Represented the residents of Pacific Grove on the City Council; and represented the city to other cities and regional and state agencies.
Advocated for fiscally responsible spending and left the city of Pacific Grove with an $11.8 million surplus.
Evaluated and promoted the feasibility of community power aggregation; providing multi-city support to homeless organizations; and worked with developers and the business community to bring about several major and important downtown enhancement projects.
As a member of the Board of Directors – and as Board Chair for two years – I worked to provide a sufficient and reliable supply of low-cost water for the residents of the Monterey Peninsula.
My feelings about serving on the Council:
One of the goals of every member of the City Council after they get elected is to do something to make the city better than when we joined the council. We do not include in our oath the part that the Police incorporate in theirs to “leave the city better than it was when entrusted to us”. But we all DO swear “I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.” Well, we all run on a platform that we will do what is necessary to make Pacific Grove a better community, so I regard it as pretty much the same thing.
The question for all of us, however, becomes “How do we do that”. We do that by making the best decisions we can based on the information we have and in the context of what we promised the voters when we ran. That will not make everyone happy, but it will just have to do. I once told a Congressman I know that I was sworn in at my first meeting and sworn at during the second. He just thought for a moment and then said “Yes, that’s about the sequence of things”.
Looking back after serving eight years on the City Council – as well as with some regional organizations – I can honestly say that I left things much better that when I took on the job.
Accomplishments while on the City Council:
I was fortunate to be a part of a very smart, active, organized, and focused City Council. As a result, we accomplished a great deal in the eight years I served on the council, and left in place the framework to complete major city projects for many years to come.
I feel that from 2010 to 2018 Pacific Grove went through a real and positive transformation. We loosened up rules dealing with windows in homes, streamlined the building permit process, and simplified our ordinance for signs for the businesses downtown. We have much longer hours for our library, fixed up our parks and ball fields, built a new Children’s Pool in 2013, the Point Pinos Lighthouse is looking great, Lover’s Point has been transformed, and more that $2 million was raised to renovate the city’s historic Carnegie Library.
The city did a lot of work to improve the Recreation Trail from Lovers Point to Asilomar beach. This included fixing up the existing path, building raised wooden walkways in parts to protect native plants and animal, and putting a lookout platform at one of the more scenic points.
We fixed up miles of roads, added sidewalks in many areas that needed them, and improved the crosswalks near our schools to make sure our children can cross the streets safely. Pacific Grove still has more to do, but is well on the way to having a city that the rest of the Peninsula will envy – and we did all this while managing our budget very carefully – building up a surplus of $11.8 million.
Many of these accomplishments were the result of the City Council and the residents of our community coming together to raise money and work together on something we all believed in. Those people all deserve our thanks, and I am happy that we have such people in the city.
Here are some specifics on the things we have done – sometimes differently:
Working with City Staff – 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.
Improving Business – After many years of restrictions on expanding our hotels, motels, and Bed and Breakfast Inns, the citizens of Pacific Grove passed a ballot Measure which the city and the Chamber of Commerce introduced to allow those places to update and expand their properties. Several of them have since added more rooms 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.
Tree Ordinance – After many years of a very controversial and divisive tree ordinance, we finally pushed through a policy that lets people control their own yards. 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 of the previous ordinance, 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 remaining plant able 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.
Public Safety – 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 Police Officers Association agreement that closely aligns with the contract for the city’s other employee groups. The new multi-year agreement included the restoration of health benefits to make the city a more attractive place for police officers to work.
Lovers Point – 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 an 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.
Community Events – The Feast of Lanterns is an annual community celebration; but it also gives several young women and men in our local community the opportunity to develop their poise, public speaking abilities, and represent our community in public. This was 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.
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.
Sports – 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!
The Library – By carefully allocating the city’s money, over the past few years we have been able to increase the Pacific Grove Library’s hours and increase the library’s budget and staff substantially! We 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 upgraded the building and the landscape in 2013, giving the library a bright, new look.
