10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY february 8-14, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Wearing a PG&E hard hat and standing in front of the company’s Monterey County base camp—a collection of white trailers and tents within view of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca—Teresa Alvarado, PG&E vice president for the South Bay and Central Coast region, spelled out the impact of the Sunday, Feb. 4 storm. “It has proved to be among the most damaging storms that we’ve ever experienced,” she said at a press conference Monday, Feb. 5. “In terms of outage totals, this was one of the top three most damaging single-day storms on record,” she said, comparable to storms in 1995 and 2008. With wind gusts of over 90mph in some locations within PG&E’s service area and the state’s first-ever warning for hurricane-force winds, even healthy trees toppled, pulling down power lines with them. “We have a lot of work ahead of us and we’re taking an all-hands-on-deck approach until the job is done,” Alvarado said. By late Sunday, over 31,000 PG&E customers were without power across Monterey County, mostly concentrated in Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Carmel Valley and surrounding areas. Incident Commander Joe Holbert said he had 37 crews representing about 400 workers tackling the outages, about 105 in the county. “Sensitive customers” like Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and schools were prioritized, but crews had to wait until winds subsided and fallen trees and debris were removed to be considered safe in order to begin repair work. On Monday afternoon, Feb. 5, the number without power was at 23,500, and that decreased by nearly half as of Tuesday morning. Pebble Beach and parts of Pacific Grove remained the most heavily impacted Tuesday, with an estimated restoration time of 10pm Thursday, Feb. 8. That may have been a conservative estimate: Some neighborhoods advised to expect power would be restored by late Wednesday saw power back two days earlier. The Laguna Seca base camp and level of communications were in sharp contrast to March 2023, after one of the final in a series of punishing storms hit the region. A main power line felled by a healthy cypress tree in Monterey caused around 37,000 customers in the southern Peninsula to lose power. A base camp was located in Santa Cruz County, and getting information from PG&E was a challenge. Restoration times promised early in that outage proved impossible for PG&E to meet, leaving residents frustrated. A community center can bring people of different ages together and give them a sense of belonging. It’s also a venue for people to learn new skills, gather and hold forums. They can turn into shelters during a disaster, a power outage or inclement weather. The cities of Gonzales and Soledad are seeking private donations to invest in their community centers. Both cities are at different stages: Gonzales will start the first construction phase of its community center complex in May. (The need for a community center has been on the radar for over a decade.) The first phase includes a new home for the Monterey County Free Libraries branch (now in a shopping mall), a teen innovation center, meeting rooms, an amphitheater and more. “It’ll be great for the high school students to have a place to call their own,” says Patrick Dobbins, Gonzales’ public works director. The total cost of the project is $35 million. As of November, the effort has raised $24.7 million including $5 million in state grants and a USDA loan of $9.7 million. (The loan will be paid back with the local Measure X funds that Gonzales voters approved in 2020, increasing the city’s sales tax from 0.5 to 1 percent.) Otto Construction/WRNS Studio are building the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2025. Meanwhile, Soledad has an aging community center that is used regularly and needs upgrades to keep up with demand. The list of needs includes a new kitchen, indoor and outdoor lighting, electrical upgrades and ADA compliance. Soledad currently has $500,000 from federal Covid relief funds set aside, plus $50,000 from a T-Mobile Hometown Grant. But they anticipate needing $2.4 million. “We’re very fortunate to have this asset in our community,” City Manager Megan Hunter says. She notes a new community center of this size, 23,000 square feet, would easily cost $30 million today. The first round of upgrades will go out to bid in the next couple of months. Power Up After a punishing storm, PG&E overcomes widespread damage to restore power. By Pam Marino news On the Plate The Monterey Police Department holds a town hall meeting about automated license plate readers. 6pm Thursday, Feb. 8. Monterey City Council Chambers, 580 Pacific St., Monterey; you can also attend via Zoom at bit.ly/3Hx8dXQ. 646-3803, kaster@monterey.org. Bus Stop Monterey-Salinas Transit will be tabling at Seaside’s farmers market to provide information about the SURF! bus rapid transit project. The MST board of directors will also receive a progress update at an upcoming meeting. Tabling 3-7pm Thursday, Feb. 8 at Laguna Grande Park, 1259 Canyon Del Rey Blvd., Seaside. MST board meeting happens at 10am Monday, Feb. 12, 19 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey, or via Zoom. mst.org. For Rent The City of Monterey is establishing a new Rental Assistance Program for eligible households facing housing instability challenges. Property managers and renters are encouraged to participate in the survey, or attend a drop-in session in Monterey. Noon-2pm Sunday, Feb. 11 at Laguna Grande Park, 401 Virgin Ave.; 6-7pm Monday, Feb. 12 at El Estero Park, 777 Pearl St.; and noon-2pm Sunday, Feb. 18 at Montecito Park, 220 Montecito Ave. Free. To fill out the survey in English or Spanish, visit haveyoursaymonterey.org/rentalassistance. Housing Draft The City of Gonzales welcomes input on its draft housing element. Monday, Feb. 12 is the deadline to comment. Email tkinisonbrown@ci.gonzales.ca.us or deliver comments in writing to City Hall, 147 4th St., Gonzales. 675-5000. Parenting Pros The Central Coast Early Childhood Advocacy Network presents the fifth annual Parent Power Summit. The bilingual event brings together support for thriving families by building relationships with other parents, caregivers and elected officials. 10am-2:30pm Saturday, Feb. 10, Sherwood Hall, 940 N. Main St., Salinas. Free; reservations required; childcare provided; sold out. info@first5monterey.org, eventbrite.com. Short Terms Hear from County Supervisor Mary Adams and Acting Director of the County’s Department of Housing and Community Development, Craig Spencer, about regulations for short-term rentals in unincorporated Monterey County. 11:15am Wednesday, Feb. 14. Livestream available by requesting an invitation at LWVmryco@gmail.com. Free. my.lwv.org/california/monterey-county. Building Community South County cities seek private donors for two community centers. By Celia Jiménez PG&E responds to a fallen tree that damaged a power line on Short Street in Pacific Grove on Monday, Feb. 5. e-mail: toolbox@mcweekly.com TOOLBOX “We have a lot of work ahead of us until the job is done.” Daniel Dreifuss