Las Palmas River View

Roy Gobets in the backyard of his Las Palmas home; if the River View assisted living project is built atop the hill behind him, it will be visible from where Gobets is standing. 

A controversial proposal to build a 90,000-square-foot assisted living senior facility on a ridge above the Las Palmas neighborhood along River Road passed a critical step in the developer’s quest for approval, after the Monterey County Planning Commission voted 6-4 on Feb. 12 to recommend the development to the Board of Supervisors.

Before the commissioners voted on the staff’s recommendation, however, applicant Garrett Shingu’s attorney, Anthony Lombardo, was asked if Shingu would consider building into the plan making some of the beds in his River View facility available to low income seniors.

“No one else has ever had to provide affordable housing for assisted living,” Lombardo said, but his client was willing to work with planning staff on adding it into the proposal.

The idea of adding in an affordability factor came after Commissioner Martha Diehl shared her own personal experience of investigating care for her mother and stepfather. She noted that in one location the lowest level of care was $55,000 a year, per person, with the highest level costing approximately $109,000.

Diehl pointed out the median income of seniors in Monterey County is around $55,540 annually, meaning half earn less and half earn more. Those in the bottom half, and even the bottom two thirds, she argued, would not be able to afford a bed inside River View. Had the proposal included either affordable beds or employee housing, she might have looked at the application differently, she said.

She was unmoved by Lombardo’s promise of working with staff on including some affordable beds. “There’s a vast difference between requiring and proposing,” Diehl said.

Diehl was also against putting a three-story memory care building, a two-story assisted living building and 13 individual casitas on top of the ridgeline above the Las Palmas neighborhood, she argued was not the intention of the Las Palmas Ranch Specific Plan.

Several commissioners asserted that the social benefit of providing much needed senior living facilities in the county justified amending the Las Palmas plan, but Diehl countered that the negative impact to the area far outweighed the benefits.

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