Hearing positive comments from our supporters is great, but when they decide to write a letter on our behalf…well it does not get much better than that!
Monterey Herald Guest Commentary - 12/17/21
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.
Monterey Herald - 12/8/21
Story poles not needed for Pacific Grove hotel project
Ms. Cohen is making exaggerated arguments in her Nov. 28 letter calling for story poles for the ATC development in Pacific Grove. Story poles are not required for the ATC project, as determined by our very capable city staff. ATC engineers and architects have provided excellent renderings of the project, allowing intelligent assessment of the visual impact of the project. More importantly, the ATC project requires not a single variance, meaning the development fits within the envelope of permissible and acceptable development as defined by established ordinance. The ATC redevelopment of this space is a beautifully conceived and designed reuse of what has been an eyesore for more than 50 years. Let it go forward.
— David Blaskovich, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 12/5/21
ATC story polls
A recent letter to the editor regarding story poles at the ATC project caught my eye. The letter describes “licensed story pole contractors and structural engineers” willing to donate their time to “check” (code word for challenge or refute) the work of other experts, licensed building officials and the city of Pacific Grove’s own story pole policy. A popular refrain from opponents of this project is, “I don’t believe the facts and science of your independent experts (experts hired by the city of Pacific Grove) and their published reports and studies, so I am going to try to find my own experts (untrained and non-scientific people with a bias to do nothing) who will tell the story I want to hear.”
Opponents, including three city planning commissioners, would have you believe that the Water Management District’s expert general manager and his water use calculations are wrong and the district does not have the authority to approve water use on the project site. However, they do have the authority to run our local water system and sell recycled water for us to drink. Which one is it? I trust the Water Management District and the fact-based science in the project’s environmental impact report. Why won’t they?
— Dan Reed, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald Guest Commentary - 11/25/21
The Planning Commission Has Failed Our Community
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.
Monterey Herald - 11/17/21
Commissioner’s conflict of interest is on the record
Recently, I wrote a letter to the editor asking “What’s Happening In PG.” Like clockwork, an opponent of the ATC project, with no fact-based argument, took it upon herself to claim I was either unfamiliar with city government, or trying to take advantage of people who were unfamiliar. Nothing could be further from the truth. For those unfamiliar with how municipal government works, if there is an upcoming agenda item, commissioners may not publicly opine or comment on that agenda item before it is properly agendized. Why is this an issue? To do so would violate the rights of the parties involved in that agenda item, thus denying them their due process. Three commissioners did that when they offered opinions about the project when it was not on the agenda. Furthermore, the letter writer, Lisa Ciani, either misunderstood or didn’t actually read what I wrote regarding a recently appointed commissioner. I’ll restate it, so there is no confusion. This commissioner, prior to being suddenly reappointed, was a vocal opponent of the ATC Project appearing at a number of public meetings to voice their opinion. Perfectly fine, unless the project you are about to vote on, is the very project you spoke in opposition to. That’s called conflict of interest and there is nothing “law abiding, responsible and respectful about that.” But don’t take my word for it, its on record, something Ms. Ciani seems to forget.
— John Evans, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 11/9/21
In favor of ATC project
Thank you to the 25 former elected officials, civic and business leaders that spoke in favor of the American Tin Cannery hotel project at the last Planning Commission meeting. Former Mayor Bill Kampe, Vice Mayor Robert Huitt and several former city council members supported the project. Huitt is the longest living elected official having served for 18 years on the council. Trade and business associations spoke in favor, as well as representatives of school groups.
Only 16 people spoke in opposition to the project, most oppose any change in general. They contacted the State Water Resource Board and California Coastal Commission as a last resort to stop progress. My biggest takeaway at the meeting was that the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Hopkins Marine Station that is operated by Standford University are not opposed to the hotel project as designed. If the project harmed the seals, as the opposition claims, the Aquarium and Hopkins would oppose it.
Finally, almost 60 % of the voters approved Measure X that allows a hotel at the site. Democracy will prevail.
— Moe Ammar, president of Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce
Monterey Herald - 10/27/21
What’s Happening In PG?
A recent letter to the editor asked what was happening in Pacific Grove and I have the same question. Apparently, rules, ordinances and the decisions of officials are only applicable as they relate to what certain individuals want and not the whole community. To begin, I was shocked to watch last week’s Pacific Grove Planning Commission meeting and see commissioners openly discussing an item not on the agenda. This was a clear violation of the applicant’s rights. What
is more disheartening, however, is this discussion is focused on usurping the stated rules of the city, a directive developed by a Citizen’s Advisory Committee and a ruling by the city’s own expert building official. Then, I come to find out that a recent appointee to the Planning Commission has openly campaigned against a project that he is about to rule on and it’s obvious, he was appointed to the commission to expressly vote against it. All of this runs counter to the government transparency, hometown values and rule of law promoted by many in Pacific Grove. I guess these things are important, but only if they benefit a certain segment of our city and not everyone in our community.
