In a special meeting Sept. 21, the Seaside Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend that City Council approve both the Monterey Downs environmental impact report and its specific plan.
And despite the EIR being more than 2,000 pages long, the commission’s deliberations lasted less than an hour, and those who favored the project spoke only about jobs and housing.
The project’s approval process has been widely scrutinized, and has included more than one potential Brown Act violation.
The first came during the Aug. 17 meeting of Seaside’s Board of Architectural Review, which recommended approval of the project’s proposed architecture and landscaping. At that meeting, board members leaned in and whispered to each other, a violation of the state’s open meeting laws.
Then the Planning Commission, at its Sept. 7 meeting, closed public comment on the matter after hours of commentary. Yet the commission later reopened public comment – only for those who hadn’t yet spoken on the item – at its Sept. 21 meeting, without that being announced on the agenda.
“I know of several people who would have come had they known there was going to be public comment,” said land use attorney Molly Erickson, making an objection at the Sept. 21 meeting. “I believe this is a significant Brown Act problem.”
Yet Seaside City Attorney Don Freeman says the decision to reopen public comment was to comply with the Brown Act, to give the public the right to speak.
“From my perspective, any public body can reopen a public hearing with or without notice,” he says.