Since LandWatch’s inception in 1997, we’ve seen many land use, litigation, and policy successes. These were usually spurred by unsustainable developments and/or poor decisions at the local or regional level. These accomplishments offer a snapshot of the success and challenges we’ve seen over our organization’s history.
- Led efforts to extend Marina’s urban growth boundary (UGB), the first in Monterey County. LandWatch is now spearheading efforts with Marina leaders and local residents to support Measure Q which extends the UGB through 2040. Marina 2040 will continue to improve the quality of life and help ensure sustainable development in the city-center.
- Led a coalition of community leaders and activists to end the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA). Established in 1994, FORA was officially terminated on June 30, 2020 after reaching its 2nd sunset date. FORA was known for being untethered to economic reality and furthered a free-spending, environmentally damaging, and unreflective bureaucracy.
- Strongly advocated for workforce housing in the revised Rancho Cañada Village project, where the developer asked the County to eliminate its 30% workforce housing requirement.on the project.
- Served on the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency and extensively reviewed its first Groundwater Sustainability Plan with a focus on achieving actual groundwater sustainability.
- Rallied public support to keep the door open for the Pure Water Monterey expansion—the water recycling facility—even writing an OpEd to this end. Special interests conspired to kill the expansion and force a $1.2 billion desalination plant upon ratepayers. After a tremendous public outcry, the Monterey One Board made the sensible decision to allow its staff to continue working on the expansion.
- Supported allowing the safe reopening of businesses by closing public streets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This lets retailers expand into those public spaces, maintain physical distancing, keep customer safe, and help boost the economy.
- Released a new online (and downloadable) publication: LandWatch Monterey County: A Short History. This is the story of how LandWatch came to be, the tools we used to be successful, and ways in which we made progress protecting the quality of life in Monterey County.
- Supported the Pure Water Monterey project, to create drinking water for Peninsula residents. We opposed CalAm’s desalination project, just as the Coastal Commission staff and more than a dozen elected officials opposed it too.
- Supported climate-friendly affordable housing throughout the region. LandWatch advocated for city-centered housing projects in Pacific Grove, Greenfield, and Monterey, including a rezone of Garden Road to allow for apartments.
- Reviewed the Salinas Valley groundwater sustainability plan and provided exhaustive technical and legal analysis we hope compels the groundwater agency to make major improvements.
- Helped end the wasteful Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA). Since 2016, LandWatch documented FORA’s failures to remove blight, generate jobs, and protect the environment. Aware of these failures, the California Legislature decided to let FORA sunset in June 2020.
- Defeated Harper Canyon when the Superior Court overturned the poorly planned project because the environmental analysis was faulty—so faulty the public couldn’t adequately comment on the document.
- Forced Paraiso Hot Springs Mega Resort to address fire safety issues worsened by climate change. LandWatch opposed the Paraiso project because of its dangerous location, inadequate access, and impacts to local farmers. The County Planning Commission approved the project with stringent new safety conditions that encourage the developer to reduce the project’s scale.
- LandWatch, Keep Fort Ord Wild (KFOW), and Marina Coast Water District (MCWD) settled a lawsuit challenging MCWD’s proposed annexation of undeveloped portions of the former Fort Ord. The settlement commits MCWD not to provide, or commit to provide, a groundwater-sourced water supply for new residential units in Fort Ord beyond the 6,160 residential unit cap in the Fort Ord Reuse Plan.
- Assisted MCWD in its challenge to the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) approval of the California American Water (CalAm) desalination project by submitting to the California Supreme Court an amicus brief in support of MCWD’s petition. LandWatch argued that the CPUC failed to consider expansion of the Pure Water Monterey recycled water facility as a lower-cost and less risky method to meet the Peninsula’s water demand.
- Developed presentations on climate change and its impacts to Monterey County, while two interns created presentations on groundwater sustainability and tourism impacts to Big Sur.
- Supported the City of Monterey’s ambitious plans to transform Fremont Avenue into a bike- and pedestrian friendly mixed use corridor—revitalizing its downtown.