— John Evans, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 10/24/21
ATC hotel project
I am writing in support of the ATC hotel project. Our city has the opportunity to redevelop an underused commercial property to generate much-needed income for our town going into the future without raising taxes. It is an upgrade for the entrance to our city. The developers are honest and well-intentioned people who have shown a willingness to work within all city guidelines as well as make adjustments even when not absolutely necessary. I have heard some questions about the height and I urge everyone to go to the top of Central Avenue to get a view of the renderings. It is clear there will be little or no less obstruction of view than the existing tree line. It’s a win-win for the city and all of us who live within it. Join me in supporting this project and urging its approval at the planning commission and the city council level if necessary.
— Michelle Knight, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald Guest Commentary - 9/29/21
Something Better at the ATC
Something better needs to happen for the American Tin Cannery. We “see” the ATC, but don’t really see the site as it is today. Inside, a long walk by empty stores echoes our footsteps with an eerie sense of abandonment. Anyone looking closer sees the signs of decay, a fate for any building that is so under-used. Windows frames are rusted; cracked sawtooth ceiling windows are crisscrossed with duct tape. Outside, many trees are in distress. Large dumpsters front the coastal trail. The “scenic” view from Central and Eardley features a dominant white Outlets sign.
Cannery Row Company has faithfully maintained what it can. Yet inevitably, the site needs a better role, a role that can serve visitors and our community productively. It’s time for renewal.
The ATC sits in a very special location. To the east lies Cannery Row, the historical connection for the ATC. Cannery Row has been revived from ruins by visionaries who found a way to resurrect the area and draw over 4 million visitors a year. To the west lie 4 miles of the finest city coastline in California. Across the street, we see Hopkins Marine Station and the Aquarium, anchors on the Bay for marine research and stewardship. The ATC site is zoned as a visitor-serving location and is perfect for a hotel for visitors who are drawn by our natural resources and heritage.
In my own contact with the project team, I found them professional, disciplined in their approach, and open to addressing the concerns of the community while designing a viable project. In the updated application they have eliminated the subgrade parking and associated excavation. The landscaping plan increases the green space on the property. They have reduced the mass to retain better views. The plan includes significant sustainability features for water usage, solar, EV charging stations, and more. The hotel will contain local cultural interpretive exhibits and a display on the heritage of the site. The project team is also planning to include exhibits that showcase the natural history of Pacific Grove.
The plan shows a very big upgrade to the visual appeal of the site, blending a large portion of the sawtooth section plus new building designs with extensive landscaping, including rooftop gardens. It will offer publicly accessible courtyards and seating with food and beverage options.
While the hotel will serve visitors to our area, it will also contain meeting facilities needed by our residents for business or social events. Why must PG groups go to Spanish Bay or elsewhere?
In a simple sense, heritage is what we show guests when they come to visit us. It’s what we are proud of about our city, and it’s the stories we tell as we show them around. The proposed design honors the early story of the site and prompts a whole new story of the vibrant part the ATC site will play in our city’s future.
Please join me in supporting this project. It is both essential and desirable for the kind of future we deserve for Pacific Grove.
– Bill Kampe is the former mayor of Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 8/25/21
In favor of ATC project
Recently the California Coastal Commission approved clarification of some language in Pacific Grove’s Local Coastal Program Implementation Plan. This minor change will allow the developers of the hotel project for the American Tin Cannery site to develop plans to submit to the city’s Planning Commission.
There were only a handful of people opposed to the project; but they mostly talked about how historic the ATC is (even though it is not on the city’s Historic Inventory List), about how it was too big (225 rooms on 5.6 acres), waxed poetic about the whole history of PG’s shoreline, and complained about how it will be for “privileged guests” (even though one wing is designed for low-cost family stays). Most of the comments had nothing to do with the item in front of the commission, however, and they unanimously approved the language change that will allow the developer to treat the whole lot as one parcel and not two.
Hotels have many benefits for cities; both in jobs for locals and tax revenue to the city. This hotel, at 40 feet in height, will be lower than the city’s six-story Forest Hill Manor and considerably smaller than the 330 room Asilomar Conference Center. Though final plans have not been released yet, it could be a treasure; and a great source of income – for Pacific Grove.
— Rudy Fischer, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 8/5/21
In support of ATC project
On Aug. 12 the California Coastal Commission will review a modest language change which would allow Pacific Grove and ATC hotel project to move forward. I ask readers to write or e-mail their support for this minor but important change to the commissioners at https://www.coastal.ca.gov/roster.html and ask them to approve the language changes as requested.
