www.montereycountynow.com june 13-19, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 17 Marina resembles a quilt made of different pieces of fabric, each with different patterns, stitched together, and the stitches are still visible. Two neighborhoods, The Dunes and Sea Haven, are rising up with new construction. Central Marina, where a proposed downtown area will be located per a city plan, features older homes and commercial strips. There is city-owned affordable housing at Abrams Park and Preston Park, set off from the central core, and Cypress Knolls, a 188-acre ghost neighborhood with about 400 dilapidated homes near Marina High School. Another new development, Marina Station, is expected to break ground later this year. This patchwork reflects the old, new, in-progress and future of Marina, incorporated in 1975. Once a military city adjacent to Fort Ord, Marina today is a city in transition. The U.S. Department of Defense closed the base in 1994. The Army kept just 876 acres of the 28,700-acre installation, and the land—roughly the size of San Francisco—was partitioned among Marina, Seaside, Monterey, Del Rey Oaks, the County of Monterey and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. A slice became the campus of California State University Monterey Bay, making it into a college town. Marina’s service area—where police and fire services, garbage collection, transportation, road maintenance would need to reach—roughly doubled. Marina City Manager Layne Long says this created an unusual setting for Marina: large areas of vacant land, some with open space and others with old military buildings. “Most cities our size do not have all those vacant properties,” Long notes. Developing those former military properties is a decades-long process still underway. It has been a patchwork process. Next will come an effort to make the stitching between the patches less visible. Within Marina, there are some invisible dividing lines that delineate the old city from the former Fort Ord; other lines are more obvious. One of them is Imjin Parkway, a busy artery that feels like a mini-highway connecting Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula. A few exits connect the corridor to Central Marina and several cul-de-sacs areas along Patton Parkway; the fenced-off end of Carmel Avenue separates that part of the city from Sea Haven, a residential community still being built. Dilapidated buildings along Imjin Parkway are now gone, and the road is currently under construction to add two additional lanes and four roundabouts along 1.7 miles. “There’s no physical footprint anymore that would tell someone it used to be military. They have to know their history,” Mayor Bruce Delgado says. Delgado has lived in the city since 1996. For most of those years (since 2000), he has served on council. He says the city has worked for decades to blend old Marina with Fort Ord Marina. Much of this is through road infrastructure. Once the city opens up Second Avenue, connecting The Dunes with Del Monte Boulevard and Central Marina; Reindollar Avenue gets connected (via trails) to Imjin Parkway; and the Cypress Knolls area is developed, Delgado expects the city to be more connected and feel more like a whole. “Cypress Knolls has to happen because we can’t have a bunch of abandoned Army houses there,” Delgado says. “Cypress Knolls is in the start [of a] planning process,” he adds. It will be a lengthy process. Cypress Knolls is contaminated by lead and asbestos. The property is located in a key area in Marina: at its core connecting the newer, Fort Ord portion of the city with the older part to the north. City staff estimate the cost of cleanup on the Cypress Knolls area is $20 million to $25 million. Community Development Director Guido Persicone says Marina has received $300,000 in seed funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to test the barracks for lead and asbestos, and will apply for a $5 million grant to demolish a portion of them. (In 2022, the city approved spending $4.2 million to remove 45 barracks and debris from Cypress Knolls.) At least three development proposals on the site have fallen apart over the last 15 years, based on cost. But after multiple projects stalled during the Great Recession, Marina is actively growing—construction is underway and people are moving into new neighborhoods at The Dunes and Sea Haven. Meanwhile, ideas are resurfacing for Cypress Knolls and Marina Station. The latter is a 320-acre development in the northern part of the city that will bring in 1,360 residential units, as well as office, retail and industrial areas. Some city leaders, like Jon Perez, pastor at Epiphany Lutheran & Episcopal Church in The Brass Tap opened in April, one of the first Promenade businesses; customers can witness the fast-moving changes from the outdoor seating. Pastor Jon Perez, who is visually impaired and walks with his guide dog Arlington, says Marina is not pedestrian-friendly. “I give Marina a fat F for pedestrian safety and pedestrian viability,” he says. “There are places where there are just not sidewalks.” Del Monte Boulevard would transform once the Downtown Specific Plan is implemented, shrinking from four lanes to two, and would have several roundabouts instead of streetlights. Daniel Dreifuss Daniel Dreifuss Celia Jiménez