2 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com

www.montereycountyweekly.com OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 3  Emergency kit essentials  Home safety  Fire extinguisher how-tos  Emergency vehicles on display  And more Saturday, October 21 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey Emergency “starter kits” from Montage Health (free to first 500 attendees) Education and fun for all ages montagehealth.org/emergencyfair EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FAIR Be ready.

4 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 5-11, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com october 5-11, 2023 • ISSUE #1836 • Established in 1988 Kevin Ludwig (iPhone 13 Pro Max) A bevy of sand dollars washed up on Del Monte Beach recently—even a few live ones, which leave a trail. Monterey County photo of the week Send Etc. submissions to etcphoto@mcweekly.com; please include caption and camera info. On the cover: High-energy Texas red dirt group Shane Smith & The Saints—seen here performing in 2022—will return to the Rebels & Renegades Music Festival this year. Now in its second year, the festival features bands that blend the boundaries of country music, rock, Americana and bluegrass. Cover photo: PROPIXMEDIALIVE/Carlos Gonzales etc. Copyright © 2023 by Milestone Communications Inc. 668 Williams Ave., Seaside, California 93955 (telephone 831-394-5656). All rights reserved. Monterey County Weekly, the Best of Monterey County and the Best of Monterey Bay are registered trademarks. No person, without prior permission from the publisher, may take more than one copy of each issue. Additional copies and back issues may be purchased for $1, plus postage. Mailed subscriptions: $120 yearly, pre-paid. The Weekly is an adjudicated newspaper of Monterey County, court decree M21137. The Weekly assumes no responsibility for unsolicited materials. Visit our website at http://www.montereycountyweekly.com. Audited by CVC. Founder & CEO Bradley Zeve bradley@mcweekly.com (x103) Publisher Erik Cushman erik@mcweekly.com (x125) Editorial editor Sara Rubin sara@mcweekly.com (x120) features editor Dave Faries dfaries@mcweekly.com (x110) associate editor Tajha Chappellet-Lanier tajha@mcweekly.com (x135) Staff Writer Celia Jiménez celia@mcweekly.com (x145) Staff Writer Pam Marino pam@mcweekly.com (x106) Staff Writer Rey Mashayekhi rey@mcweekly.com (x102) Staff Writer Agata Pope¸da (x138) aga@mcweekly.com Staff Writer David Schmalz david@mcweekly.com (x104) Staff photographer Daniel Dreifuss daniel@mcweekly.com (x140) MONTEREY COUNTY NOW PRODUCER Sloan Campi sloan@mcweekly.com (x105) contributors Marielle Argueza, Nik Blaskovich, Rob Brezsny, Ari LeVaux, Jeff Mendelsohn, Jacqueline Weixel, Paul Wilner Cartoons Rob Rogers, Tom Tomorrow Production Art Director/Production Manager Karen Loutzenheiser karen@mcweekly.com (x108) Graphic Designer Kevin Jewell kevinj@mcweekly.com (x114) Graphic Designer Alexis Estrada alexis@mcweekly.com (x114) Graphic Designer Lani Headley lani@mcweekly.com (x114) SALES senior Sales Executive Diane Glim diane@mcweekly.com (x124) Senior Sales Executive George Kassal george@mcweekly.com (x122) Senior Sales Executive Keith Bruecker keith@mcweekly.com (x118) Classifieds business development director Keely Richter keely@mcweekly.com (x123) Digital Director of Digital Media Kevin Smith kevin@mcweekly.com (x119) Distribution Distribution AT Arts Co. atartsco@gmail.com Distribution Control Harry Neal Business/Front Office Office Manager Linda Maceira linda@mcweekly.com (x101) Bookkeeping Rochelle Trawick rochelle@mcweekly.com 668 Williams Ave., Seaside, CA 93955 831-394-5656, (FAX) 831-394-2909 www.montereycountyweekly.com We’d love to hear from you. Send us your tips at tipline.montereycountyweekly.com. We can tell you like the print edition of the Weekly. We bet you’ll love the daily newsletter, Monterey County NOW. Get fresh commentary, local news and sundry helpful distractions delivered to your inbox every day. There’s no charge, and if you don’t love it, you can unsubscribe any time. SIGN UP NOW Sign up today at montereycountyweekly.com/mcnow

www.montereycountyweekly.com OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 5 Protect yourself and your loved ones. Get your flu shot. SalinasValleyHealth.com Saturday, November 18 | 11:00am–2:00pm Salinas Valley Health, MRI Parking Lot Corner of Romie Lane & Wilgart Way, Salinas In partnership with the Monterey County Health Department. No appointment needed. For more information call 831-759-1890. STOPPING THE FLU BEGINS WITH YOU FREE COMMUNITY FLU CLINIC Saturday, November 4 | 11:00am–2:00pm Taylor Farms Family Health and Wellness Center 850 5th Street, Gonzales Wednesday, October 11 | 4:00–7:00pm Palma School 919 Iverson Street, Salinas

6 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com THE BUZZ FREE SPEECH In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson’s administration appointed the Kerner Commission to investigate riots in American cities. That report cited sensationalist and divisive coverage, and specifically unfair and inaccurate reporting on Black communities. Now, 55 years later—and three years after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer, prompting widespread protests—a survey by Pew Research Center shows that Black people find many of the same problems persist in the news, with unfairly negative coverage. Pew’s research, published Sept. 26, shows that 4,742 respondents overwhelmingly recommend educating all journalists about issues impacting Black Americans; 64 percent said that would make coverage fairer. Education ranked higher than representation, with 54 percent saying that including more Black voices as sources would improve fairness and accuracy, and 44 percent suggested hiring more Black journalists. “Black Americans take a number of factors into account when assessing the credibility of a news story—but the journalist’s race is not a dominant one,” according to Pew’s findings. Good: CSU Monterey Bay has recently received good news in college rankings. The most recent is that it ranked No. 2 for social mobility—which measures how well a university helps launch low-income students on a path to success—in the Western United States in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2024 Best Colleges rankings. CSUMB