This is a much-needed project for our city’s future and financial stability. The project has no impact on any actual historic structures, yet retains much of the original American Tin Cannery’s roof, and adds a really classy hotel to Pacific Grove’s dilapidated waterfront. PG&E voters approved the zoning for this project five years ago, and it is about time this project moves forward. Please contact the Coastal Commission to voice your support.
— Rudy Fischer, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 6/24/21
In support of PG hotel project
I wanted to voice my opinion about the ATC project in Pacific Grove; a hotel and commercial property. My understanding is that it will be an important sustainable hotel property. A sustainable hotel property will be a great model for sustainable practices for other hospitality properties in the Monterey Bay region and a great learning model for students at CSUMB, MPC, Hartnell, Cabrillo and other learning institutions including high schools.
The project will improve a site that has been deteriorating over the years. As I understand it, the hotel will feature many sustainable practices including a LEEDS building certification, will follow Green Hotelier guidelines, a “green roof” to conserve energy, solar panels, a rain catchment system and a greywater reprocessing system. I also believe the project will include extensive measures to protect wildlife and marine life. An example is the windows will feature anti-glare bird-strike film.
Needless to say, the project will provide jobs, internships, career and educational opportunities and of course local tax revenues.
— John L. Avella, director emeritus Sustainable Hospitality Management Program, College of Business, CSU Monterey Bay
Monterey Herald - 6/8/21
In support of PG hotel project
I was a real estate developer in the Portland, Oregon area for 30 years before moving to the Monterey Peninsula to be closer to my children and grandchildren. My daughter lives on 5th Street in Pacific Grove less than a mile from the Tin Cannery building.
I have seen a lot of different types of development and re-development projects throughout my career and spent the last decade partnering with other stakeholders on mixed-use, master-planned developments including a 400-acre mixed-use, master-planned development which included corporate headquarters, retail, hotels, office space, residential and assisted living facilities, all within green spaces and parks.
When I moved here one of the first things I noticed was the neglected condition of the American Tin Cannery building. In any community, it would be an eyesore, but in such a beautiful setting it really doesn’t fit. From the perspective of a real estate developer, it is sad to see such an underutilized piece of real estate.
I have seen the plans for the redevelopment proposal for the Tin Cannery building and believe any city would be proud to have a development like what is being proposed. Not to discount the tourism and tax revenue that would help take the pressure off of needing to raise taxes for local residents in addressing an aging infrastructure.
— Steve Madison, Monterey
Monterey Herald - 5/16/21
Thanking ATC developers and others
As a parent of a Pacific Grove High School senior, I’d like to thank all the volunteer parents who came together to make this year memorable for the Class of 2021. From door-step spirit drops to drive-in movies, our kids got the opportunity to feel connected to each other and their school. The list of supporters and donors is too long to mention but to highlight a few, I’d like to thank the Pacific Grove High School Alumni Association for covering the costs of senior yard signs and custom Breaker blankets as one of the last doorstep-spirit drops, Debby Beck –The Real Estate Group for the senior banners downtown and Comstock, developers of the old American Tin Cannery site for supporting our Breakers Light the Way Fundraiser and Beach Ball event, giving a safe, prom-like gathering for our seniors. The Alumni Association was a natural fit, but for a company like Comstock to step up was very impressive and truly helped ensure the event would happen. It got me thinking about what else their project would do to help our community and the list is long. Yes, there are millions of dollars in tourism revenues that the city will receive, but I am more interested in the good-paying jobs created that can help our graduates live in the area. I’ve also heard that Comstock will be creating an internship program to help train local high school and college students in sustainable hospitality practices. It will also be wonderful to hold proms and reunions in our beautiful hometown of Pacific Grove. All these facts, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars the project will generate for our school district, make the ATC – Pacific Grove project critical for our kids and in my opinion, a no-brainer!
— Deme Jamson, Pacific Grove
Carmel Pine Cone - 4/30/21
As the owner of a piano shop in Pacific Grove, like many other businesses, I’ve been hit hard by the pandemic. While the public and our elected officials have been focused on restaurants and retail locations, and rightfully so, other businesses like mine are also an important part of our local economy. That is why I’m extremely supportive of projects that will bring opportunity to Pacific Grove, and the American Tin Cannery hotel project will do just that. The support Comstock Development has already shown our community is well
documented, but that support will continue during construction and operations. Yes, local small businesses will see an immediate increase in foot-traffic, but service-based businesses will also thrive. From commercial laundries and landscapers to florists and yes, fine pianos, we all have a better chance at success with the approval of this project.
