≡ Menu

BREAKING NEWS: Monterey Downs project on last legs

Business people horse racingSomething to be particularly thankful about today: Monterey Downs developer Brian Boudreau has told the city of Seaside that he no longer wishes to proceed with the project as it was approved by the City Council earlier this month and that he won’t indemnify the city as required against potential litigation over the various approvals. As a result, city officials will ask the council on Thursday, Dec. 1 to rescind its approval and send the venture back to the Planning Commission for possible revisions.

Monterey Downs, under the recently changed name Monument Village, is the large housing and commercial development long proposed for a wooded site at Fort Ord. It originally was proposed to be anchored by a horse racing arena but opposition to that and other aspects of the venture caused the developer to downplay that feature, leaving some question about the direction and viability of the project.

Opposition has centered on the need to remove thousands of trees and the developer’s inability to demonstrate any sustainable water supply. The City Council approved the overall venture earlier this month on a 3-2 vote but the Nov. 8 election has changed the balance of power on the council, creating the very strong likelihood of a 3-2 vote against the project. LandWatch Monterey has launched a referendum against the project, which would prompt another council vote.

The information about the apparent collapse of the project is included in the agenda for the Dec. 1 council meeting,  posted late Wednesday and discovered by Molly Erickson, lawyer for the Keep Fort Ord Wild group. The agenda item follows in full:

TO: City Council

FROM: Craig Malin, City Manager
BY: Lesley Milton-Rerig, City Clerk
DATE: December 1, 2016

Item No.: 10.A.

SUBJECT: CONSIDERATION OF RESCISSION OF: 1) RESOLUTION NO. 16- 97 AMENDING THE SEASIDE GENERAL PLAN TO INCORPORATE THE CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY, MONUMENT VILLAGE, AND SEASIDE HORSE PARK SPECIFIC PLAN (FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE MONTEREY DOWNS AND MONTEREY HORSE PARK AND CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY SPECIFIC PLAN) ADOPTED ON NOVEMBER 10, 2016; 2) ORDINANCE NO.1031 ADOPTING THE CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY, MONUMENT VILLAGE, AND SEASIDE HORSE PARK SPECIFIC PLAN (FORMERLY REFERRED TO AS THE “MONTEREY DOWNS AND MONTEREY HORSE PARK AND CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY SPECIFIC PLAN” ADOPTED ON NOVEMBER 17, 2016, AND 3) ORDINANCE NO. 1032 AMENDING TITLE 17 OF THE SEASIDE MUNICIPAL CODE AND THE OFFICIAL ZONING DISTRICT MAP (Z 12-02) TO INCLUDE THE CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY, MONUMENT VILLAGE, AND SEASIDE HORSE PARK SPECIFIC PLAN (FORMERLY REFERRED TO AS THE “MONTEREY DOWNS AND MONTEREY HORSE PARK AND CENTRAL COAST VETERANS CEMETERY SPECIFIC PLAN”) ADOPTED ON NOVEMBER 17, 2016.

THE COUNCIL WILL ALSO CONSIDER DIRECTION TO STAFF TO TAKE ANY AND ALL ACTION NECESSARY TO EFFECTUATE THE RESCISSION OF THE PROJECT APPROVALS AND TO FURTHER REMAND THE MATTER TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION FOR POSSIBLE PROJECT REVISIONS AND FURTHER CONSIDERATION.

PURPOSE

The City Council, at meetings on November 10, 2016, and November 17, 2016, approved
amendments to the General Plan, adopted a Specific Plan, and adopted revisions to the City’s Municipal Code and official Zoning District Map for the proposed Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, Monument Village, and Seaside Horse Park Specific Plan (formerly known as the Monterey Downs and Monterey Horse Park and Central Coast Veterans Cemetery Specific Plan). The Project Applicant, Monterey Downs, LLC, informed the City on November 22, 2016, that they do not wish to proceed with the project as currently approved, and declined at this time to enter into an indemnification agreement as required by the approvals for the General Plan Amendment, Specific Plan, and Zone Text and Map Amendments. Therefore, the City Council will consider rescission of the approvals, direction to staff to effectuate that rescission, and remand the Project to the Planning Commission for consideration of further Project Revisions that Project Applicant may wish to propose.

RECOMMENDATION

It is recommended that the City Council take the following actions regarding the subject applications:

  1. Consider Rescission of Resolution No. 16-97 Amending the General Plan, Ordinance No. 1031 Adopting the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, Monument Village, and Seaside Horse Park Specific Plan, and Ordinance No. 1032 amending the Municipal Code and Official Zoning District Map.
  2. Consider Direction to staff to take necessary steps to effectuate rescission of the foregoing approvals
  3. Consider Remanding the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, Monument Village, and Seaside Horse Park Specific Plan project to the Planning Commission for consideration of possible project revisions as may be proposed by the Project Applicant.

BACKGROUND

There is no written report for this item. A verbal discussion will take place at the meeting.

FISCAL IMPACT

None.

ATTACHMENTS

None.

