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



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.