one tenth the cost.

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Antique radio on retro backgroundRadio station format changes are not usually pleasant. For reasons known only to station owners, they tend to be drastic, abrupt, and unwelcome to loyal listeners. Friday evening, as I was getting ready to take a shower, I tuned the bathroom radio to KBOQ hoping to hear classic rock tunes, which is my favorite entertainment for my particular bathing ritual. But instead of classic rock, it was just … classical.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love classical music as much as any other form, but it was still kinda jarring to expect one thing and hear something very different. At first I thought it was some sort of feed mix-up, as this particular station had that happen once before. But, no, apparently KBOQ is now rebroadcasting San Francisco’s classical KDFC in Monterey. So KBOQ, originally known as “K-Bach,” has come back to its classical roots.

Five years ago Mapleton Communications abruptly changed KBOQ’s format from classical to classic hits, much to the dismay of everyone whose alarm clock radio was set to gently waken them to Mozart or Handel. Getting hit in the head by Led Zeppelin and the Doobies at 6:00 one Monday morning was an obnoxious surprise to say the least. A lot of long-time K-Bach listeners were very, very angry.

I was among them, though I kinda saw it coming. Mapleton didn’t have a clue as to how to run a proper classical station, a problem I described in detail in a 2011 Mental Note entitled “KBOQ bites the dust….again!”

KBOQ’s frequency is now owned by the University of Southern California, under the banner USC Radio Group. KDFC broadcasts full-time classical music on six frequencies covering territory from Big Sur to Ukiah. Locally it can be found on 103.9 FM (Monterey), 95.9 FM (Big Sur), and Comcast Cable channel 981. USC also runs five classical stations south of here in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs. It’s a pretty big outfit, especially for public radio.

KBOQ’s classical resurrection creates an interesting situation in the local radio market. You see, a year or so after K-Bach went rogue, a new commercial classical station KMZT, K-Mozart, came to town at 95.1 FM and neatly filled the void. The big question now is whether the Monterey Bay area can support two classical stations. We’ve never had more than one at a time.

Perhaps a clue can be found in an interesting twist to this story. You see, KDFC’s Big Sur frequency 95.9 FM was, until very recently, owned by K-Mozart! According to a USC Radio Group blog entry, K-Mozart’s parent company, Mount Wilson Broadcasters, donated their Big Sur station to USC “in order to ensure these important communities had a strong classical music service.” Perhaps this is a signal that KMZT also has a format change in the works. We’ll have to wait and see.

James Toy lives in Seaside and is a regular contributor to the Partisan. This first appeared on one of his blogsMr. Toy’s Mental Notes.

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san-ardo-1

A portion of Aera Energy’s heavy crude operation at San Ardo, from the company website

The oil industry campaign to block the Measure Z anti-fracking initiative in Monterey County had put together a campaign treasury of $1.1 million as of June 30, and that’s without any input from local property owners who are in the oil industry or hope to be.

In the latest campaign finance filing with the county elections office, the industry group is now calling itself “Monterey County for Energy Independence – Stop the Oil and Gas Shutdown With Major Funding from Aera Energy and Chevron Corp.” MCFEISTOGWMFAECC for short.

It reports having received $300,000 from Chevron and $800,000 from Aera, the Bakersifield-based oil production company owned by Shell and Exxon Mobil.

On its website, Aera says it produced 10,200 barrels of heavy crude daily at its oil operations San Ardo. It says the oil operations, covering about seven square miles, sell oil on the premises for transport to refineries out of the area. The company says it has been producing heavy crude oil in San Ardo since 1952.

The industry group reports having spent about $440,000 so far, mostly for lobbyists and campaign strategists out of the area. Apparently heading the effort for the oil companies are two lawyers with the well-connected Nielsen Merksamer firm of San Rafael, Steven S. Lucas and Erin Lama. Lucas specializes in ballot measures and teaches election law at Stanford.

Locally, the committee reports having spent some $19,000 with the L&G law firm in Salinas, the firm formerly known as Lombardo & Gilles, which specializes in development, agriculture and marijuana law. It also reported owing $10,000 to Salinas planning consultant Maureen Wruck.

Details of Measure Z can be found at http://www.protectmontereycounty.org

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idea concept with light bulbs on a blue backgroundGood news for those of you who think knowledge is a good thing. A group of civic-minded folks headed by longtime community broadcaster Rachel Goodman is taking a run at buying and reviving radio station KUSP.

If you, like me,  get a bit confused about which station is which, that’s the one that was at 88.9 on your FM dial, the one that used to be a model of local public radio with news and talk shows and some music, etc., etc. Unfortunately, it’s also the one that tried to save itself financially by converting to a full-time music purveyor, principally adult alternative.

As Goodman tried to warn the good folks on the board, that didn’t work out so well. It was entertaining as heck but not enough so to generate enough contributions at pledge break time. It went off the air a couple of weeks ago and its future is now in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee. (Rumor has it that company that specializes in religious broadcasting is interested.)

Goodman and company plan to launch a video and kickstarter campaign in coming days and at the moment are soliciting solid pledges from Central Coast folks, or others, who want to see (hear) more news and information on the airwaves. While KUSP is based in Santa Cruz, it transmits into Big Sur and it provides a remarkably strong and clear signal throughout much of the region.