also ranked No. 6 in “Top Public Schools” and No. 14 in “Regional Universities West.” “Our success as a top public school and on social mobility is due to our dedicated staff and faculty, who work hard to ensure students have an exceptional experience and gain a strong education that prepares them for jobs in our region,” said CSUMB President Vanya Quiñones. Recently CSUMB ranked No. 13 for public schools in California and No. 8 in the CSU system in the Wall Street Journal poll. Forbes listed CSUMB as No. 17 among medium-sized colleges nationally. GREAT: Great news for the Salinas Fire Department comes in the form of a $4.7 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The three-year grant—from FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Firefighter Response (SAFER) program—supports nine additional positions. SFD has seen a workload increase of 30 percent over the past seven years, and staffing has not kept pace. “Salinas firefighters now respond to over 16,000 calls per year with firefighter staffing below 2006 levels when the department responded to just over 9,000 calls per year,” Salinas Fire Chief Samuel Klemek said in a statement. Salinas has a rate of 0.58 firefighters per 1,000 residents, below the national median of 1.2 per 1,000. The SAFER grant means the hiring of more firefighters, and also the opportunity to test alternative response models to increase safety and productivity. GOOD WEEK / GREAT WEEK THE WEEKLY TALLY The total inches of rain that fell at the Salinas Municipal Airport from Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023, the most recent water year. The total is 111-percent higher than the historical average of 12.58 inches. Source: National Weather Service, San Francisco Bay Area 14.04 QUOTE OF THE WEEK “We’re doing our due diligence in separating the facts from the fiction.” -Carmel Mayor Dave Potter speaking about a review of a videotaped physical altercation between Nematic Gallery owner Craig Rose and City Administrator Chip Rerig (see story, mcweekly.com). OCT. 7 & 8, 2023 GET YOUR TICKETS NOW salinasairshow.com LET’S TURN & BURN

www.montereycountyweekly.com OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 7 Federally Insured by NCUA | Equal Housing Lender 831.479.6000 or toll-free at 888.4BAYFED, ext. 304 www.bayfed.com/HomeLoans 1524 N. Main Street | Salinas From renting to owning – we can get you there! Our First Time Homebuyer program is designed to make financing your first home simple. Is now the time to buy? We can help. In 2018, Measure J was promoted as a 9-month study on the feasibility of Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) taking over California American Water’s local operations. Five years later, it’s time to say enough is enough – a takeover is not feasible. MPWMD established feasibility criteria that evaluate cost, quality, governance, and legal permissibility. None have been met. » COST: The Eminent Domain legal battle will be costly and lengthy. If MPWMD prevails, it could cost each ratepayer $1,812 or more per year – on top of their current water bills. » QUALITY OF SERVICE: MPWMD lacks the experience and expertise to operate the Monterey water system. » GOVERNANCE: MPWMD has illegally collected $3.5 million in fees annually since 2016. » LEGALLY PERMISSIBLE: LAFCO of Monterey County denied MPWMD’s application to become a water utility in 2021. Contact MPWMD at 831-658-5600 to voice your concern. ON ALL COUNTS, A TAKEOVER IS NOT FEASIBLE

8 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com 831 Little by little, the landscape in King City has changed—often for the better. And many of the noticeable improvements are thanks to a team of volunteers dedicated to beautification and preservation. King City In Bloom is a nonprofit launched in 2016 by Laurie Slaten and Phoebe Cheney. The group organizes cleaning, historic preservation and enhancement projects in downtown King City, inspired by the slogan “planting city pride.” The volunteer-based group is a member of a larger organization called America In Bloom, which started in 2001 and promotes beautification nationwide, achieved through community involvement and education. According to Allie Cullen, president of King City In Bloom, City Manager Steve Adams first suggested starting a local AIB chapter—an idea based upon experience. Before coming to King City, Adams was the city manager of Arroyo Grande, which had an active volunteer group affiliated with AIB. Adams says KCIB has been a key to revitalizing the downtown. And he’s not alone. “King City In Bloom has been a wonderful part of our community,” local historian Karen Jernigan says, highlighting in particular the landscaping and mural projects the organization has undertaken in the downtown area. The vibrant murals include scenes from King City’s past and present. The historic King City train depot mural on First Street and Broadway represents the important feature circa 1886, and it’s located in the area where the depot once stood. Other works point to the importance of agriculture in the community. For instance, “Tribute to Agriculture,” on a wall at El Pueblo Market on Broadway Street, depicts everyday scenes in the fields and businesses. There are murals dedicated to cattle ranching and to the Salinas Valley Fair. Jennifer Beebe Hargrove, a designer, muralist and former King City resident, helped to create the murals and they came to life thanks to the work of local artists and volunteers. The most recent recognizes Mission San Antonio De Padua. But public art is just one aspect of the organization’s efforts. KCIB took on a project at the King City branch of Monterey County Free Libraries that involved mowing the grounds and improving the outdoor seating area. At the city’s recreational center, volunteers planted trees and refurbished the planters. They also purchased and placed banners featuring El Camino Real, the 600-mile route that once connected the 21 Spanish missions in California. “It’s just an overall great feeling to take something that was in dire need of help and make it look beautiful,” Cullen says. “It’s really a labor of love.” While King City In Bloom started small—“just the three of us,” Cullen recalls—it now can call on more than 60 volunteers to tackle a variety of projects. These include quarterly citywide cleanups, as well as the annual