The proposed 125-room, four-level Hotel Durell in the heart of downtown Pacific Grove is bringing up concerns among residents about the possible impacts of traffic and parking, and has some wondering why the city is not requiring an environmental impact report.
So far more than two dozen residents have written in since Jan. 11, asking questions and challenging the project, being proposed by property owner Nader Agha. The public comment period ends Jan. 31.
Despite the concerns that the hotel would bring in more traffic, the number of vehicle trips per day is expected to be less than they currently are, one of the main reasons city planners did not require an EIR, says Pacific Grove’s director of community and economic development, Mark Brodeur.
“I think that was the linchpin, because the primary impact this project is going to have is traffic,” Brodeur says.
A traffic study conducted last June determined that the current mix of retail, offices and a restaurant generates 786 trips per day. Using formulas widely accepted in the industry, according to Brodeur, the estimate for a hotel like the Durell would generate 746 trips per day.
One resident and former mayoral candidate, John Moore, called the traffic analysis “significantly superficial and incomplete,” and argues in his letter that the city needs to require an EIR.
Three independent firms were consulted by the city for an opinion on whether to require an EIR, Brodeur says, and all three said the environmental impacts were not significant enough for a full review; they instead recommended what’s called a negative mitigated declaration.
Hotel Durell would be located at 157 Grand Ave., bordered by Central and Fountain avenues, sitting directly behind the Holman Building that faces Lighthouse Avenue. The hotel’s entrance would face the Pacific Grove Library along Central Avenue, the site of the city’s popular Monday night Farmer’s Market. The building that sits on the site now, popularly known as Grand Central Station, houses retail shops, offices, a martial arts studio and a restaurant.
The building was built in 1920 by W.R. Holman as an automobile dealership and mechanics garage, before he built Holman’s Department Store, inside the Holman Building. Grand Central Station housed Holman's Studebaker and Durant automobile franchises. A showroom faced Fountain Avenue; the mechanics garage faced Grand Avenue.
The City Council voted in 2015 that the structure is not historic and would not be added to the city’s Historic Resources Inventory, based on an evaluation by an architectural historian in 2012.
As currently proposed, the 63,775-square-foot hotel would include a swimming pool, large spa, courtyard area, meeting rooms, restaurant and a gym. The guest rooms would range in size from 320 to 400 square feet. Rooms on the top two floors would feature balconies that angle toward views of Monterey Bay.
The hotel would also include 55 parking spaces onsite underneath the building, and 28 spaces in a lot across Fountain Avenue. The city only requires 32 spaces, or one space per four rooms. The parking is proposed as valet only. Some residents worried that hotel guests avoiding the valet would take up street parking near the library.
Zoning for the site was approved by voters in a 2012 election that also approved the conversion of the historic Holman Building to condos, a project that is currently under construction. Brodeur says it is the last remaining hotel site in the city.
Next stop for the Hotel Durell is the city’s Architectural Review Board, which Brodeur says he expects will receive it in March or April. After that it would proceed to the Planning Commission.
However, even if the hotel is approved, it would then sit on what’s called the water wait list until enough water credits are found to support it. Approved projects are allowed to sit for up to two years on the waiting list before having to go back for a new round of approvals.