Meeting Date: December 1, 2016

{ 43 comments }

SEE UPDATE BELOW:

The Monterey Downs developer agreed Wednesday night to drop horse racing from their plans for a sprawling commercial and residential development at Fort Ord, but project opponents are holding out for a guarantee that racing won’t be added back in at some point.

The occasion was a meeting of the Seaside Planning Commission at which city officials were being ask to begin the process of approving the project’s environmental impact report and specific plan. After nearly five hours of vigorous testimony by project supporters and opponents, the commission deferred action to another meeting yet to be scheduled.

The city staff had recommended last week that horse racing be eliminated from the plan, which has drawn considerable heat both for the racing element and environmental issues including lack of a sustainable water supply and the need to rip out thousands of trees from a relatively unspoiled site on the former Army base.

Developer representative Beth Palmer said she wants to see a horse training facility and other equestrian-related features retained in the plan and hopes to explore actual racing at another site. Opponents remained concerned that leaving the horse-related elements would pave the way for construction of a full-fledged racetrack and all that entails at some point.

UPDATE: The Partisan contacted City Manager Craig Malin on Thursday to seek some clarity about what would be permitted, and what would not be permitted, if the staff recommendation to remove horse racing is removed. 

Here is his response: “The words ‘race’ and ‘racing’ would be removed from the table of permitted uses.  A training track would be permitted.  Grandstands would be permitted, as they are ancillary to other equine shows and events other than racing.  Parking scaled to the non-race facilities would be permitted.”

Malin also was asked about whether the amended plan would still allow for racetrack worker housing. He said he believed it would not be allowed but he wanted to check further.

 

{ 20 comments }

Business people horse racingEIR and plan details go to Seaside Planning Commission on Wednesday

Opponents of the Monterey Downs horse race track venture at Fort Ord may be on the verge of a huge victory with the Seaside city staff recommending that the associated commercial and residential elements of the sprawling project move ahead without provisions for actual racing.

Celebration seems premature, however, because nothing in the staff recommendation to the city Planning Commission would prevent the racing operation from being revived at some point after somewhat less controversial aspects had been approved. Debate over the entire project and especially the horse racing component are expected to play a real role in the upcoming municipal election, which features a mayoral contest between project proponent/incumbent Ralph Rubio and project opponent Kay Cline.

The staff recommendation amounts to a couple of brief, nearly cryptic mentions in a lengthy report presented to planning commissioners for a special meeting Wednesday at which they will be asked to approve the environmental impact report and the so-called specific plan for the development. Southern California horse racing figure Brian Boudreau proposes 1,280 homes and apartments and considerable other construction on 700-plus acres partly within Seaside city limits and partly in Monterey County’s jurisdiction.

While the project has enjoyed significant support from elected officials and some business interests, the developer hasn’t been able to point to a continuing water supply and has been slow to cover expenses stemming from the application process. The project also has created something of a local coalition of animal-rights activists and environmentalists concerned about the loss of tens of thousands of trees. Perhaps incidentally, the Monterey Downs website detailing and promoting the project was nowhere to be found on Monday

City Manager Craig Malin elaborated on the staff’s current thinking in an email exchange with the Partisan on Monday and in a recent blog post.

“The staff recommendation is premised on planning and land use concerns; principally that setting aside the acreage required for horse racing (track, infield, grandstands, associated structures and parking) without a clearly defined path to financing and construction of those facilities is, at this moment in time, difficult to position as a highest and best use of the land,” Malin said by email. “There is a clear and significant consolidation of the California horse racing industry underway, and the amount of money wagered on California horse racing is, adjusted for inflation, down nearly 40% from 2005 to 2015, according to annual reports published by the California Horse Racing Board.”

But yes, Malin acknowledged, the racing enterprise could be re-inserted into the plan at some point.

“…In both a conceptual and practical sense, horse racing is a legal business.  Conceptually, cities can’t generally prohibit legal businesses from operating in a community, particularly those that are as much creatures of state regulation as horse racing is.  Conceptually, horse racing could come to almost any city with infrastructure that exists (or may be constructed) to support it.  Practically speaking, should the project move forward, it would be very difficult to add horse racing back into the project if homes are sold without that use allowed within the first approvals.

“Keep in  mind, it is just a staff recommendation at this point.”

Malin spent most of his public sector career in other states and his comments seem to reflect a poor understanding of California zoning and environmental protection law. Cities can, in fact, prohibit legal businesses from opening if they are deemed to be in conflict with the zoning.

In his blog, Manifest, Malin wrote about a recent excursion with Boudreau to the Del Mar race track near San Diego, where Boudreau explained the wagering process and the manager soaked in the atmosphere.

“It was all quite lovely, and I could see how responsible, normal people could enjoy a day, or a season, at the racetrack,” he wrote. “I could see that Del Mar is a regional attraction, and community institution, with a long and storied history. I could also see how Del Mar, at its present scale and with its southern California zeitgeist, wouldn’t and shouldn’t be replicated exactly here in Seaside. But perhaps something smaller in scale, and something more Northern California in manner, could.”

City Councilman Jason Campbell, who opposed the project, said the staff recommendation “is politically expedient” because it would mute much of the project’s criticism while allowing the city to pursue other aspects of the development.