beautification week that has been on the city’s calendar for over 30 years. The group also partners with other organizations to help realize their projects. They have joined with Sun Street Centers, a local rehabilitation operation that works to educate the community about drug and alcohol addiction and prevention; the Arts Council for Monterey County; and Future Farmers of America. Cullen says Sun Street Centers in particular is an important partner. Up to a dozen of Sun Street’s clients regularly take part in KCIB projects. “We could not do what we do without them, for sure,” Cullen notes, adding that as more people recognize the benefits of beautification, the commitment grows. “People see it and it is contagious.” To further encourage participation— even indirectly—King City In Bloom created a Yard of the Month program earlier this year. Winners receive bragging rights in the form of a sign, as well as a gift card from The Garden House. To learn more about King City In Bloom or to participate in upcoming events, visit kingcityinbloom.com or fb.com/KingCityinBloom. Petal to the Mettle A local volunteer organization in King City is working to make the community bloom. By Celia Jiménez King City In Bloom volunteers do beautification projects, including the one shown above—planting colorful flowers and maintaining outdoor seating at the branch library. “People see it and it is contagious.” TALES FROM THE AREA CODE DANIEL DREIFUSS

www.montereycountyweekly.com OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 9 AN OCEAN OF GIFT- GIVING OPTIONS Visit the new Monterey Bay Aquarium Store at 585 Cannery Row. Members receive a 10% discount. MPC Guest Authors Series invites you to join us in a live, online discussion of poetry writing with Kim Addonizio. Kim is the author of seven poetry collections, two novels, two story collections, and two books on writing poetry. During this intimate online session she will read from her most current volume, Now We’re Getting Somewhere, and discuss her writing experiiences. MONTEREY PENINSULA Col lege Kim Addonizio GUEST AUTHORS SERIES CREAT VE WRIT NG MONTEREY PENINSULA COLLEGE 6:00 -7:00 pm Wednesday, October 11 Email creativewriting@mpc.edu for Zoom link. One of our nation’s most provocative poets -Steve Kowit, San Diego Union Tribune

10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 5-11, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com news Going for a walk, spending a day in the grass and playing basketball are part of the routine for people who live near Closter Park, the most-visited park in Salinas. Unfortunately, it isn’t only a place where people socialize or exercise; the area has a history of gang activity and drug and alcohol abuse, contributing to visitors feeling unsafe recreating there. To address this, Salinas is looking to private security. On Sept. 26, the City Council approved a oneyear contract for up to $80,000 with Salinas-based Kysmet Security & Patrol, following a pilot program. The pilot began in April, with Kysmet patrolling the area daily from 3-11pm for 90 days. Council extended that for two additional months, for a total cost of $31,136 for the pilot. During the pilot, city officials logged 50 incidents related to alcohol and drug use and vandalism. But residents who use the park regularly, including members from Salinas Boxing Club and National Little League, report that the security presence has had a positive impact. Pablo Guerrero, who has sold Mexican snacks at the park every day for three years, says more people have been visiting the park since April when security started patrolling. “Kids didn’t go to the kiosk before, and now you see a lot of kids there,” Guerrero says in Spanish. “There is a lot of happiness and love for the kids, and people in the community are happier.” City Councilmember Tony Barrera says the security presence makes visitors feel safer, but he continues to hear concerns from constituents, particularly moms taking children to the bathroom. He’d like to see a guard positioned specifically near the bathrooms regularly in the year ahead. Park Protection After a pilot program, Salinas agrees to a one-year private security contract at Closter Park. By Celia Jiménez The suspected overdose death of Monterey pub owner Christine Kerr has triggered a police investigation that saw a Seaside man arrested on suspicion of providing the drugs that may have killed Kerr. Kerr, 49, was found dead on Aug. 20, a Monterey County Sheriff’s official confirms, at a home in the Deer Flats neighborhood in Monterey. Kerr was co-owner of the popular Bulldog Sports Pub on Lighthouse Avenue, which announced Kerr’s passing on Aug. 29. The Monterey Police Department subsequently launched an investigation to determine where the drugs that may have caused Kerr’s death originated. On Aug. 25, Monterey and Seaside police officers arrested 42-year-old Carlo Aiken in Seaside, where they say they discovered him in possession of 16 suspected counterfeit oxycodone tablets believed to contain fentanyl, as well as large quantities of cocaine, MDMA, psilocybin mushrooms, lorazepam tablets and a homemade “ghost gun” assault rifle. Aiken was booked at Monterey County Jail on felony charges including possession of a controlled substance while armed, possession of controlled substances for sale, and possession of an assault weapon, according to Monterey County Chief Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon. Though Monterey PD said Aiken was also arrested for involuntary manslaughter in connection to Kerr’s death, Brannon says authorities have yet to “establish the timing of a sale to the victim” and that no such charge has been filed. The absence of an involuntary manslaughter charge saw a judge reduce Aiken’s bail, initially set at $1 million, to $200,000 at an Aug. 29 arraignment hearing in which he pled not guilty, according to Aiken’s attorney Kimberly A. Barnett. Aiken was released on bail on Aug. 31. A preliminary hearing in his case is set for Nov. 3. “I think the facts will show that my client was not supplying [Kerr with drugs] in any way,” Barnett says. “My client was good friends with her and adored her.” Kerr’s cause of death will not be determined until the final results of an autopsy and toxicology report are received, according to authorities. What is clear is that drug overdoses