After a half decade, massive Monterey Downs development cancelled.

Monterey Downs is officially dead. Thanks to everyone for their support over the years to help stop this project!

Click Below For Local News Coverage:


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


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!