The library continues to have great support in the 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 and completed in 2021.
The Museum – Over the past several years we also had the city owned 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.
Monarch Sanctuary – 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.
Business Practices – 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 the city library and schools for poetry related purposes.
Scuba Diver Safety – 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.
Environmental Action and Protecting Coastal Wildlife – 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 the state’s Asilomar Conference Center, the Audubon Society, 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.
Addressing the Issue of Homelessness – While on the council we received an ongoing series of requests to do something for the homeless. I attended meetings and presentations on this topic with PG Councilman Ken Cuneo, as well as mayors, council people, and homeless advocates from every city on the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas.
The presentations were interesting; but no one quantified the scope of the problem or what it would cost to address it. They just wanted to do something – anything – to help address a problem they saw around them but couldn’t “fix”. There were many people who volunteered their time to help the homeless, but they had few resources.
So I did some thinking about it, and what cities might be able to do with public taxpayer dollars. As part of this I brainstormed with other officials and city managers and developed “The Pacific Grove Homeless Challenge”; the idea being that each city make a modest but ongoing contribution which – combined with contributions from other communities – would allow those homeless advocates to finance some of their ideas of how to develop programs and solutions on a sustainable basis.
Ken and I presented this to the Pacific Grove City Council, which agreed – if we convinced other cities to join and if we did all the work. We then attended numerous City Council and County Board of Supervisor meetings throughout Monterey County to sell the idea. Eventually, four cities (Pacific Grove, Monterey, Carmel by the Sea, and Sand City) agreed to participate; while Seaside decided to address the problem only in their city, but using the same formula of one dollar per city resident per year toward the effort. We also involved the Monterey County Department of Social Services in what we were doing.
This led to multiple organizations being able to do concrete things, including: the One Starfish and their police supervised overnight safe parking program; the Gathering for Women and their facility to provide services; the Fund for Homeless Women so they could expand the services they provide; I Help (Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program) to add an overnight housing program for women to their services; The Gathering Place, the Salvation Army’s Good Samaritan Center in Sand City, and The Coalition of Homeless Services Providers.
The effort has now gone on for several years and I hope it will be continued for decades to come.
Municipal Code – Workable building and sign ordinance – 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 increase parking limit times in most areas of the city in order to attract shoppers to our downtown.
Improving Infrastructure – 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.
Sidewalks – 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 sidewalks. 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 or installed over two miles 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 also installed ramps and a lighted crosswalk in front of the middle school, making this 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.
Golf Course – 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.
The Local Water Project – 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 that 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 for this purpose rather than building a new facility, 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, The lighthouse across the street, as well as 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 used to provide water to the golf course but 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 State Water Resources Control Board allocated 49-acre feet of potable water to the city for our own purposes.
City Water Policy – 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, and eliminating the old one.
City expenditures – 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. Taking this approach, we built up an $11.8 million reserve.
To revitalize downtown we 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.
Summary – The Pacific Grove City Council of 2010 to 2018 made some tough decisions, but they were decisions that greatly benefited the whole community. While there will always be some who criticize what wasn’t done, a lot was done. I can assure you that our decisions were made with the interests of everyone in mind and, over the next several years, I believe that there will be even more positive actions taken as a result of what we started. In fact, some of what is happening in our city has gotten regional attention, enhancing the once poor reputation our city.
Like all cities, Pacific Grove does have problems; though for the most part is in great shape. Our roads and sewer system have been being repaired and upgraded. We are looking at ways to improve lighting in some of the neighborhoods where very old and antiquated street lights are failing. Our sidewalk network is being expanded year by year. Our high school has received much support from the community, people move here just to get into the school district, and the children at our schools continue to achieve the high scores in academic achievement test.