have become a worsening problem, both locally and nationwide, amid an ongoing opioid epidemic that saw nearly 110,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2022, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That rising toll is widely attributed to the proliferation of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid found in the form of counterfeit pills or mixed into drugs like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine. There have been 52 fentanyl-related deaths in Monterey County in 2023 to date, according to data provided by the Sheriff’s Office—up from 41 in 2022 and only 12 in 2019. Seaside Police Chief Nick Borges says his department has already made 35 fentanyl-related arrests this year, up from 28 arrests in 2022. Those who knew Kerr say the England native and longtime Monterey resident was beloved by friends and Bulldog patrons, many of whom will gather at the pub at 611 Lighthouse Ave. for a celebration of her life from 4-8pm on Saturday, Oct. 7. “She was a beloved person and dynamic force behind Bulldog, and will be greatly missed,” the pub said in an announcement. A photo display on the wall at the Bulldog Sports Pub honors Christine Kerr, who died suddenly at age 49 in August. Tragic Loss Monterey pub owner’s suspected overdose death sparks police investigation and arrest. By Rey Mashayekhi Closter Park is being upgraded, thanks to nearly $7 million from California’s Outdoors For All Initiative in 2021. Construction will start next year on new sidewalks, a recreation center and more. “My client was good friends with her and adored her.” Daniel Dreifuss Daniel Dreifuss

www.montereycountyweekly.com OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 11

12 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 5-11, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com If a housing plan exists on paper, it doesn’t mean it will put a single roof over someone’s head, unless, perhaps, a visionary architect took all the paper that cities have generated for their state-required housing plans—which are intended to be updated every eight years, this year being one of them—and built a home out of paper maché. But then one would have to worry about water. And likewise, just because a water right exists on paper, it doesn’t mean the actual water exists. And perhaps nowhere is the nexus of these two regional challenges—the lack of adequate housing and water supplies—more acutely evident than in the draft housing elements for the cities of Monterey and Del Rey Oaks, plans that both include building housing in open space, filled with flora (some species of which are federally protected), in the former Fort Ord. In the 30 years since the former Army base closed, the gauntlet of regulatory hurdles and resource constraints have made developing the land increasingly difficult, and expensive. But the housing plans are required by the state Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD), which also dictates to cities and counties how many units they must zone for residential use that could theoretically be built before the next housing plan update in 2031. Those requirements are called Regional Housing Needs Allocation, a portion of which must include units zoned for low- and very-low income residents, which adds another constraint—no developer is going to build, or even try, unless there’s a possibility for profit, and no nonprofit is going to develop housing unless it believes it can at least break even. Nonetheless, Del Rey Oaks’ draft housing element has identified 312 residential units on its former Fort Ord land, while Monterey has identified 2,089 units. Neither city’s land on the former Army base is currently zoned for residential—Del Rey Oaks’ 310 acres are zoned for commercial use with a visitor overlay (i.e., hotels), while Monterey’s 130 acres are zoned for light industrial use. Rezoning those lands is doable, but hurdles make both city’s housing plans on the former Fort Ord start to look like nothing more than a mirage. Primary among the constraints is water, and with respect to former Fort Ord land, the designated water utility is the Marina Coast Water District, which currently depends entirely on groundwater to serve residences in its service area. That groundwater is pumped from three sources: the 180-, 400- and 900-foot aquifers, named for their depths. Due to seawater intrusion created by decades of agricultural over-pumping near the coast, Marina’s 180/400foot aquifers comprise one of 21 water basins statewide that the state has deemed “critically overdrafted.” Meanwhile, more than half of MCWD’s residential supply currently comes from the 900-foot aquifer, aka the “deep aquifer,” an ancient, finite water source of unknown quantity that only recharges through leakage from overlying aquifers. And as seawater intrusion has compromised the overlying aquifers near the coast, growers, over the last decade, have increasingly been tapping the deep aquifer—county data shows that in 2013, less than 1,000 acre-feet of water from the deep aquifer was used for agriculture; by 2021, that number shot up to above 8,000 acre-feet annually. (Marina Coast’s total groundwater production, which includes all its aquifers, is about 3,300 acre-feet annually.) There is also a cap, first established by the now-defunct Fort Ord Reuse Authority and which remains in effect through a legal settlement between MCWD and activist group Keep Fort Ord Wild and nonprofit Landwatch, on how many new units on the former Fort Ord can be served by groundwater. Per the final environmental impact report for Seaside’s Campus Town development, the completion of that project would bring the total of such units to 6,150, meaning there would only be 10 remaining under the cap. So how could Del Rey Oaks or Monterey possibly have water for housing on Fort Ord land? Rem Scherzinger, MCWD’s general manager, says there remain just under 2,900 units still available under the cap. Scherzinger says that determination is made by counting how many water meters have been set. In other words, regardless of whether a project has been approved and millions of dollars have been spent on planning it, a developer would have no promise of a water supply if another developer—perhaps building a smaller project, say—were able to get a request for meters in first. It’s