Pacific Grove had a “to do” list when it set out to install a single prefab restroom in the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. City Council approved the list within what’s called a mitigated negative declaration in June 2018. One of the items on the list was to make sure the Ohlone Costanoan-Esselen Nation had a monitor on site during digging.
“It’s a sacred site to us,” says Louise J. Miranda Ramirez, the tribe’s chair. It’s registered as a sacred site with the California Native American Heritage Commission. No remains or artifacts have been found there, but it’s possible they could be present. Under Assembly Bill 52, which took effect in 2015, municipalities must include tribal monitors in projects where artifacts or ancestral remains could be disturbed. P.G.’s mitigated negative declaration acknowledged that.
With the passage of time, however, some items fell off the city’s list. In September, council approved the purchase of the restroom for $62,000. By then it was time for the monarchs to return for the overwintering season, so construction was delayed.
On July 8, the Public Works Department started digging. Concerned residents who saw the construction asked city officials if a tribal monitor was in place. Construction was stopped on July 15, says Public Works Director Daniel Gho: “It was an oversight on our part.”
A tribal monitor was on site July 22 for the restart of digging, which was completed the next day.
Ramirez says the tribe’s goal isn’t to stop projects – members want to be included so ancestors’ remains can be recovered and reburied. “We’re excluded many, many times because people are not used to working with us,” she says. “It’s taking awhile to get used to each other.”