There is lots of history to the public radio story on the Central Coast, with a long period of overlapping stations offering much of the same NPR lineup and talks of mergers and the like. I don’t see much point to getting into all that at this point, but I am confident that Goodman and those around her can create a format that complements rather than competes with the other public-spirited stations down there in the low numbers on the radio dial.

Stay tuned for additional info here, but if you want to help out in the meantime, you can get hold of Goodman at Rachel@well.com.

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DSCN0558 (1)“Advertising is legalized lying.” 
–H.G. Wells

If I am not careful with what I am about to write here, I am in great danger of offending some of the fine people of Marina, so I wish to make it clear up front that that is not my intent. The fact is that I’m not entirely sure of my intent, but I saw something in the local papers this week that seemed to me to require some sort of examination, just the way some mountains require climbing.

It was an ad, full page, introducing local readers to a new development, Sea Haven, more specifically Preserve & Residences Sea Haven Monterey Bay. Hard to tell from the ad.

It was a splendid ad if its purpose was to capture attention. If its purpose was to accurately describe the product, however, it was kind of a fail. Very well done but a fail nonetheless.

The artwork is a lovely photo of the shoreline, with dunes and ground cover and some ocean.

The main headline tells us “The Ultimate Luxury is Living in a Place Few Know Exist.”

Intriguing.

It goes on to say, “Introducing Sea Haven in the city of Marina, a new residential community and nature preserve in the rolling dunes.”

OK, I said to myself. I must have missed something. There is a significant housing development, a Sea Ranch kind of place, to be built along the Marina shoreline? I know the newspapers are short of resources, or so they’re always telling us that, but how could they have missed this story? And how come I haven’t heard the gnashing of teeth at the Sierra Club or any threats of litigation over the inadequate EIR?

The ad referred me to a website, LifeSeaHaven.com. I proceeded there directly and with great curiosity.

If I wasn’t suspicious before, I was when I read this:

“While the Monterey Peninsula is revered around the world, few know of the little seaside towns that dot the coast along the Monterey Bay just to the north. The city of Marina is the kind of sleepy little beach town we all dream about.”

This is where I fear some Marinites might not care for what I’m writing here because they may see their little city exactly that way. I don’t wish to pick a fight with anyone, especially Partisan readers in Marina. I’ll just say this. I had not previously heard Marina described quite like that.

It goes on with some actually useful information.

“Sea Haven is a sustainable new planned community of approximately 1,050 homes throughout carefully crafted neighborhoods that spread over 248 acres on the former site of the historic Fort Ord U.S. Army Base. Here, the land gently rises and opens itself up to the distant sea for all to enjoy . . . “

Finally, a qualifier. “Distant.” And, on the next page, a map. It’s not exactly on the shoreline. In fact, it’s about a mile inland, at Imjin Parkway and Abrams Drive. Now I was getting it. This is what they used to call Marina Heights, or Cypress Marina Heights. Or, more accurately, the proposed Marina Heights.

Some will recall that the large chunk of former Fort Ord was approved for development back around 2008 when the economy went south. Before being mothballed, the project was in the hands of something called the Chadmar Group. You won’t find much of anything about the current principals on the website, but if you Google around some, you can find a disclaimer site that tells us not to believe everything we read elsewhere and that tells us the developers are now headquartered at a Marina Del Rey address that is home to something called Sunbrook Partners, which apparently is kind of a big deal in the world of real estate.

Oh yeah, there’s also a Facebook page. My favorites line there is this: “Sea Haven is just an ocean-drive away from all types of marine life exploration at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Get outdoors today!”

Take a bow, copywriters. You have outdone yourselves.

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Oil and gas well profiled on sunset skyMEASURE Z SUPPORTS EXISTING OIL INDUSTRY JOBS

I’m Ed Mitchell, a long-time resident of Prunedale. About eight years ago, I spoke up when the first permit for fracking came before the Board of Supervisors. Since then, I’ve worked with organizations from Aromas to Jolon to protect Monterey County’s water from being harmed by the negative impacts of fracking.

That effort has included co-founding the organization that put forward the Protect Our Water— Ban Fracking initiative that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot as Measure Z. Having recently seen and heard misleading comments about the initiative, I want to share my knowledge about the initiative’s purpose versus the high-risk contract that the fracking industry wants the public to accept. Given that I have worked on the fracking issue steadily for eight years and helped draft the initiative, I believe my comments might be informative to readers of the Monterey Bay Partisan.

The initiative to ban fracking is about protecting our water — not about oil.

It’s about preventing toxic fracking fluids from being injected and stored in local water basins, forever threatening generations to come.

It’s about allowing traditional oil jobs to continue — while protecting the economic well-being of this county’s ag, real estate and hospitality jobs from an extremely polluting and new extraction technology.

The initiative is supported by tens of thousand of voters in all parts of the county.

Please consider the following risk observations, scientific findings,and facts about local fracking:

Risk Observation 1: Fracking along the Salinas River and injecting contaminated fracking fluids into the water basin in the most seismically active oil field in America is a formula for economic disaster for the Salad Bowl of America if pollution leaks into the single source of water for the Valley.