- Documented the potential for ~23,000 new residential units throughout Monterey County, most of them largely unaffordable to local residents. LandWatch’s updated report Approved/Unbuilt Residential Projects in Monterey County identifies more than 9,000 unbuilt residential units that have been approved throughout Monterey County. With the exception of a few projects in litigation, all of these units are legally entitled and could theoretically be built today.
- Commented and testified on projects proposed throughout the region, including: River View at Las Palmas, and the water swap for Campus Town, and policies like: the City of Monterey’s Downtown Specific Plan, Carmel’s Short Term Rental Ban, Del Rey Oaks Housing Element (which we ultimately sued on) and FORA’s Habitat Conservation Plan.
- After years of battling Ferrini Ranch, LandWatch helped create conditions that enabled to the Ag Land Trust to offer an easement for the land that effectively removed development rights. The 870 acres is now permanently protected.
- Won the court decision on Harper Canyon because the court concluded that the Draft Environmental Impact Report’s Groundwater Resources and Hydrogeology analysis “was so fundamentally and basically inadequate and conclusory in nature that meaningful public review and comment were precluded,” which violates the California Environmental Quality Act.
- Commented on FORA’s Eastside Parkway requesting a more sensible transportation plan that actually identifies regional transportation needs, and supported improvements to existing roads to address those needs, but opposed a new road through valuable oak woodlands.
- Supported Monterey City policy of allocating limited water supplies to mixed use housing and commercial projects, not to commercial projects solely. Monterey City Council voted 5-0 to continue its policy.
- Settled a lawsuit against the Marina Coast Water District’s declaration that the proposed expansion of its service areas would have no environmental impact. The Marina Coast Water District proposed to annex currently undeveloped Fort Ord areas, which would facilitate increased pumping of the already over-drafted Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin to provide water for projected development on Fort Ord. The settlement removed undeveloped and unentitled parcels from the annexation and also committed the District to serving a maximum of 6,160 new residential units as required under the Fort Ord Reuse Plan.
- Supported Measure M and J and opposed Proposition 6.
- Supported the inclusion of 20% affordable units in the redevelopment of the Nurses Barracks, which was considered by the Seaside City Council. This was included by the City and approved unanimously to enter into an agreement with the developer.
- Supported 420 much-needed multi-family residential units in Sand City’s South of Tioga project. Opposed the 216 hotel rooms because approximately 2,000 new hotel units have already been approved on Monterey Peninsula. Sand City Council approved both.
- In testimony before the Monterey County Historic Resources Review Committee, advocated for proper mitigation and a serious penalty to be recommended by the Monterey County Historic Resources Review Board as it relates to the Paraiso Hot Spring project for its illegal demolition of nine historic structures.
- Testified that the Monterey County Board of Supervisors support a long-standing agreement between the County and the City of Salinas that prevents the City of Salinas from expanding south onto prime farmland. The Board rejected the City’s request and established a committee to study the issue further.
- Surveyed mayoral and council candidates on land use, housing, transportation, FORA, and other issues so supporters and the public could understand each candidates’ position.
- Wrote an OpEd supporting the sunset of FORA as legislatively mandated.
- Submitted comments on the Recirculated Draft EIR (EIR) for the Paraiso Springs Resort project – a megaresort in the middle of the Paraiso farm community, a bit east of Soledad. The EIR does not adequately assess or mitigate the Resort’s impacts.
- Questioned Seaside’s Campus Town Plan proposal for 1,485 housing units, 250 hotel rooms, 75 youth hostel rooms, 150,000 square feet of retail and restaurants; and 50,000 square feet of office space on 85 acres because of faulty assumptions on water.
- Supported Garden Road rezoning in Monterey to allow for mixed use and multi-family units.
- Supported Walnut Street apartments for farmworkers in Greenfield.
- Commented on environmental documents for Rio Ranch Market; Salinas Travel Center; Monterey Peninsula Airport Master Plan.
