Thursday, February 25, 2016

New interim county health director grew up in south county

With the exit of Ray Bullick, the Monterey County Health Department will be guided by a south county product.
Elsa Mendoza Jimenez will take over as the county's interim health services director on Monday in the wake of Bullick's departure this week while a recruitment is under way, according to county spokeswoman Maia Carroll.
Jimenez, who has worked for the county's largest department for more than a decade, including the past three years as assistant director of health, graduated from King City High School as valedictorian in 1994.
Health department spokeswoman Karen Smith said Jimenez's leadership will be valuable as the department creates its annual budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. 
The department's annual budget exceeds $200 million and includes more than 1,000 employees.
On Tuesday, Jimenez was named by the Board of Supervisors as Bullick's replacement on three key boards, including the Children's Council of Monterey County, the Children and Families Commission (also known as the First Five Monterey County Commission), and the Santa Cruz-Monterey-Merced Managed Care Commission, which oversees the Central California Alliance for Health.

Some illumination on the Carmel bomb scare

Carmel >> Some light was shed on what the suspicious device was found in a Carmel restaurant on Wednesday.

“It was a makeshift flashlight,” said Sgt. Ronald Pfleger of the Carmel Police Department. “It was determined that is was left by the cleaning crew. We talked to them and they showed us how it worked.”

On Wednesday the Carmel police received a 7:45 a.m. call of a suspicious device found in plain site on a dining table in Il Fornaio restaurant on Monte Verde Street in Carmel.

Apparently the device used a child's electric car battery, LED lights and wiring. Pfleger said the lenses on the lights had been removed so it was not recognizable as a light source.

“It was a little scary having to evacuate the restaurant, the hotel and block off the street,” said Renne Kapsalis, Il Fornaio manager. “I'm just glad no one truly was threatening us and that it was a legitimate misunderstanding.”

The restaurant and The Pine Inn, which shares the building, were evacuated and the gas was shut off. The Monterey County Sheriff's Department bomb squad was called in to deal with the situation.

Downtown Monterey's new conference center now scheduled to fully debut in early 2017

While more asbestos than expected was recently discovered during the demolition process of Monterey's conference center, City Manage Mike McCarthy said he doesn't really see it as a setback for the project overall.
“I can't say for certain how long the delays will be,” said McCarthy. “I'm looking at the final project rather than its timing.”
While the city had found the toxic material prior to construction beginning and thought they had mitigated it, it ultimately turned up in other areas.
“We did a variety of testing before the project started to learn where it may be,” explained McCarthy. “In peeling back the layers, you're sometimes going to find issues.”
Originally, the city hoped to debut the center's new first floor in late 2016 and the second floor in early 2017. Now, instead of the staggered opening, the new $50 million conference center will open in its entirety in early 2017.
“I hate to give time frames only because we're still in the demo stages of project,” said McCarthy. “We think a single delivery date is actually better.”
The original conference center was constructed in 1977 and hasn't had a major renovation since. The remodeled conference center will have many technological upgrades and a LEED Certified Silver rating for energy efficiency.

“We've started revitalization of the downtown for the last couple of years but the conference center is the heart of downtown and we're expecting an increase in the number and type of conferences we get,” said McCarthy. “It's going to be a building that businesses and residents can be proud of .”

King City to switch city council elections from at-large to district

The King City council voted late Tuesday to change the way members currently get elected from at-large to district.

It's a move that Latino activist and community members pushed for to bring more diversity and representation to the elected body. In spite of being more than 90 percent Latino, only one member of the council is Latino. The vote was 4-0, with Darlene Acosta abstaining.

"For the past couple of years, the people of King City have been rocked by the injustices caused by the King City Police Department and been demanding fairer and more equitable political representation in their local government," said in a statement Carlos Ramos, deputy director of California State LULAC. "We commend the city council for finally answering the community’s call for fairness in their local electoral process so they can hold their officials accountable."

