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



FORA conflict of interest

FORA faces conflict of interest charge

Fort Ord: Lawsuit alleges consultant’s hiring violates law
Herald Staff Writer
Updated:   08/09/2012 08:46:02 PM PDT

As Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Sam Farr toured Fort Ord National Monument on Thursday, there was more trouble brewing for the base reuse authority and its executive officer.

A new lawsuit by Keep Fort Ord Wild alleges the Fort Ord Reuse Authority and Michael Houlemard violated state law by hiring a consultant to write their reassessment plan who is already the project manager for Monterey Downs, the largest proposed development on the former Army base.

The city of Seaside hired EMC Planning Group in February to guide development of the equine-themed project, which would include 1,500 residences, two 200-room hotels, retail areas, an Olympic-sized aquatic center and a horse-racing track. Monterey Downs LLC, the developer, is paying the $192,000 contract.

Before it can become a reality, the project must conform with the Fort Ord Base Reuse Reassessment Plan, which will guide future land use on the base, among other things, and must be completed by Jan. 1, 2013.

In April, after prolonged discussions and recommendations by an interview panel for a different consulting firm, the FORA board hired EMC to write the reassessment plan. The contract, which Houlemard signed, eventually totaled $506,000.

The danger, Keep Fort Ord Wild alleges in its lawsuit, is that EMC is being paid “by two masters” to meet with itself to write the rules that will win approval for Monterey Downs. The cozy relationship, the suit states, is a violation of the Political Reform Act and conflict of interest laws.

The suit seeks an injunction against the arrangement, a finding regarding the rights and obligations of the parties, and attorneys fees.

Houlemard and FORA’s in-house attorney Jerry Bowden were not in the office Thursday afternoon. Outside counsel Jon Giffen said he had not had time to read the lawsuit, which he received late in the afternoon, but said FORA would respond appropriately.

Speaking from an administrative point of view, Assistant Executive Officer Steve Endsley said his staff reviewed both of the consulting agencies that applied for the job, EMC and RBF/AECOM, and judged both qualified.

Despite concerns raised in writing and in public comment by Keep Fort Ord Wild spokesman Michael Salerno, according to the lawsuit, Bowden advised the board EMC had no conflicts with regard to accepting the reassessment job.

The lawsuit is just the latest shot across FORA’s bow by the group of open-space and outdoor-recreation enthusiasts. It filed suit in March over public records it sought pertaining to FORA’s use of a $100 million federal grant for munitions cleanup on the base.

Since then, FORA has released to the public thousands of pages it earlier denied it had or even existed, the new lawsuit states.

Waiting in the wings is a likely lawsuit over expense reimbursements to Houlemard, including reimbursement of his residential DSL service and nearly $300 for a moving violation and traffic school. A claim over those expenses was denied by the board.

Thursday’s lawsuit is potentially more serious, as it threatens to delay work on the base-reuse reassessment, which must be completed by Jan. 1. It also comes at a time when the state Legislature is considering extending FORA’s authority beyond its 2014 sunset.

Monterey Downs last month submitted an application to the city of Seaside that would require numerous amendments to the city’s general plan, zoning and planning laws. Any amendments would have to be approved by FORA’s Base Reuse Plan. Seaside is also seeking annexation of land for the project that was earlier allocated to the county.

EMC, which is guiding both processes, is required to have a representative onsite in FORA offices. At the same time, the company is writing documents on Seaside letterhead regarding Monterey Downs.

“The FORA consultant is writing rules, omitting other rules that may inhibit or prevent the Monterey Downs project, and setting up a regulatory plan that decides what is permitted … and what is prohibited,” the lawsuit states. “The FORA consultant is writing the script for the same controversial project which consultant is managing in (its) role as project manager.”

The conflict, the suit states, is demonstrated by comments Seaside made to FORA in an Aug. 2 letter complaining that the base reuse plan has not promoted economic development in the city. The letter “strongly advocated” that the reassessment give greater emphasis to reaffirm Seaside’s future development.

It also “pleads for a bigger piece” of FORA’s money and water allocations to accommodate development, goals that would likely be in conflict with other jurisdictions.

Unlike the public, the lawsuit states, EMC has complete access to data and work products — paid for by tax dollars that support FORA — for purposes including research for Monterey Downs or other private interests.

Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 753-6751 or vhennessey@montereyherald.com.


