(Written February 4, 2018)
Back in September 2017, we tabulated the results of 17 topics that were put to CRA members for a vote. Additionally, in January, we held an online, members-only straw poll of how members felt about the proliferation of wine-tasting rooms in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea, so, 18 topics of concern in all.
The five-person CRA Issues Committee met to deliberate about what, if anything, the CRA can do about resolving these issues and, if so, what would be a recommended course of action for the city to take. For the sake of convenience, the residents’ concerns have been divided into four groups:
- The most important concerns of our residents that the committee also felt should be resolved as quickly as possible. They are listed in order of priority.
- Concerns that are in the process of being addressed by the city already, but need to be put on the calendar for follow-up.
- Limited recommendations for the board of directors.
- Concerns that we do not feel the CRA Board can or should take action on, either because they have been addressed satisfactorily (or it’s all that’s going to happen) or they would take away from the time and energy that will be needed to address the higher-priority concerns
The list is as follows, along with specific recommendations of the committee where appropriate. In parentheses is the percentage of concern of residents for that topic.
A. THE MOST IMPORTANT CONCERNS
#1. Cleanliness of Carmel Beach (91 percent)
For years, Carmel Beach has been famous for its white strand and many have considered it Carmel-by-the-Sea’s grand jewel. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have been responsible gatekeepers and it’s hard to say which generation is most at fault for the degradation of what once was, and could be again, a pristine beach.
CRA members have voted it their highest concern and the city, therefore, should begin a dedicated effort to provide the resources and expertise that it demands, and make it their top priority.
To begin restoring our beach, the committee feels strongly that the following actions need to be taken:
* First, the beach should be thoroughly sifted of all debris every spring, thus marking a new beginning and commitment to consistent caring of our beach, providing a fresh start every year.
*Second, there was a beach patroller promised by the city a year ago. Officials said that it would take nine months of training, but we are past that now. This patroller should police the beach, citing anyone who lights an illegal fire on the sand, leaves litter, cooks on a barbeque or hibachi, or damages the beach in any way, including graffiti on the rocks. The patroller should also cite people who drink alcohol on the Scenic Road pathway or smoke cigarettes, cigars or marijuana on the beach or the pathway. The city should agree to join us in becoming diligent watch-keepers for those who do not follow the rules and value the importance of beach cleanliness. The patroller must begin work this year, covering the length of the beach every day, citing anyone who lights an illegal fire on the sand, leaves litter, cooks on a barbeque or hibachi or damages the beach in any way, including putting graffiti on the rocks.
*Third, the city should clean the beach three times a week in the high season, June through September. Thereafter the usual Monday cleaning should be sufficient.
*Fourth, while we have seen an improvement in the number of dog poop bags left on the sands, the trash containers above the beach need to be picked up more frequently during peak season, when they often overflow.
If these steps are followed consistently then in a few years we can, once again, be very proud of the beach that we call ours.
#2. Tour Buses (67 percent)
This is #2 on the priority list because it will generate a new stream of income for the city and the funds could be used to improve infrastructure (most especially the condition of neighborhood streets) and staff to clean and monitor the beach for infractions of the laws that are in place to protect the beach (see#1).
The recommendation of the committee is to have the city hire two part-time employees (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – one for five days a weeks and the other two days a week,) to ensure that parking fees are paid by the tour bus companies. There would be a small hut placed near the tour bus parking area for the use of the employees during down time. The parking fee that the bus company would be charged would be included the period of time that the bus would be parked, plus $5 per passenger. (This would be collected by the bus company as part of the passenger’s ticket.) The parking monitor would also greet passengers on the bus before they alight, distributing a brochure (in their language) about matters such as using cigarette butt containers, listing the rules of the beach (including beach fires, smoking and alcohol), and respecting the residential areas, along with ideas as to how visitors can maximize their time during their short stay. The bus company employees could also answer any questions that the passengers may have, with the tour guide translating if and when necessary.