The switch is possible thanks to new legislation, SB 493, that allows cities with fewer than 100,000 residents to make the change without having to put the question to the voters. The legislation was authored by Sen. Anthony Canella, and it's the first time that's being used, supporters say.

"It's historic," said Carlos Victoria, a former councilmember who pushed for the change. "It's a good day for King City."

Friday, February 19, 2016

City's master plan can benefit from other entities located near waterfront

When Assistant City Manager Hans Uslar was asked how long it would take to fully implement the City of Monterey's approved waterfront masterplan, his answer offered more than just an overstated time element.
It's a good question. It can take a long long time but there are always opportunities there,” said Uslar. “A lot of things are changing.”
Uslar's comment was indicative of something that occurred at the meeting when a representative for MidPen affordable housing spoke to the council, soliciting their support for affordable housing grants using the waterfront intersection improvements. If supported, the city could benefit too.
As of today, there is no money for the redesign of the Washington/Del Monte intersection improvements part of the plan,” said Uslar. “However with the sudden opportunity for this organization to receive $3 million in grant money comes the city being required to have up to 10 percent of matching funds as part of it.”
Uslar said a project like that illustrates well how opportunities can present themselves, which allow the city to implement elements of specific plans on short notice.
So now we may actually find funding to implement the plans for the intersection and have that done in the next 3 years,” said Uslar. “With the project we can jump on that and say 'Council here's our plan, here's our funding strategy,” explained Uslar. “They can say 'yes' or 'no' but at the end of the day those opportunities open up.”
He cited the North Fremont plan as an example. Because the city identified a grant opportunity given by the state to cities that have plans ready to build better bike ways and pedestrian crossings, it was approved and is now progressing forward.

So sometimes opportunities present themselves,” Uslar said. “These are interesting times. With the downtown specific plan and the waterfront master plan – now the city has a vision and we can implement things as opportunities happen.”

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Events by Classic Group first commercial partner to lease space at Cooper-Molera Adobe in Monterey

Photo courtesy City of Monterey
Artist's rendering of the redwood barns being used as the Events Center on the Cooper-Molera Adobe property in Monterey. 

A little more on the company that's moving in to share space at Cooper-Molera:

Events by Classic Group is a full-service catering and event management company and has operations in two other historic buildings — the Perry House in Monterey and Gatherings in Pacific Grove.

Debbie Young, who owns Events by Classic Group with her husband and two other partners, said they have been in business for about 12 years. It is family-owned and operated – her husband Dean is executive chef and, in 2006, her father Jim and step-mother Cheryl came on board to round out the partnership.

Events by Classic Group has started taking bookings for a spring 2017 opening and will have the first weddings in May 2017.

Read the full story here.

A little more on the development partner who is renovating and upgrading the site to bring commercial use to the Cooper-Molera Adobe in Monterey.

Doug Wiele, founding partner of Foothill partners, got to know and work with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns Cooper-Molera Adobe, when he was building the shopping center next to the adobe that includes Trader Joe's.

"I learned a lot along the way," Wiele said.

But Wiele has other developments near the adobe and shopping center sites. One is finished and the other is in the works.

The Fidelity Investments building on Munras Street across from the Trader Joe's shopping center is a Foothill Partners property and the lot next to it that was last a Valero gas station is slated for a Foothill's development.

El Cuartel Nuevo will be Foothill’s first retail and residential mixed use project, located in downtown Monterey and comprises 5,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space and ten small second floor workforce rental housing units. 

The project will be a public/private partnership with the City of Monterey.