Ed Mitchell’s FORA comment

FORA Comment from Ed Mitchell, LTC(R) shared with permission below. What’s yours? June 15 is the deadline for your comments to plan@fora.org.


I am a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who underwent basic training and one tour of duty at Ft Ord and am submitting these inputs as a member of American Legion 593, and as the co-founder of the Prunedale Neighbors Group.

I attended the first FORA reassessment workshop that was held in Salinas. I submitted comments then but wish to follow up with written input to FORA and to Congressman Farr.

#1.  I wish to first point out that the FORA presenters provided zero information on how well or poorly FORA has achieved the objective goals in the approved Fort Ord Reuse Plan after 14 years of work. Expecting public feedback without revealing FORA’s self-assessment effectively disquises performance shortfalls.

There have been some very significant accomplishments that need to be recognized. But so should the significant shortfalls. Transparent and mindful understanding of each is needed to determine what actions FORA needs to continue and what performance adjustments are needed to remove the shortfalls, before considering extending the life of FORA.

Accomplishments include establishing CSUMB and entitling six subdivisions, some of which have been built or partially built. But the shortfalls include large swaths military urban areas remaining blighted with decaying buildings and cracking parking lots, while additional subdivision entitlements into the forested/trails areas of Ft Ord are being championed as appropriate.

The major shortfall is only focusing on entitling subdivisions and zero progress on leveraging habitat and recreational access to help the local economy. FORA has shown zero vision or leadership to generate eco-tourism for the local towns of Marina, Seaside, and Del Rey Oaks. FORA’s leadership shortfall is not recognizing that low-cost improvements would support thousands of tourists to visit and spend money in the surrounding towns.

#2 For example, a major shortfall is the lack of a free public access policy to the recreational areas. Free public access to California’s coast is now recognized as a highly beneficial public policy that generated billions of dollars in tourist income to this state during the last 45 years. Similarly, millions of dollars of economic benefit can be gained by the cities surrounding Ft Ord if FORA, surrounding cities, and the County of Monterey establish ordinances or requirements that make developments or roadways provide safe access over, under, or across those areas to ensure free public access to the recreational areas within Ft Ord, including the Soldiers Monument.

#3 Additionally, there has been zero progress on the objective of establishing a county-city trail system to access the protected interior area of Ft Ord, now the Soldiers National Monument. No planning for parking/access areas or intelligent trail linkage from adjacent parks to the Ft Ord recreational areas. This shortfall was mitigated by local activists who conducted a successful referendum to ensure linkage of the Ft Ord Dunes State Park to the Jerry Smith recreational trail to the Soldiers Monument.

#4 Should FORA be approved to continue operating after June 30, 2014 it should be required to focus priority not on more entitled subdivisions or building bus maintenance yards in the woods. FORA should instead comply with the Fort Ord Reused Plan’s objectives and work on establishing trailheads and intelligent trail networks and champion the economic benefits of a 50-50 balance between job growth coming from the existing developments (as they build out) and job growth from eco-tourism to/through the new Soldiers Monument. Any claim that one of FORA’s accomplishments was the establishment of the Soldiers Monument is false. That vision came from the hiker/biker/horse rider community who did the legwork to make it a reality. FORA only chimed in at the end when the activists had gained political support from politicians in Washington D.C. that grasped the merit of the vision.

#5 Another shortfall is the lack of information on the progress of the Ft Ord range clean up of ammunition and whether that task will not conclude on June 30, 2014 when FORA is schedule to expire. This county cannot and need not suffer the economic harm of the range areas not being cleaned up with the original $100 million dollars allocated to FORA. FORA should report to Congressman Farr, to State Assemblyman Monning, and to the public during the reassessment period, whether the clean up goal will be achieved on schedule and within the allocated budget — prior to any reassessment decision. We need to know now if FORA is going to claim it does not have enough money to finish the clean up.

A sister shortfall is that the annual progress reports by FORA average 4 to 6 pages in length and provide little transparency on progress toward achieving Ft Ord Reuse Objectives. Too little accurate information is provided.

#6 Not providing local Indian tribes acreage for a cultural center, as was promised, is another shortfall.

#7 The County’s proposed routing of the 4-lane highway from Seaside to reservation road should be re-routed along the existing Gigling road to the existing Inter-garrison road to East Garrison’s connection to reservation road. It should not cut through interior wooded areas.

#8 I also recommend that the Veterans Cemetery be annexed into the Soldiers Monument.