The issue goes to the Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Seaside City Hall.

{ 13 comments }

Monterey Downs EIR might not survive close inspection

Business people horse racingIt will be interesting to see what the environmental review experts come up with when they dig into the “Final Environmental Impact Report” on the Monterey Downs project. Expect them to find plenty to talk about. It took the decidedly inexpert Partisan staff about 20 minutes to spot a fairly significant problem.

It isn’t the kind of thing that will stop the project but it will remind project critics, and there are many of them, to accept nothing at face value as they scour all those pages of dry discussion and even drier fine print.

The problem has to do with one word, “wide,” and how its absence rather dramatically changes the meaning of a section having to do with the project’s water supply, particularly the sustainability of the Salinas Valley groundwater basin.

Some quick, obligatory background. After a long delay, the city of Seaside on Friday released to the public the environmental impact report on the Monterey Downs project, a hotly contested plan to build a horse racetrack 1,280 housing units, an arena, hotels and other facilities on a nicely treed site at Parker Flats at Fort Ord. The EIR was prepared for the city by Michael Baker International of Irvine. It’s a thick and heavy document that includes tons of information, including numerous letters from government agencies and others, including supporters and opponents.

This EIR found numerous environmental issues of concern, including water, of course. It was well established before the environmental review began that while there may be enough water available to start the project, there isn’t enough to complete it. For that reason, developer Brian Boudreau and project supporters at City Hall hope to move ahead in phases while others work on developing an additional water supply.

The primary purveyor of water for the project would be the Marina Coast Water District, which does have plans for a desalination plant down the road. But the water district, MCWD, pumps a considerable amount of water out of the ground, including water from the Salinas Valley groundwater basin (SVGB), the principal source of irrigation water for the Salinas Valley.

Here’s where “wide” comes in. Strike that. Here’s where “wide” should come in.

Buried at the bottom of one long section about comments from other agencies, the EIR repeats several lines from the draft environmental impact report from a year and a half ago. It says, “The Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin has a large storage volume and is recharged by the Salinas River, which is augmented by upstream reservoirs managed by the MCWRA (Monterey County Water Resources Agency). Therefore, the aquifer does not experience variations due to climatic conditions.

I put that last sentence in bold italics because that’s the key passage. It also caught the attention of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, which wrote to the city in June 2015 about that and other water-related issues.

The letter, by district manager Dave Stoldt, said his agency monitors the groundwater basin, partly because what happens there affects what happens in the Seaside groundwater basin, which supplies much of the Monterey Peninsula. And, he continued, the draft EIR “presents no data or references that support the conclusion that ‘the SVGB does not experience variations due to climatic conditions.’”

Stoldt writes that there clearly is a connection between rainfall and the status of the Salinas basin.

“The overwhelming evidence for the SVGB is that over the long term, recharge from precipitation and reservoir storage releases does not match groundwater production, and the basin is in a condition of chronic overdraft. Any conclusion … that suggests otherwise should be removed and a statement that reflects the present understanding of the basin condition should take its place.”

The writers of the EIR addressed the issue by attributing the sentence in question.  The EIR says, “This statement concerning SVBG was obtained from the Water Supply Assessment and Written Verification of Supply for the Monterey Downs Specific Plan (Schaaf & Wheeler, November 6, 2012) (pages 22-23).”

But, and you problably saw this coming, what the Water Supply Assessment and Written Verification of Supply for the Monterey Downs Specific Plan actually says on Page 22 is that “the aquifer does not experience wide variations due to climatic conditions.”

Emphasis added in hopes of sparking some discussion about the difference between no variations and some variations.

Big deal? Probably not. The project is not going to rise or fall over this one slip. But the makers of the EIR had 18 months to clean things up following the release of the draft environmental impact report, and a mistake like this suggests either a fairly substantial case of sloppiness or perhaps some inappropriate bias in favor of the project. Either is cause for concern as the experts dig in.

To read the report, click here.

{ 20 comments }

Seventeen Annual Racehorse Deaths Predicted at the Proposed Monterey Downs — and What It Means for the Upcoming Elections

If the proposed Monterey Downs is built, is modeled after the Del Mar Race Track in Southern California, and it has a 50-day racing season (as discussed on pages 2-34 of the Monterey Downs Draft Environmental Impact Report available on the City of Seaside web site), then we could expect approximately 17 racehorse deaths per season at Monterey Downs. Here’s how I arrived at that estimate.

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) publishes the Stewards’ Minutes for all of the tracks in California. Since 2011 those minutes have been published weekly and include a Veterinarian Report that lists the number of deceased horses for the week. Here are the data by year since 2012 for Del Mar.

  • 2015       23 deaths       60 race days        .38 deaths per day
  • 2014       11 deaths        51 race days       .22 deaths per day
  • 2013       9 deaths         34 race days       .26 deaths per day
  • 2012       16 deaths        37 race days       .47 deaths per day
  • Total      77 deaths        219 race days      .35 deaths per day

So in a 50-day season at Monterey Downs we could expect approximately the deaths to equal 50 times .35,  or 17!

