Monterey Herald: Monterey Downs economic analysts sued

SEASIDE >> The firm behind a draft fiscal and economic impact report for Seaside’s proposed Monterey Downs development is being sued by two California cities over financial calculation errors.

Willdan Financial Services was sued by the cities last year for miscalculating utility rates, and in 2013 the firm was accused by a third town of the same.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Willdan’s parent company, Willdan Group Inc., stated in an official filing that it plans to “vigorously defend against the claims,” adding, “this matter is covered by the company’s professional liability insurance policy.”

Monterey Downs chief operations officer Beth Palmer said she hadn’t heard about the lawsuits, and said the project hired Willdan mainly because their longtime analyst James Edison had recently left another company to join the firm.

Edison, managing principal at Willdan Financial, declined comment, telling The Herald he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Palmer said Edison was recommended to Monterey Downs because he had experience with Fort Ord projects.

In July, the Southern California city of Glendale sued Willdan for $9.3 million. That amount covers the $9 million city officials said the company’s miscalculated water rates cost the city since 2012, along with consultants’ fees that Willdan and another company were paid, plus the cost to notify ratepayers about the error.



Glendale City Attorney Michael Garcia said the city provided bimonthly water use information, but Willdan’s staff “assumed it was monthly data” when the firm told the city what it should charge for water.

“There was a significant reduction in revenue” for the city, Garcia said, and when stunned city staff “worked backwards,” they discovered the error.

Willdan “acknowledged it caused incorrect rates, but said we should go back and charge the customers,” Garcia said. “We didn’t think that was fair.”

Garcia said no settlement talks are in the works at this point and the lawsuit is proceeding.

In August, Union City sued for $140,000 for failing to include a sanitation rate hike in calculations from 2012 that were given to the Alameda County assessor for use in property tax bills.

“Willdan admitted to that error, but refused to compensate the city for its error,” Union City’s City Attorney Ben Reyes said.

He said the firm told the city, “You have to go do a supplemental billing to the customers.”

Reyes said officials felt that response was “an inappropriate result. … It would lead customers to the conclusion that someone in the city had committed the error and not Willdan.”

He said when Union City increased another fee a few years ago, “there was a recall of two out of three City Council members. The residents are very sensitive to this.”

He said the city is in the process of trying to set up formal mediation with Willdan in hopes a settlement can be reached.

“We’re hoping, because in the scheme of things our case is much smaller than what’s going on in Glendale and presumably in Monterey, and we’d just like to get this behind us,” he said.

In 2013, the Humboldt County community of McKinleyville accused Willdan of a 2011 miscalculation that cost it $400,000. Willdan agreed to re-do the town’s water and sewer rate analysis at no charge, officials there said. Residents are now paying a monthly surcharge to make up the discrepancy that will last until December 2017.

Palmer said Monterey Downs’ situation is likely different from the cities because Seaside has made sure there is oversight.

“I don’t know that we would have that situation here, because you have a completely independent party to double check the work,” she said. “The city has hired its own company, which we pay for, to peer review it. That’s one reason we have so many versions (of the report).”

Michael Salerno, co-founder of Keep Fort Ord Wild, said Willdan Financial’s report for the combined housing and racetrack development was released to his group as part of a public records request. The November draft came after a version in March that had higher revenue estimates, he said.

Plans are to build the development in six phases, with Seaside losing money in four of those. It will take all six phases to reach the promise of $1.2 million annually going to the city’s general fund, according to the report’s estimate.

Salerno said his organization started scrutinizing the report after learning that Willdan Financial was being sued.

“That’s what made us look at the numbers more closely,” he said. “That’s twice in the past year for errors in their reports that cost the cities money.”

Salerno said his group has concerns about projected revenue from 141 events that would be held each year, including 40 concerts and 60 local, state and national horse shows. The events would draw 380,000 visitors, the report says, who would spend some $16 million a year in the surrounding community.