first-come, first-serve, Scherzinger says. But what developer would invest in a project without knowing if it would ultimately have water? Not to mention, neither Del Rey Oaks’ nor Monterey’s Fort Ord lands are within MCWD’s service area—they would have to be annexed into the district’s boundaries—but Scherzinger says Marina Coast can send water outside the district if it’s “surplus” water, which he defines as having more water in the system than there is demand. On Sept. 19, Seaside City Attorney Sheri Damon sent a letter to Marina Coast, opposing the transfer of water outside the district “until MCWD is able to fulfill its obligations to serve all properties within its existing service area. This letter further will serve as notice that Seaside intends to protect its rights,” it reads, like a drop of blood in the water. Drip Drop Despite obstacles, Monterey and Del Rey Oaks plan to use Fort Ord land for housing. By David Schmalz news ’Tis the season Getting ready for natural disasters and emergencies isn’t easy when you are in a rush. That’s why Monterey County officials are holding this virtual community meeting now. Get updates on winter flood management and preparations at the Carmel Lagoon. Officials also present an environmental impact report on long-term projects including the Scenic Road protective barrier. 5-6pm Thursday, Oct. 5. Virtual meeting; attend via Zoom at bit.ly/46CQg4D, or by phone (dial 669-219-2599) and use meeting ID 941 6268 9990. Free. 755-5643, carrolls@co.monterey. ca.us. Fired Up The climate crisis is here and wildfires are changing our lives. This panel discussion from the California Arts and Science Institute invites attendees to learn about wildfire prevention and actions they can take at their homes and neighborhoods that may reduce their risk and their homeowners’ insurance costs. 6-8pm Friday, Oct. 6. Wave Street Studios, 774 Wave St., Monterey. Free. 655-2010, casicalifornia.org. safety first The Marina Fire Department hosts an open house with information and tips on fire safety in your home. Learn (and ask) about how to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, monitor buildings for safety and more. 4-7pm Tuesday, Oct. 10. Marina Fire Department, 208 Palm Ave., Marina. Free. 275-1700, cityofmarina.org/227/ Fire-Safety. Public or Private The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District hosts a public hearing on whether to pursue eminent domain to take over Cal Am’s local water system (see more, p. 19). The public is invited to participate in person or online. 5:30pm Tuesday, Oct. 10. Irvine Auditorium, 499 Pierce St., Monterey. Free. 658-5650, mpwmd.net. Flu Season It’s that time of year again—to get your annual flu shot. Palma School, the Monterey County Health Department and Salinas Valley Health team up to host a community flu shot clinic to make it easy. 4-7pm Wednesday, Oct. 11. Palma School, 919 Iverson St., Salinas. Free; for people ages 6 months or older; children under 18 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. No appointment needed. 422-6391, co.monterey. ca.us/government/departments-a-h/ health. Demolition was finally completed earlier this year on a portion of former Fort Ord buildings at The Dunes in Marina. The project was approved in 2005, 18 years ago. e-mail: publiccitizen@mcweekly.com TOOLBOX Primary among the constraints is water. Daniel Dreifuss

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14 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 5-11, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com Like the waves crashing into the coastline along Point Pinos in Pacific Grove, a chorus of conflicting wants and needs are now crashing together just feet from the shoreline, on a four-acre strip of land occupied by a research building of the former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. The city’s requirement by the state to plan for more housing is coming into direct conflict with those who want to preserve the building and its beloved Ray Troll mural, as well as the sensitive dunes habitat and land that ancestors of Indigenous peoples lay claim to that the building sits on. Not long after P.G.’s draft housing plan, known as a housing element, was released on Sept. 18 for public review, members of the COAST steering committee discovered that the property at 1352 Lighthouse Ave.—where the NOAA building they’ve been working to save for the past few years is located—was suggested as one that could be rezoned from open space to high-density residential, with up to 84 units. According to the draft housing element, those units could be divided into 28 very low-income, 28 low-income and 28 moderate-income units. “We were stunned,” says COAST committee member Lora Lee Martin. Committee members rang alarm bells, launching a change.org campaign (bit. ly/COASTPetition) and urging people to ask the city to remove the property from the housing element’s site inventory. The draft element was created in a hurry by Rincon Consultants, hired by the city a few months ago after the original consultant was fired in February for failing to meet deadlines. It put P.G. behind in a race to meet the state’s deadline to complete the draft element, part of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process that has all cities and counties amending their housing elements to include more housing between 2023 and 2031. In P.G.’s case, the city has to plan for 1,125 residential units. Curiously, Rincon’s plan states that there are “no known environmental constraints on sites identified in the site inventory that would preclude development,” when, in fact, the NOAA building property is well known for its constraints: It’s located in a sensitive dunes habitat potentially home to threatened plant species and tightly regulated by P.G.’s Local Coastal Plan and the California Coastal Commission; the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation claims it as a sacred site. In addition, members of COAST and others have been fighting to have the building declared a historic resource by the city to prevent it from being torn down by out-of-state, private owners who purchased the property last year after a controversial federal surplus land sale. The P.G. City Council voted on Feb. 15 to hire an independent historic consultant to assess the building, but no request for proposals was released until Sept. 29, after the draft element was completed. The P.G. Planning Commission is scheduled to review the draft housing element at 6:30pm, Thursday, Oct. 5, at P.G. City Hall (and online at bit.ly/ PGPlanningCommissionMeet). The P.G. City Council is expected to review the element on Oct. 18. Crash Course P.G.’s housing plan suggests up to 84 units on a contested strip of sensitive coastal land. By Pam Marino The group COAST first attempted to turn a former NOAA building into a museum when the federal government put it up for sale. Now they are trying to keep it from being rezoned for up 84 housing units. NEWS “We were stunned.” DANIEL DREIFUSS ♦ 3 Card Poker ♠ Century 21st No Bust Black Jack ♣ Texas Hold’em ♥ Baccarat FULL BAR! BLACKJACK BONUS POINTS PAYS UP TO $20,000 SMALL TOWN BIG PAYOUTS! 