FACT #1: Last March, the L.A. times highlighted this risk by reporting on the USGS earthquake studies in Oklahoma. From 2009 to 2015, earthquake activity directly correlated to fracking injection activity spiked from a century-long average of three magnitude 3 earthquakes to 809 quakes of magnitudes 3 to 5. Monterey County now has an average of one magnitude 6.0 or higher earthquake every 23 years. Parkfield is recognized as one of the world’s most highly seismic areas, and the major San Andreas fault runs through the county.

Fact #2: In March 2016, a scientific report verified our water can be polluted in another way. A study by scientists from Stanford University2, published in Environmental Science & Technology, found that 10 years of fracking operations near Pavillion, Wyo., “have had clear impact to underground sources of drinking water” and “other states which have shallow fracking operations, such as California… could also have contaminated water.” Is that what we want to happen to our ground water?

Risk Observation 2: The Salad Bowl of America is a national strategic asset, equal in importance to any oil field in the U.S.

Fact #3 Yet, representatives of the fracking industry talk about 732 oil jobs without recognizing risks to other industries, while wanting this type of contract: They want unlimited use of local water. They want to pump millions of gallons of contaminated water back into the water basin. And they want to shift ALL of the long-term risks to local residents. Based upon my extensive government contracting experience, that’s an incredibly unfair contract for the public. The frackers get all the profits while the public gets all the risks.

Fact #4 In June 2012, seismic thumper trucks showed up around Aromas in North County to determine the feasibility of fracking. Seeking fracking permits and conducting seismic surveys prove oil companies are actively seeking to frack in Monterey. And if allowed, fracking will stretch from South County to North County.

Fact #5 In 2014, the State Groundwater Sustainability Act was approved requiring the county to recharge local overdrafted water basins. Yet the fracking industry wants unlimited use of water from the Salinas Valley while agriculture and residents continually conserve water and many pay higher prices for water. That’s not fair— but the fracking industry doesn’t care.

Fact #6 Representatives of the fracking industry claim in that oil companies in California are subject to the strictest regulations in America. However, the quality of protection the regulations provide is only as good as the integrity of those who comply and the integrity of those who enforce. For example on Nov. 14, 2014, NBC presented its investigative report Waste Water from Oil Fracking Injected into Clean Aquifers3 revealing that the DOGGR, California’s watchdog agency over fracking operations, failed to stop fracking companies from injecting contaminated fracking water into federally protected potable water aquifers. Thirty-four such wells are in Monterey County. That’s not compliance or enforcement — and the fracking industry knows it.

Operating oil well profiled on dramatic cloudy sky

Fact #7 The Protect Our Water initiative submitted to the Registrar of Voters specifically allows current oil operations to continue4. I know that because I drafted the early versions of the initiative, and with others ensured wording was inserted so San Ardo jobs were protected. I quote from page 1:

“Section 1 Paragraph B: “This Initiative does not prohibit oil and gas operations … from using existing oil and gas wells in the County, which number over 1,500 at the time this Initiative was submitted….” To further ensure the type of work that has gone on for decades would be allowed to continue, we inserted into Section 2 the definition of current operations that are allowed to continue, including: “steam flooding, water flooding, or cyclic steaming, routine well cleanout work, routine well maintenance, routine removal of formation damage due to drilling, bottom hole pressure surveys, or routine activities that do not affect the integrity of the well or the formation.” Any claim by frackers that cyclic steam injection is not allowed is deception.

Additionally, the fracking industry misrepresents that 732 oil field jobs will be lost if a fracking ban is passed … while avoiding discussing the risk to 100,000 ag, real estate and hospitality jobs by installing fracking oil wells near or on farms or storing toxic fracking fluids in the local water basin near our irrigation water. Their 732 jobs are more important than tens of thousands of jobs in other industries in the Salinas Valley? That’s incredibly one sided. But the frackers don’t care.

If you care about local impacts, and if you care that a large earthquake could easily cause toxic fracking fluids to leak into our irrigation and drinking water; and if you care as much about the 100,000 non-oil jobs as you do aobut the 732 CONTINUING jobs in San Ardo, and if you do care about protecting your children’s future, then VOTE YES on measure Z to Ban Fracking in Monterey County. Z for Zero fracking, Zero jobs lost, and Zero impact to our water.

To read the initiative please go to:   www.protectmontereycounty.org

Substantiating sources:

1   L.A. Times, Mar 02, 2016, Yardley: Oklahoma takes action on fracking-related earthquakes — but too late, critics say http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-sej-oklahoma-quakes-fracking-20160302-story.html

2   Stanford University, March 29, 2016 Impact to Underground Sources of Drinking Water and Domestic Wells from Production Well Stimulation and Completion Practices in the Pavillion, Wyoming, Field http://news.stanford.edu/2016/03/29/pavillion-fracking-water-032916/

3 NBC TV … Nov 14, 2014: Waste Water from Oil Fracking Injected into Clean Aquifers http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Waste-Water-from-Oil-Fracking-Injected-into-Clean-Aquifers-282733051.html

4   March 2016, Monterey County PMC Initiative:Protect Our Water: Ban Fracking and Limit Risky Oil Operations Initiative http://www.protectmontereycounty.org/the_initiative

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lsRAISING THE RENT ON MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM IS PENNY WISE, POUND STUPID

You likely have read of the city of Pacific Grove’s attempt to levy an admissions tax on the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This occurs although the entrance to the aquarium is in Monterey and less than half of the aquarium is actually in Pacific Grove. But the aquarium has been so successful that public officials could not resist the lure of robust sales of entrance fees. All that cash is changing hands – why not get some for cash-strapped Pacific Grove?