“They’re using some assumptions in there that are just crazy,” Salerno said. “They have 141 events, which basically means the place is running constantly. These thousands of people per day, some during the week — there’s no precedent for that in Monterey County.”

In comparison, Albany’s Golden Gate Fields hosts 28 summer concerts.

Salerno said the total of five horse shows per month also seems extreme.

“They didn’t sum the number of events or describe why that was rational. If they’re overestimating the amount of events, they’re going to overestimate the revenue,” Salerno said. “So if the project already has a thin margin … they could end up with something that’s completely revenue-negative for the entire project.”

Palmer said the report “is not a set-in-stone document” and its revenue projections will likely continue to change.

“We’re still in the process, with four or five drafts already, and we’re still getting numbers from the city,” she said. “Everybody’s looking at something that’s a moving target right now. It’s not final.”

Herald staff writer Jim Johnson contributed to this story. Julia Reynolds can be reached at 726-4365.


Monterey County Weekly: In unreleased Downs EIR, there’s more water for horses than people.

By Mary Duan

In December, the Weekly broke news on a truly cringeworthy moment in the ongoing effort to produce an environmental impact report on the Monterey Downs project. That moment: In response to a Public Records Act request, the city of Seaside accidentally released a confidential attorney memo that discussed the fact there isn’t enough water for the full build out of Downs, the homes-and-horse-track project proposed for development on part of the former Fort Ord. As a result of that accidental release, and the subsequent reporting by this newspaper and other media, the city decided to hold off on releasing the draft EIR that same week.

Keep Fort Ord Wild, the activist group that made the PRA, wondered why. They also wondered if, perhaps, the draft EIR had been sent to developer Brian Boudreau or a member of his team. So KFOW asked the city, because if the draft was released to the developer, it meant the document was officially public and they had the right to see it.

The answer from the city was no. Until all of a sudden, it was yes. At least in part.

On Jan 29, a little more than three weeks after KFOW made the request – and two weeks after the city told KFOW it had no records in response – City Clerk Lesley Milton sent a letter that stated city staff released a part of the draft EIR to Team Boudreau. That section, called 4.19, has to do with water.

It’s another cringeworthy moment, because section 4.19 shows the development will rely on wildly speculative water – water that currently doesn’t exist – or won’t ever belong to the development because it’s been allocated elsewhere. The data doesn’t match reality, and that flies in the face of the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, which dictates how an EIR is developed.


“There’s a requirement in CEQA law that there has to be an ‘on-the-ground reality’ in an EIR,” KFOW member Michael Salerno says. “But here there’s a mixture of outdated information and speculative information on the water supply.”

As a bonus: Under section 4.19, horses are allotted 75 gallons each per day. Humans, meanwhile, are allotted 55 gallons each per day. That 55-gallon estimate is based on a statewide target that some jurisdictions have been able to achieve while operating under extreme drought emergency. According to a state Water Resources Control Board report released last November, Monterey residents used 49 gallons per person per day as compared to the same time in 2013. Watsonville residents, meanwhile used 97 gallons per day.

Other things to note in 4.19: The draft relies on five-year-old data on water demand in a plan developed by the Marina Coast Water District. The primary source of water for the Marina Coast district, the report states, is Salinas Valley groundwater and a small desalination plant in the central Marina service area. That last bit is interesting, because that small desal plant was shuttered a few years ago because the water was so expensive to produce. The report also points out, the plant’s yield (if there was any) is already dedicated to three other residential developers.

But 4.19 talks about “future water supply,” and references the fact that Marina Coast is working to develop new sources of water: recycled water and desal. And that’s interesting because this report was written in December, but Marina Coast didn’t vote until Jan. 21 that it intended to pursue a new desal project.

Another fast bit: “The project would require construction of new water infrastructure in order to address existing deficiencies identified by Marina Coast,” 4.19 states. And later, the report enters fantasyland. “Much of Fort Ord has already been redeveloped… and many projects have been approved, but not yet implemented,” it states. Also, the Base Reuse Plan EIR has concluded that a number of reasonable long-term water supply options exist.