By the way, Del Mar is not the exception when it comes to racehorse deaths. The web site Horseracingwrongs.com reports at least 935 racehorse deaths in the United States for 2015 of which 30% were training deaths. At least 969 died in 2014, of which 27% were in training. In 2014, at least 199 racehorses died in racing and training in California. Moreover, most of these numbers of racehorse deaths are underestimates.

Here is what Patrick Battuello who maintains the web site Horseracingwrongs writes regarding the racehorse deaths reported on his site.

The following racehorses were killed on American tracks in 2015. Please note, however, that these are on-site deaths only – the “catastrophically injured” who were euthanized back at the farm or at a rescue facility are not reflected here. In addition, several states – California and Kentucky among them – rejected my FOIA request. While some horses from these states do appear below (confirmed through other channels), a likely majority remain hidden. Other states, still, omitted training deaths from their FOIA documents. So, this list – roughly 1,000 strong – could easily and reasonably be doubled, leaving us with close to 2,000 track-related kills last year.

Furthermore, what the industry refers to as “non-racing” fatalities – colic, laminitis, “found dead in stall” – have not been included. And, of course, this list says nothing of the thousands of recent “athletes” who were bled-out and butchered in foreign abattoirs. In short, what follows is far from a complete reckoning of Racing’s carnage.

Finally, while reading, please be mindful that the maiming and destruction is but a part of the story. There is, also: the pounding of unformed bodies; the extreme confinement of naturally free-roaming animals; the whipping; the (obviously) nonconsensual drugging and doping; and perhaps worst of all, the commodification – the buying and selling and trading and dumping. Collectively, the horseracing wrongs.

In addition, here is another article that focuses on racehorse deaths in California and Del Mar in particular. Among other statistics it points out that “More than 3,000 horses died during racing or training from 2009–2011, according to a New York Times survey of 29 racing states.” That is in just 29 states, not all 50! Also, in this period California was the leading state with 635 deaths!

So, whether in training or racing, horses will surely die (and be drugged and whipped) at Monterey Downs! Based on the data above, my current best estimate is 17 horses will die in training and racing in a 50-day season.

Business people horse racingNow is this issue of Monterey Downs and the associated racehorse brutality and deaths important for each one of us? Absolutely, and here’s why. Firstly, based on the data quoted above, it should be clear that if Monterey Downs is approved and built, there will be racehorse brutality and deaths there just as there have been through the years at Del Mar and other tracks throughout California and the United States. To even imagine otherwise is totally irrational!

Secondly, we have supervisorial elections coming up in June and city elections in November. If you want to cast a responsible vote in these elections, you must ascertain where your candidates stand with respect to approving the Monterey Downs project. This is particularly important for the Board of Supervisors, the Seaside City Council and mayor, and any other city elected official who could serve on LAFCO or the FORA board.  It should be clear that if you cast a vote for a candidate who supports Monterey Downs, you personally will be condoning horse racing brutality.

Now, if for any reason you are still uncertain regarding the issue of horse racing brutality, do your own online research. Also, remember that race horses are athletes. Whenever they are mistreated it is against their will. They should not be brutalized in training and competition any more than human athletes should be.

Bill Weigle is professor emeritus of mathematics and environmental studies at the University of Maine at Machias. He lives in Seaside. 

{ 10 comments }

According to this flyer from Monterey Downs, the Seaside City Council is scheduled to meet this evening, Wednesday, to consider a 12-month extension for negotiations over the Monterey Downs project but the meeting is really on Thursday.

{ 16 comments }

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.

{ 16 comments }

Here’s an email Seaside City Councilman Jason Campbell sent to constituents regarding the scheduled vote tonight on a contract for a new city manager, Craig Malin.

Hello All,
Tonight the Council will vote to approve (or not) the contract for the new City Manager. I would like to share some thoughts with you.

I am thinking I will vote to approve the contract. (Of course I am not going to make my final decision until I hear from the other Council Members and we hear from the public.)

I believe the Council and the hired consultant did a good job vetting the candidates.

We were informed (early on) of the controversy over the development grading involving Craig Malin and the city electeds, but I was not made aware that it concerned a casino. That is an unfortunate oversight considering the gambling proposed for our area. I do not have any indication that Malin is “a friend of the casinos”, and any perceived city giveaway, to almost any development/developer would be unacceptable to many. I do not have all the facts and do not know what really occurred, yet I look at this as a potential learning moment: Don’t appear to spend public assets on wealthy developers and not expect blow back from the public! I am not saying this is what happened or suggesting who approved what. If someone does have evidence that shows an intentional misdeed, please let me know.

The Council spent many hours on this search and Malin rose to the top for several reasons. Our current manager is retiring at the end of this month, so hiring Malin is timely (please consider our options if we don’t).

I do like somethings that have been accomplished in Davenport during Malin’s tenure; such as scholarships for those who want them for continued learning.

http://www.cityofdavenportiowa.com/egov/documents/1211401715_746368.pdf

Please call me if you have more questions or concerns. And I look forward to seeing many of you at tonight’s meeting.