Now it turns out that Pacific Grove is not the only city with avaricious impulses. The city of Monterey has now undertaken to raise the nominal rent ($1 per year) charged for the aquarium’s use of the “tidelands” portion of the property – the rocks and ocean that border the aquarium’s main building and to which the aquarium provides public access where none existed before. To that end, the Monterey City Council will hear a recommendation by staff on Tuesday Aug. 16 to employ an appraiser for the magnanimous fee of $31,500 to determine fair market rent for this tidelands property.

For the first time in 35 years, the city seeks to act on a lease provision allowing for review of the $1 rent every five years. It seems like when there is some cash ringing the registers, Monterey wants to “get me some” too. Of course, all that aquarium cash is plowed back into the costs of operation, education, and research, so it is hardly excess or available for other purposes. Not to mention the gazillion dollars the aquarium has brought to the Peninsula in the past 35 years.

There is, of course, more behind the scenes (there always is) than an unused, poorly drafted lease provision. For several years during the council’s long overdue upgrade of the wharf and waterfront leases, the wharf merchants and the Yacht Club have complained that they were being treated unfairly because the Aquarium was only paying $1 per year.

The comparison is absurd, however. The aquarium is a non-profit, public benefit corporation that owns the majority of the land it occupies. Pointing the finger are private vendors and a private club that own none of the land they occupy and operate either for profit or the benefit of private members only. The wharf merchants still pay less than fair market rent and have been subsidized for 50 years by the public. The Yacht Club is a non-profit mutual benefit corporation, whose use and activities benefit only its private members whose dues have been subsidized for 20 years by the city.

imagesIt is possible that the public, the council, and staff do not realize that the aquarium purchased the majority of land it uses outright and in fee from the former owners of the derelict Hovden Cannery, which occupied the site for many years. It is unknown whether Hovden paid any rent at all for the tidelands property around the fringe of the cannery. But some council members and the city staff, unaware of the institutional history of city and state involvement in the development of our world class aquarium, have decided to take a run at a piece of the aquarium’s non-profit pie despite the fact that the tidelands use there is only around the fringe, and greatly enhances public access to the bay at no cost to the public.

An examination of the facts is in order. Monterey entered into a written lease with Monterey Bay Aquarium (“MBA”) on March 10, 1981, for a term of 50 years for the purpose of creation of an aquarium and related research and educational activities. Characteristic of the city’s penchant for using leases drafted by the city attorney rather than a competent real estate lawyer, the lease is almost entirely boilerplate and is notable only for its brevity and unprofessional presentation. The only three paragraphs specifically tailored to this unique transaction involved one sentence for a 50-year term, identification of the use, and the following provision for rent:

  1. Rent: Lessee agrees to pay the sum of ONE DOLLAR ($1.00) per year as rent. Said rental amount shall be reviewed not less than every five (5) years in accordance with Monterey City Charter section 6.8 and said amount may be adjusted as set forth therein. In no case shall said rental amount be less than ONE DOLLAR ($1.00).

Nowhere in the lease is the concept of “fair market rent” mentioned. Section 6.8 of the City Charter no longer exists, and there is nothing in the lease suggesting that a successor ordinance will apply. All section 6.8 said was that a three- arbitrator process would be employed if the parties could not agree on rent – but 6.8 says nothing whatsoever about “fair market rent.” So there is “no there there” regarding a standard or criteria “set forth therein.”

It is a well understood and a universal rule of law that any ambiguity or confusion in a written document is construed against the drafter. That is the city. So what is the criteria for adjusting the rent? Cost of living? Assuming, for example, that the cost of living has doubled since 1981, a generous interpretation of this lease provision could increase the rent to $2 per year. But that’s pretty nonsensical, isn’t it? No less nonsensical would be to claim “highest and best use” or “fair market rent” when no such standard is alluded to in the lease.

images-1Monterey enticed the aquarium development in 1981 with nominal rent for the tidelands, and now wants to renege when the aquarium has been too successful.

It is possible that city staff thinks that a new charter provision, section 6.4, applies by default of former section 6.8. That is contrary to the rules of interpretation, as stated above, but more importantly, 6.4 has no application to this pre-existing lease. Section 6.4 obligates the city to make all leases at fair market rent (a provision that the City Council has very belatedly begun to honor), but it has no application to pre-existing leases. A legislative act cannot alter the terms of an existing contract or lease. And it cannot supply a standard where none existed before.

So why would the city spend $31,500 for an appraisal when fair market rent is inapplicable to the aquarium lease? The appraiser would reach the same conclusion if given all the facts, as appraisers are bound to accommodate the actual circumstances and constraints of a given property in making a professional appraisal. It is difficult to imagine that any honest appraiser would come to any other conclusion but that the appropriate rental for these minor tidelands used by the aquarium is, and will continue to be, $1 per year.