Yours truly,

LTC(R) Ed Mitchell


Judge tells Fort Ord Reuse Authority to turn over records or explain why not

Herald Staff Writer
Posted:   05/08/2012 08:35:42 PM PDT

A judge ordered the Fort Ord Reuse Authority to turn over a trove of public records detailing munitions cleanup or explain by early Wednesday why it is not legally required to do so.

In response to a lawsuit by Keep Fort Ord Wild, Judge Lydia Villarreal on Friday ordered FORA to index all requested documents it is withholding and identify corresponding exemptions under the Public Records Act by Wednesday.

Villarreal gave FORA three deadlines, the first of which is Friday, to turn over documents it now agrees are public.

Keep Fort Ord Wild, a group of open-space advocates, sued FORA in March after it balked at releasing records documenting the expenditure of nearly $100 million in federal funds issued in 2007 to finance the munitions cleanup of 3,340 acres destined for public use.

FORA attorney David Balch said Tuesday he did not oppose the group’s motion to compel the index and agreed to have Villarreal set deadlines for release of records.

The records include documentation for invoices submitted by Arcadis U.S. Inc., the private contractor overseeing the cleanup project. FORA executive Michael Houlemard said it was at Arcadis’ behest that FORA originally refused to release the records.

Houlemard said FORA used $82.1 million of the $97.7 million federal grant to purchase a fixed-price contract with Arcadis that was insured by Chartis company. Invoices exchanged between the two companies, he said, were private, proprietary documents.

On April 20, Balch filed a cross-complaint on FORA’s behalf alleging Arcadis was responsible for any damages awarded against FORA. Attached as an exhibit was an email from Arcadis project manager Kristie Reimer stating the records could be used by a competitor to Arcadis’ disadvantage.

Shortly afterward, Keep Fort Ord Wild received hundreds of pages of FORA documents with monthly invoices from Arcadis and Weston Solutions Inc., the sub-contractor completing much of the munitions clearing.

The records shed light about how much money the two companies have received — more than $50 million to date — but do little to explain what FORA received in return. Invoice after invoice shows Weston and Arcadis billing as much as $1.2 million per month for “professional services” with no explanation of what the services were, though they detail reimbursable expenses as insignificant as a 9-cent phone call.

Balch said backup documentation is being gathered. Villarreal ordered him to turn over those records to the open-space plaintiffs by May 18.

FORA has until May 25 to turn over non-protected records in the possession of independent counsel Barry Steinberg of New York, who helped negotiate the Arcadis contract.

All other requested documents not included in the index of exempted records must be produced no later than Friday.

Michael Solerno, spokesman for Keep Fort Ord Wild, said he and others who use the former Army base for recreation sought the public records in December after looking at FORA’s books and seeing no explanation for delays in finishing the cleanup, originally scheduled for completion in 2011. The group filed suit after being stalled for three months with explanations that the records didn’t exist or were proprietary.

Houlemard and Balch indicated Tuesday the adversarial tenor between the agency and the open-space preservationists had grown more cooperative since the suit was filed.

That was not evidenced by a letter sent to Balch on Tuesday by attorney Michael Stamp, who represents Keep Fort Ord Wild.

Stamp and co-counsel Molly Erickson had asked FORA to establish a records-retention policy after learning the agency was routinely destroying emails after 90 days. Balch responded that FORA had an “unwritten” policy and would review it in closed session on Friday because the issue had been raised in connection with litigation.

“An ‘unwritten’ document retention and document destruction policy is a mockery,” Stamp responded, saying any policy must be written and adopted by the board to meet the standards of a public agency.

As for the closed session, Stamp wrote: “FORA proposes to have a secret governmental session to discuss secrecy and the unauthorized destruction of public records. Keep Fort Ord Wild strongly objects to FORA’s consideration in secret of such an important issue.”

FORA, Stamp said, “is at the lowest level of transparency of any agency in California and has been destroying public records at an appalling rate.” He called on the board to open its Friday discussion to the public.

Yet to be seen from FORA is any document explaining what has been accomplished as part of the Arcadis project. FORA program manager Stan Cook said Tuesday none of the targeted areas are complete. Two have “regulatory clearance,” he said, and are only awaiting release by Chartis, the company that insured the cleanup at the fixed price.


Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 753-6751 or vhennessey@montereyherald.com.


Keep Fort Ord Wild: Must Watch Video by Students to Save Fort Ord

Many Thanks for our friends from Students to Save Fort Ord for producing this awesome video!