We worked with city staff to make interactions between residents and the city more “user friendly” and supportive of the economic revitalization that will allow our city’s businesses to thrive and grow; and homeowners to renovate their properties. This allowed us to preserve and protect our genuine historic assets while at the same time improving the city and making it a more vibrant place to live.
After many years of restrictions on expanding our hotels, motels, and Bed and Breakfast Inns you, the citizens of Pacific Grove, passed Measure U to allow those places to update and expand their properties. Several of them have since added more rooms (19 total so far) and fixed up their properties.
After a lot of work on the part of both the City Council and the Planning Commission, we also passed a new Downtown Sign Ordinance. This includes graphics that make it easier to understand and use, and it streamlines the process and provides for over the counter review and approval. Right now the ordinance applies to just downtown Pacific Grove, but eventually we will have streamlined ordinances for the Forest Hill and American Tin Cannery areas also.
After many years of a very controversial and divisive tree ordinance, we finally pushed through a policy that that lets people control their own yards and doesn’t punish people for liking trees. This policy calls for a one-for-one replacement of trees removed (though you are free to add more if you wish), took out the criminal clauses, and brought penalties in line with the Municipal Code. This is a much more “people friendly” policy which provides homeowners much more discretion on what they do in their own yards.
As part of this effort we had consultants look at PG’s 26,000 trees and the overall health of our urban forest. This study found that our tree cover had actually grown and that the Asilomar Dunes is the largest plantable area in the city. We put in place a continuous planting program that will plant a certain number of trees each year so that we always have some young trees as well as some older trees.
For the first time in many years we have a fully staffed police force and contract with Monterey Fire for fire services protection. After many years of effort, we were able to negotiate a multi-year POA agreement that closely aligns with the contract for the city’s other employee groups. The new multi-year agreement includes the restoration of health benefits to make the city a more attractive place to work.
While I was on the City Council, we negotiated a lease with Enea Properties for the Old Bath House, and that venerable building has now been renovated. Restaurateurs Jim Gilbert and Kevin Phillips opened the restaurant in 2013 and, for the first time in over seven years, the Bath House opened for dinner – though now as The Beach House Restaurant.
The restaurant operators spent several million dollars of their own money to remodel and enlarged this city owned building by adding 575 square feet of indoor dining and a 500 square-foot deck to the old building – as well as aa ADA elevator. As a result, the seating capacity was increased to over 100 seats. It has public restrooms on the ground floor, showers for the Children’s Pool, and has been made compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The restaurant also has an area on the first floor where it provides breakfast and lunch for visitors to Lovers Point.
The Feast of Lanterns is an annual community celebration; but it also give several young women in our local community the opportunity to develop their poise, public speaking abilities, and to represent our community in public. The annual Good Old Days is a large street fair with booths selling paintings, clothing, art, food, and just about anything else anyone could want. It brings thousands of visitors to the town over a weekend. It is always preceded by a major parade that allows groups, the military, and local dignitaries to show off. This is actually one of my favorite events because the students who participate start of shy and hesitant at first. By the end they have their business cards and have developed poise, public speaking, and presentation skills.
After being off limits for 20 years, the Pacific Grove municipal Softball Park was restored and opened for use by the kids on Saturdays and Sundays in 2014. The fences were repaired and 50 feet of new aluminum railings replaced the rusted railing that had been at the top of the seating area for many years. The grounds staff cleaned up the weeds and trash, and cleared the brush so that it looked great and, since then, the PONY League parents have put a lot of their time and money into improving several city baseball fields. It has seen a great deal of activity since opening and some wonderful ball playing is happening there!
By carefully allocating the city’s money, over the past few years we have been able to increase the Pacific Grove Library’s hours from 24 to 39 hours per week and increase the library’s budget and staff substantially! We have worked with several library support groups to keep qualified and creative Library Directors there. We also held meetings to come up with ideas to improve the library, and the library painting project was finished in September of 2013, giving the library a bright, new look.
The library continues to have great support in this City and between the City Council members, the Library Board, and the Friends of the Library we have many dedicated individuals who are looking out for this important city facility. A $2.6 million renovation of the building started in 2019.
Over the past several years we also had the Natural History Museum painted and new carpeting installed in the auditorium. We signed an agreement with the Museum Foundation, which has taken on much of the responsibility for managing the Museum, and this public-private partnership is working well.