Such a waste of money is difficult to comprehend. It will take some 300 years for the city to recoup the cost of this appraisal from the aquarium. But the precise language of this lease and the charter provision are only part of the reason the city has no legal basis to increase the tidelands rent by any appreciable amount. There is also state legislation and opinion/action of the State Lands Commission to consider.

On March 25, 1980, the State Lands Commission, with jurisdiction over all the tidelands granted to the City in 1919 and earlier, specifically found that the aquarium would provide a statewide public benefit and was therefore exempt from a prohibition of commercial revenue producing activities on the shore. It said that the proceeds for the public benefit activities conducted at the aquarium are not “profits” and are instead revenues needed to cover non-profit operating expenses. That was true then – and it is true now.

Also in 1980, the California Legislature passed a bill specifically authorizing the lease (which was to be at nominal rent), and that legislation remains in effect. On Aug, 29, 1986, then-City Attorney Bill Marsh confirmed in a letter to the State Lands Commission that:

“…the Monterey City Council decided that the overall benefits, both educational and economic, were significant and far outweighed any rent the City might anticipate from a lease.”

images-2On Nov. 4, 1986, the State Lands Commission endorsed the lease (specifically describing the $1/yr rent) as in accordance with the state grant of tidelands property to the city of Monterey, and that “any rental derived by the City from the lease shall be deposited in the City’s Tidelands Trust Funds” to be expendable only for state-wide purposes…” (emphasis supplied). The commission also specifically found “That said lease is in the best interest of the State.”

On Aug, 13, 1992, then-City Property Manager Bob Humel wrote to the commission in support of the aquarium’s application to expand the facility with construction of a new wing (largely on tidelands property), confirming that the aquarium had “proven to be of significant value to the City, State and even a broader spectrum of visitors from other areas.”

It would appear that the city staff is ignorant of, or chooses to ignore, this written history and the acts and opinions of the state of California. Any action to alter the terms and rent of this lease would require consent of the State Lands Commission and an act of the Legislature. Such consent is most unlikely.

The staff report recommending this foolish expenditure addresses none of these issues. All it says is that an appraisal can be done, which is true. But why? And it says nothing about the likelihood of expensive litigation nor the black eye the city would get for the blatant appearance of greed and of reneging on its repeated pronouncements that the benefits delivered by the aquarium “far outweigh any rent” the city might receive. Has that changed?

e8ef760b6fcba0804e5204919f26a771And as usual, the staff report  provides no context to evaluate tidelands rent. El Torito pays peanuts. Bubba Gump’s and the Fish Hopper pay more (they occupy more of the tidelands), but not significantly so compared to the rental value of the land and buildings they occupy. If the prospect of a rental rate of $100,000 per year were remotely possible, then perhaps the perfidy of the city could be explained, even if it could not be excused. But, even then, the state says it must only go to “state-wide purposes,” not the Monterey coffers. So what’s the point?

We could say the appraisal is a fool’s errand, a complete waste of money that could be spent to other useful purposes in our new Waterfront Master Plan. But it is also an embarrassment to our citizens that displays ingratitude for the massive economic and cultural benefits that the aquarium has bestowed on our community.

Let the council know on Tuesday (afternoon agenda) that we don’t want to be a party to biting the hand that feeds you.

Willard P. McCrone is a retired lawyer and former member of the Monterey Planning Commission. His research and writings led the City Council to start reforming leasing practices at the city-owned Fisherman’s Wharf, where numerous longtime leaseholders have reaped large profits by subleasing wharf space with no benefit accruing to the city.

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The young girl with the husband have a rest in a garden. California, CarmelI love Carmel. I was born in Carmel while it still had its own hospital and maternity ward. Carmel is in my blood, and like many people I never want it to change. Of course, over the last 56 years it has, in many ways, changed quite a bit, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Yet it is comforting that many of the village landmarks I grew up with, from the Pine Inn to Bruno’s Market, still look pretty much the same as they did in my earliest childhood memories.

For some strange reason a single building on the corner of 7th and Dolores seems to be the focal point for the local political drama over keeping Carmel Carmelish. Several years ago it was suggested that a Long’s Drug store might occupy the former bank building, but that was shot down by the anti-chain-store crowd whose short memory forgot that the townsfolk fought to preserve a similar chain store that closed its Ocean Avenue location just a decade earlier.

More recently there were arguments over whether the relatively new (1970s) building was architecturally significant and worthy of preservation or is a disposable piece of modern architecture improperly imposing itself on Carmel’s classic storybook charm. After that was settled in favor of keeping the building, there were more arguments about what sort of business should occupy the space.

Eventually it became an “event center” for special events. Then early this year the owner thought a market and deli would be a nice fit for the building, but the machete- and pitchfork-wielding townsfolk thought it looked too much like a dreaded fast food operation.

Now the owner wishes to open a restaurant there. A fairly large, but non-threatening restaurant. That should be fine, right?

Apparently not if it has a display case with two cash registers. According to competing restaurant owner Rich Pepe, that makes it not a restaurant but a “food court.” And because food courts are typically associated with big suburban shopping malls, a display case in a restaurant is a direct threat to Carmel’s way of life (Patisserie Boissiere excepted).