But are any of them funded, or are they all going to be placed on the backs of Marina Coast and Seaside ratepayers?

We reached out on Tuesday to the city of Seaside and the Monterey Downs environmental consultant to find out when they released section 4.19 to Team Boudreau. As of deadline Wednesday, they hadn’t responded to a request for comment.

MARY DUAN is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at


Kids Love KFOW


Monterey County Weekly Coverage | Without more water, attorneys say, Monterey Downs could be sunk.

Horse Jumping

Nic Coury


Monterey Downs developer Brian Boudreau did not answer the Weekly’s calls and emails about the lack of water for his proposed project.


Monterey County Weekly Coverage | Attorney memo: There’s not enough water to build out Monterey Downs.

Brian Boudreau

Nic Coury


Monterey Downs developer Brian Boudreau faces an uphill battle on finding enough water for his homes-and-horse track development.


Monterey Downs horse racetrack may be dead in the water

Watch Video Here:

SEASIDE, Calif. —The controversial Monterey Downs project suffered another setback after a confidential memo went public.

With the memo going public, a crucial report on the project — set to be released this week — has been put on hold indefinitely.

The memo, which addressed water concerns surrounding the project, was accidentally included among hundreds of documents that were released under a public records request by a group opposing the project.

“It tells the public what they’ve known for a while, that there’s no water for Monterey Downs,” said Michael Salerno, spokesman for Keep Fort Ord Wild, the group that requested the documents.

The memo highlighted what the Marina Coast Water District concluded two years ago, that there isn’t enough water for the entire project, only part of it.

The sprawling project includes 800 homes, a horse racing track, commercial development and an events arena.

Developers are betting on two new water sources being considered by the water district; a de-salination plant and water recycling facility.

Neither are close to becoming a reality though.

Attorneys for the city told city planners they need to consider the environmental impacts of any new water source and determine who will get to use the water sources, according to the memo.

“If a new water source came on line, Monterey Downs is assuming that they’re first in line for it, which isn’t necessarily true,” said Salerno.

Both issues will likely need to be answered before a draft of the Environmental Impact Report is made public.

That report was scheduled to be released Friday but the decision to pull it was made after the confidential memo became public.

“I think they just want to take one more look at that section of the EIR to ensure that the issues that were talked about in that memo were adequately addressed in the EIR and we think in general they do,” said Teri Adam, a planner contracted by the city to work on the project.

The Monterey Downs project has been talked about for three years and planners said it could now be late spring before anything goes before the Seaside City Council for consideration.


39,000 Oaks To Be Removed For Monterey Downs Complex

Keep Fort Ord Wild has obtained Monterey Downs planning documents from the City of Seaside under the California Public Records Act. To see the Monterey Downs and CCVC Forest Resource Evaluations, click the links below:




Oak Removal
More than 39,000 oaks are in the Monterey Downs project area…of which more than 9,000 are in “oak oval” area to be preserved…(theoretically)…though Monterey Downs has stated they plan to set-up a cross country horse course  there, so likely some oaks will be removed there too.

Thus, around 30,000 trees would come down if project gets approved, because it’s difficult to imagine that any trees would survive the mass grading and development as laid out in the MD specific plan and subdivision map.

The Vets Cemetery Report was also authored by Staub for FORA. It says over 9,000 oaks are on-site. Again, its difficult to imagine many oaks surviving the cemetery project, given the development and mass grading required. Note this report was prepared in 2010 for FORA. FORA chose to sit on the data during the Veterans Cemetery designation in late 2012. Its not hard to imagine this data could have affected the FORA board’s decisions or caused a more serious consideration of other sites with less environmental impact. Note: The Veterans Cemetery project is part of the Monterey Downs complex and will be analyzed in the same envoronmental review (EIR) process

Both reports talk about the presence of numerous landmark oaks in the respective project areas.

