Neighborhood Feud…Squid was bemused watching former U.S. labor secretary Alexander Acosta’s press conference on July 10. As hard as Acosta tried to not step in it—addressing revelations about the sweetheart deal he’d given to alleged predator Jeffrey Epstein in 2007, who dodged prosecution for sex trafficking of underage girls when Acosta was the U.S. Attorney of Southern Florida—Acosta only made the situation worse. Squid’s not sure there was any way for Acosta to talk his way out of this one, but Squid also thinks he hastened his own exit out the revolving door that is the Trump administration with his foot-in-mouth comments and non-excuse excuses. Acosta resigned on July 12.
It’s not just on the national stage that Squid has watched government officials try and fail to smooth over controversies, both small and large. The latest was on July 11, when Squid oozed over to Del Rey Oaks City Hall.
There was a public workshop on the Monterey Peninsula Airport District’s proposed North Side Access Road, which would connect Highway 218 in the city of Del Rey Oaks to Monterey Regional Airport. Dozens of agitated residents of the small town were packed inside the council chambers. Every seat was taken, people were standing in back and out in the hallway, and more were seated on the floor. Even Del Rey Oaks City Manager Dino Pick was standing to one side of the dais throughout the crowded two-hour meeting.
Two planning consultants employed by MRY did their best to explain why the airport needs the access road as it makes major changes per Federal Aviation Administration regulations to address safety concerns. Under the airport district’s “Vision 2035” master plan, approved by the airport board last November, various sections of the airport will be rearranged: the two runways will be spaced further away from each other; the aging terminal will be moved back further from the runways; the fire station will be moved over to the north side; general aviation hangars will move to the north side as well, and more hangars will be built on that side in the future.
The planners and MRY Executive Director Mike La Pier insisted that the only way the plan will work is if they can build the North Side Access Road from Del Rey Gardens Drive. The road would not be open to the general public and would only result in an estimated 92 vehicle trips per day, they said. They also promised a large berm, planted with native plants, that would create a visual buffer between homes and the back of the airport.
Try as they might, their arguments weren’t landing with wary residents. Word had gotten out that the master plan also suggested the potential of a sometime-in-the-distant-future light industrial park and scenario of 7,000 trips per day. The planners argued there was no such real plan on the books and the 7,000 trips were worst case.
They listed all the ways the airport benefits the region—even playing a slick Vision 2035 video—but residents were quick to argue that they would be paying a price every day on behalf of the region. What, they asked, would the airport be doing specifically for Del Rey Oaks?
As the emotional temperature in the room was rising, Pick tried to assuage residents’ fears. He reminded them that city officials had already sent a letter to the airport district opposing the road. The airport had gone through its process, he said, if MRY proceeded to apply to the city seeking a general plan amendment, that’s when the city’s process would officially begin. The city could ask for mitigations, Pick noted. Some possibilities: a gate to prevent people from accidentally trying to access the airport using the North Side Road; building the road below grade; maybe even double-paned windows for impacted homes.
Before Pick could even finish, La Pier spoke up.
“It’s important to manage expectations here,” La Pier said. “You can’t always get what you want.”
There was a gasp in the audience. One woman called out, “None of us can!” One man turned to others and said, “I can’t believe he just said that.”
Just when Squid saw an opening to placate the people, there was that moment: digging a hole, and making it deeper.
“There are always things we can do,” La Pier said, “it’s not a Christmas gift shopping list.” He assured the packed room that MRY would work with the city to see what they could work out, but then he really pushed some buttons.
“I don’t want you to go away thinking we’re going to pave the streets of Del Rey Oaks gold,” La Pier said. “That’s not going to happen.”
Things devolved from there. Some residents declared that they outright did not trust the airport to tell the truth about data points as basic as the projected number of vehicle trips. Another declared that residents were organized and would be fighting the road to the bitter end.
Buckle up, Mr. La Pier: The captain expects a lot of turbulence on this flight.