According to Pepe, “Many of us feel a very large, 100-seat cafeteria/food court operation in Carmel will only encourage day-trippers and damage Carmel’s fine reputation as a unique village.”

Putting aside the obvious snobbery, I think it’s safe to say that the duration of a visitor’s stay will never be influenced by the mode of food service offered on the SE corner of 7th and Dolores. The decision to come to Carmel for a day, a weekend, or a week is typically determined by such factors as personal schedules, how far they have to travel (someone from San Jose will likely return home in the evening while a visitor from Omaha would probably stay a night or two), and the purpose of their visit.

Personally, I think a food court would make a wonderful social hub well suited to the Carmel lifestyle. I’m not talking about the kind with cheap formula fast food, plastic chairs, Formica tables, and sporks, but rather a comfortable dining space surrounded by local vendors offering coffee, pastries, sandwiches, soups, and such. It could be a place where locals could stop for an easy lunch or snack en route to the post office or library. A place where friends and neighbors could run into each other by chance and enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed setting. In my vision it also has a fireplace.

But neither Pepe’s nightmarish day-tripper attractant nor my vision for a community social hub is what’s being proposed. It’s just a restaurant with a harmless display counter. The problem isn’t the display case. The problem is that Carmel’s regulations are so blasted rigid and formulaic now. Any deviation from what is legally considered Carmelish is treated as a crime. They have eliminated any possibility of creativity in business management or aesthetic design. The irony, of course, is that Carmel’s charm was developed by people who came here so they could be free to express their creativity in art, architecture, and business as they, not society, saw fit. I think they would be horrified by Carmel’s regulations today.

James Toy lives in Seaside and is a regular contributor to the Partisan. This first appeared on one of his blogsMr. Toy’s Mental Notes.

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Gary Patton’s important land-use blog needs a new home

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Gary Patton At 2007 Symposium

Patton

Gary Patton’s name is synonymous with environmentalism in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, where he founded the LandWatch organization that is often the public’s last line of defense against runaway development and zoning decisions fueled cash instead of common sense.

He is a lawyer and a former Santa Cruz County supervisor, and until just the other day when radio station KUSP went off the air, his Land Use Report blog was featured on the KUSP website.

The Partisan is proud to link here to his latest column and we are looking into ways that we could regularly and prominently disseminate and promote his valuable work. But it deserves a more permanent location, one that works equally as well in Santa Cruz  County as it does in Monterey County, so if you have ideas, please share.

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Dollarphotoclub_89236926Thanks in part to Partisan reader emails, the California Coastal Commission voted 9-2 on Wednesday to hold a hearing on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors‘ decision to remove affordability requirements on the Moro Cojo Subdivision in North County. In doing so, concerned commissioners cited the need to retain affordable housing, and voted against its own staff recommendation to let the county’s decision stand.

This means that the Board of Supervisors’ Jan. 26 decision to allow 161 affordable Moro Cojo homes to convert to market rate – without replacements – is now void.

As Partisan readers know from a previous piece, the 90-page coastal appeal staff report buried important, relevant information on pages 78-90. Your emails to coastal commissioners, telling them to look at those pages, were successful. The commissioners did look, and absorb those pages, which is probably why they voted against their staff’s recommendation.

A CHISPA-spokesperson submitted a letter claiming that people who want the affordable housing to remain affordable are NIMBYs (not in my back yard people) who don’t want farmworkers living near them. It’s an odd claim, because it’s the “NIMBYs” who were trying to keep the homes affordable so that future farmworkers could also afford them. More than 50 Moro Cojo homeowners attended yesterday’s hearing, many of them Spanish speaking. There was no translator, but the Coastal Commission promised that there would be at the next hearing.

Meanwhile, back at home, the reporter for the local daily who wrote about yesterday’s hearing interviewed CHISPA representatives, but interviewed no one wanting to keep the homes affordable. The article states that “most [Moro Cojo] residents are bound to a roughly 8 percent [interest] rate” on their home payments. That’s another odd claim, since it has never arisen before.

At a future time, probably in January 2017, the Coastal Commission will hold a public hearing to decide if the 161 Moro Cojo homes can be converted to market rate and, if so, whether or not CHISPA needs to replace them on a one-by-one basis. Since replacement value stands at around $48 million, this will be an interesting session.

Because the original Moro Cojo subdivision approval involved the waiving of serious environmental concerns that would have prohibited a market-rate development, the hearing will be starting at the beginning (“de novo”) to consider the matter from the beginning rather than from the point of the Monterey County hearing.

In January, or whenever the Coastal Commission holds its hearing, there will be opportunity for public comment. Stay tuned.

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American Water Works, the parent of Cal Am Water, has two basic strategies for expanding its business. One is to expand into areas where development is expected. The other is to buy up small water services, those under 10,000 customers.

Both methods are in the works for Cal Am, the Monterey Peninsula’s principal water purveyor.

Cal Am has a long history of not adding supply infrastructure, from 1966 when it bought the Peninsula system, to 1996 when the State Water Board ordered it to change direction. Even after the California Public Utilities Commission added its recommendation in 2001 to build a desal facility at Moss Landing, Cal Am has worked at snail speed.

