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Time for Sand City to be city no more

Comments and Herald Editorial -- Feb. 15, 2009

Webmaster Note:

Ironically, the Monterey Herald has proven our point that city politicians love large hotels with which to provide more tax revenues. Below, the Herald editorializes that Sand City should “disincorporate” because they are doing what most cities do best, expanding their tax base. In this case, the city fathers of Sand City want to build a hotel on beachfront property. The opponents of Carmel Valley incorporation have long said that a new city would encourage more hotels and commercial buildings in order to pay for increased governmental services, operations and debt. Someone has to pay for another layer of government.

If voters refuse to raise city taxes, local politicians will have no choice but to encourage developers to build, perhaps employing abusive eminent domain powers through a redevelopment agency. Moreover, city authorities routinely offer all sorts of financial incentives and subsidizes to get developers to build -- again, at the expense of taxpayers and property owners. Similarly, the city of Seaside is now drooling over a proposed 250-room hotel and convention center by Reggie Jackson. And yet we hear not a word from the Herald calling for the disincorporation of Seaside.

Apparently, the Monterey Herald sees no inconsistencies in wanting Sand City to disincorporate over building a hotel, while its editorial boards want Carmel Valley to incorporation. For some reason, the Herald believes that the politicians of a possible Carmel Valley city would never have the same commercial ambitions now felt in Sand City.

Editorial: Time for Sand City to be city no more
The Monterey County Herald
Posted: 02/15/2009 01:33:35 AM PST

One of the early proponents of incorporating Sand City said he preferred a different name, Enterprise City, because that's what the place was all about. Enterprise and industry.

Another supporter, who would become one of Sand City's first City Council members after incorporation in 1960, said it would be a haven for barely regulated commerce: "Sand City, I hope, will not bar anyone from doing anything within reason."

It became a city largely because owners of the sand and gravel-mining operations along the beach feared that county officials might regulate them out of existence, and because the relative handful of residents were told they'd pay higher property taxes if their homes along the dunes were annexed to neighboring Seaside instead.

It has for decades been a place for exploitation of the beach and the sand, for making a buck from the bayfront location.

Today, sadly, the exploitation continues and is poised to expand with city leaders seriously considering approval of a large hotel and conference center to be built into the dunes. Against all odds, Santa Rosa developer Ed Ghandour is back with plans to wring a few more dollars out of the sand. Though his blueprints for a high-rise hotel were shelved long ago by the Coastal Commission, a judge's ruling on procedural issues has given his project new life.

Ghandour's project is back in low-rise form as the cleverly named "Ecoresort," which might, in fact, be a model of environmentalism if it were built somewhere appropriate. But by now, it is clear to anyone who has studied the issue that there is hardly a worse place to build than on a beach, no matter how long the list of "mitigation measures." It disrupts natural oceanfront processes and, more often than not, creates problems that require expensive solutions long after the builder has moved on.

Just about anywhere else along California's coastline, Ghandour's plan would receive a quick thumbs down. But not in Sand City, where visions of hotel tax income seem to be blinding city officials.
It is time for Sand City's exploitation of the sand to end, for the hotel project to be stopped, and for steps to be taken to repair the damage allowed over the decades by a dollar-chasing city government. Litigation could take care of the hotel and the necessary clean-up, but a better idea, from the perspective of all of those who care about the bay and the shore, could be for Sand City to be a city no more.

"Disincorporation" of California cities is uncommon. It hasn't happened since 1972, when the small town of Cabazon reverted to Riverside County to county governance and the tiny community of Hornitos in Mariposa County went out of business.

It most likely would be a tough sell here, for it would need to be approved by Sand City residents, who number fewer than 400, some of whom must benefit from the easy tax money that flows into the city treasury from Costco, Target, Borders, etc., etc.

But there must be some Sand City residents who recognize the huge mistake made when the last beachfront hotel was approved here—the sand-displacing, erosion-creating, concrete-shielded Best Western Beach Resort. The local decision allowing that one helped persuade California voters to create the beach-protecting Coastal Commission in 1972.

Incorporation took considerable effort and it had the advantage of well-heeled backers willing to pay for the footwork. A disincorporation movement — putting Sand City's 320 acres back under Monterey County's political jurisdiction — would set off a difficult and most likely lengthy fight.

But there are those in this community who view the beach and the bay as sacred places to be protected, not commercialized. We suspect some would be willing to help.

The alternative is to sit back and trust the government to do the right thing. Considering how things have worked in Sand City over the years, we wouldn't bet on it.

Last Updated: Feb 16, 09

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