Sincerely
Jason Campbell
915-1092

You can see a previous Partisan piece about Malin right here.

{ 7 comments }

The man selected as Seaside’s next city manager says he will soon file a retraction demand with the newspaper that covers his previous community, Davenport, Iowa, but he won’t say what he wants corrected.

The Seaside City Council is scheduled to give final approval Thursday night to a contract with Craig Malin, who left Davenport in June after 13 years with the city. He left after the mayor demanded his resignation because, in the mayor’s view, he had acted without authority in providing the city’s help for a casino under construction. Malin says he did not resign and was not fired and said he left only because he had accomplished all his goals.

4d8b52d02e3b2.preview-300In an article published Tuesday, Malin told the Monterey Herald that he has asked the Davenport newspaper, the Quad City Times, to retract something it published about him but he would not say what information he considers inaccurate.

“The paper published information which was false,” told the Herald.  “We’re working on a resolution.” He said litigation could result if his request is not honored.

“I expect the Times will get the retraction demand next week,” he said.

Generally, retraction demands are submitted to newspapers at the start of discussions over alleged errors. Asked Tuesday what information he wants retracted, Malin said, “I think that is most appropriately first shared with the Quad City Times,” which suggests that he has not shared it yet even though he says a resolution is in the works.

Asked why he wouldn’t want to disclose what information he considers inaccurate, he replied by email, “Because I have a life. Because the Times made so many errors it was difficult to pick from. Because I wanted multiple independent opinions from attorney. Because the attorney who is handling it had a health issue. Because I see no advantage – to anyone – in rushing.”

In a Partisan article posted last week, Malin suggested that coverage of his departure had led to the subsequent departures of the newspaper’s publisher and editor.

{ 11 comments }
53e2b6486dfe8.preview-620

Craig Malin, the ex-Davenport, Iowa, city manager headed for the same job in Seaside

Usually when a city hires a city manager, it’s a fairly routine matter. The fellow, and it usually is a fellow, is introduced to the community through a short story in the local newspaper. There might have been some drama over the previous manager’s departure, but the new manager usually slips into the position quietly, barely to be discussed again outside City Hall until his welcome has worn itself out a few years later and the cycle repeats.

Expect something different this time around in Seaside, however. The fellow selected by the City Council as the new city manager, Craig Malin, left his previous job in Davenport, Iowa, with a splash. In fact, he seems to do most things with a splash and is still rippling the Davenport waters five months later. He says he was not fired but that he didn’t resign. He disputes much of what was reported about his departure and he accuses the daily newspaper there, the Quad City Times, of knowingly writing falsehoods about him.

In emails to the Partisan and elsewhere, Malin suggested that shoddy coverage of his situation may have led to the subsequent departures of the longtime publisher and longtime executive editor, an analysis that surprised those in the newsroom.

“He’s trippin’,” said a veteran journalist there. “Those were retirements.”

Asked to back up his assertion about the departures, Malin offered no evidence, nothing at all, but stressed that he had qualified his analysis with the word “perhaps.”

A cursory review of Malin’s tenure in Davenport suggests he is highly ambitious and unusually outspoken, almost flamboyant at times. He doesn’t accept criticism well but he can dish it out with seemingly casual regard for its accuracy. While most governmental managers try to remain behind the scenes, Malin maintains a blog that he uses to disseminate opinions on everything from his favorite restaurants to his least favorite journalists. The name of the blog, simply Craig Malin.

Seaside officials announced Malin’s selection in a news release last week and plan to make the hiring official with a City Council vote on Dec. 3. Routine business. There was barely any buzz at all until the Monterey County Weekly did some digging, in the form of a Google search, and found that Malin’s departure in Davenport was one of the bigger controversies to hit that riverfront city since his staff proposed to install a piece of public art, a giant push pin sculpture, a push pin like you might use to post something on a bulletin board.

Anyway, a Squid Fry column in the Weekly this week noted that Malin had served in Davenport for more than a decade, a lifetime by city manager standards, and that everything was hunky dory until it wasn’t. That had to do with a dispute over plans for a casino in an area already rich with casinos and Malin’s alleged decision to provide the project some $1.7 million in site preparation work without the approval of his city council. He denied acting without authority, others said he did and others said he didn’t. His ultimate defense is that he has sparred with casinos in the past so why would he suddenly try to help one.

There was much muss and fuss over the grading work. The mayor banged on his desk and publicly called for Malin’s resignation in June, but the 52-year-old manager proclaimed that he would not quit.

Malin did not let the Squid Fry item go unnoticed, responding online by saying he appreciated the wit exhibited in the item but not the information attributed to the Quad City Times.

“In any event” he wrote, “‘run out of town…negotiated behind the backs … on the hook for $2 million … and paid $310,000.’ All untrue. Perhaps why the editor, editorial page editor and publisher have all moved on? Who knows.”

Exactly how Malin’s job ended isn’t entirely clear, which seems to be the way Malin wants it. There was a council vote of some sort, and much intrigue. Agreements were reached. Malin’s departure was arranged and a $310,000 financial package was completed. He objects to calling it severance.

