8 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY april 4-10, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com news In order to become an Eagle Scout, one of the last things a scout must do is a community service project, and what exactly that may be is largely up to the scout himself. For Nathan Poggemeyer, who grew up in Seaside, it didn’t take much thinking—time he spent at Toro Park in his youth, including overnight camping trips with his scout troop, left a lasting mark. “In a lot of ways, I grew up around Toro,” Poggemeyer says. “I always wanted to give back what I had as a kid.” In part of the time he spent there in his youth, he also worked on a project as a student at the International School of Monterey, a K-8 school in Seaside, where he helped revamp the camping area. It was through doing that, he says, and working with County Parks staff, that he realized a solvable problem: Parks staff was always having to get on visitors about keeping their dogs on leash, but the park also didn’t have a dog park where dogs could be off leash. So he set out to change that, and he did: On March 28, the county hosted a grand opening at the Quail Meadows Dog Park, now officially open to the public. The timing of the event aligned with Poggemeyer’s spring break—he’s currently attending the University of Oregon—but if things hadn’t gone sideways, it would have happened sooner. In the winter of 2023, culverts backed up and forced stormwater runoff to course through the park, which set off a chain of delays. But the park looks pristine now. Poggemeyer built it, with the help of his scout troop, with about $1,600 he raised via GoFundMe, and estimates the total cost was $2,250—the remaining balance was paid by a sponsor, Advanced Restoration. He says it took 432 total man hours to build. Go Fetch Toro Park, a gem of the county parks system, finally has a place for a pooch to run free. By David Schmalz For years, opponents of a proposed luxury resort hotel to replace the American Tin Cannery contended the project was too large and not properly vetted by the City of Pacific Grove. Approval by the P.G. City Council in January 2022 was met with multiple appeals to the California Coastal Commission and a lawsuit. Commission staff agreed, and now, two years later, a somewhat smaller project with greater public access is headed toward a possible decision by commissioners on Thursday, April 11. “We are in full support of the staff’s recommendations for the project,” says Debra Geiler, representing developer Comstock Development. The revised plans drop the building area of the hotel by around 85,000 square feet, from approximately 340,000 square feet to 255,000. The mass is also reduced and provides 25-percent more open space than the previous plan, Geiler says. The original plans called for 225 luxury rooms at market rate. The new plan includes 222 rooms, 18 of which would be no more than $184 per night, according to the Coastal Commission staff report. Sixteen “shared accommodation” rooms were added to the plan, reminiscent of a hostel setup, where families and groups can stay together or singles and couples can reserve individual beds, at a cost of $85 per bed. Geiler says they also created a program that will offer 300 nights a year of no- to low-cost accommodations for groups from underserved communities. The lower-cost rooms came after commission staff determined the city didn’t go far enough in ensuring affordable coastal access, as required by P.G.’s Local Coastal Program, approved by the Coastal Commission in 2019. (The City Council did require Comstock to provide 56 low-cost rooms, but only for select people like teachers and first responders, plus in-lieu fees.) Thom Akeman is a critic of the project and a volunteer harbor seal monitor at the rookery at beaches along Ocean View Boulevard, just across the street from the project. Despite monitoring during construction, he still doubts that the noise created won’t disturb P.G.’s harbor seal population. “We don’t think [the conditions] will work nearly as well as they think they will,” he says. Akeman fears construction noise could drive away the harbor seals permanently, and points to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study from 2022 after city road work noise was considered the likely suspect in 23 miscarriages among harbor seals that year. He estimates 20 percent of the seal colony left and never returned. Geiler says Comstock agreed to abide by the same construction conditions required of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which in recent years has been retrofitting its underwater intake piping system. Another critic of the project, Anthony Ciani, filed a lawsuit in Monterey County Superior Court in February 2022 against the city, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, the Coastal Act and Local Coastal Program in approving the hotel. That lawsuit was suspended pending the Coastal Commission decision. The California Coastal Commission hearing is set to begin at 9am Thursday, April 11 in Long Beach. A livestream is available at bit.ly/CCCLivestream. The American Tin Cannery in Pacific Grove is mostly empty. Property owner Foursome Development has declined to renew leases due to the pending hotel. Cannery Redux A contentious P.G. luxury hotel proposal goes to the Coastal Commission with changes. By Pam Marino Nathan Poggemeyer celebrates the grand opening of the dog park he built in Toro Park. It was ready in time for Easter, a day that drew an estimated 6,000 people and hundreds of dogs. The revised plans drop the area by 85,000 square feet. Daniel Dreifuss Daniel Dreifuss The Pet Issue