Since 1970, California’s population has nearly doubled. The Monterey Peninsula’s population, by contrast, is about exactly what it was 50 years ago. With ample empty land, the city of Seaside dreams of growth that would add thousands of new residents over the next few years.
But as the example of a proposed development called Main Gate shows, even the most promising ideas are in jeopardy under the combined threats of economic downturn, water scarcity, lawsuits, clashing egos and disagreements about urban planning.
Occupying 56 acres off Highway 1 at the Lightfighter Drive exit, Main Gate once served as the entryway into Fort Ord. Now, the property promises housing to the adjacent CSU Monterey Bay.
In early August, negotiations between the developer of Main Gate, Paul Petrovich, and Seaside City Manager Craig Malin seemed to be breaking down. Petrovich had become a persona non grata to many in Seaside after a clerical error seemed to reveal Petrovich was suing the city to stop the nearby Campus Town development.
Petrovich maintains that he’s not behind the lawsuit – but his criticism of how the city handled Campus Town became a point of contention, according to emails obtained by the Weekly through a Public Records Act request.
The plan submitted by Petrovich was a conventional development of single-family homes, more oriented to the highway than to campus. In response, Malin told him the city wanted something else, a relatively dense neighborhood of mixed-use buildings with lots of open space.
“I am a little confused,” Petrovich replied on Aug. 6. KB Bakewell, the developer of Campus Town, was allowed to include many single-family homes, he wrote. In other emails over the next few weeks, Petrovich complained about the “different treatment” he was getting. Campus Town, he wrote, was being “subsidized” by the city and was given more leeway.
“I fundamentally don’t understand why you can’t focus on your project,” Malin responded in one email. “While you have been arguing and resistant to input… KB Bakewell was working to align their plans with community goals,” he wrote in another. “That is… why they have been successful.”
Campus Town, Malin noted, faced disadvantages at the outset. Its location and water allocation were worse, and unlike Main Gate, the property is full of blighted Army buildings. “No matter what happens on Campus Town,” Malin wrote. “Main Gate is and will remain the most definable and discernible gateway to both the city and CSUMB. They’re different – and you got the better of the two.”
Eventually, Petrovich came around and submitted a plan that satisfied Malin’s parameters. A conceptual map shows high-rises, lots of green space, a movie theater, hotels and a brewery.
On Thursday, Sept. 17, Seaside City Council is set to vote on whether to approve the sale of the Main Gate real estate to Petrovich for $8.3 million. Assuming Petrovich signs the deal, the next step is an environmental review.