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Path on the sand going to the ocean in Miami Beach Florida at sunrise or sunset, beautiful nature landscape, retro instagram filter for vintage looksSand City officials willing to sell the beach for no good reason

It was an impressive piece of journalism last week in Monterey County Weekly, David Schmalz’s long look at Sand City’s plan to provide the space for two beachfront hotels. The story provided great background on the little community that exists mainly to sustain itself.

The story explained how the city, population 381, came to be, and provided a detailed account of the hotel projects and the city’s long-running dispute with the Coastal Commission over the larger project, Ed Ghandour’s 386-unit insult to the California coastline.

As I read, I was afraid the piece wasn’t going to get around to telling us why Sand City Mayor David Pendergrass and friends are so intent on getting these hotels built. But there it was, near the end, the mayor’s explanation. He said all those hotel taxes would go a long way toward enabling the city to patch up its roads and build a suitable city hall.

Schmalz’s story didn’t explain, largely because there is no explanation, why the city’s already considerable tax income from its huge shopping complex – Costco, Orchard, Target, etc., etc. — couldn’t provide for more roadwork and a better place for Pendergrass and friends to count their tax dollars.

Forgive me but I don’t buy it. I don’t have a ready explanation of my own, but I don’t buy the explanation that Pendergrass and friends have worked this hard, for decades now, that they have gone to battle with the Coastal Commission and other agencies, simply because they want a better meeting space and some improved roads for the citizenry.

It the reason is what they say it is, Sand City is trading precious shoreline and irreplaceable habitat for a pittance. It is dooming Monterey Bay to more erosion problems and pollution issues for decades to come. It is adding development to a shoreline that the city of Monterey has been working to undevelop for decades.

The last hotel built on the sands of Monterey Bay, the Best Western across the freeway from Home Depot, is famous for being one of the very last straws that led to creation of the Coastal Commission. Now, Pendergrass and Ghandour rail against the commission as though it is the evil empire. It did make some mistakes along the way, but it is not the villain in this story. Ghandour has succeeded in winning some pivotal court rulings that suggest he may be allowed to inflict his damage on our waterfront but those legal opinions have centered on technicalities and procedure, not the rightness or wrongness of his venture.

What it comes down to is that this development could happen for no good reason, almost no reason at all, for the benefit of a handful at the expense of the many. I suspect there are other motives, darker than a little more tax money for a city that doesn’t need it, but I can’t back that up with anything more than a hunch.

If that’s really what it’s all about, a shiny city hall and smoother roads, maybe those of us who give a damn about the bay should simply take up a collection, hold a bake sale, and buy the development rights for the cost of a city hall and some asphalt. Or, maybe we can find some reasonable Sand City residents willing to step up and run Pendergrass and friends out of office.

If that’s really what it’s all about, or even if the real reasons make more sense, maybe the rest of us can do more than simply sit back and watch it happen.


The Partisan’s 2015 wish list, toward a better tomorrow


christmas tree lightA review of the Partisan’s posts of 2015 reveals that we did a reasonably good job of accentuating the positive and avoiding unnecessary criticism. In that spirit, we are taking this opportunity to distribute some presents of sorts with the barest amount of advice necessary to provide context.

City of Seaside: A gift bag filled with enough wisdom to realize that this horse-racing thing is never going to happen. You need to know this before you waste more time and money. It might have come to something if the centerpiece of this proposal was something other than a horse racing track, but that’s what it is. Horse racing was a dying enterprise even before the public started recognizing how many horses actually die at the tracks. On top of that, the location is wrong, the developers’ own financial forecasts don’t support the idea and the development team seems to think it can force it down the community’s throat.

Craig Malin: For the incoming Seaside city manager, a subscription to the Weekly and the Partisan because you’ve shown yourself to be a fan of good local journalism.

Sand City: Don’t be jealous about Seaside’s present. Here’s a box of reality for you, too. That hotel on the beach? It was a bureaucratic fluke that got the proposal this far but if you think the community is going to let you build a hotel on the sand, knowing what happens when buildings go up on the shore, you need to get out more.

City of Mared christmas backgroundrina: Your gift is a back brace to help continue to build a people-friendly community rather than a conglomeration of shopping centers and parking lots. Yes, people want restaurants in their commercial districts but the City Council can and should set standards. Time will prove the council right.

