Sand City resort proposal approved by Coastal Commission

By Larry Parsons @lparsons69 on Twitter
Posted: 04/11/2014 02:58:27 PM PDT5 Comments

Santa Barbara>> In the end, it took four minutes Friday for the state Coastal Commission to settle a decades-old dispute over a proposed coastal hotel-condominium resort in Sand City.

Without discussion, the panel voted 10-2 to approve a coastal permit for the Monterey Bay Shores Resort that envisions hundreds of beach-side hotel rooms and condominiums in Sand City.

The lopsided vote closed a three-day proceeding that saw developer Ed Ghandour agree to modified permit conditions placed on the project Wednesday by the commission and a dismissal of a commission appeal in the state Court of Appeal.

Commissioner Greg Cox, alluding to the project’s lengthy history, said both sides had given and taken in reaching the resolution.

Commission staff members said the settlement promised expeditious processing of Ghandour’s revised plans and a quick turnaround.

Twice before, in 2000 and 2009, the Coastal Commission rejected the big resort project. But Ghandour prevailed in court suits, forcing the panel to take a third bite at the apple this week.

The project, which Ghandour first proposed in 1998 with a larger design, is one of the biggest coastal developments approved by the commission in many years.

“In my 21 years here, it is the largest project approved by the commission” on the Central Coast, said Deputy Director Dan Carl afterward.

And it is one of two large coastal projects proposed to be built in Sand City under a coastal land-use plan for the city approved in the mid-1980s. It calls for about 1.3 million square feet with 184 hotel rooms, 184 condominiums, three swimming pools, underground parking, a spa, restaurants and other features. The buildings would go up on about 12 acres of the 40-acre site, which includes a sand mine last operated in 1986.

Supporters of the project stressed its potential boost for the local economy, but also an eco-friendly design with buildings shaped and partially hidden by the dune landscape.

Opponents praised the design as a good project, but going in the wrong location. They hit hard on its potential impacts on nest grounds for the tiny western snowy plover.

The commission called for a revised plan by Ghandour to protect the habitat for the snowy plover and two other protected species on the project site.

While the settlement agreement between Ghandour and coastal agency calls for expeditious handling of the project, Carl said there are no specific benchmark dates in the document.

He said Ghandour hasn’t informed the commission staff of a proposed starting date for the project, but has indicated he wants “to move it as quickly as possible.”

Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379.