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The long and winding path for a hotel proposal in Pacific Grove’s American Tin Cannery.

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ATC building exterior

The proposal would transform the American Tin Cannery building, currently home to an outlet shopping center, into a hotel.

Sara Rubin here, just a few days after I took a walk through Pacific Grove’s American Tin Cannery. It was the first time in years I’d entered the building, and it was desolate inside—confusing to navigate, dimly lit, and mostly empty. My friend and I dipped into the Pendleton “outlet,” which had nothing even remotely approaching outlet prices, but plenty of blankets for over $200. A bunch of the local flair—the breakfast joint First Awakenings and artist studios—have gone

The ATC has long felt to me like a ghost, something from another time that died long ago. Yet it continues to haunt this prominent location, on an extraordinary piece of real estate, a gateway to Pacific Grove. 

The concept, at least since P.G. voters overwhelmingly said yes in 2016 to rezoning the property, has been to put a hotel on the site instead. I, for one, imagine going out for drinks at a hotel bar more often than I might go shopping for overpriced blankets, not to mention the added—and needed—tax revenue P.G. would get from a hotel. 

But in the years since, the hotel concept has faltered. First, due to a disastrous partnership that collapsed, and was investigated by the county’s civil grand jury

Then came a new developer with a different hotel concept, but by then the opposition had time to organize. Tree removal, size of the building, traffic, water, and the impact of construction noise on the nearby seal rookery are among the issues raised by neighbors. All worthy issues, but none of them worth denying the project for and transforming an underutilized shell of a building into a revenue-generating destination, sharing access to that seal rookery—one of my favorite spots in P.G.—with even more visitors. 

But the opposition chorus got stronger, prompting P.G.’s Architectural Review Board in 2020 to call for scaling down the 225-room hotel. So developer Comstock Development did that, adjusting its plans accordingly. But by the time the project went to the P.G. Planning Commission, it became clear that the opposition wasn’t just about the features—building dimensions, tree removal—which had been addressed. It was about putting in a hotel at all, and the Planning Commission denied the project.

The developer has appealed to the P.G. City Council, which has a special meeting tonight and will vote on whether to override the Planning Commission and approve the project, siding with city staff’s recommendation, or give in to the same NIMBY concerns that led the ARB and Planning Commission to say no. 

Here’s the thing about change: It’s coming, whether we want it to or not. The ATC site of today is a walking ghost. It can either become a hotel, as currently proposed, or it can become something else unknown—but the odds of it remaining an underutilized, poorly laid out outlet mall into the future seem low. It’s unlikely the landlord will want to keep it that way, even if a few locals and shoppers and business owners like it the way it is. 

Wherever you stand, you can tune in to tonight’s virtual meeting, starting at 6pm, at this link, or call 888 788 0099 and use webinar ID 209 579 290#.

Read the full newsletter here.

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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