- Supported the legal actions of the Carmel Valley Association (CVA) to point out deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Report for Rancho Cañada. Courts ruled in favor of CVA.
- Appointed Michael DeLapa permanent Executive Director.
- Published Op-ed Sustainability in the hospitality industry means smart land use countywide in Monterey County Weekly.
- Testified along with FANS’ co-founder Mari Kloeppel and current legal counsel Molly Erickson before the Coastal Commission on the several deleterious projects in North County on several occassions. We described the severe decades-long water problems in North County and at those meetings the Commission unanimously denied the proposed residential subdivisions (Sunridge, Rancho Roberto, Mayr) in North County.
- Supported the 75 unit Casa Boronda project in Salinas which builds farmworker housing in time for the 2018 crop. It received unanimous support from the Monterey County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
- Testified before the California Coastal Commission in opposition to removing the requirement for permanently affordable housing at Moro Cojo. The Coastal Commission voted (5-5) to support LandWatch’s position.
- Co-sponsored with the Transportation Agency of Monterey County a public forum on options for improving safety and congestion on Highway 68.
- Testified before the Monterey County Board of Supervisors in opposition to Val Verde Subdivision, a 31 unit project. The Board of Supervisor unanimously denied the project.
- Commented on the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report for the California American Water Company (CalAm) desalination facility project, advocating careful review of Salinas Valley groundwater impacts from the proposed desalination source water wells.
- Testified against the City of Salinas’ Economic Development Element, which proposes to unnecessarily pave over more than 400 acres of prime farmland.
- Filed lawsuit with FANS against the California Coastal Commission for their approval of Rancho Los Robles, a 54-lot housing project in North Monterey that will worsen groundwater overdraft and threaten the ecological health of Elkhorn Slough.
- Appealed a lower court’s ruling on the Ferrini Ranch subdivision, a sprawling 185-lot housing project straddling Toro County Park along Highway 68. The project would have significant impacts on water, traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, and views.
Michael DeLapa appointed Interim Executive Director.
Testified in support of the Pebble Beach Inclusionary Housing Project where 25% of units were affordable and to be built on-site.
Published an Op-Ed “Beyond Monterey Downs: Bringing jobs to Seaside” calling for a new vision for economic development in Seaside.
Led a broad coalition of community organizations in successful opposition to Monterey Downs, a mega-development on open space that included a horseracing track, 1,300 residences, commercial buildings, a horse park, and other developments. The developer eventually refused to indemnify the City of Seaside forcing the City to rescind all project approvals.
Published Op-Ed “Ferrini Ranch, CEQA, and the Denial of Reality” presenting main arguments in LandWatch’s lawsuit against Ferrini Ranch.
Testified before the Coastal Commission on the proposed Sunridge Subdivision after a 12-year battle. The Coastal Commission upheld its staff recommendation to deny an extension, effectively killing the project.
- Supported Measure E, the Special Tax For Parks, Open Space And Coastal Preservation, protects natural lands, the coast, neighborhood parks and increases recreational access, which passed with 71.88% of the vote.
- Supported Measure X, the Transportation Safety and Investment Plan and Retail Transactions and Use Tax, focuses on local streets and roads, highways, and active transportation, which passed with 67.7% of the vote.
- Opposed Rancho Los Robles after the Monterey County Board of Supervisors approved a 33-acre, 76-lot subdivision in an area with severe groundwater limits.
Worked with Tanimura and Antle to add an on-site general store to the Tanimura and Antle Farmworker Housing Project (and with MST to run a bus line to the site. The Board of Supervisors approved the project with strong support from LandWatch.
Opposed the Carmel Canine Sports Center in Carmel Valley. The Board of Supervisors denied the project.
Supported the Transportation Agency for Monterey County sales tax ballot measure, Measure X, for road repair and alternative transportation.
- Commented extensively on the Paraiso Hot Springs Spa and Resort Draft Environmental Impact Report resulting in a decision to prepare a revised document.