“The basics are Davenport paid me for my unused leave, provided up to $25,000 in transitional education/professional development reimbursement (which I don’t think exceeded $17,500), maintained my insurance benefits until I transfer to some other plan and paid two of three chunks of four months salary ($70,000 gross each). So the actual check math of something that wasn’t owed me in any event works to be about $157,500.

The Partisan asked him to elaborate on the separation.

“How would I describe my departure? Somewhat unplanned but entirely amicable. I did not resign. I was not fired or terminated (remember, the City Council boycotted the meeting called to terminate me).

“I set a record for service in Davenport that can’t be broken until 2030 at the earliest. I accomplished my personal goal of getting my kids through school in one place and surpassed every expectation of progress in Davenport that I know of. I hold the record for tenure for any Iowa city over 100,000.

“With a fully supportive City Council (the one alderman who voted against it did so out of principle that he didn’t want me to leave) I simply said, thanks, it’s been great, I wish you all the best. Repeating myself now – kind of a simple story, really. Goals secured, moving forward.

“I can consult. I can retire. Having worked full time since the age of 12, I can pretty much do what I want to do now.

“My plan is to come to Seaside, and help that community surpass its dreams.”

During his time in Davenport, Malin won all sorts of awards and the city did too. He appears to have been fairly popular with the city staff. The business community in Davenport expressed strong support for his redevelopment efforts, especially downtown and on the waterfront. The sore points of his tenure appear to involve repeated controversies over the city’s relationship with casinos in the area, the riverboat variety and others, the city’s attempt to regulate a porn business, and Malin’s truly horrible relationship with the Davenport paper, the Times.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO ILLUSTRATION This is a computer-generated image provided by the City of Davenport that shows how a 25-foot-high sculpture of a push pin would look on the riverfront near River Drive and a new downtown park.

A computer-generated image of the sculpture Malin’s staff wanted to build. It never materialized, which he blames on media criticism.

Based on a day or so of reportage, which is pretty flimsy, it appears that Malin was an unusually successful city manager in Davenport but a highly unusual one as well. While most city administrators try to assume a low profile, letting the elected officials take the spotlight, Malin appears to have promoted himself at every opportunity, touting his successes on his blog. The cover of the River City Reader magazine once featured Malin on a skateboard. The headline, “Malin Breaks the Mold.”

Much of Malin’s work with the city is chronicled in his blog, which contains a ridiculously detailed resume, photographic and written biographies and his views on a lot more than municipal governance. Some of the most interesting reading involves his beloved Chicago Cubs but his description of his interactions with the media is more revealing. He repeatedly criticizes the Davenport newspaper and gleefully comments on the arrest of an editorial writer for a minor drug offense. From that posting:

“The guy who turned barrels of black ink into judgment days for others – for years on end – now has his own judgment day before the black robes. All that permanent, black ink of false piety seeping into your skin, the concocted morality coursing through your veins, the sanctimony staining your soul as you delivered judgment after judgment after judgment on others. Day after day, and never being wrong, or even acknowledging doubt.”

Malin elsewhere describes the newspaper’s editorial board as the “all Caucasian, decidedly suburban and Baby Boomers and older need only apply editorial board ….” and writes of being grateful for being able to leave without giving the newspaper a chance for a photo of him cleaning out his office.

In an email exchange with the Partisan, Malin accused the Times of committing two of journalism’s greatest sins — “knowingly” reporting false information about him and fabricating a quote that made him look bad. Pressed to support those comments, he provided a list of news items he disagreed with but no evidence of their falsity or of the newspaper’s recognition of their purported falsity. As for the quote, his support is on the slim side of shaky.

So what does the newspaper have to say about him and his criticisms? Not much.

“We have no comment about Mr. Malin,” City Editor Dan Browerman said Tuesday. The Quad City Times, circulation around 50,000, is part of the Lee newspaper chain. Determining whether the paper treated Malin fairly or unfairly would require considerably more reportage but there are no indications that others have joined Malin in denouncing the coverage.

Seaside officials used a head-hunting firm to find Malin, who had been a finalist for a similar position in Glendale, Ariz., last month. Seaside officials said they were aware that he had left Davenport following a dispute with the mayor and others, but the connection to a casino was not widely shared. The Squid Fry item this week caught extra attention at Seaside City Hall because of the casino tie-in, a concern to some because Seaside seeks to become home to a controversial development featuring a horse racing track.

Based on anecdotal evidence, the vetting of public officials moving on to bigger and better things isn’t always what it should be. A search process similar to Seaside’s a couple years ago presented the Monterey Peninsula school system with a proposed superintendent who was embroiled in a major and highly publicized sexual harassment scandal at the time. Separation agreements negotiated during the departure of public administrators often contain clauses meant to discourage candor. (Malin says he provided Seaside with more than 100 references.)

If Seaside officials understand that they are getting something entirely different in Malin, if they understand that he is more interesting in giving advice than taking it, it should make for an interesting hire. He appears to be a can-do guy headed to a city where development plans mostly gather dust.

