Filling The Void
With two seats vacated, the Marina City Council awaits fresh voices.
Thursday, November 2, 2000
In every other city in Monterey County this election year, at least one incumbent councilmember vies to hang on for another four years. Not so in Marina, where the two greenest of the four councilmembers, Ken Nishi and Dana Cleary, have had enough of life in the council chambers.
Nishi won his seat in the March 1998 special election to replace the late Tak Takali. Cleary was appointed two years ago after Jim Perrine won his mayorship from a safe council seat. Yet having sat on the council for less than one term each, Cleary and Nishi are calling it quits. Nishi''s reasons for relinquishing his seat remain a mystery. "I''ll tell you--after the election," he says coyly after multiple inquiries. Cleary says, in light of her other commitments, she can''t keep up the 20 to 30 hours per week she spends on council work.
The two departures leave opportunities for fresh voices on a council positioned to set the blueprint for Marina''s future. The new council will be the first to implement a brand new general plan adopted Tuesday night. In the next four years, the council is poised to initiate redevelopment plans for Marina''s portion of Fort Ord, direct development of Armstrong Ranch to the north, and reinvent the city''s Del Monte/Reservation core. Three citizens are running to fill the two vacated council seats: Bruce Delgado, Michael Morrison, and Ted Elisee.
Delgado, a biologist with federal Bureau of Land Management''s Fort Ord office, sits squarely in the slow-growth camp and aligns himself politically with mayoral challenger Ken Gray. An active member of the group Marina 2020 Vision, Delgado has pounded the streets campaigning for Measure E, the Marina Urban Growth Boundary Initiative. The initiative would cut future development of the Armstrong Ranch--where the general plan allows 3,500 new housing units--by one-third. The initiative also prevents development of a planned coastal resort on the Lonestar property west of Highway 1.
Delgado sees planned economic development for Marina as too much, too soon. The general plan paves the way for a maximum commercial buildout capable of creating 28,000 jobs over the next two decades. If business is drawn to a shiny new mixed-use development on Armstrong Ranch--where the general plan calls for commercial development in a separate town center and designates areas for office and research and development uses--he''s concerned about what effect that will have on existing Marina businesses.
"We have a downtown that needs upgrading; what''s going to happen to that core?" he asks. "The emphasis is going to be on Armstrong Ranch. What''s that going to do to the [older] businesses and empty lots and buildings that need tenants?"
Candidate and businessman Michael Morrison was an original member of Marina 2020 Vision, but he broke away from the group. He does not support the Urban Growth Boundary Initiative because it still allows the Armstrong family to approach the county with development plans, leaving Marina with no control over the project. He does, however, advocate smart-growth concepts and believes those goals can be reached within the framework of the general plan.
"We need to start looking at a more European style with clustered villages," he says. "That''s the type of housing that needs to be done on the ranch, on Fort Ord, and in existing Marina."
Morrison emphasizes the need to view growth in terms of recovery from the closure of Fort Ord. Marina, historically a bedroom community to the base, lost about a third of its population when Fort Ord closed in 1992.
"We''re not in a growth spurt, we''re in a recovery stage," he says. "I believe that we''ve come out [of the loss of Fort Ord] very nicely. Now the true work is to start planning using smart growth."
Ted Elisee, a public relations representative for the Marina-based Paige''s Security, echoes Morrison. "I think the word ''growth'' is a misnomer," he says. "I believe we''re in a recovery phase."
Elisee also declines to support Measure E, opining that it is too limiting. However, he believes the public debate sparked by the initiative has been healthy for the city. "I think Marina 2020 Vision is our conscience," he says. "We need that input to look at where we''re going in the next 20 years."
Elisee says he''s committed to attracting business to the city, and he emphasizes the need to develop affordable housing. He says the city should up its requirement for inclusionary housing from 10 percent to 20 percent of new construction. He''s opposed to the development of the Lonestar property, but he cautiously supports development on the Armstrong Ranch.
"I believe [development of] Armstrong Ranch could be good for the city, if we plan it properly," he says.