Guest Commentary: ATC project would be ‘tremendous benefit’ to Pacific Grove
In January, the Pacific Grove City Council will review a matter of major importance to the city’s future – the proposed hotel project at the American Tin Cannery site. Nothing has divided this city as much since the debate over demolishing Brokaw Hall in our Monarch Sanctuary many years ago. Like that debate, this is about keeping something of no value – but which we are used to – or going in a new and beneficial direction.
As proposed, the ATC hotel would be a great visual, architectural, and commercial bridge between Cannery Row and the Pacific Grove shoreline. As a former economic development director and a former PG city councilman, we understand all sides of the tension and dynamics that are always present when property use changes are proposed. But we both believe this project will be of tremendous benefit to the city.
We have no doubt that the people opposed to this project are sincere in their concerns, and we applaud their diligence and persistence. No project of this size is going to be without some risks and downsides. But the developer and city staff listened to community and Architectural Review Board feedback and made significant improvements. The new project design is better for all that community due diligence. Overall, we think the benefits now far outweigh the downsides. Let’s not allow the desire for perfection to get in the way of perfect enough.
Through the taxes they pay, Pacific Grove residents bear most of the costs – but receive few of the benefits – of our ever-increasing tourism. These costs include city spending on traffic control and enforcement, sanitation, shoreline overcrowding; and the ever-increasing expense of maintaining our coastal roads, parking lots, trails and parks. We need a solid tax base and well-funded city to maintain the infrastructure, beauty and peace that our city is famous for. Currently, there is no path to making sure we have that income. The hotel could provide much of that.
Tourists drive through our city and around the PG shoreline causing a lot of congestion, parking and speeding issues, sanitation problems along our trails and in our parks, and wear and tear on our infrastructure. And then they stay, shop, and eat in Monterey or Carmel; and those other cities collect the transient occupancy tax and other taxes and fees that allow them to maintain tourist areas. Right now, we only have a handful of businesses in downtown PG that capture those dollars. As a result, Pacific Grove suffers from increasing tourist costs, even as we do not enjoy the tax revenue from those tourists. We desperately need to capture more of those dollars for our own city’s use.
The ATC site currently generates almost no revenue for the city. The proposed hotel’s design is about as esthetically pleasing and non-intrusive as a hotel at that site could possibly be. It will be a visual improvement on the PG side of Cannery Row without overwhelming the site. It will attract substantial tourist dollars for PG and will be a good start to getting our city on a healthier financial footing.
The voters of Pacific Grove approved the ATC site for a hotel years ago. City staff and the council have the resources to evaluate the effects of this project and must balance that knowledge with the responsibility for managing Pacific Grove’s growth and financial well-being.
The council now has the responsibility of approving or rejecting this project. We hope they will approve the ATC hotel based on solid reasons and city needs, and not on emotion or deeply held opposition to any change in our city. Doing anything less would be shunning their responsibility to look out for all the Pacific Grove residents who voted them into this position of responsibility.
– Bob Sadler is a retired economic development director and Rudy Fischer is a former PG city councilman.