However, if the city’s leaders haven’t dug extra deeply into Malin’s track record and don’t understand the risks that attach themselves to a high profile administrator with some unconventional views, they might want to talk this one over some more.

BTW, here’s a quick quiz for those of you who have read this far: Who was Malin’s predecessor in Seaside?

{ 21 comments }

shutterstock_185810549-2 2HUG: The agribusiness giant Tanimura & Antle deserves thanks from the entire community for its plan to build a farmworker housing complex on its Spreckels property. The plan isn’t popular just across the road in the postcard community of Spreckels, which got its start as a company town. That’s understandable because the labor camp would house some 800 people, close to the number who already call Spreckels home. But T&A is helping the larger community by providing decent housing for the men and women who tend the crops, taking some of the pressure off already crowded neighborhoods in Salinas and other places in the Salinas Valley. Some of the company’s labor practices in the past have been less than sterling but it is a solid business in most respects and can be expected to be a good job with this venture. Let’s hope the Board of Supes agrees.

HISS: I was disappointed not to see any new news in the papers or on TV so far this week on Friday’s shooting of Naval Postgraduate School police officer Eric Glazier.He was shot by two Seaside Police Officers when he walked out of his house holding a gun while the officers were returning his wife home after a disturbance elsewhere? A tease on one local TV station (not KSBW) said he had aimed his gun at the officers but the subsequent newscast had nothing to back that up. Lack of follow-up since the weekend reflects a couple of things. The Police Department hasn’t issued another news release, the lifeblood of local journalism these days. And the various news staffs were too busy with the rodeo, motorcycle racing and the weather to go out and knock on doors. Now if anyone wants to criticize the Partisan for its failure to haul itself out to Glazier’s neighborhood, we wouldn’t be able to put up much of an argument but the size of our staff makes the Herald look like a real newspaper.

HUG: Someone posted some Facebook photos of the interior of the new Taylor building in downtown Salinas, and it looks pretty darned spectacular. I love downtowns and I’m hoping this is a catalyst for the rebirth of downtown Salinas, which, by the way, really isn’t bad at all. You Peninsula types who haven’t tried the Patria restaurant are missing something special.

HISS: The Osio Cinema closes its doors, without warning, leaving Peninsula residents with nowhere to go out to a movie except for the big theaters that play the same movies that all the other big theaters are playing. The reaction is strong but will it be enough to convince the owners that there are enough customers willing to give up Netflix and Amazon for the evening and venture out into the wilds of downtown Monterey? There is talk about some sort of crowdsourcing or subsidy to save the theater. More practical, it seems to us, would be for the Lighthouse theater in P.G. to play around with an art house approach. If it does, you all need to get out of the sweats, put some shoes on and put your money where your mouth is. It also occurs to us that the Golden State is empty most nights. Hint, hint.

HISS: Local radio personality Mark Carbonaro was the latest to weigh in with the nonsense that candidate X is more qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton. Does she lose experience points because of her gender or what? In Carbonaro’s case, he said the candidate with the superior qualifications is, who else, Donald Trump? If we need a president who is good at setting up shell companies and playing the bankruptcy system, Trump could be our guy. After all, what’s Hillary got going for her other than having be a senator for eight years, secretary of state and essentially assistant president for two terms?

HISS: Now, for what might be the most inconsequential Hiss published so far. Bet you haven’t noticed something that the Partisan has, but you’ll notice it hereafter. As you’re tooling down the highway, pay attention to the color of the cars going the other way. What you’ll find is a remarkable absence of color. Black, grey, silver, white, two more black cars, silver, beige, silver, grey, black, black, white. Often, you’ll see as many as 30 or more cars whiz by the other way before you’ll see a red one or a blue one. Why is this a Hiss? People who have an opportunity to put some color in their lives but go for grey, there are too many of them and we’d like to see something done about that.

{ 15 comments }

Business people horse racingIn case you missed it elsewhere, the Seaside City Council voted 4-1 Thursday night to give Monterey Downs developer Brian Boudreau another year to work on his sprawling project. Jason Campbell, who has been a consistent critic of the horse-racing/housing venture at Ford Ord, was the no vote.

At issue was the looming deadline on an agreement giving Boudreau exclusive rights to attempt to develop the property. He has struggled at times to pay project costs and to complete the environmental impact report.

While the city’s overall support for the project has weakened in light of strong community opposition, city leaders feared that Boudreau could have cause for legal action if they ended the project now.

The Partisan’s previous report.

{ 17 comments }

It’s time to pull the plug on Monterey Downs

sports_arena1

The Monterey Downs promotional website suggests this is what the promised arena might look like.

“Staff recommends approval.”

Those words are included in just about every staff report when a city council or board of supervisors is about to vote on a land-use project, especially a controversial project with lots of moving parts.

But what exactly does it mean?

Have the city manager or the planning director carefully considered the pros and cons,  studied the accessibility of water and other needs and come to an objective conclusion that the project should move ahead?

Or, as is much more likely in the case of the Monterey Downs venture, has the staff made a political decision to recommend approval in order to make it relatively easy for the city council to say yes to a shaky venture?