1-800-Gambler • Gega-003846, Gega-Gega-003703, Gega-000889 Gega-000891 Gega-002838 The Marina Club Casino ensures the safety and security of all guests and team members at all times, while providing exceptional service. 204 Carmel Ave. Marina 831-384-0925 casinomonterey.com ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦ Just minutes from Downtown Monterey Where Monterey Comes To Play

www.montereycountyweekly.com OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 15 Measure J Voter Initiative Moves Forward with Public Hearing MPWMD to Consider Eminent Domain for Acquisition of Cal Am Monterey Water System Tuesday, October 10, 2023 at 5:30 pm Irvine Auditorium, Middlebury Institute of International Studies / 499 Pierce Street, Monterey Public Hearing Agenda • Welcome and Introductions • Overview of the Proceeding / Doug Dennington, Rutan & Tucker • Introduction of Public Hearing / Dave Stoldt, General Manager, MPWMD • Cal Am Statement • Public Comment • Cal Am Rebuttal • Close Hearing / Board Discussion Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) Board of Directors will consider adopting a formal resolution to acquire California American Water Company’s (Cal Am) Monterey Water System by eminent domain (called a Resolution of Necessity). The purpose of MPWMD's proposed acquisition is to convert the privately owned, operated, and held Cal Am Monterey Water System area to public ownership and control by MPWMD. The goal is to operate the system at a lower cost, better quality of service, and with greater transparency and local control. Last Chance to Be Heard This is the last chance for the public to be heard on this subject before the MPWMD Board of Directors makes their final vote to proceed with eminent domain or not. If they vote to adopt the Resolution, MPWMD will have up to 6 months to file an eminent domain proceeding in Monterey County Superior Court. ▼ ▼ MONTEREY PENINSULA MANAGEMENT DISTRICT MPWMD.NET Z00M: https://tinyurl.com/d6hwj6es EXPERIENCE THE ORIGINAL Watch as your personal chef slices tender steak and juicy chicken. Take in the aroma of sizzling shrimp, lobster and savory vegetables. Or try our fresh nigiri, sashimi and specialty rolls, all prepared with the same flair that made Benihana a legend in Japanese cuisine. 136 OLIvIER ST. MONTEREy NEAR OLd FISHERMAN’S WHARF OPEN dAILy (831) 644-9007 WWW.bENIHANA.COM OPEN FOR LUNCH & dINNER DAILY 12 NOON TO 10PM

16 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY OCTOBER 5-11, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com A hospital bill for $600,000 for respiratory treatments after nearly dying from Covid that one Monterey County housekeeper has no way to pay. A farmworker’s spouse in need of surgery and facing a $10,000 co-pay who found care in Santa Clara County for half the cost and no outof-pocket costs. Pregnant teachers planning to have their babies in other counties because the cost of births in Monterey County’s three main hospitals is potentially double. These stories have been pouring out of local workers appearing at the newly formed Office of Health Care Affordability Board in Sacramento, created last year by the California Legislature. The office’s charge, under the Department of Health Care Access and Information, is to quantify and eventually enforce limits on the growth of health care costs, similar to commissions now operating in several states. The OHCA Board held its first monthly meeting in March. The stories out of Monterey County about employer-plan hospital costs were so striking to longtime health care researcher Laurel Lucia of the UC Berkeley Labor Center that she took a deeper look and published her findings Sept. 18. Lucia found data showing CHOMP, Natividad and Salinas Valley Health were all in the top 15 percent of the highest-priced hospitals in California from 2018-2020. Lucia looked at potential causes, including market concentration, wages and uncompensated costs, concluding more research is needed. “What we’re seeing is a more extreme example of the lack of oversight there is on health care prices paid by covered Californians—and Americans. It’s a national problem,” she says. Oversight by OCHA could garner answers and spur hospitals to reassess prices. Dr. Allen Radner, chief medical officer of SVH Medical Center and CEO of Salinas Valley Health Clinics, and SVH COO Clement Miller, agree that high costs locally need to be addressed, but say it’s a complicated issue impacted by many factors. All three hospitals take care of everyone regardless of insurance, and reinvest in the community. Salaries and the high cost of living contribute. In addition, Radner calls the structure of reimbursement by the federal government and private insurance companies “untenable going forward.” Leaders from local unions say a lack of competition between hospitals has driven costs higher. “These hospital systems need to look at their rate structure and realize it’s prohibitive to the working class in this community,” says Kati Bassler, president of the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers. It’s not just an affordability issue, she adds—it’s become a problem of access. The OHCA is giving workers an opportunity to share how health care costs are impacting them. A few months ago, local labor leaders formed a coalition to specifically address health care costs. Their members’ testimonies at the OCHA board also caught the attention of California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Bassler says they are meeting with Bonta and his staff over Zoom on Oct. 5 to discuss the problem and solutions. Sticker Shock Workers testify to the high cost of hospitals in Monterey County before a new regulatory board. By Pam Marino Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and Natividad were identified in the top 10 percent of the highest-priced hospitals in California; Salinas Valley Health was in the top 15 percent. 