Year-round Monterey hostel promises affordable lodgings for budget travelers.
Thursday, May 6, 1999
For the well-heeled traveler, the Monterey Peninsula poses little problem in reserving accommodations and finding food. For students, backpackers, and the budget-conscious, however, it can be difficult to find an affordable place to lay your head.
This will change when a year-round, permanent hostel opens within walking distance of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in early fall.
On Saturday, the newly purchased Carpenters Union Hall will be the site of a construction kickoff, open to the public to see the renovation plans and to gather support for the upcoming project.
The Monterey Hostel Society, which plans to manage the new hostel at 778 Hawthorne St., submitted building renovation plans to the Monterey City Council on April 12 and received feedback on them last week, according the hostel development coordinator Peter Kambas.
"There were relatively minor changes for our architect," he says. "We''ll re-submit the plans next week, and we should have our building permit by the end of May.
"On May 8, we can do light demolition inside. We can''t work on the outside, nothing structural. We''ll come up with some kind of schedule and then, when the building permit comes through, we can start getting contractors'' bids for the remodel. Our estimate right now is around $200,000-300,000 to renovate," says Kambas.
The Central California Council (CCC) of American Youth Hostels (AYH), which governs hostels from the San Jose area to San Luis Obispo, bought the Carpenters Union Hall in March. Currently there is no permanent hostel between Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo.
The hostel will house 45 beds in dormitory-style rooms, with three to nine beds in each. "Our study shows that Monterey could use 100 beds," says Kambas, who is also involved with the Santa Cruz hostel. "The Monterey area has activities year-round so we expect it will be full during the summer, and we hope to have about 50 percent occupancy in the off-season."
Last week, the California Conservancy, a statewide group that works to conserve coastal areas, authorized the transfer of a $120,000 grant that was previously given to the CCC for a possible hostel site at the Parmalee Victorian in Monterey. That deal fell through in 1997, however, when the CCC decided they would rather buy a building than lease it.
The Carmel and Monterey areas already have international reputations for their natural settings, and hiking and exploring them are prime activities for the visitors who are attracted to hostelling, which is popular in Europe.
"Sixty percent of hostellers in Santa Cruz come from outside the U.S.," says Kambas. "They''d like to see Monterey, and Santa Cruz is the next closest hostel." At the April 3 CCC membership meeting, around 170 ballots were cast for new board members, "the most ever in recent memory," remarked one hostel council official, which shows that interest in hostelling is growing in Monterey County.
From 1988 to 1993, AYH maintained a summer hostel at Monterey High School, until the national council began to enforce certain standards. The hostel in the high school didn''t have a kitchen, but breakfast foods were available, and a separate female-only room was set up in the dance studio.
The California Coastal Commission, Coastal Conservancy, and the State Parks have all been supportive of the idea of building more youth hostels along the coast. According the CCC annual report, the Coastal Commission has expressed interest in developing a hostel in Big Sur and has put aside money for the project.
There is also interest between the hostel council and the city of Marina to develop a hostel in one of the old Fort Ord barracks. The building conveyance was approved but delayed a year while the Army continues its toxic cleanup studies, according to Kambas. There is ample opportunity for recreation, plus environmental education opportunities, which the hostelling movement encourages, at CSUMB.
An overnight stay in the Carpenters Union Hall hostel is expected to cost around $17 for AYH hostel members and slightly more for non-members, but will be open to all.
The hostel society is accepting donations from participants in the Human Race, Saturday in Pacific Grove. For more details about getting involved with hostelling locally, call Melissa Newlin at 899-3046.