The City of King City: A whole new start.

Salinas Police Department: May the big shiny box behind the tree be filled with at least a few months of peace. The way your officers stepped up to contribute money for the 9-year-old abuse victim in the recent child homicide case was truly heartwarming. They deserve something other than crime scene after crime scene.

Jane Parker: Here’s hoping Santa brings you two new colleagues this year. Imagine a board trying to work together to serve the public! Yes, it sounds crazy, but we’ve all heard of Christmas miracles, right?

Dennis DonohuBirch forest in wintere: The former Salinas mayor won’t come right out and say he will run against Parker, though he’s already collecting campaign cash. Our gift is a simple reminder that to beat Parker, he’ll have to take loads of money from people he wouldn’t to have as neighbors. It’s about governance, Dennis, not commerce.

Pacific Grove: A city engineer who can figure out how to use the new hotel tax money to get the ancient sewer system fixed.

Carmel: A few dozen barbecue grills and a mural at the Post Office depicting the good old days of beach bonfires.

Sam Farr: Some fishing tackle.

Jimmy Panetta: A challenge from the left to keep you honest.

Casey Lucius: A professional campaign manager.

Monterey County Democratic Party: Leadership.

Monterey County Republican Party: New leadership.

Cal Am: A conscience.



The following is my Aug. 7 letter to the California Coastal Commission’s executive director, Charles F. Lester, regarding the Cal Am test well:

Dear Mr. Lester,

Public Water Now (PWN) is the group that discovered the patents owned by Dennis Williams and Geoscience. PWN alerted the public about potential conflicts of interest. PWN is also the group that has harped on the phrase issued by the State Water Resources Control Board about pursuing subsurface intakes, “if feasible,” prior to pursuing other options.

I am writing to alert you to related issues that I hope you consider in the review of an amended permit for Cal Am, and the follow up monitoring and evaluation of data and circumstances re this test slant well.

PWN is well aware of the desire by you, the State Water Resources Control Board, California Public Utilities Commission, and others in the state that want a successful subsurface intake for desal facilities. PWN is also aware of the environmental reasons, and we do not disagree.

But PWN strongly objects to several factors that are in play, and you have a role in considering them.

How does the CCC remain objective and focused on the facts when it has a obvious public policy to support subsurface intake? PWN questions the depth of objectivity CCC will bring if the overlying policy goal is a successful subsurface intake for desal. Will CCC go the extra mile to guarantee its objectivity and interest in validated data and analysis? Is the CCC open to looking beyond the face value of the data it receives?

The patent royalty relationship between Dennis Williams/Geoscience and the driller –Boart Longyear – has not been queried. Is it possible that substantive financial relationships exist between these two that could cause the data to be skewed to serve ulterior motives? Will CCC look into the contract relationship between Williams and Boart Longyear? Will CCC determine there are no royalty and shared self interests in the contracts or in the actual test well operations that could skew their reports?

Will CCC question the financial relationship of these key sources of data and opinion?

PWN has felt for some time that the specific test period got cavalier treatment by the CCC. I made this very point at your hearing in November 2014 on the initial permit. Since slant wells are not in use anywhere in the world, how can CCC not absolutely insist on a valid test period? Not knowing what is a valid period, surely sophisticated professional attention is required. What is a valid test period? Will CCC opine on this? Will CCC prescribe a valid duration for the test period?

The only known subsurface intakes for desal have occurred in California – Dana Point and Sand City.

1) Dana Point results after 18 months of test slant well pumping are these: no conclusions on viability; some sand infiltration problems; and pumping efficiency declined from over 90% to about 55% over 18 months.

2) The data from the Sand City vertical subsurface wells for a small 300 acre foot/year plant shows actual pumping efficiency over 4 year of operation to be in serious decline:

From Sand City Public Works, calendar year:

  • 2011 96.8%
  • 2012 69.6%
  • 2013 64.8%
  • 2014 60.8%

From Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, water year

  • 2011 91.9%
  • 2012 80.7%
  • 2013 62.3%
  • 2014 59.5%

This data on Sand City tells a very negative tale about reliability, and therefore viability. Why does pumping efficiency with subsurface intake decline so significantly over a few years? Dana Point and Sand City data clearly make this point! Has the CCC considered this? This is why a valid test period is critical. Experience so far does not dictate a “full speed ahead” mentality. In fact it screams out for caution. And to be skeptical about any optimism about short term data. The telling will be in the testing, and in the duration, not the first data available.