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18 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 5-11, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com Beyond Bars The continuing failure to meet conditions and provide adequate care is abhorrent (“Judge finds Monterey County Jail’s health care contractor in violation of inmate conditions settlement,” posted Sept. 27). I recognize that county funds are finite and Wellpath has consistently been the lowest bidder, so finding alternative providers should the contract be terminated is likely to incur additional costs. Overall, however, I am concerned with the fines tactic. For fines to be an effective deterrent, they need to be comparable with the costs of coming into compliance. The sheer magnitude (and pervasive nature) of the known deficiencies suggests to me that an organization which has historically been unwilling to pay the much more substantial costs of providing adequate care is going to treat these fines as a slap on the wrist, rather than pay those costs to correct deficiencies, particularly on an expedited schedule of six months which would increase costs. How much would it cost to come into compliance (and stay there)? Nona Childress |Salinas The contract must be terminated in my opinion. I want to know which Monterey County supervisors’ re-election campaigns have benefited financially from this healthcare provider over the last decade. Why has the jail not been improved? Joe Cubbage | via social media Best Wishes Well deserved! Congrats to Kona Steak and Seafood (Best of Monterey County Readers’ Poll, “Best New Restaurant,” Sept. 28-Oct. 4). Michael Kohler | Seaside E-Farming This is the future of agriculture (“An ag tech conference sets the stage for Salinas as a hub for farming’s tech-enabled future,” Sept. 28-Oct. 4). It creates great jobs in the industry, and relieves much of the pain/suffering from extensive physical labor. The system for robots picking strawberries is impressive to watch, with lots of room for innovation still. Walter Wagner | Salinas House and Home I lived at the Country Inn for almost a year, where I was a client of Project Roomkey (“City of Marina blames everyone else for homelessness,” Sept. 21-27). I waited almost nine years to get into my own place. Project Roomkey worked for me because I did what I was supposed to do weekly with my case manager. I do have some concerns about how they didn’t do welfare checks on clients no one had spoken to or seen for a day or so—if they did their jobs better, maybe some of the clients that overdosed would still be alive today. It’s plain and simple: Follow the rules and you will be rewarded in time with a place you can call home. Remember it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and a lot of effort to get a place of your own. Bella Maddox | Seaside Overall there has been significant regional cooperation evidenced through years of work with the Continuum Of Care Leadership Council. A few non-cooperative examples should not detract from that regional experience. Joe Vasquez | via email Agree to Disagree Every political candidate has a right to come and speak, whether you like them or not (“As Ron DeSantis leaves fundraising brunch in Corral de Tierra, protesters cheer his departure,” posted Sept. 28). If you wish to donate, that is your choice. The [Salinas City Council] voted their dislike. Only Steve McShane abstained— he was the wise one not to make a political statement. The City Council was not elected for this. They chose to interfere with free speech and stir up unneeded controversy; the media does enough of that, they don’t need help. I’m very disappointed in [council’s] actions. Maybe I’ll remember when I vote. Jim Souza | Salinas Past and Present Thanks for the William Brewer series (“The contemporaneous letters of scientist William H. Brewer illuminate the rugged and relatively unpopulated Salinas Valley of the 19th century,” Sept. 28-Oct. 4). Brewer paints a canvas with words. Love it. Gerry Orton | via email Thank you for your article and for Brewer’s letters. They are so interesting and informative. Gail Lack | via email Off Track Sounds like more mismanagement of Laguna Seca (“IndyCar moves 2024 season finale to Nashville; Laguna Seca race moved to June,” posted Sept. 25). Stop losing title races and big events. The impact MotoGP had on the economy was massive, yet the County/Laguna Seca fail to do the necessary improvements to keep these races and attract more people. The county is losing out on hundreds of millions in income. Imagine if they got off their butt in the ’90s and attracted F1. Justin Martin | via social media Volume Up “Thundercat’s electric, frenetic and at times dizzying music was not for everyone.” No it wasn’t (“This weekend’s Monterey Jazz Festival showed how the genre stays vital, as one generation passes the baton to the next,” posted Sept. 25). I was one of the “older crowd” who left. Most of the longtime attendees I spoke with as we were leaving expressed disappointment (and a little sadness) that this was [retiring artistic director] Tim Jackson’s choice to close his excellent stint at the Monterey Jazz Festival (“Tim Jackson led the Monterey Jazz Festival’s vision and modernization for 33 years,” Sept. 21-27). The music does evolve, but it is a jazz festival. During my 45-plus years of attending, Saturday afternoon would have been the appropriate time for a Thundercat. It would be expected, along with the great blues and R&B performers. Not closing Sunday night. And it seems to me that passing the baton may be a little premature. There’s still a significant number of the “older crowd” attending and supporting MJF. See ya next year. Terry Fuqua | Stockbridge, Georgia Letters • CommentsOPINION Submit letters to the editor to letters@mcweekly.com. Please keep your letter to 150 words or less; subject to editing for space. Please include your full name, contact information and city you live in.