Overall, for the Monterey Downs complex (including the VC) it looks like 39,000+ oaks will eventually be removed.

Tree Replacement/Mitigation Issues

“Tree Replacement” sections (pg. 11 for VC) and (pg. 14 for MD).  Acknowledgement of the mitigation problems. —  Where do you replant 39,000 trees?

From MD Report:

 Since fairly dense oaks already cover nearly 60% of the project site and the proposed use will require substantial clearing, there is no likelihood that 1:1 on-site oak replacement will be appropriate.

From VC Report:

Since fairly dense oaks already cover nearly 65% of the project site and the proposed use will require substantial clearing, there is little likelihood that 1:1 on-site oak replacement will be appropriate.

 The reports indicate they will not be able to mitigate the oak loss on the project sites.  To duplicate +/- 60% of the lost oak acreage off-site, they would need to find  300+ suitable acres off site for mitigation.  Where?

Ancient Oaks Bulldozed in 2009 Fort Ord Clearcut

Results of a past Fort Ord Clearcut



Monterey Downs Plans: Ticky-Tack Urban Sprawl To Replace Old Growth Oak Forest

Keep Fort Ord Wild has obtained Monterey Downs planning documents from the City of Seaside under the California Public Records Act.

To see the draft Monterey Downs specific plan and Monterey Downs subdivision map click the documents below:



Monterey Downs LLC was upset at Seaside’s release of these records to KFOW, as representative Beth Palmer stated at the Seaside City Council meeting of February 7, 2013.

You can see her comments in the video of the meeting, starting at 47:49.  City Attorney Don Freeman responded to her comments at 49:23. (Monterey Downs “supporters” start speaking at 38:00 chastising the City Attorney for complying with the  California Public Records Act.)

The Monterey Downs specific plan and subdivision have not been approved as of February 2013. An environmental impact report is being prepared by RBF, a contractor under the direction of Seaside and Seaside’s project planner EMC Planning Group, Inc.  Seaside is paying its contractors — project planner EMC Planning and EIR preparer RBF — with money from Monterey Downs LLC, the project applicant.

According to a January 2013 schedule prepared by the EIR preparer, RBF, the draft EIR for Monterey Downs will be released in August 2013.  The schedule was obtained by KFOW under the California Public Records Act.  To see that schedule, click here: Monterey Downs EIR Schedule_1-18-13
Once the draft environmental impact report (EIR) is released, the public will have an opportunity to submit comments on it.  An environmental impact report is required for this project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  CEQA requires public agencies to follow a process that is designed to inform the public and decision makers of the environmental consequences of their actions before they act.  CEQA also helps keep governmental decision makers accountable for their actions.  Keep Fort Ord Wild supports the CEQA process.

Looking Back: 2007 Mass Grading at East Garrison

Wondering what the beautiful open space areas in Parker Flats will look like if the Monterey Downs is approved? Photos of the East Garrison development from 2007 give us a pretty good idea.

5,200 Coast Live Oaks removed for East Garrison.

East Garrison Stats:

Homes Planned = 1,470
Coast Live Oaks Removed = 5,200
Coast Live Oaks Replanted as of Dec. 2012 = 0
Homes Sold as of Dec. 2012 = 0


District 5 Supervisor Dave Potter personally ensured the community this project would be a winner:



FORA Board Approves Reassessment Report Farce


12/14/12 the FORA board approved the Final Reassessment Report for the Fort Ord Base Reuse Plan.

Despite being one of the most important things FORA will ever do, only Supervisor Jane Parker chose to comment on the matter. Public comment was closed by FORA chair Dave Potter despite large amounts of new information since the draft version of the report.  See starting 15:30 in this video:!


In addition to the report being filled with factual errors and omissions, the Final Reassessment Report represents a conflict of interest as FORA’s consultant EMC, is also managing the Monterey Downs project for the City of Seaside.

