Activists Rally Against MST/Whispering Oaks
February 13, 2012
A couple of limericks, a call for the CEO’s resignation, a challenge to a “hiking debate” and a note of civil disobedience were among the public comments imploring the Monterey-Salinas Transit board to reverse their support for the MST/Whispering Oaks project.
Sixteen people spoke against the proposed 58-acre project, which includes a 24-acre new headquarters for MST, at the Feb. 13 meeting.
Therese Potter, an environmental sciences major at CSU Monterey Bay, lectured the board for their support of a project that would remove 3,400 trees and disrupt a network of public trails. “I can’t believe you would be so selfish,” she said. “You’re just disappointing a generation behind you.”
CSUMB assistant professor Fred Watson said Whispering Oaks is valuable habitat for nuttall woodpeckers, which nest in the cavities of old oaks. Seaside resident Diane Cotton said she just might have to chain herself to an oak tree if the project moves forward. And Seaside resident Jason Campbell took direct aim at MST CEO Carl Sedoryk, telling the board, “Fire your captain; change course quickly.”
Monterey resident Jim Fink made the sole public comment in favor of the project. “There’s a lot of people who sincerely think that I’m nuts, but I challenge them,” he said. “It’s just an old garbage dump…I think it’s a perfectly good use for MST.”
Although he personally has taken a public beating over Whispering Oaks, MST CEO Carl Sedoryk says the project is ultimately under the county’s control.
With $20 million for capital projects from 2008 state bond measure Proposition 1B, MST started designing a new headquarters near 8th Avenue and Gigling Road, on land allocated to MST at Fort Ord’s closure. But the county, which controls the project’s water allocation, asked MST to do a land swap for the 24-acre parcel in the Whispering Oaks business park; the transit authority, Sedoryk says, reluctantly agreed.
Four million dollars in planning later, the county Planning Commission rejected the project last March on account of the mature trees to be removed. The Board of Supervisors reversed that decision in July. Within a month, activists had gathered 18,000 signatures for a referendum to repeal the zoning change ordinance, and LandWatch had filed suit on environmental grounds.
“I can understand why people are confused,” Sedoryk says. “You can reduce it down to a very basic emotional level—you’re gonna cut down trees—but it’s more complicated than that.”
The county Board of Supervisors votes on rescinding the project's approval tomorrow.