Proprietor’s note: The Monterey City Council on Tuesday reversed course on a plan to reform leasing policies for the city-owned Fisherman’s Wharf, where many long-term tenants have enjoyed sweetheart rates under agreements reached decades ago. Just last year, a council majority of Libby Downey, Alan Haffa and Timothy Barrett revamped the leasing program to provide for shorter lease terms, market rates rather than inexplicable discounts, and other changes intended to break up the buddy system that have enriched a few. The reform effort essentially died, however, after Downey lost her seat in the November election, losing out to Dan Albert Jr., who had considerable support from wharf interests, and when Barrett flipped sides after receiving campaign contributions from wharf-related enterprises. By a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the council eliminated a long list of professional business practices for the wharf and replaced it with a general statement of intent that removes almost all objective standards from the city’s leasing policies. Among those urging the council to retain was Monterey resident and retired dentist Dan Turner. Here, slightly modified, is his statement to the council:
The current guidelines for city leases were approved just a short time ago after a long and exhaustive process that included discussions at least eight City Council meetings, input from all sorts of real estate professionals, attorneys specializing in real estate law and all sorts of other meetings and seminars, etc., etc. And now, all of a sudden, here it is on the council’s agenda again.
How could this happen? Were you all in a coma, or under the influence of something when you agreed to these guidelines and now that you’ve come to your senses you realize that you have to “revisit” them to correct your mistakes?
Of course not. There is only one reason for tonight’s “revisiting” and that is that money – and lots of it – has been applied to the political process here in the city of Monterey in just the right places. The effect has been to remove a councilwoman who was ferocious in her defense of the rights of the citizens of Monterey in assuring that they got fair prices for their rental property, the election of a new councilman who is in favor of trashing these laboriously developed and very fair leasing guidelines and the flipping of a sitting councilman who suddenly – after receiving campaign contributions from (wharf tenant Chris) Shake – decided that all these very fair and laboriously developed guidelines needed to be revisited.
No one is going to follow you guys around to see how often you have coffee with Chris Shake and (hotel manager) John Narigi but these sorts of political shenanigans represent the worst sort of political cronyism. Worse than that is the debasement of our local politics by our system of legalized bribery that we refer to as campaign contributions. Mr. Narigi seems to have taken a page from Don Chapin’s political handbook in organizing the business community to donate to local city council races. Mr. Chapin has been able to control the Salinas City Council by donating large amounts of money to pro-business candidates. Do you really want Monterey to become like Salinas in that regard?
There is nothing wrong with listening to business owners and taking their desires into account. But if you decide to “revisit” these laboriously created and very fair guidelines for leasing city property and return to the policies of giving wharf leases at below fair market rents, not charging for the entire square footage, allowing lessees to sublet at many times the rent they pay to the city and letting them keep the difference between what they pay us and what they get from the sub-lessee, there will be no other reasonable conclusion than that the money applied by the business community did its job and that you guys have sold us out.
I hope I’ll have to return here at some point in the future to apologize to you for ever having thought that you’d do such a thing. Don’t disappoint me.