This area has received a great deal of attention; with a new pathway and rope barrier to keep visitors on that pathway and out of the trees. We did have to tear down Brokaw Hall in the Sanctuary because it had deteriorated to the point where repairs would have been prohibitively expensive. While that was unfortunate, it did open up more space in the Sanctuary for nectar plants for the butterflies who visit there every year (and the deer and other animals which wander there throughout the year). There is more work still to be done in the future to improve this vital area.
The city is being in a much more business-like manner that ever before. For instance, the city was left a home by a resident with the stipulation that it only be used to house a published poet This home called the “Poet’s Perch” was used only sporadically while requiring action and expense on the part of the city to renovate it and make it more usable and, when no poets were willing to live in Pacific Grove, sat unused. Our city Attorney was able to locate other relatives of the donator and start the process which allows the city to rent in out at market rates; with the proceeds going to city library and school for poetry purposes.
In August of 2013 we brought the City’s hyperbaric chamber back on-line. Though it was difficult to get an insurance company who would cover our liability in operating this facility, City staff was able to finally get coverage for this. This is important because it is one of only three in the entire state that can hold more than one person. This way a medical provider can be with a patient suffering from a dive related accident.
Although the city long had a plan in place to protect nursing harbor seals, we did not have an ordinance and plan for protecting these local animals. We finally put that ordinance into place in November of 2013 and instituted penalties for people who interfere with protected wildlife – especially during the pupping season. Through our own liberal interpretation of California Coastal Commission rules we were able to use fencing to provide a high level of protection to the harbor seals at this vulnerable time. We had an application in with them but felt we couldn’t wait for a decision and put up the fence despite the lack of approval. They later said “good job” and approved the permit. As Andy Grove – the former CEO of Intel – once said “Sometimes it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
Working with Asilomar, Audubon, and several city residents and agencies some of our citizens and I developed a brochure about avoiding and protecting local wildlife. These have been distributed to hotels, libraries, and other city halls from Pacific Grove up to Marina.
Through the great work of the Planning Commission, we greatly streamlined the permit approval process in Pacific Grove; came up with common sense language around a variety of issues; updated the building a fire codes for downtown, and put in place a new and simplified sign ordinance. This includes graphics that make it easier to understand and use the city’s policy, and streamlines the process and provides for over-the-counter review and approval. Right now the ordinance applies to just downtown, but eventually we will have streamlined ordinances for the Forest Hill, Central Avenue and American Tin Cannery areas also. We also updated the business license ordinance.
During the holiday season we also increased parking limit times in most areas of the city in order to attract shoppers to our downtown.
The City improved infrastructure in many areas, of course, but one of the notable projects was a major sewer and storm drain replacement project on Sinex, Gibson, 14th Street, and Junipero Avenue. What we had here was some very old pipes – some dating to 1911. There were collapsing pipes as well as potential cross contamination from the sewer lines to the storm drain lines. Since these latter run down to Greenwood Park and the ocean, this had serious repercussion for our efforts to keep pollutants out of the ocean and to have clean water for swimming around Lovers Point.
In order to meet environmental compliance needs, in 2012-2013 the last few years we have replaced ten or more miles of sewer and storm drain lines and rebuilt many of our pump stations, giving us a more solid infrastructure that should last for many years. We also worked with Monterey One Water to fix their pump stations also. While not sexy, what goes on underneath the streets of the city is very important, and we have committed to making necessary improvements because all of this is necessary to have a smooth running city. Much of this work will also keep pollution from running into the bay, protecting the wildlife there.
These were HUGE and expensive undertakings and paid for from several sources; including both Pacific Grove budgeted funds and state grants. We also expanded two dry weather diversion storm drain outfalls near the Hopkins Marin Lab and at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (part of which is in the City of Pacific Grove).
Recently several state agencies issued orders on how cities need to handle stormwater that goes into the ocean. These new orders have created major headaches for cities throughout California but, because Pacific Grove started working on ASBS issues ten years ago – installing five Capture and Diversion System (CDS) units in place from the Aquarium to Lovers Point – our city is way ahead of most cities for these requirements. The CDS units create a trash and pollution barrier, and much of the stormwater heading to the ocean is captured, treated, and diverted to the Monterey One Water pollution control plant in Marina. All of these were very important because, while not sexy, what goes on underneath the city is very important; and we committed to making the necessary improvements.
