At a recent city of Pacific Grove Planning Commission meeting, four of the six commissioners chose to ignore the stated mission of their appointment, disregard scientific findings from accredited independent experts and refuse to acknowledge the fact that the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District is the legal and legislative body with oversight on water in Pacific Grove.

I know this because I am a former planning commissioner, former city council member and a former director of the water management district. I also hold a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies and a master’s in urban planning. On Nov. 18, the aforementioned commissioners voted against certifying the American Tin Cannery Hotel and Commercial Project’s environmental impact report and the application for the project, demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge or intentional disregard of the California Environmental Quality Act. This vote did not reflect Pacific Grove’s municipal code, regulations, or policies. Instead, these four votes were based on personal feelings, hearsay, and the unsubstantiated opinions of people with no academic or scientific knowledge. Additionally, over 1,200 pages of independent scientific reporting and mitigation measures addressing the concerns raised over harbor seals and trees were ignored in favor of anecdotal information provided by local observers. I would like to thank Commissioners Byrne and Bluhm for adhering to the tenants of their appointed position, examining the facts presented and using those facts as the basis of their decision.

The manner in which some of the commissioners conducted themselves was equally troubling. The arrogance displayed by several of the planning commissioners was embarrassing and the vice chair’s handling of both meetings was bizarre and procedurally questionable. The first meeting was continued after public comment with no true opportunity for commissioners to question staff or the applicant. Why was a 10 p.m. time limit established with no discussion? After scheduling a special meeting for this project, it appeared to those watching on Zoom that rules and decorum were thrown out in favor of a haphazard procedural approach which became more problematic as the meetings continued.

After offering last-second and potentially illegal conditions for approval, which were not accepted by the applicant or other commissioners, the vice-chair threw what could only be described as a temper tantrum, referring to the landscape plan as “scorched-earth policy,” which was petty and unprofessional. Another commissioner was repeatedly corrected about misrepresenting the facts of the project and using inflammatory rhetoric to describe the type of excavation proposed. Her nonsensical questions showed a profound lack of project review as required by members of the Planning Commission. Instead, she cited her own non-scientific “research” that had no bearing on the items before her. Equally troubling was the disrespect shown to accredited leaders in the architectural, environmental, and engineering industries. Having to endure questions regarding their qualifications, then having those qualifications ignored and denigrated was something I never thought would happen in Pacific Grove. The true intentions of these commissioners were revealed when each one of them admitted to meeting with opponents of the project but refused to meet with the applicant, even to have simple questions answered. The final hypocrisy came when the opposing commissioners stated they did support a hotel project at the site yet refused to support any of the conditions under which one could be built.

Since our wonderful system of local government allows for the correction of mistakes such as what we witnessed on Nov. 18, I urge the Pacific Grove City Council to call up this item immediately. As our city’s elected representatives, we look to you to examine the facts, trust the science, and take this opportunity to right a wrong. Please do not fail our community.