A “eureka moment” occurred, however, Cal Am realized that the future required new water to come from north of the Peninsula. Exciting visions of sugar plums began dancing in Cal Am’s head. Maybe all the cards were lining up, putting development at the former Fort Ord into play for Cal Am. After decades of neglecting the infrastructure, Cal Am now had a profitable game changer.

This explains everything. But for it to work, Cal Am would have to win legal battles and not simply meet engineering hurdles.

It had to play along with the Regional Desal Project in 2008-2010 because the CPUC, Cal Am’s regulator, had designed that process. But that venture was not to Cal Am’s liking. The CPUC had approved a project that was about 80% publicly owned, providing Cal Am with little ownership and infrastructure. That greatly limited its ability to collect profit. At the first opportunity, Cal Am and Monterey County’s government scuttled the project. They used conflict of interest charges to sink it.

Then Cal Am decided to pursue a fully corporate-owned and larger desalination project, which fit its profitable expansion strategy. It would be located near the former Fort Ord, the only part of the Peninsula with development potential. It would require Cal Am to overcome numerous legal hurdles.

The company first needed to overcome the county ordinance requiring public ownership of any desal facility. It got the county to cooperate and to get the CPUC and the State Water Board to lay the groundwork with quasi-legal opinions in support.

Soon, Cal Am’s primary consultant on the project was caught in a conflict of interest (Dennis Williams of Geoscience holds patents on slant well technology). The CPUC agreed that a conflict existed. But Cal Am skirted that issue by adding a legal non-revenue sharing agreement, Williams continues on the job with the potential to make millions even though a much less severe financial conflict of interest had sabotaged the Regional Desal Project.

Cal Am’s strategy shows up in various ways. Though the company initially promised the public and the permitting agencies that the intake for the current desal project would be under the bay, the intake is inland. This aggravates the legal challenge over water rights. Remember that Cal Am has no water rights for this project.

Being inland, the intake is smack in the seawater-intruded Salinas River Groundwater Basin (SRGB). The desal intake draws seawater inland, causing more seawater intrusion and legal problems. But Cal Am, of course, has a legal strategy for a “practical solution,” claiming a beneficial use of the largely abandoned intruded aquifer water. It is an innovative legal strategy that must overcome decades of court cases that conclude that overlying water rights holders have prevailing rights. The legal test is yet to come.

By pumping from the Salinas Basin, Cal Am is obliged to “return” source water taken from the intruded aquifers. This is the local law, the Agency Act, governing the basin.

There seems to be no great alarm about the continued high volume of Salinas Basin water in Cal Am’s test slant well samples. Why not? In my opinion, it is because the requirement to return water to the basin is being used to justify expanded infrastructure into new territory. Cal Am is credited with “success” by negotiating a breakthrough deal – the Peninsula and farmers agreed to the plan! But Castroville and the farmers got a great deal, paying less than 3 cents toward each dollar in costs. The difference of 97 cents will come from Peninsula ratepayers.

But the main point is not the cost. It is the infrastructure and rights Cal Am needs to implement the return water agreement. It will need to construct piping and pumping infrastructure in the area, and it will need obtain the authority to deliver potable water to Castroville. It will seek to be a water distributor right in the middle of the jurisdiction of another water purveyor, Marina Coast Water District (MCWD). Yes, it will be able to deliver potable water smack in the middle of another water service area and adjacent to the future development opportunities on the former Fort Ord. Despite another legal challenge, Cal Am will be positioned exactly where it has wanted to be for many years – able to provide water to new Fort Ord development.

Related legal hurdles include overcoming Marina Coast Water District worries that it has been invaded. MCWD is litigating against Cal Am for not making promised payments from the earlier Regional Desal Project. But expect Cal Am to play hardball. Remember that American Water Works has a national expansion strategy to acquire smaller water services (under 10,000 customers) when opportunities arise. These are called “tuck-ins.” MCWD has about 8,000 customers.

Recently, I have pleaded with the Mayors Water Authority to look at the legal risks Cal Am is facing, and the relevant water supply contingencies. But those in the know seem not to be concerned.

This is not mission creep, nor a series of unexpected circumstances. It is corporate planning. I have seen, read and heard too much over the years to think otherwise. I think the corporate strategy is clear. Cal Am will be positioned exactly where it has dreamed to be, right in the middle of Fort Ord, the only area with significant growth potential on the bay. All because it expects to win every legal challenge.

With such litigation ahead, who has confidence that Cal Am will meet the milestones set by the state’s cease-and-desist order?

Riley is managing director of Public Water Now and a regular contributor on water issues. He has been an active observer of each aspect of Cal Am’s desalination ventures and a technical adviser to the Peninsula Mayors Water Authority.

 

George Riley
georgetriley@gmail.com
645-9914

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Monterey wharf operators are simply fudging the facts

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If you can’t beat them with facts and figures, try creating your own version of the truth.

That seems to be the strategy of the Fisherman’s Wharf leaseholders, some of whom have operated under sweetheart lease deals for decades. They recently launched another round of public appeals in an attempt to beat back reform efforts at Monterey City Hall by making it sound as though city officials are insisting on unrealistically short leases and that city leaders want to see local businesses replaced by corporate franchises.

