12 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY august 31-september 6, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com On an overcast morning on Friday, Aug. 25, as jets of water from sprinklers rain down on the surrounding fields of lettuce, a gaggle of journalists, politicians and public officials are gathered at a press event along the Pajaro River levee, just more than a stone’s throw from where it breached last March. The breach occurred after weeks of sustained rainfall on the Central Coast, and it wasn’t a surprise—for over 50 years, federal, state and local officials have known the levee was deficient, but there was never enough buy-in, or urgency, to do something about it. Seemingly, that is starting to change, but time will tell if it’s real, or just a public relations band-aid to save face after the flooding in the community of Pajaro, which displaced thousands of residents from their homes and left some of those homes unlivable. The topic du jour was an update on repairs to the existing levee, and the main takeaway was that the repairs would be completed—hopefully—by the end of November. Monterey County Supervisor Glenn Church, whose district includes Pajaro, called the project “an opportunity to make a better, stronger, more resilient levee.” Supervisor Luis Alejo said, “Monterey County is committed to staying in the foxhole to the very end” with respect to the project. The Army Corps of Engineers, which originally built the levee in 1949, is responsible for the current repair and ultimate reconstruction of the levee system, but once the agency’s work is done, it falls upon local jurisdictions to maintain it. Mark Strudley, executive director of the Pajaro River Flood Management Agency says the reconstruction of the levee system—not the repairs, which are happening right now—is expected to begin sometime in 2024. But that timeline is dependent on the proposed project sailing through the regulatory process with little resistance. To that end, California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, introduced a bill, AB 876, that is intended to reduce those hurdles. It’s expected to be voted on by mid-September. In a statement Rivas’ office sent out Tuesday, Aug. 29, Assemblymember Dawn Addis, D-Morro Bay, called the bill a “thoughtful and urgent response” to the flooding in Pajaro earlier this year. State Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, said in the statement that he “strongly [supports] expediting repairs and enhancements to flood protection to ensure Pajaro can both recover as quickly as possible, and be protected from future catastrophes in this new age of unpredictable weather.” Various pandemic relief funds that served as a cushion to help pay rent or cover burial and funeral costs are phasing out. Some relief programs, including California’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), still have money to keep providing services while they last, and are transitioning to something that goes beyond an emergency. The rental assistance program helped over 8,200 low-income households in Monterey County with paying overdue past rent and up to three months of future rent. “We really believe it made a difference,” says Josh Madfis, vice president of community investments at United Way Monterey County, the agency charged with administering the program locally. United Way still has $1.6 million of the $50 million of combined state and federal dollars it was responsible for distributing to qualifying renters. In March, the U.S. Department of the Treasury shifted ERAP funds from rental assistance to rental stabilization. The local ERAP application process closed in April 2023, and fewer than 100 families remain on ERAP’s waiting list; United Way is working to process their applications. “We think we have enough funds to help those people, but we’ve also now been able to provide funding for this new program—housing stabilization,” says Katy Castagna, CEO of United Way Monterey County. About $600,000 will be used to help those remaining waitlisted families. The remaining funds (about $1 million) will be distributed through United Way’s partners in the new housing stabilization program. So far, United Way has distributed $349,150 to five partners, including the City of Greenfield, Monterey County Office of Education and Goodwill Central Coast. Each partner will use the funds to provide housing stabilization resources that best serve their community. That may include rental application fees, deposits or landlord mediation. Slow Flow Neglected for decades, the Pajaro levee is finally holding attention of policymakers. By David Schmalz news Build Up Here’s your chance to weigh in on what design features you’d like to see in an affordable housing development. Nonprofit developer Eden Housing is seeking public input on a project coming to 855 East Laurel Drive in Salinas, to be located on currently vacant County of Monterey property. Burritos from El Charrito will be provided at this meeting. 6-8pm Thursday, Aug. 31. Everett Alvarez High School theater, 1900 Independence Blvd., Salinas. Free. (510) 582-1460, edenh ousing.org. Clean and Green Volunteer to pick up trash at Lovers Point Park and keep this public space beautiful. 9-11am Monday, Sept. 4. Lovers Point (meet near the Beach House Restaurant on the lawn), 631 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove. Free. 6483100, cityofpacificgrove.org. Talk to the Manager Monterey City Manager Hans Uslar holds a monthly presentation to provide updates on city policies and programs and respond to public questions. 9:30-10am Wednesday, Sept. 6. Event takes place virtually at youtube.com/ cityofmonterey. Work For It The Monterey County Workforce Development Center offers a job fair with multiple employers. Learn about career opportunities and bring your resume. 1-4pm Wednesday, Sept. 6. Cesar Chavez Library, 615 Williams Road, Salinas. Free. 796-3341, montereycountywdb.org. How Fast? Monterey County Parks officials are considering an update to a county ordinance on e-bikes. The current ordinance allows the use of e-bikes on paved roads only—no dirt trail use is allowed. They invite the public to weigh in through a survey. Whether you’re a hiker, equestrian or cyclist, your input is welcome. Sept. 15 deadline to complete survey online at bit.ly/MoCoebikesurvey. Serve the Sea The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is seeking applicants to serve on its advisory council, representing the public’s interest. Seats are open for two at-large positions and an alternate, as well as people who represent the tourism industry, and the education, commercial fishing and diving communities. Sept. 15 deadline to apply. 647-4206, Haven.Parker@noaa.gov, montereybay. noaa.gov/sac/recruit.html. In House United Way starts a rent stabilization program with remaining Covid-19 rental assistance funds. By Celia Jiménez Mark Strudley of the Pajaro River Flood Management Agency—a multi-jurisdictional body that includes Monterey County—speaks at a press conference on Aug. 25. e-mail: publiccitizen@mcweekly.com TOOLBOX “Monterey County is committed to staying in the foxhole.” Daniel Dreifuss