John Mandurrago’s Carmel development fight is in extra innings.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Just as Carmel residents voted recently to put to rest a decade-long struggle over the Flanders Mansion, another seemingly endless fight over preservation is headed for court. This one – involving local homebuilder John Mandurrago – is the longest in recent memory, according to City Planner Sean Conroy.
“Odysseus only took nine years to get back to port, and they wrote an epic poem about it,” says Mandurrago’s attorney, Dennis Beougher, of the Salinas law firm Lombardo and Gilles.
Mandurrago is one year shy of that mark in his effort to knock down the old Palo Alto Savings building on Seventh Avenue and Dolores Street, and replace it with retail, housing, and underground parking.
Mandurrago estimates that delays have cost him $2.2 million, but the project still stands to make serious money. His plans include five luxury condos, each of which would sell for some $2.5 million. He would rent storefronts and reap a potential windfall from two levels of underground parking. The project would also include two low-cost apartment units, which would help the city meet its affordable housing goals.
A year ago Mandurrago finally snagged Planning Commission approval, but activist Barbara Livingston appealed to the City Council, arguing the building, designed by noted architect Walter Burde, is architecturally significant.
“It’s representative of the San Francisco Bay Area regional architecture and different from anything we have in Carmel,” Livingston says.
The City Council agreed with Livingston, and Mandurrago was back at the starting gate.
The problem, according to Mandurrago: Carmel’s “cave” people, Citizens Against Virtually Everything. Burde, who built the Monterey Peninsula Aircraft Control Tower and its terminal building in the early 1960s, deserved his accolades, Mandurrago says, but he didn’t earn awards for the building in question, which currently houses Homescapes import store. “It’s an ugly building,” he says.
Last week Mandurrago, in his trademark white Panama hat, strode to the City Council podium to make one last pitch for approval, but the council unanimously nixed the project.
“It’s a win,” Mandurrago said.“They took us off life support.”
Now, he says, he’ll take his case to a judge. He’ll argue that the city erred in denying his project because it provides much needed affordable housing, even if it’s only two units. But Carmel’s attorney, Rick Harray, contends the state’s tough environmental law, which protects architecturally significant buildings, trumps the housing statute.
“Some people would say, ‘Game over,’” Mandurrago says. But the self-taught building designer is used to going his own way. Still, he may be hedging his bets. The building is on the market – listed at $8.5 million.