Army’s plans for major upgrades have neighbors, enviros up in arms.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
The Presidio of Monterey is about to get a major facelift intended to improve the form and function of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. But while U.S. Army representatives say the 20-year update to the Presidio’s 1983 master plan has minimal impact on the natural landscape and surrounding communities, Monterey residents and environmentalists are concerned about its impact on vistas, vegetation and their very quality of life.
“The preferred plan optimizes the use of existing developed areas and space,” John Elliot, the chief of master planning for the Presidio, told the small crowd of residents gathered at a public meeting in Monterey May 31.
In the Draft Environmental Impact Statement presented by Elliot, the Army’s public works division outlines three potential plans for the Presidio of Monterey Installation, which includes Army facilities on both the Presidio and the Ord Military Community in Seaside. One plan involves taking no action to upgrade infrastructure, despite the fact that the Defense Language Institute’s population continues to grow. Another would move some of the Presidio’s new classrooms and training facilities to the Ord Military Community, essentially splitting the language institute into two campuses. The preferred alternative does the bulk of the upgrades – including classrooms, dorms and barracks – at the Presidio.
Some of the proposed construction and renovation of existing buildings in both plans will take place in the next two years, funded in part by a $3 million allocation in a federal bill that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives. But the bulk of the work is not slated to begin until 2015 or later.
The two action alternatives have environmentalists in a tizzy.
“You’re proposing to construct buildings on a steep ravine while cutting down hundreds of native trees,” Monterey artist and landscape designer Elizabeth Murray said at the May meeting.
She and others want to ensure that the Huckleberry Hill Wilderness Preserve on the Presidio’s east side remains a natural space the public can enjoy.
Other residents brought up the plan’s lack of specificity about revamping the now-nightmarish traffic flow on Franklin and Taylor streets in the early morning and late afternoon.
“[The Army] should allow the public to traverse the Defense Language Institute,” says New Monterey Neighborhood Association Chair Howard Fossler, who notes that residents could drive through parts of the campus until the gates were closed 10 years ago.
“There’s a huge traffic impact in only using the tunnel or Highway 68 to get from Pebble Beach to New Monterey or Pacific Grove,” Fossler says.
The public has until June 21 to weigh in on the DEIS. Pacific Grove resident John Pearse hopes more people consider the proposed plans.
“More alternatives should be looked at before this moves forward,” Pearse says.