Mark Stevens, Pacific Grove
Carmel Pine Cone - 4/30/21
Supports Hotel Plan
I am a resident of Pacific Grove and I wish to express my full support for the development of the American Tin Cannery site as proposed by Comstock Development. As an environmentalist and historian, I see this as an extraordinary opportunity to achieve a balance between the preservation of history, enhancement of the environment, and generation of revenue essential to the community — with essentially zero impact on traffic, noise, or other disturbance to the day to day lives of the citizens or wildlife of the city.
David A. Laws, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 3/19/21
Time to focus on kids after difficult a year
I am an elementary school teacher in Pacific Grove and although I am seeing positive steps forward, we can all admit that this year has been especially tough on our school, our district, our parents and especially our students. As we begin to see our lives return to some sense of normalcy, these kids are going to need all the support they can get. From our school to our recreation department, an increase in student serving programs is critical to their health and well-being. I recently learned that a community-minded group is going to repurpose and reimagine the old American Tin Cannery building. From that development, our city will see approximately $3 million in yearly revenue and our PG schools will see over a quarter of a million dollars in property tax proceeds each year. That means the potential for increased emotional, mental and physical programs, which directly impact the children of Pacific Grove. I love our city and I want the best for our kids. This project seems the best way to achieve success for both of them.
— Anne Hober, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 2/21/21
Pacific Grove’s quality of life
The proposed American Tin Cannery hotel in Pacific Grove is all about the future of quality of life in town. We need to fund the library services, public parks, the Museum of Natural History, roads, sewer system, and public safety. We need a full-service hotel where we can host local events for kids, families, seniors and civic clubs. I have a lot of faith that our great Mayor Bill Peake and City Council will be able to balance the needs of the people, trees and harbor seals.
The time has come for Pacific Grove to reap the benefits of the visitors just like its neighbors Monterey and Carmel. At 225 rooms in size, the hotel is relatively small for the 5-acre parcels that make up the combined area of the site. By comparison, the Clement/Intercontinental hotel on Cannery Row is a little over one acre in size. The bigger the hotel, the fewer taxes we have to pay. It is all about jobs for our kids and grandkids. We need a decent size, upscale hotel to survive and deliver the municipal services that we want. I have a lot of sympathy for the few residents that reside nearby, but I remember when the property had 50 outlet stores, shops and restaurants. It attracted thousands of locals and visitors when the outlets were popular. The challenge is that the neighbors have enjoyed the peace and quiet since the outlets departed.
I want to thank the developer Bob Comstock for his interest in building this project, especially during this pandemic. We are very fortunate to do business with such a decent team.
— Moe Ammar, president of Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce
Monterey Herald - 2/12/21
In support of ATC project
As a Pacific Grove homeowner and parent of children in the Pacific Grove Unified School District, I’m extremely excited for the prospect of the ATC – Pacific Grove Hotel and Commercial Project. I’ve had a chance to thoroughly review the city of Pacific Grove’s EIR and the project plans and I am very impressed with its environmental protections and the lengths taken to create a truly sustainably built and operated property. As a parent, however, I am most excited that the project will be providing to our schools and our community. The school district will receive an increase of approximately $250,000 a year in property tax revenue which during this pandemic is sorely needed. Additionally, this project will provide modern event and meeting space for our city’s residents, non-profits and schools. Wouldn’t it be great for PG Pride’s events or the PG High prom to actually be held in Pacific Grove? I think so and that is why I support this project.
— Paul Black, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 2/3/21
In favor of ATC hotel project
My husband and I retired to Pacific Grove many years ago. We were drawn to the city because it was safe, clean and provided a number of programs and services for seniors. We enjoy shopping downtown, playing tennis and strolling along the Rec Trail, but in recent years, we
have begun to see the wear and tear on our beautiful hometown. Fewer services for seniors and our city’s youth, empty storefronts and buildings in need of repair. We know our city has financial struggles, most cities do during these crazy times, but those cities are preparing for what comes next. The hotel project at the old American Tin Cannery is what’s next. The reports show revenue of over $3 million per year. That is revenue that will help fund services for people like us and people you. That is also revenue that supports our recreation department and our parks. Let’s take that old building and turn it into something that actually benefits all of us.
— Wendy and John Evans, Pacific Grove
Monterey Herald - 1/31/21
In support of ATC hotel project
As a volunteer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I know the value of protecting our beautiful coastline and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. As a Pacific Grove homeowner, I know the importance of preserving the character of our hometown. To achieve both, however, we need to leverage our assets and create a foundation for the future of our city. That is why I support the proposed hotel development at the American Tin Cannery. The environmental reports are extensive and show a level of realistic and sustainable protections for our coast and I’m excited about the publicly accessible green roof. Factor in all the other green building elements referenced in the EIR and you’ve got something that we can be confident in its environmental provisions while being proud that it is part of our city. Take a look at the studies and then ask yourself, can we protect Pacific Grove and have something that contributes to the community? The answer is yes.
— Dan Reed, Pacific Grove