- Worked with the City of Gonzales to establish an Urban Growth Boundary, LandWatch together with Supervisor Lou Calcagno got the city to stop growth at Gloria Road.
Worked with a coalition of neighbors opposed to converting an old hospital to a five-story building. The Board of Supervisors denied Villas de Carmelo.
Defeated the MST/Whispering Oaks project through a successful drive to put an initiative on the ballot and subsequent action by the Board of Supervisors.
Supported the 51-unit San Antonio affordable housing project in King City. The project was approved.
Worked to get the Corral de Tierra Shopping Center down-sized from 200,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet.
Commented extensively on the 2010 Monterey County General Plan and filed litigation challenging the adequacy of environmental review of groundwater resources for the Salinas Valley, steep slope conversions, and wildlife corridors.
Amy White succeeds Chris Fitz as executive director.
Worked with North County residents to oppose the Heritage Oaks subdivision, which was denied by the Board of Supervisors.
Blocked through litigation and two referendums, spanning a period of five years, the Rancho San Juan project, was the largest development ever proposed in the Salinas Valley. As a result of our work, this project was significantly downsized and a financial settlement was achieved. The settlement agreements included significant changes to the Monterey County General Plan including long term protections for lands designated by the state as being prime farmland or land of “state-wide” importance.
Supported the Marina Station project in Marina, which was approved. LandWatch played an important role in protecting vernal pools and persuading the Sierra Club to withdraw its litigation blocking the approval.
- Co-authored the Hybrid Regional Plan identifying a portfolio of projects to meet water supply needs for the Monterey Peninsula. Local water agencies subsequently adopted LandWatch’s approach.
Chris Fitz succeeds Gary Patton as executive director.
Established an important statewide precedent for citizen initiatives, ballot measures, and other cases through LandWatch litigation. On a 14-1 vote, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in the case of Padilla v. Lever that recall petitions and in other cases, initiatives, and referenda do not need to be translated into a minority language in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act. This decision led to LandWatch’s General Plan Initiative campaign, during which the organization raised over $800,000 in support of a community-backed General Plan. This campaign ultimately led to Rancho San Juan Butterfly Village being reduced in size, more open space preserved, and important land use protection included in the County General Plan.
Published “Land Use and the General Plan,” which outlines a set of recommended General Plan policies to address key planning issues, including affordable housing, the preservation of agricultural land, property rights, natural resource protection, water, permit process reform, and transportation and transit.
Opposed the Marks Ranch 275 unit subdivision and led citizens’ efforts to defeat the project. The Big Sur Land Trust ultimately purchased the Ranch.
Appealed the Sunridge View subdivision in North Monterey County by LandWatch and Friends and Neighbors of Elkhorn Slough before the California Coastal Commission resulting in a settlement that remains unimplemented. In late 2016 the Coastal Commission denied the project.
Published “Room Enough” Report on vacant lots of record in the County and cities.
Organized a General Plan Summit as part of our efforts on the General Plan.
Helped organize Líderes Comunitarios de Salinas (Community Leaders of Salinas) to advocate for affordable housing in the update of the Salinas General Plan.
Worked with Creekbridge Homes on the successful inclusion of 10 policies of Traditional Neighborhood Design in the Salinas General Plan update.
Worked for 18 months with stakeholders to create the inclusionary housing ordinance, called A Community Plan for the City of Salinas.
Engaged the community in the review of the Pajaro Valley Energy Center and provided extensive comments on the inadequacy of the environmental documents. The project was withdrawn.
- Helped to organize a successful ballot measure to establish an urban growth boundary around the City of Marina, the first Urban Growth Boundary in Monterey County.
- Assisted with organizing a successful ballot measure to stop Chualar II, a sprawling subdivision outside of Gonzales, that was opposed by local farmers, educators, and other citizens.
Published the State of Monterey County Report assessing the health of Monterey County across 14 categories.
- Incorporated LandWatch as a 501(c)3 non-profit by Michael DeLapa, Rebecca Shaw, Maggie Hardy, Keith Vandevere, and Joyce Stevens.