Rancho Canada Village overhead

It has been a long and meandering journey for a proposed housing development at the former Rancho Cañada Golf Course in Carmel Valley, including multiple lawsuits and appeals over some 20 years. The journey is still not over, but the project reached a new milestone on Wednesday, June 11 with a vote from the Monterey County Planning Commission advancing the proposed project to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors for the final say. 

The commission voted unanimously to recommend the project with 145 residential lots, about 27 percent of them designated for inclusionary income levels.

Developer Rancho Cañada Ventures LLC, represented by Alan Williams, proposed a composition of 93 single-family residences, 12 townhomes, and 40 units of inclusionary housing that will be deed-restricted.

The project has no units set aside for buyers with low or very-low income levels. (Those 40 inclusionary units would break down as 28 moderate-income and 12 workforce income level—of those workforce units, six would be available to households earning 120-150 percent of the area median income, the other six would be for 150-180 percent of the area media income.) 

The project was long mired in planning processes and lawsuits, largely hinging on what percentage of the project should be designated as affordable, rather than market rate, units.

Just a few weeks ago, on May 19, a Sixth District Court of Appeal judge struck down a lower court decision dating back to a 2017 lawsuit filed by the Carmel Valley Association in opposition to the project. 

That appellate decision meant that Williams might have taken his project back to its 2016 composition—130 units, with 20 percent affordable, rather than the current 145 units with 27 percent affordable—but consensus emerged among members of the public, commissioners and the developer that the current proposal was the superior one. 

The project as recommended by the Planning Commission is bigger than what was originally pitched in 2016, at 145 units total, up from 130. But it also includes more deed-restricted units, with three additional moderate-income units, and the addition of 12 workforce units. Williams also told commissioners he intends to make the townhomes rental units, although those are not deed-restricted. 

Longtime Planning Commissioner Martha Diehl, who represents District 5 (which includes Carmel Valley, where the proposed project is located) reflected on the long slog it's been to litigate and refine the project proposal. "It has been so long and so acrimonious over the years," Diehl said. She also congratulated the developer and members of the public who came to something resembling an agreement on an acceptable project. 

Planning Commission Chair Ana Ambriz spoke generally about the challenge of providing workforce and moderate-income housing when it comes to supporting Carmel Valley's real-life workforce. 

"I appreciate the applicant willing to provide [inclusionary] units," she said. "However I do think that your dishwasher doesn't make the same money as your server, so you are going to have some employees who are not going to be able to pay moderate-rate rent."

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the correct composition of the inclusionary units, 28 moderate income and 12 workforce units. The project recommended by the Planning Commission does not have low-income or very-low-income units.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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