10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY June 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com Highway 1 in Big Sur is among the most beautiful roads on Earth. Most images of it—aside from disaster photos—contain one common element: a bridge. The 1930s-era bridges along Highway 1 have become the artery’s defining feature, but as their concrete railings have deteriorated over time and now require replacement, just how that plays out has become a hot-button topic. Among the railings in need of replacement, Garrapata Creek Bridge is the first that’s come into the focus of Caltrans. The agency’s recommendations, based on standards adopted in 2016, have run afoul of the Monterey County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors—it’s been deemed that they harm the views. In March 2023, the Planning Commission denied Caltrans’ application for a permit to replace and redesign the railings; Caltrans appealed to the Board of Supervisors, who in turn voted in December to uphold the “intent” of the Planning Commission’s decision—Caltrans was tasked with developing a more refined proposal. Caltrans submitted a supplemental application with a range of aesthetic options. It’s slated to return to the board for a vote on Tuesday, June 25. The board also voted to create a working group to review Caltrans’ proposed design alternatives; the group included three Caltrans employees and four county residents or employees. In a ranked voting poll, it went 4-3, with the county representatives wanting to keep it the same. A county report characterizes the supervisors’ decision as wanting to protect “one of the few celebrated man-made features along Highway 1 in Big Sur Critical Viewshed,” and notes “the precedent-setting nature of this decision, which may impact the consideration of the other historic bridge rail replacements in the Big Sur corridor.” Pete Hendrix, Caltrans District 5 traffic chief, says if the supervisors deny the appeal, Caltrans is likely to add barriers to take the bridge to one lane for three to 10 years. From Ragged Point to Monastery Beach, he adds, there have been 24 fatalities in vehicular accidents over the past decade. Martha Diehl, a county planning commissioner who lives near the Garrapata Creek Bridge, has been a leading advocate for keeping the current aesthetic, and thinks Caltrans needs to change its approach to the design—safety matters, but so do looks. “We’ve all got to help them get out of that box,” she says. Though right now, Caltrans is not budging. Election season in Carmel is off and running, after not one, but two challengers have declared they’re seeking to unseat incumbent Mayor Dave Potter, who is running for a fourth twoyear term in November. “Experience counts,” Potter says. Councilmember Jeff Baron and the leader of the all-volunteer group Carmel Cares, Dale Byrne, suggest that experience hasn’t translated into solving the key problems that have been challenging the city for years. “I’m a little frustrated with how slowly things happen,” says Baron, who was elected to his first term in 2018, the same year Potter first became mayor. “We’re headed in the right direction but I don’t think we’re going at the right speed.” One example is the Carmel Police Station, which has continued to deteriorate over many years as city leaders have disagreed over renovations, costs and, more recently, whether to tear it down and start over, either at its current location on Junipero Street or at nearby Vista Lobos Park. Potter and Byrne say they want to remodel at the current location. For Baron, focusing on remodeling as the only option isn’t the best use of time—looking at details and costs for a few options and making an informed decision is better, he says. Byrne, a retired CEO, doesn’t have elected experience, but over the last four years he and other Carmel Cares volunteers have completed hundreds of improvement projects around the village, working in partnership with city staff. He’s running for mayor, as opposed to council, because he says he’ll be in a better position to set the council’s agenda and work with administrators to tackle issues. “I’m creative, I listen and I get things done,” Byrne says. Potter says he wants to continue the work he began as mayor, bringing the community together through listening and conversations. He points to success at getting residents and the business community to work as partners, rather than adversaries. Third Rail Officials at odds about how to fix a bridge while preserving iconic Big Sur. By David Schmalz news Let’s Talk Budget The Monterey County Board of Supervisors holds a public meeting to consider adopting its $2 billion budget for the next fiscal year. 9am Thursday, June 20. County of Monterey Government Center, 168 W. Alisal St., first floor, Salinas; virtually via Zoom. Free. 755-5066, countyofmonterey.gov. At Your Fingertips The Seaside Family and Community Support Program’s annual Community Resource Fair, in partnership with the Seaside Police and Fire departments, is a chance for residents to learn about services to enhance health, wellness and safety. The event also features free entertainment, food and giveaways. Noon-4pm Saturday, June 22. Laguna Grande Park, 1249 Canyon Del Rey Blvd., Seaside. Free. 899-6852, fcsprogram@ci.seaside.ca.us. Education in Focus The Monterey Peninsula College Governing Board of Trustees meets to discuss college business and accept public comment. 4pm Wednesday, June 26. MPC Library & Technology Center, Sam Karas Room, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. Free. 646-4000, mpc.edu. Next Top Cop Salinas City Manager Rene Mendez seeks feedback from residents on what experience or leadership qualities the city’s next police chief should have. Share your thoughts on who should take the helm of the police department in the largest city in Monterey County. Survey ends Sunday, June 30 at 11:59pm. tinyurl.com/ SalinasLeadership. Report from Base The U.S. Navy released a Final Environmental Assessment for its Naval Innovation Center, a 289,916-square-foot building proposed on the Naval Postgraduate School campus in Monterey. The report found the project would not have a significant environmental impact. The report is available at the Monterey Public Library, 625 Pacific St.; Pacific Grove Public Library, 550 Central Ave.; Seaside Branch Library, 550 Harcourt Ave.; and NICMontereyEA.com. Citizenship Preparation The Salinas Public Library holds virtual citizenship classes for adults studying to take the United States citizenship interview in English. Practice interviews can be scheduled upon request. 6-7pm Thursdays. Virtual. Free. 758-7916, salinaspubliclibrary.org. Triple Play The Carmel mayoral race heats up early with two candidates challenging the incumbent. By Pam Marino Caltrans officials say replacing the barrier railings on the 1931 Garrapata Creek Bridge as they appear today is not a viable option given modern safety standards. e-mail: toolbox@montereycountynow.com TOOLBOX If they deny the appeal, Caltrans is likely to add barriers. Daniel Dreifuss