18 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY june 13-19, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com Marina, see Cypress Knolls as a critical area. Perez says Marina has missed the opportunity to inter-connect its different communities and Cypress Knolls may be its last chance. “I think it’s [the] last place to make that happen,” Perez says. “My biggest concern in Marina’s growth is that the Reservation/Del Monte corridor and the Imjin/Sea Haven/Dunes corridor are going to create two different cities and two different cultures.” Diversity is a key element of Marina’s identity. A hint of that comes from the city’s restaurant offerings, which include Mexican, Korean, Thai, Salvadorian and more. It’s reflected on official city surveys that present questions in languages including English, Spanish and Korean. A range of events bring people of different cultures and races together to work on removing weeds and planting trees at Locke Paddon Park, or gathering at the Marina library for the Dads Read program, or explicitly celebrating diversity at the city’s Multi-Cultural Festival every year. Many residents feel proud of the legacy of diversity, something that remains from the Army era—and, longtime residents hope, into the future. “I hope it doesn’t change that. I do feel like they heard loud and clear that is a huge area the community wants to maintain,” says Francine Rodd, a Black, longtime Marina resident who remembers when the city had just one stoplight and one fast-food restaurant (a KFC). Allie Kim, a Sea Haven resident who grew up in Marina, notes the evolution of diversity over the years—she remembers an influx of Polynesian residents in the 1960s, and notes an increasing number of Latinos today. (Less than 47 percent of Marina’s residents are white, the largest proportion among all ethnic groups; another 29 percent are Latino. By comparison, the proportion of Latino residents countywide is over 60 percent.) Economic diversity is a factor that some people fear losing as new development happens. Rodd grew up in Marina when it was a diverse Army town. “My friends, we used to call ourselves the Benetton,” she says, a reference to a clothing brand that showcased people from different backgrounds, like her friend group. She left the area to pursue higher education and after 15 years overseas, returned in 2004 with her own family. “It was affordable, and it was very diverse and that was really important to us,” Rodd notes. “We want our children to be able to grow up and still stay and live here. We want the students from CSUMB to be able to stay and live here.” But affordability—and culture, even if that is harder to measure—can be difficult to maintain. Andy Woolfoot is a real estate agent who lives in Marina with his wife, Jennifer, and their three daughters Kiera, 4, and 3-year-old twins Mia and Ava. Woolfoot and his wife moved to the area 10 years ago. They initially lived in CSUMB housing, then in 2016, purchased their home. Like many Marina homeowners, they settled here because it was relatively affordable: “The affordability of Marina was a big attraction,” Woolfoot says. But prices have skyrocketed. “I remember seeing a three-bedroom home, 1,600 square feet, in the $400s,” Woolfoot recalls. Now it is hard to find a three-bedroom house, or any house at all in Marina, under $800,000. Woolfoot says home prices have doubled and there is a lack of inventory even with growth. For local firsttime buyers, he says: “There’s just not the housing available to them, even with the new developments; they’re bigger, pricier homes.” Kim, who returned from 35 years in San Francisco to retire in Marina, recounts seeing the prices in Sea Haven in 2021 increase by $15,000 to $25,000—per week. There was little hope for Kim and her wife to find a home during the pandemic while inventory was selling fast. Kim called regularly and one time she “got lucky,” learning a sale fell through. She had 20 minutes to decide if she wanted to make the offer. “Everything just fell in place and it worked out,” she says. While Kim lives in a new neighborhood, her home is close to where she grew up. “I’m right on the edge of what they consider central Marina,” she says. “There’s this line of trees that separates Sea Haven from central Marina.” Kim loves her neighbors and they have built community, but she notes most of them aren’t local—many have moved recently from the Bay Area, enabled by remote work policies during the pandemic. Despite the contrasting neighborhoods and an influx of newcomers from the Bay Area, Marina remains a tight-knit community. Managing that balance is Marina’s official vision statement: “Marina will grow and mature from a smalltown bedroom community to a small city which is diversified, vibrant and through positive relationships with regional agencies, self-sufficient. “The City will develop in a way that insulates it from the negative impacts of urban sprawl to become a desirable residential and business community in a natural setting.” Marina is well positioned to thrive. It’s located between Salinas and Peninsula cities, but does not face the same water constraints as the latter. (It is outside of the Cal Am service area, which is under a cease-and-desist order by state water officials.) The city is a beachside community. It also enjoys inland recreational offerings. Much of the former Army base, some 14,000 acres, became the Fort Ord National Monument, with hiking, bicycling and equestrian trails. Delgado is a botanist by trade, as a BLM employee, and has long been involved in habitat restoration projects. He says beautification, reforestation and environmental awareness are an integral part of Marina’s community identity. “We’re respecting our natural heritage of people, plants and animals that have been here for thousands of years,” he says. An emphasis on conservation does not preclude recreation. Last year, the city opened a bike pump track at Glorya Jean Tate Park. It’s nearly 30,000 square feet and the first of its kind in Monterey County; it’s accessible for bicyclists of all ages, skateMarina Station, expected to start grading this year, is located in northern Marina. The project includes 20-percent affordable housing. “Affordable housing isn’t our issue,” City Manager Layne Long says. He notes there are 685 affordable units at different stages of construction in the city within the next year. Mayor Bruce Delgado explains to Marina residents about potential areas for future development at a public workshop on April 27 about Marina 2045, the city’s general plan. “Marina absolutely deserves a downtown that is enjoyable to spend time in.” Celia Jiménez Celia Jiménez