It’s just over a week since I published my little paean of praise to America’s Last Hometown Pacific Grove, only to find on checking out the slideshow on YouTube, that Pacific Grove appears to be threatened by the building of a particularly insensitive and out of scale hotel addition to the old Holman building (Holman’s Department Store is mentioned in John Steinbeck’s novel “Cannery Row”). The YouTube feature was an excerpt from a news item on the local television station. When the proposal was referred to the people of Pacific Grove it was rejected by a majority of 59 to 41 per cent. “Not because I don’t want a hotel or any other kind of development, but this plan was too large for the scale of the community, in my opinion,” Sarah McCandliss of Pacific Grove was quoted as saying. The hotel would have been constructed on what is at the moment a parking lot and did not include demolition of the existing Holman Building, but would incorporate it into the design. A change in Zoning regulations being required from the currently allowed maximum height to allow the project to proceed.
It appears that the Texas developer Drake Leddy now somewhat ruefully accepts that the whole matter should have been approached with greater sensitivity involving the community from the outset. He realizes it was the wrong process and maybe the wrong project,” Pacific Grove City Manager, Thomas Frutchey said: “He’s willing to think smaller; he’s willing to think about alternative approaches to the Holman Building. He’s very open-minded.”
There does however appear to be a clear conflict between the developer’s view of the underlying economics of such a development on this site and that of the great majority of the residents, given Leddy’s view that: ‘Such a development must hold at least 200 rooms to support the amenities of a grand hotel: spa, banquet facilities, meeting rooms, restaurants, swimming pool and shops’.
Leddy is quoted as saying to City Manager Frutchey: I don’t run my developments by committee, . . . I’m in control.” And perhaps therein lies the problem, had there been a more collegiate approach at the outset, including representation from the local community, the venture may have taken a different turn. However, given Leddy’s appraisal of the underlying economics of such a venture and, given the history and specific charms of Pacific Grove, it was probably a non-starter from the outset. All the more surprising then that the project in its various forms has been bubbling up, on and off, for over three years.
The proposed hotel would be owned by a partnership between Leddy’s company, Presidian Hotels & Resorts of San Antonio, and local owner of the Holman building, Nader Agha (also part owner of the local newspaper). However at the moment it appears that the development is on-hold and Leddy intends to let things settle, re-look at everything and see if there is a possibility for taking a different direction.
In this he is, it appears, facing doughty opposition from Sally Aberg, a 16-year Pacific Grove resident, apparently spearheading opposition to the proposals among Pacific Grove residents, who said that current city zoning would allow a much smaller boutique hotel., and that Leddy’s proposal was fundamentally at odds with Pacific Grove, adding. “We voted decades ago that we are a city of homes. . . new businesses need to recognize the character of this town.” But then, writing as someone who has been lucky enough to pay visits to PG on four separate occasions, staying twice at the Hyatt Regency and twice among the woody charms near Asilomar Boulevard, and has spent a fair amount of time walking, cycling and driving around the area, I would have to agree and venture that Pacific Grove in part gets its special appeal precisely because it is a township made up of small scale units: shops, restaurants and cafes, small bed and breakfasts, mid-scale hotels, historic Victorians but above all ‘homes’.
Comments quoted above taken from local press including the Monterey County Weekly
NIMBY (not in my backyard)