Click Below to open the letter to the FORA board outlining KFOW’s objections to the Final Reassessment Report.

The Final Reassessment Report is available on FORA’s website here:


Monterey Downs and City of Seaside Water Math Just Doesn’t Add Up

  • The City of Seaside is allowed withdraw 1012.5 AFY from the Salinas Groundwater Basin (SVGD). This allocation is consistent across documents from FORA, Seaside and Marina Coast Water District.
  • The recently approved Monterey Downs Water Supply Asssessment (WSA) by Marina Coast Water District also indicates Seaside is allowed to withdraw 1012 AFY from the Salinas Groundwater Basin. The Monterey Downs WSA shows Monterey Downs would have 199.7 AFY available from the Seaside Allocation.  Note: This table does not include the Seaside Golf Course which puts Seaside way over its allocation.   MontereyDownsWSA-Table5-2
  • In response to the Monterey Downs WSA, Jane Haines a local attorney and member of the Sierra Club analyzed current/recent usage from Seaside projects. Her analysis shows Seaside has already exceeded its allocation on usage alone by  3 AFY.  HainesUsageDataSeaside
  • 11-16-12 FORA Table 18 from final Scoping Report [Revised Attachment F to Item 8d] – Again shows Seaside allocation is 1012.5 AFY. But indicates Seaside has only 27.9 AFY left to allocate thus contradicting the Monterey Downs WSA . Note: FORA table includes the Golf Course in its allocation, but does not include usage for MPC, Chartwell and Monterey College of Law. These projects are online and using water. FORA table shows allocation for Main Gate project to be zero (why?). If Main Gate is included, Seaside has no (negative) water to allocate to Monterey Downs.    FORARevisedTable18Scopreport
  • Marina Coast Water District table obtained by KFOW via PRA request. 11-28-12. Summation of all allocations on this chart is 1216.6 AFY – Exceeds Seaside allocation by 204.1 AFY. Again, Seaside has no (negative) water to allocate  to Monterey Downs.  MarinaCoastAllocations11-28-12

Important Notes on Allocation and Usage

  • Lack of available water for development in Seaside has not been addressed in the BRP reassessment process. FORA board may move to approve the final reassessment 12-14-12 without acknowledging this.
  • No documents reference an allocation for the Seaside Surplus II Planning Area. This is the large 90 acre area of  blight owned by Seaside adjacent to CSU and up the hill from Monterey College of Law. (Shows as number 7 in this map). .  The number one thing heard from the public during the reassessment process was remove blight/build on blight first. With no groundwater allocation and with all water spoken for by other projects, this extensive blight will remain for many years until a new water supply comes along and is allocated to that area. The clear message from the public is being ignored.
  • The City of Seaside has indicated to the press that Seaside can simply reallocate water from other projects (like the stalled Main Gate Project). However, this would require the City vacate those approvals and restart the CEQA process to analyze the project with less or no water.
  • Recycled water not a realistic near term solution: Recycled water for residential use has not been approved by Monterey County
  • Originally, Seaside was pumping water for its Golf Course from a city well in the Seaside basin. Per the 1993 agreement (USA and MCWRA) this did not count towards it allocation. As time went on, seawater intrusion in the Seaside basin got worse. It was acknowledged that the Seaside Basin was overdrafted and that basin was adjudicated.  Seaside in 2010 abandoned the city well and changed the Golf Course water supply to Marina Coast wells thus drawing from the Salinas Basin — 430 AFY of water.  The 430 AFY allocation is reffered to as “temporary”, but there is no reliable replacement source on the horizon in the forseeable future.
  • The Monterey Downs WSA estimtates the project would require 852.5 AFY. With zero water available from Seaside, Monterey Downs would only have 187.5 AFY available from the County of Monterey….and that’s only assuming the County would give all of its remaining water to the Monterey Downs project.