Will CCC require a legitimate test period of two years or more? Remember, Cal Am originally proposed a two year test period. But with unexplained lower performance at Sand City, is two years adequate?

Every diagram example in all sources describe slant wells as penetrating far enough under the sea floor to extract water from beneath the sea floor. The intent is clear – to avoid aquifer interference, and perhaps to avoid related water rights claims. But the Cal Am test well does not penetrate the vertical line at the mean high tide line. It stops landward of that line. Would this “test well” meet your normal standard for a test of under sea floor intake? The fact that it did not extend under the sea floor area should raise questions about design or engineering?

Was the drilling length too risky or difficult? Was the drilling capacity limited in some way? Is this an issue for feasibility? Was the design under the patents too limiting? Should horizontal directional drilling still be an option? Are there more experiments that should take place? Did the insistence on the removable casings create engineering demands that were excessive? Could the guidelines from the State Water Board have established too high a level of outcome that was too expensive for success? The fact of a shorter test well length than intended (by the proponent, the patent holder and the public promotion) must get questioned regarding its use as a “test”?

Furthermore the plan of Cal Am to proceed directly from a short test period into a development permit for nine production wells makes a farce of all the publicity about the “test well” being a legitimate test well! The plan of Cal Am is based on assumptions, not tests. There are enough questions about long term performance reliability and cost acceptability that should ring alarm bells at the CCC, and elsewhere.

Working out the details and the costs of this experiment should not fall on the ratepayers. This is a state-sponsored requirement, and should have significant state funding. I doubt you have access to funding assistance. At least you might acknowledge the unfairness of the state, and the corporate utility, foisting this unproven and little scrutinized experiment on ratepayers.

The CCC, having jurisdiction over the efficacy of slant well impacts, and having a deep interest in the long term success of subsurface intakes, should have a particular interest in seeing that it is done right. This is too new for the CCC to feel comfort in self-interested promoters and contractors.

Whatever happened to the precautionary principle?

If there is to be a successful test, there must be conscientious and professional attention to the fact that slant wells have never been successfully constructed and become operational anywhere in the world.

Costs can become astronomical, and should not fall exclusively on local ratepayers. State resources must be made available, since it is a policy goal of several state agencies for subsurface intakes. And the facts of declining pumping efficiency should also raise alarms.

We sincerely hope you will take these issues into account during deliberations and analysis of Cal Am’s amended permit.



George T. Riley
Managing Director
Public Water Now

Emailed to: tom.luster


Monterey County supes tell enviros to pound sand

Businessman discouraged and saddened by his failures

Maybe this fellow is downhearted because he just learned that the county supervisors consider the general plan a business plan, not a land-use plan. Or, he’s simply a model in a stock photo.

Anyone who doubts that a political and cultural war is being waged in Monterey County would have been disabused of the idea at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

The issue on the table was approval of a settlement agreement that county staff had negotiated with the government watchdog group Open Government Monterey and the environmental group LandWatch Monterey County. The agreement was meant to end litigation in which those groups spelled out their concerns about the impact and legality of the county’s 2010 general plan, which is heavily weighted toward the wants of developers and agribusiness.

Everyone in the room knew there was no chance that the supervisors were going to publicly ratify language taking back any of what the business interests had won five years ago, but the session provided them with the opportunity to talk tough in front of various benefactors.

“We can’t strangulate this county,” said Supervisor Fernando Armenta, according to a report in the Monterey County Weekly. Armenta said he had recently enjoyed a drive along Napa Valley’s vaunted wine trail and wished Monterey County could be more like that, green and relatively lacking in contentiousness. He mentioned without making his context clear that he had not seen any of the endangered species that are issues in Monterey County planning matters.

Much of the discussion was about Monterey County’s wine corridor, which the wine industry envisions as a series of wineries and tasting rooms along River Road on the western edge of the Salinas Valley. Although county officials have expressed nothing but support for the idea, little has materialized there.

(In a meeting with Monterey Herald editors several years ago, vintner Kurt Gollnick was asked what benefits a wine corridor would provide to those outside the wind industry. He couldn’t come up with an answer at the time.)