The parcel has historic significance as it once housed offices of the Mexican government when this area was still part of Mexico and, interestingly, the property has had only three owners -- the Mexican government, the U.S. government and the city of Monterey.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Speed limits, garage sales and election terms addressed this week by city councils

Tuesday’s Herald featured a rundown of some of the highlights from this week’s city council meetings. Here’s some more details from the agendas:

Pacific Grove, Wednesday. 6 p.m. :
-The council is expected to adopt an ordinance establishing some reductions in speed limits, including changing Central Avenue (from the east city limit line to Fourth Street) from 30 mph 25 mph. Other changes include reducing Sinex Avenue from Congress Avenue to the 17 Mile Drive from 30 mph to 25 mph. The same change would take place for a segment on Lighthouse Avenue from Asilomar Avenue to the 17 Mile Drive.
-The  ordinance to allow more outdoor dining on city sidewalks will go before the council. After a year-long pilot study testing how outdoor dining would work in the downtown, Community and Economic Development Director Mark Brodeur suggests that the city goes ahead and allows more sidewalk seating and dining in the city.
- The city will consider releasing donations from its stewardship fund for the Library Renewal Project. The fund was established in May of 2012 for the purpose of future capital improvements to the Pacific Grove Public Library by an agreement between the city, the Friends of the Pacific Grove Public Library and the Pacific Grove Public Library Foundation.

Monterey, Tuesday, 4 p.m.
-The Transportation Agency of Monterey County (TAMC) will present more information about the proposal for a sales tax measure.
-The city will consider creating regulations for garage sales.

Seaside, Thursday, 7 p.m.
The Seaside City Council will also consider and possibly approve adding two classifications to the Position Control List for Recreation Director and Human Resources Director and establish the salary for each position.
The council will also consider accepting the Assignment of Exclusive Negotiating Agreement from Seasons Management LLC to Seaside Senior Living. Seasons has an ENA with the city for a proposed senior living and memory care facility at the “Shopette” site at 550 Monterey Road on Fort Ord.

Marina, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
The Marina City Council will also be receiving its Mid-Year Fiscal report and will consider authorizing the finance director to make appropriate accounting and budgetary entries and provide city staff with any further direction.
The council will consider adopting a resolution that changes the term for election of the mayor to four years starting with the 2018 election results and placing the matter on the 2016 election ballot or consider a different process for selecting the mayor. City staff and the city attorney may be asked to provide the council with information and time schedule to complete the process.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Salinas to crack down on flower and teddy bear vendors on Valentine's

Valentine's Day weekend typically sees an upsurge in the presence of unlicensed and unpermitted vendors on Salinas city streets, along with more complaints about them from residents and businesses.

So this weekend, code enforcement personnel will issue citations or possibly revoke vendor licenses when they find vendors without permits.

"We appreciate people trying to make a living, but it's important for all vendors to follow the rules," said Megan Hunter, the City's Director of Community Development, which handles code enforcement.

TULP forms and vendor information are available at the counter at the City Permit Center, 65 West Alisal Street, Salinas. The Center is usually open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., although it will be closed this Friday and Monday.

Information is also available by calling (831) 758-7157 during business hours.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pacific Grove's Chamber of Commerce against raising the city's TOT

The transient occupancy tax was at the center of debate at Pacific Grove's City Council meeting last week, and one of the first to voice his opposition and rally against it was Chamber President Moe Ammar.
That's because Ammar sees any raise in the TOT as not only inhospitable but harmful. The council is considering raising the tax from 10 to 12 percent in an effort to make up some lost ground when it comes to the city's financial deficit. The issue of whether to raise the TOT or not is set to appear as an item on the council's March 2 meeting agenda.
It's a move that Ammar says he's “grateful” hasn't happened yet, despite repeatedly coming up. Among his reasons for strong opposition: that 25 lodging establishments in the city already contribute 22 percent of the city's budget and that the TOT in neighboring cities Carmel and Monterey is at 10 percent.
“There's never a good time to raise taxes and we'd rather have taxes raised organically rather than being taxed,” said Ammar. “We have to stay competitive with Carmel and Monterey.”
Ammar also noted his view that the city should act as a partner with the Chamber and should be supporting the hotels and inns, not putting heavier burdens on them.
“They should be making it easier for them rather than harder,” he said.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ex-NAACP head, Peninsula native Ben Jealous to endorse Bernie Sanders

Ben Jealous speaks at the Panetta Institute in Monterey on April 20, 2015. (Vern Fisher - Monterey Herald)

Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP who grew up on the Monterey Peninsula, is poised to endorse Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for president, CNN reported Thursday.