A Forward Look at Issues – During the eight years I was on the council, we made significant progress with our city’s finances. We now need to think about the future and how we can make the city better for all of its residents, however. That means fixing up infrastructure while staying within budget. During my time on the City Council I continually pushed to fix up our roads, sidewalks, streetlights, shoreline, and parks. My standard pitch was that the work won’t get less costly if we wait, so let’s do it now. My goal was to protect, preserve and renew our city assets and natural resources; not just the sewers, streets, and sidewalks; but also things such as the Monarch Sanctuary, Point Pinos Lighthouse, Golf Links, Coastal Trail, and the urban parks and forests that residents love and which brings visitors
That is why I was heartened when one of the first goals the new council adopted was “Complete what has been started”. I feel this was recognition that we had started things on the right track and that our residents will continue to be taken care of. I still want to see an increase in the city’s revenue through organic growth; enticing companies to move to Pacific Grove, as well as growing local businesses to make Pacific Grove a vibrant and fiscally sound city.
Sitting on the Board of Monterey One Water (MRWPCA) – I was also involved with the regional effort to solve half of the Peninsula’s 40+ years old water problems. While the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency (MRWPCA) – Now Monterey One Water (M1W) – had been recycling water for agricultural uses for decades. But that was what it was focused on – collect the regions’ waste water, clean it up and provide some of it to the agricultural community for non-cooked vegetables. This allowed those interests to refrain from pumping even more water from our over-drafted aquifers.
But the agricultural interests still preferred to use less expensive well water whenever they could and, as a result, we still had thousands of acre feet of partially cleaned up water flowing to the ocean. Then the idea surfaced to build a plant to clean that up further to potable water standards. Though this type of recycling is still not common, Orange County has had a plant doing that for decades, and I had visited that plant while on the board.
As the Board Chair at the time, I worked with Paul Sciuto – the agency’s head – to convince Board members it was a good idea to also now build a water recycling plant to produce potable water for injection into the local aquifers. Approval for this proposal was not a given; as several members did not want us (as a wastewater agency) to also become a water provider. Other Board Members represented interests who were against the Peninsula using water which they felt should remain available to agriculture in the future. Others just thought the local water company should go ahead with a larger and more expensive project. This project was also somewhat tricky because a public agency formed for one use (collect and clean up wastewater) can’t use the money those ratepayers pay it for other purposes
As the Board Chair I regularly met with the head of the agency and knew what we needed to do to bring the project about. But I also had a good sense of where the other Board members stood as far as their support for – or opposition to – such a project. So, without violating California’s Brown Act, I held meetings and had lunches with enough of the right people to address their objections and convince them to support the project and, when we held the meeting to approve it, the project passed easily.
We then developed agreements with the Marina Coast Water District, the city of Salinas, the city of Seaside (for access to the best well sites), the grower’s community, and various state agencies for extra “source water” which could allow us to produce about one third of what the Peninsula needs. We received an $83 million loan at 1% – as well as $25 million in grants – from the State Water Resources Control Board. We then worked out a three-way water purchase agreement with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management Agency to buy the water and then sell it to the purveyor – Cal Am.
This project was developed as Pure Water Monterey and, almost as soon as we had the funding, several groups asked if we could expand the size of the project. The project proved challenging, but was finally completed. Pure Water Monterey then injected 1,000 acre-feet of water for a reserve, after which we started to produce 3,500-acre feet per year for community use. While it took a few years to pull everything together, the expansion to produce another 2,200-acre feet per year will now go forward. As a result, Monterey One Water will soon provide the whole Monterey Peninsula with about half of the water it uses.
There were some lessons learned along the way to building and bringing the original plant on-line; and those lessons will be applied to the expansion. Because of problems injecting water into local vadose wells, for instance, the agency will put in more Deep Injection Wells instead – including extra capacity to allow regularly scheduled well cleaning and backflushing.
I am very happy with the Pure Water Monterey recycled water plant. I was the Board Chair when we approved the plant, spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony, and attended the ribbon cutting when it finally came on-line. The expansion will help the Monterey Peninsula immensely, but more still needs to be done to ensure that we have a sufficient, robust, and reliable water supply for us to have a healthy Peninsula.