Specifics of Tuesday’s discussion included what can and cannot be planted on steep slopes susceptible to erosion, what can be done to accommodate the passage of wildlife through farms and fields.

The advocacy groups and the county had reached a tentative agreement in January but it could not take effect without a majority vote of the supervisors. It didn’t come close. Supervisor Jane Parker was the only supporter. She noted that the county’s legal bills are adding up quickly as the discussions continue and court proceedings loom.

By a vote of 4-1, the supervisors agreed to continue the discussion for another couple weeks, but the chances of a negotiated settlement appear to be growing slimmer.

Supervisor John Phillips voted for the extension but was dismissive of the general plan opponents.

“We all know the plaintiffs here live by litigation and that’s how they support themselves,” said Phillips, who supported himself by working as a lawyer and then a judge before joining the board

The supervisors were being cheered on by the county Planning Commission, several farm and business groups, the mayors’ association and the cities of Gonzales, Soledad and even Sand City, which is almost entirely unaffected by anything that goes into the general plan.


sign of interrogation 3d, background There are a lot of reasons to question what and why things happen in the world, and for a curious but rather naive person like myself, I can think of a lot of reasons to ask if anyone has every wondered about some of those things.

So, have YOU ever wondered . . .

Why certain anti-depressant drugs hyped in TV ads can actually cause depression?

Why many people actually go to their doctors and ask them if (enter drug of choice here) is “right for them?”

How some doctors whose patients ask if (enter drug of choice here) is “right for them” go home and have a stiff drink or two and wonder if they should have been TV meteorologists?

Why carrying a concealed gun in a grocery store or church (or school) is legal in many states, but possession of a couple of grams of marijuana is not? Why some drivers tailgate at 70 mph when they know they can’t possibly stop or avoid a serious collision if suddenly the car in front of them comes to a stop.

Why Sunnis hate Shias based on a family feud 1,200 years ago?

Why “reality shows” are scripted?

Why Dina Eastwood believed her “reality show” would be a positive thing?

Why anyone would really want to watch a reality show?

Why, in over 40 years, none of Monterey County’s elite leadership could not manage to improve Routes 156 and 68, even to the extent of providing a third lane, or switching two lanes during rush hours to accommodate the greatest flow of traffic?

Why, in over 40 years, none of the county’s elite leadership could get their heads together, legally and in public for all to see, to create and implement a plan to provide a reliable water supply for the entire county, not just for the Peninsula or the Salinas Valley.

Why, if Del Rey Oaks has an old armored police vehicle, doesn’t Salinas have six and Seaside at least two?

Why the Peninsula mayors have hung on to a horse that has sometimes moved sideways, but mostly backwards, in such fits and starts, that it would never win a race, except that it had the magical ability to make a lot of money for its owners, from people who never bet on it? (PS – guess who the “horse” is)

Why anyone would have sold a house on Carmel Point for less than $200K (my wife and I did that in 1976)?

Why the elite leadership in the county this very day still evidently believe that secrecy is necessary to govern?

How do the elite leadership in the county not know the value of perception vs. reality in the minds of the public?

What are county Democratic leaders afraid of that leads them to support a Republican candidate for supervisor who has no track record on any of the major issues facing the county?

Why is it that only a few step out and publicly complain about county issues, when it comes to water rates, jobs, housing and the economy?

When these few do complain, why do so few of the county’s elite leadership actually try to do something about them? Could be that only a “few” don’t win elections?

Why would citizens of a local city complain about affordable housing for people who really need it, especially when the affordable housing would be separated from the complainers by a fence?

Why did Seaside and In-N-Out Burgers agree to the site to build a restaurant, when it is easily accessed from only one direction?

Why are politics in the county so damned screwed up?

Why were some coastal-issue attorneys from around the state attending a conference in Monterey overheard to totally agree that the most corrupt county in the state was Monterey County?

Why are there environmentalists worrying about the demise of a small bird that is thriving 15 miles up the coast, who have come out of the woodwork in 2013 and 2014 to oppose a beach resort project in Sand City, when they were quiet for the previous 21 years that the project was before the Coastal Commission?

Why am I writing this? Or, better yet, why are you reading this? I am left to ponder and continue to wonder why. . .

Hood, who lives in Carmel, formerly was executive director of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments.

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