Coastal Commission sinks Sand City “ecoresort” proposal – again.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Bright green designs didn’t impress the California Coastal Commission, which has once again denied a coastal development permit for Monterey Bay Shores, a proposed 341-unit hotel/condominium and conference center on the Sand City shoreline.
At a Dec. 11 public hearing, the commission unanimously backed up a staff recommendation to reject the ambitious “ecoresort,” despite a request from Sonoma-based developer Ed Ghandour to postpone the vote.
The decision could be seen as the proposal’s final blow. “From the commission’s standpoint, there is no pending project,” says Charles Lester, the commission’s Central Coast director. “That’s not to say he couldn’t reapply.”
Ghandour had asked the commission to postpone the hearing until a matter involving the hotel’s water permit is resolved. Last winter, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District rejected the resort’s water distribution permit and ordered Ghandour’s firm, Security National Guaranty, to update its environmental analysis. Ghandour appealed, and in late April, the Superior Court ordered the water district to reconsider. The district, in turn, appealed; that case is pending.
Water issues notwithstanding, the commission agreed with a staff determination that the project doesn’t sufficiently address problems with the public viewshed, traffic, natural resource protections and coastal hazards such as erosion, among other constraints.
The commission last denied SNG’s development permit in 2000. But Ghandour appealed, and in May 2008, the Superior Court ordered the commission to reconsider the permit by mutual agreement, without regard to ecologically sensitive habitat, in observation of Sand City’s Local Coastal Plan and in light of proposed modifications.
If the commission claims to have met those conditions – “Well, I think that’s a bunch of bulls***t,” Ghandour says. “We believe they’ve violated the court order in many instances in this case.”
In a concessionary note, the staff report suggests a “much smaller project” might better suit the dune site. “We went out of our way to make clear that we weren’t saying this was an undevelopable parcel. It’s just got a lot of constraints that have got to be respected,” Lester says. “Staff would do its best to work with the applicant if he pursued a revised project at the local level.”
But Ghandour – who says he’s invested more than 10 million dollars in the decade-long Monterey Bay Shores saga – refuses to scale back the project. He calls the commission’s suggestion a red herring, belying what he sees as the agency’s aversion to any coastal development at all. “[Lester] has showed us that the site would accomodate a yurt,” he says.
If history is any precedent, Ghandour won’t give up easily. “We’re determined to have a major project on the site,” he says. “The law is in our side without question.”