Jealous, 43, is set to appear with Sanders in New Hampshire to announce his support before the Feb. 9 primary.

Said CNN:
"The endorsement is a potential boost to Sanders who has struggled to gain traction among African-American voters, though he has made small gains on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton, according to recent polls."
Jealous, who comes from a family of civil rights crusaders, was educated locally at Ord Terrace Elementary School in Seaside, Pacific Grove Middle School and York School in Monterey. He was elected head of the NAACP in 2008 -- the youngest leader in its history -- and served for four years.

He is currently a partner at the Oakland-based Kapor Center for Social Impact, a venture capital firm whose stated focus is creating opportunities and leveling the playing field for young minorities who are interested in entering the field of information technology.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Celebrities excited for AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

While fan favorite Bill Murray remains unsure if he will be able to play in next week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as his hand mends from surgery, tournament director Steve John remains excited about the current lineup of celebrities.

John explained the excitement for the tournament goes both ways. He said Tuesday he recently received a text message from "The Big Bang Theory" actor Kunal Nayyar, who will play in the tournament for the first time next week.

"He said, 'One more week! Getting very excited. Ran into (Jason) Dufner at the Lakers game, ran into Kenny G at Lakeside (Golf Club) and ran into Mark Wahlberg at Riviera (Country Club). All we did was talk about the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am,' " John said, reading the message. "That's great! You hope that they're as excited as we are to have them and in so many cases they are this year. Wahlberg was up here last week playing all three courses last week; practice rounds. (Justin) Timberlake came in September with some friends to play practice rounds."

Comedian Daniel Lawrence Whitney, better known as Larry the Cable Guy, made his debut at last year's Pro-Am. John said Whitney told him last year that all he wanted was to meet Clint Eastwood. Since then, John said the comedian, who quickly became a fan favorite, has been working on his golf game.

"Last year, he was pretty much an 18 handicap," John said. "This year, he's a 15. So he's improved his game, he's playing more, he's very serious about it. You think he's not, but he's a grinder."

Speaking of Eastwood, the Academy Award-winning actor and director returns to the 3M Celebrity Challenge, played the day before the opening round on Feb. 10, for his second consecutive year after taking a 10-year break.

"He wants to play," John said. "He's got Nick Faldo on the bag again. Nick called him and asked him if he could do it again and of course, why wouldn't he. Clint wants to play and it's great! It's wonderful to have the chairman of the board playing."

Eastwood, a Carmel resident, is the chairman of the board of directors for the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, which organizes the tourney.

The Pro-Am gets started with practice rounds on Monday and the Chevron Shoot-Out featuring the San Francisco Giants and 49ers on Tuesday before the 3M Celebrity Challenge the following day. The actual tournament runs Feb. 11-14.

Ray Romano gets a laugh out of Clint Eastwood, who put on the caddie bib while changing places with his caddie Nick Faldo on the 18th hole at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, during the 3M Celebrity Challenge on Feb. 11, 2015, at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. (Vern Fisher - Monterey Herald)

Elderly female population becoming a larger part of the homeless demographic

While the Monterey City Council on Tuesday finally determined that one of the city's parking lots would make an appropriate location for the One Starfish safe parking program, one resident who has worked with the homeless women who will benefit from such a program also made a salient point during the meeting's public comment period.

“Thank you, council members and mayor, for putting time and attention and real effort into this,” said Linda Frederiksen, a volunteer at The Gathering Place, a refuge in Monterey for unsheltered women. “Having worked in The Gathering Place and having met hundreds of homeless women I just wanted to represent them and say 'Thank you.'”

Frederiksen went on to emphasize that these women do not meet the all too often stereotype of homeless people having problems with drugs and mental illness. Instead she pointed to the increasing population of elderly women living at the poverty level and lower in the city and surrounding area.