On a Facebook page and in petitions now being circulated around the city, restaurant owner Chris Shake and associates contend the city is limiting the leases to 10 years when, in fact, several leaseholders have recently signed longer leases and others have been been offered significantly longer terms.

According to Shake, short leases make it difficult for small businesses to obtain the financing needed to make improvements to the properties. According to officials at City Hall, the city is perfectly willing to extend the leases well beyond 10 years when needed for financing reasons or other factors.

Earlier this summer, Shake announced that he planned to raze one of his restaurants because of onerous conditions imposed by the city. Some news outlets reported that without addressing the city’s viewpoint.

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The businesses behind the “Save our Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf” Facebook page posted items this week contending that city officials had arbitrarily and unfairly chosen to evict a longstanding tenant, Sam Balesteri, whose family operates two restaurants and a coffee shop. What the posting doesn’t say is that city officials negotiated with the the Balusteris for the past year and couldn’t come to terms. The Balesteri family has operated on a month-to-month rental arrangement while discussions with the city continue.

“We tried our very best for 11 months,” said City Councilwoman Libby Downey, a political target of the wharf enterprises. “They say we wouldn’t give more than 10 years on a lease. We were offering more than 10 years.”

The top photo on the Facebook page depicts the wharf as it would look with a Hooter’s franchise, a McDonalds and other chain businesses. City officials have repeatedly emphasized that they are committed to keeping the wharf operations locally owned.

The Save the Wharf  group and associated businesses are supporting retired school administrator Dan Albert Jr., son of the former mayor, in the November council election and opposing re-election of Downey and Councilman Alan Haffa, who supported elimination of the old leasing structure. For decades, longtime owners of wharf businesses were allowed to almost automatically renew long leases at rates negotiated decades before. In some cases, the leases were held by operators who had gone out of business  but sublet the properties to others paying considerably more.

The petitions and the Facebook postings don’t mention that the city’s effort to reform the leasing process included bringing in Monterey’s leading commercial Realtor, John Mahoney, to professionalize the city’s approach to the wharf.

Shake put his position in a statement being circulated with the petition and on Facebook. The city responded but its position hasn’t received as much attention.

Here’s what the petition says:

“The Monterey City Council recently enacted policies that drastically shorten the ground leases for businesses on Old Fisherman’s Wharf. The formerly 20+ year leases are now limited to 10 years, and the implications should scare residents and fans of our wharf. Many Wharf businesses own the buildings they work in. In fact, some own everything from the ground up, including pilings and structures. They pay leases to the city for the space their buildings occupy. They build and maintain these structures, and they are the ones who pay for improvements. In order to do this, they take out bank loans. And here’s the catch – typically banks won’t loan to businesses with short-term leases. There are already instances of business owners who are reducing their investment because their leases are too short. Now the second piece of bad news – do you know who has the capital to get around this problem? That’s right – the corporate giants of the foodservice and retail world. The Monterey City Council denies it has created an environment that will destroy the proud history of local business on our wharf and create a giant ‘Strip Mall by the Sea.’ But ask any business owner – these lease deals aren’t normal, and they are deadly to family-owned businesses. Join us in keeping our wharf local, traditional, and a proud piece of Monterey’s legacy.”

Here’s the response, from Assistant City Manager Hans Uslar.

“Thank you for bringing this petition to our attention.  The Monterey City Council implemented new updated leasing guidelines last year. The City’s leases with the Wharf concessionaires are public tidelands leases.  All revenue from the leases goes into the City’s Tidelands Trust Fund subject to oversight of the state through the State Lands Commission.  Money from the Tidelands Trust Funds may only be used for purposes consistent with tideland commerce, navigation, fisheries, and recreation.   The City Council will ensure all leases are fairly negotiated, are consistent with Tidelands Trust purposes, and consistent with the City’s Charter.

“The City’s new leases will not be limited to 10 years, but can be 15 years, 20 years, or even longer depending on the cost of alterations a concessionaire commits to investing to improve the building.  Tenant improvements will usually have an economic life that corresponds to the lease term.  The City Council does not want to create a ‘new’ Wharf that will lose its present charm and eclectic mix of restaurants and shops.  The Council heard these concerns and decided to first and foremost negotiate with our current concessionaires to try to enter new lease agreements with them. As a matter of fact, the City’s lease negotiator has exclusively negotiated with existing tenants and concessionaires. To date we have negotiated with three existing tenants and in every case the City has offered leases terms that exceed 10 years due to the improvements the tenants want to make to the premises.

“The Council appreciates the family-owned businesses and the unique brand and atmosphere they bring to our Wharf. We want them to continue to be successful operators.  Under the Council’s guidelines, locally owned businesses will continue to have preference over those outside of Monterey County.  The Council’s goal is to have successful business throughout the City that the people who live, work and visit Monterey want to patronize.  The City has a long history with many local businesses, and it wishes to continue that model.

“Lastly, we appreciate your input and your love for our treasured Wharf. If you would like to learn more about Monterey’s leasing guidelines, please visit www.monterey.org. For the next week or so, we will post our guidelines on our home page, so that you all can see and read them! Thanks again and see you on our Fisherman’s Wharf!”

 

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