Walking has become more and more recognized as a basic form of transportation, and something that contributes to improved health and fitness for a city’s residents. Virtually every trip that a person undertakes, regardless of his/her eventual mode of travel, has a walking component. And walking constitutes higher percentage of trips taken in dense urban areas, downtowns, around schools and colleges, and in areas where public transit is an important way of getting around.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have pushed constantly for the repair and extension of our sidewalk network in Pacific Grove. In their “High Hats and Parasols” section of the March 2011 edition, the Cedar Street Times quoted something from a 1911 newspaper. The quote was: “In 1911 Pacific Grove enjoyed few paved roads, fewer paved sidewalks. The laxness of the town council prompted private citizens to take up the cause.” Over 100 years later, and with external funding available to add to our own, we are making a concerted effort to rectify this situation. Over the next several years we will fill in the gaps in the sidewalk network on the main streets of Pacific Grove.
I developed an ordinance which started the process of developing a long-term strategy around sidewalk. Well now the Public Works department will be spending $60,000 per year for about 10 years to put in ADA compliant ramps and to add or repair sidewalks where they are needed. We have also already fixed about 7,800 linear feet of sidewalks and put in over 240 ADA compliant curb rams at the corners of sidewalks.
We have also replaced about two thirds of the burned out street lights in Candy Cane Lane – with more to come. Our Public Works department installed ramps and a lighted crosswalk in front of the school, this will be a much better lighted – and safer – area. This work includes the addition of the flashing light crosswalks or side flashing lights in multiple locations for additional safety, as well as the addition of stop signs and marked crosswalks in needed areas to improve pedestrian safety. Following our councils’ plan, additional crosswalks are also being set up at high-traffic intersections.
After some delays, we finally installed lights in the golf course parking lot for safety in the evenings. We have also contracted with CourseCo, a major golf course management company, to manage the city’s golf course in a professional manner. Several years ago a new sign was put up at the entrance to the course with the words “All Are Welcome” prominently displayed. Because of look of the Clubhouse, and the location of the Links next to the ocean, some people previously thought it was a private club and wouldn’t go in. The course is looking good, still has discount cards for locals, and is operating at a high level of professionalism.
In April of 2013 I attended a meeting of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and made an appeal for that agency to fund several local projects – making a verbal application to them that one of the projects be Pacific Grove’s Local Water Project.
In December of 2017 we completed the project and commissioned it to convert waste water to non-potable water for our golf course. To ensure the health of our golf course and parks, Pacific Grove became one of the first communities to build their own non-potable water recycling facility. By repurposing an old, retired sewage treatment plant the city saved a great deal of money. This allowed the city to store the recycled water in existing water storage tanks by utilizing the refurbished Point Pinos concrete tanks and build a recycled water distribution pump station, along with ancillary improvements. The facility also contains advanced noise and odor controls so as not to disturb nearby residents, and will provide up to 125 acre-feet per year of non-potable water to irrigate the city’s 18-hole ocean-front golf course, the city cemetery next door, and nearby parkland. Since this water is less expensive than potable water from Cal Am, it also saves the golf course a great deal of money.
As a result, the City has taken over the Cal-Am meter that feeds the golf course, and two other meters have been eliminated. Those meters provided water to the front nine holes of the golf course and are no longer needed. Other golf courses – and other cities – will do this also but Pacific Grove is a leader. That’s a great place to be, and shows the vision of both the city staff and the council on which I served. Since this project freed up to 125 acre feet of water for the Carmel River and other uses, the city was allocated 49 acre feet of potable water for our own purposes.
After a lot of work, the Water Policy Subcommittee (which I was a part of) developed a city water process to allocate and sell the potable water freed up by the city’s Local Water Project. This included developing a new city policy and ordinance on the use of water – eliminating the old ordinance and implementing the new one.
We worked hard to keep a balanced city budget and not spend more than we expected to take in. There are always requests to do more than a city is doing already. Even if we spent three times as much there would still be more requests to fulfil “desires”. It is therefore necessary for any council to balance what is really important and to plan for the long-term
We have rolled out a Facade Improvement Program to great success. You may have noticed that some of our businesses downtown are already looking better; and the program is being renewed for the coming year. At the same time, we also have a downtown improvement/flower basket program and have new trash containers. As part of the general improvements, you will also soon start seeing new and improved newspaper racks. All of these things will make our city more attractive for both residents and visitors.