In early April, the proposed Monterey Bay Shores condo/hotel complex in Sand City finally won California Coastal Commission approval. But that approval, backed by a fresh settlement agreement, came with conditions. And developer Ed Ghandour is now challenging commission staff on what those conditions mean.
Just before the April 9 commission hearing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) raised eight concerns the agency felt the project’s habitat protection plan did not adequately address. In response, the commission required Ghandour, whose firm is called Security National Guaranty (SNG), to submit an updated plan to the commission director.
In an email exchange obtained by the Weekly, Ghandour’s attorney, Steven Kaufman, asks the commission’s Central Coast deputy director, Dan Carl, to strike language requiring the updated habitat plan to be submitted to the commission director before the permit is issued.
He also asks that the phrase “for approval” be deleted, leaving the director to simply review the update.
Carl refuses, writing: “[W]e do not agree that your version is correct.”
Kaufman volleys back with a transcript excerpt from the hearing, in which he claims several commissioners back up his interpretation. Carl isn’t swayed.
In a May 12 email to Kaufman, Ghandour comments: “They cannot change what SNG accepted. Looks like a breach of the settlement agreement.”
Carl says the commission acted on a number of different motions. “It was a little confusing, but we thought we had gotten it right,” he says. “So now we’re going back and verifying as best we can.”
Kaufman declines to comment, and Ghandour did not return calls.
Meanwhile, USFWS officials are looking into the question of whether SNG may have “taken,” or harmed, a federally threatened shorebird, the Western snowy plover. California State Parks confirmed the discovery of a plover nest on the project site just before the Coastal Commission hearing.
Monterey Audubon Society Board President Blake Matheson called on the USFWS to investigate, alleging the nest and its fencing disappeared around the time an SNG contractor arrived for pre-construction drilling. “It makes it a more distinct possibility that one would have to resolve the issue in federal court,” Matheson says. “The [Endangered Species Act] has to mean something.”
Carl says the commission’s conditions require SNG to have a biological monitor onsite during pre-construction work, a point he says Ghandour disputes.