When those words go on the staff report, there is an implication that the staff has rendered a professional opinion that the project meets sound planning principles, is adequately capitalized and is being pursued by entities capable of pulling it off without leaving the taxpayers to finish the job. In actuality, what it usually means is that the staff has tested the political winds and is making the safe recommendation.

In the case of Monterey Downs, which returns to the Seaside City Council for another look Thursday, the staff’s stamp of approval should count for nothing. The issue before the council seems simple, almost innocuous. The politicians are being asked to extend the city’s negotiating agreement with the Monterey Downs folks. There might be no real harm in that if developer Brian Boudreau and his team had been making good progress. But on the environmental, financial and hydrological fronts, they seem to be going in reverse. The harm in extending the discussions is the loss of time and money that could be put toward more less problematic projects.

A quick story.

Years ago I was involved in a neighborhood dispute. A well-connected developer wanted to put a high rise in the middle of our residential neighborhood. We fought back and persuaded the council majority to vote our way. Without knowing that, the city manager and city attorney came out during a council meeting with a legal opinion favoring the development.

After the meeting, we told them how the vote was breaking down in the neighborhood’s favor. They were embarrassed and said they wished they’d known that before the meeting because their legal opinion would have gone the other way. It took another month to get the project killed.

Most of the time, the planning process would be much improved if the staff wasn’t expected to weigh in with a recommendation either way. Especially in the early stages, before the governing body has made the policy decisions, the staff should not be placed in an advocacy role.

tennis1

We’ll all be swimming up a storm once Monterey Downs is completed

There are times when government staffs do recommend denial, but it almost never happens if the applicant has any political juice at all. Boudreau has lost some of his influence as this project has dragged on. Repeated delays and inability to explain where the water comes from can do that to a fellow. But he started with enough of it to keep a seriously flawed project on life support for too long already.

You already know the basics. The project would feature a horse racing track at Fort Ord, surrounded by homes, hotels and various other facilities, most of them intended to attract community support. Here’s their thinking. If we say there will be an aquatics complex, the swimming community will rally behind us. If we say there will be softball fields, or soccer fields or whatever, there are those who will believe it and come out in support.

There likely will be some folks at the meeting Thursday, 7 p.m. at City Hall, to argue for the project, to say that it will provide lots of jobs, etc., etc. There likely will be a simultaneous effort to make this seem like a contest between working-class minorities and elitist environmentalists. But watch closely and you should be able to tell that at least some of those supposedly on the working-class side will have been organized and schooled by people working directly or indirectly for Boudreau.

Boudreau has had plenty of time to get his act together. It’s time for the city to move onto something real no matter what the staff recommends.

{ 12 comments }

horses neonI am a Seaside resident who is very concerned about the possibility of Seaside having a horse racing track development within our city boundaries. There is an important item regarding this on the agenda of the next City Council meeting.

 I urge all Seaside residents to attend the meeting that starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at Seaside City Hall.

The last item (9A) is the renewal of the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with Monterey Downs. This agreement was first signed for 12 months on Sept. 16, 2010. After several extensions by the city manager, the council voted to extend the ENA until Dec.12, 2014. A further extension shifted that date to March 12, 2015. Now the full council must decide if the Monterey Downs ENA will be extended for another 12 months.

 Check out the agenda and packet online.

Do we Seaside residents feel that Monterey Downs with its 1,300 homes,three hotels, a commercial district, a 6,500-seat arena and more than 20 acres of paved parking lots will truly benefit our city? Is this horse racing track going to be a viable business even though race tracks across the country are closing? Are we thinking about the ongoing noise and light pollution that will come with this massive development? Horses need 75 gallons of water a day while local residents are now conserving to use only 48 gallons! From where is the water for the many horses coming?

The Urban Design Team working with the Fort Ord Reuse Authority has pointed out that more tax dollars come from high density building in the center of a city than from projects built on the outskirts. We may be squandering our forest on a mirage!

Willie Harrell, publisher of the Seaside Post, has pointed out that Monterey Downs is just too large of a project and should never have been taken on by our City Council.

Outdoor recreation is a growing industry and more people are discovering the health benefits of getting outside into nature. Let’s utilize Seaside’s connection to Fort Ord National Monument as a way to expand our economy rather than block and compromise that connection with a horse racing development.

CSU Monterey Bay is continuing to grow and as it does we will benefit by having a large, world-class university within our boundaries. Faculty and students say that one of the reasons they choose CSUMB is for the access to trails and wilderness environment.

Danny Bakewell is developing Fort Ord lands within Seaside and his projects (built on formerly developed lands) will also bring jobs to Seaside. We don’t need to destroy our coastal oak woodland environment to create jobs.

We must be wise developers of the public lands that have been given to our city. We need projects that are sized right and work with all of Seaside, not massive projects like Monterey Downs which will drain our resources.

Let the council know that it’s time to say “NO” to a development that has the potential to harm rather than enhance the economic health and quality of life of our city. Let the council know that we residents will support them in ending the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Monterey Downs.

{ 11 comments }

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.

{ 1 comment }