www.montereycountyweekly.com october 5-11, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 19 Mark Twain reportedly said, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.” That latter part is all too true in Monterey County, where it applies to pretty much every drop of water, even reclaimed wastewater from salad washing facilities and yes, your toilet. There is fighting about whether to deploy desalination—and at what scale (and cost), and in which location— and there is fighting about how much we pay for water. But the big fight is an existential fight, and it’s coming to a head on Tuesday, Oct. 10. That’s when the elected board of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District will vote on whether or not to pursue a public takeover of the private water utility company California American Water’s local system. Cal Am, which serves some 675,000 customers in California (including on the Monterey Peninsula and in Carmel Valley), is a subsidiary of American Water, which serves 14 million customers in 14 states. For two decades, there have been efforts underway to take over Cal Am and make it into a public utility. In 2005, Measure W failed by a 63-37 margin, a loss for the group Citizens for Public Water. A citizens’ group called Public Water Now was back in 2014 with Measure O, which voters defeated again, by a 55-45 margin. But public water proponents tried again, and in 2018, voters passed Measure J by a margin of 56-44. That vote set in motion a years-long analysis by water district officials and consultants. Their charge, per the ballot measure, included: “If and when feasible, to secure and maintain public ownership of all water production, storage and delivery system assets and infrastructure providing services within its territory.” That translates roughly to mean the (public) water district should publicly acquire (private) Cal Am, if feasible. It’s been five years since voters said yes to Measure J. District officials reached a milestone in April when they offered to pay $448.8 million to Cal Am; the company replied that it’s not for sale. That leads us to Oct. 10, when the district board will consider the next step—whether or not to seek to take over Cal Am by eminent domain. The culmination of five years’ worth of analysis by the district, at a cost of $2.7 million, is packaged in a 150-page report (with 130 pages of appendices) by General Manager Dave Stoldt. His recommendation to the board: Yes, it’s feasible, cheaper and there is a compelling public good. A lot of Stoldt’s focus is on cost, with evidence that ratepayers will save money under a publicly owned utility rather than an investor-owned utility. (Cal Am officials have repeatedly disputed cost assumptions.) But the bigger point is about the public good. “Even if the ‘all-in’ cost of water to the ratepayers of the [Monterey water system] would not be significantly reduced in the short term after the transition to MPWMD ownership, ratepayers should nonetheless be given the opportunity to invest in their future by owning their water system,” according to the report. Public Water Now campaigned hard for Measure J on the basis that a public utility will save ratepayers money. I’m more interested in the grander ideals connected to public ownership. “MPWMD can be expected to do everything possible to minimize the need for future rate increases,” Stoldt’s report reads, as in: Trust us. More compelling than that is the idea that if trust is violated and promises go unfulfilled, voters can hold their publicly elected board to account. Per the report: “Democracy does not always work, but it has a much better chance of working than self-interested or under-informed decision-making from afar.” If the board says yes to the takeover—and I expect they will—the district will have to take Cal Am to court, seeking a judge’s determination that eminent domain is justified. If they cross that threshold, there will be a subsequent battle over the fair value of Cal Am. The hearing takes place at 5:30pm on Tuesday, Oct. 10, and the public is welcome to comment virtually or in person (up to two minutes). Anticipating a crowd, this meeting takes place not in the district’s office, but at the Middlebury Institute’s Irvine Auditorium at 499 Pierce St., Monterey. Whiskey will not be served, but there should still be plenty of intrigue. Sara Rubin is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at sara@mcweekly.com. Water Way Five years after Measure J, a decision on whether to take over Cal Am. By Sara Rubin Power Less…Squid was huddled in Squid’s lair Thursday night, March 9, when—while bingeing on Ted Lasso and shrimp-flavored popcorn—the power went out, leaving Squid in the dark. The outage lasted 48 hours, and it wasn’t just Squid: Approximately 37,000 PG&E customers in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Carmel were impacted, with some homes going without power for over a week. Recently, Squid opened up the mailbox to find a rare paper check for $25.22 from PG&E. The reason given: “Storm Refund.” Squid’s colleague inquired with PG&E officials about it, and was told it’s from the company’s safety net program, through which homes (not businesses) that go 48 hours or more without power automatically receive checks for amounts between $25-$100, depending on the length of the outage. (Those who were out 120 hours or more got $100.) Some safety net. Squid’s check barely covers this month’s shrimp-flavored popcorn bill, not to mention the spoiling food Squid had to toss during the outage. Squid’s colleague asked how many customers on the Peninsula received checks and how much PG&E shelled out in total. No answer was provided. Multiplying 37,000 times $25.22 gets $933,140. Meanwhile, Squid received an email on Sept. 19 from PG&E with the announcement: “Your energy bill is going up.” Exactly how much, PG&E doesn’t yet know, pending approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, but Squid expects the increase to total at least $933,140. Bait and Switch…Squid loves a good political party (lowercase p), even if it’s exclusive. But Squid couldn’t float the $3,300 to brunch with Florida Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis on his Sept. 28 visit to Monterey County, the day after a debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. DeSantis came at the invitation of Taylor Farms CEO Bruce Taylor, and the campaign stop-off was met with a huge pushback of anger from local community organizers. Squid’s no fan of DeSantis who, as far as Squid knows, has not laid out a meaningful policy on cephalopod protections. Squid’s also no fan of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who has labeled DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious” and “Meatball Ron.” Are Taylor and friends looking for the lesser of two evils? Regardless, Squid wanted to hear what issues they would talk about, and planned to ooze over to Corral De Tierra Country Club where the brunch was scheduled to take place. Then came a follow-up message to attendees the night before: “We’ve had a security breach and are needing to move the location,” with instructions to call for the new location. Sneak attack! The new location was the same as the old location. No word on whether meatballs were served. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. Yes, it’s feasible, and there is a public good. Send Squid a tip: squid@mcweekly.com