“Twenty-five percent of homeless women in this community are 65 years and older,” Frederiksen continued. “These are not transient women who all of a sudden are here. They have paid their taxes and have raised children here.”

Seaside considers hiring firm to appraise proposed Monterey Downs land

Map of the proposed Monterey Downs project area. (Courtesy City of Seaside)

As the city awaits the final Environmental Impact Report for the Monterey Downs specific plan, the Seaside City Council will consider hiring a firm to appraise the property at the Feb. 4 council meeting.

“The city and developer can't negotiate a price without knowing the value of the property,” said Teri Wissler Adam, Seaside contract project manager. The council will likely authorize the city manager to draw up a Professional Service Agreement with The Dore Group to perform Real Property Appraisal Services for Monterey Downs, Monterey Horse Park and Central Coast Veterans Cemetery.

The Monterey Downs project is proposed to include a 225,000 square foot horse training facility with a track, stabling area and a 6,500 seat sports arena and grandstand. It is proposed to also include a 330,000 square foot commercial center, a 15,000 square foot horse park, visitor center, office space, veterinary clinic and stables. Two affordable hotels totaling 256 rooms, 1,280 residences, a 100,000 square foot office park, a 200-room hotel of 100,000 square feet, a 5,000 square foot tennis and swim club, a 73-acre habitat preservation area and 74 acres dedicated to open space, parks and infrastructure.

 The cemetery includes 13,838 burial sites, administration building, maintenance yard and building, memorial areas, veterans hall, cultural history museum, chapel and 300-seat amphitheater. The appraisal process would include all areas of the proposed project except the veterans cemetery, a habitat restoration area and a recreational habitat area.

It is not known how long the appraisal process would take. Upon city approval, city staff would finalize the $124,975 contract with Dore which would be reimbursed to the city by the developer.

According to the city, there is not yet a date for receiving the final EIR even though the draft EIR ended its public comment period eight months ago.

Salinas to host second community meeting on charter update

The city of Salinas is in the process of updating its charter, and a community meeting to discuss proposed changes will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Feb. 11 in the City Hall Rotunda at 200 Lincoln Ave.

The City Council's Charter Update Subcommittee has recommended that the charter be reorganized to make it easier to read and more user-friendly.

Any proposed amendments to the charter would be presented to voters for approval in the November 2016 general municipal election.

The charter update process began on Sept. 15 last year, with a presentation to the City Council by the City Manager and City Attorney, followed by a community meeting on Oct. 10. The City Council considered a draft charter update on Jan. 26, without taking action.

Questions about the update or the Feb. 11 meeting can be addressed to the City Attorney's Office at (831) 758-7256 or Information is also available on the city website here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Snowpack measurement shows improvement

Department of water resources California Data Exchange Center snowpack survey results chart. (Courtesy

The California Cooperative Snow Survey shows improvement in Sierra Nevada snowpack at 114% of normal but California remains under the effects of a four-year drought.
State water officials conducted a manual survey on Tuesday and found snow depths ten times higher than a year ago at survey sites.
But the state's largest reservoirs remain low with storage ranging from about one-third to three-quarters of average.

Seaside considers developer's ENA extension

The Seaside City Council will consider an extension of the exclusive negotiating agreement with Seasons Management, LLC for the development of a senior living and memory care facility on the "Shopette" site at 550 Monterey Road on Fort Ord land.

The extension would be for six months from Feb. 19 to Aug. 19.

Marina, Veterans Transition Center, developer enter into agreement

Permanent veterans housing in Marina recently moved closer to creation when EAH Inc., representing the VTC, entered into an agreement with the city in January.

EAH proposes to construct a permanent housing project on a 2.38-acre parcel consisting of 64 studio apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments for veterans and their families for a total of 72 units.

The concept plan includes a community garden, tot lot, community room, office, lobby, laundry facility, fitness studio, two lounges, rear private patio area and a front public patio area leading to a 60 parking space lot with two drive access points to Hayes Cicle.

The main structure would be three stories and span a length of over 300 feet along Hayes Circle.