#3 Public Smoking (68 percent)
This is #3 because the city does have an ordinance on file that was sent back to staff for adding a reference for signage and cigarette butt containers on garbage receptacles (the vote to do that was 4-0, with Carrie Theis being absent). Public smoking is an issue downtown in Carmel-by-the-Sea. There is currently an ordinance banning smoking on the beach and in the city’s parks which follows California state law. If smoking was only banned downtown, then smokers would drift into adjoining neighborhoods to smoke. Additionally, employees in offices in the commercial district often take breaks to smoke on the sidewalk outside their offices. It is also felt that visitors, most especially day-trippers, rather than residents, are the root cause of public smoking in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Passive smoking can cause cancer and is also an issue for people with pulmonary disease. In this day and age, with so many cities, counties and states – and countries around the world – having a proliferation of smoking-ban laws on the books, it is time for Carmel-by-the-Sea to do likewise. Given that such bans are common, adopting one in our city should in no way cause tourists to turn away from visiting. This ban would also fit in well with Visit Carmel’s health and wellness program, the Carmel Innkeepers’ program that is offering healthy programming options for visitors who stay in our city’s hotels.
The committee recommends that the CRA Board have the city resurrect the public smoking ban ordinance that the council unanimously passed on October 6, 2015. It was reported in the Monterey Herald that the ordinance was expected to pass once it was sent back to city council with the revised language. The ordinance should have been sent back to the city for a final reading and a vote. We believe that the CRA should request that the ordinance receive the final reading and vote this spring. We think the fact that there is a new council is a moot point given that the ordinance never received a vote of the final version of the ordinance. The only thing that could preclude it is if there is a time limit on when ordinances can be finalized after sitting idle for a period of time.
#4 Construction on Weekends (78 percent)
Mayor Steve Dallas indicated last year at the CRA’s annual public meeting with the city council that he would like to see a ban on construction on Saturdays, the committee would support an additional ban on new house and major remodeling construction on Saturdays. If this is unenforceable, then there should be a complete ban on construction on Saturdays and Sundays. The committee does understand that residents may need emergency repairs or want to do DIY work on the weekends, and this is not what we are aiming to stop. It is the noise of construction that interferes with the peace and rest that residents seek and which they are deprived of due to a great deal of construction noise in a city that is constantly renewing and replacing homes. Two days of respite from the noise, as well as from vehicles that often line the streets where sites have construction in progress, would receive positive acceptance by residents based upon the results of the members’ questionnaire.
#5 Leaf Blowers on Weekends (63 percent)
In May, Steve Dallas expressed an interest in supporting this. The committee supports a ban on leaf blowers on Sundays, so that residents can still have Saturdays for this purpose
B. IN THE PROCESS OF BEING ADDRESSED BY THE CITY AND SCHEDULED FOR FOLLOW-UP
#1 Proliferation of Wine-Tasting Rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea (90 percent)
The committee did feel that the CRA needs to push for a cap on the number of wine-tasting rooms downtown. This item has been calendared for March.
#2 Street Conditions (79 percent)
It is appearing that a new revenue stream needs to be identified so that more funding can go to repairing streets in the neighborhoods. Should the city council decide not to award the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau the $176,857 for destination marketing, the board could request that they move those funds to public works for street repair. This item has been put on the city calendar for June, after the 2018-2019 budget has been passed.
#3 Destination Marketing (68 percent)
See the foregoing item.
#4 Existence of Wood-Fueled Fires on Carmel Beach (69 percent)
No action is recommended by the board at this time, but the committee should put the matter on the calendar for the future if the plan by the city council deteriorates. The one area the CRA cab remain vigilant about is the illegal fires on the beach which are not being enforced. There is a city council meeting on February 6, 2018, to review the pilot program and to discuss the possible expansion of the number of smoke-less fires that would be used this year instead of regular fires. A beach patroller was to have been hired in 2017, but that has not been done. Any public effort to ban wood-fueled fires on the beach at this point is not likely to change any minds in city hall of the local California Coastal Commission staff, which oversees the rules for Carmel Beach; but residents should still be encouraged to voice their opinions.
C. LIMITED ACTION FOR THE BOARD
#1 Short-term rentals (86 percent)
This appears to be something that the city is now aggressively pursuing. It was mentioned that residents are expected to provide the name and phone number of the owner and the address of the residence when reporting an illegal short-term rental operation. It was felt that the name and phone number of the owner may be difficult for a neighbor to find and inquiring may cause them to lose their anonymity. Can this information be found on Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO)? Is there some other way for a resident to ascertain this information or is it something that the city should do or more easily find? Note: Barbara Livingston has been told by the city that it is now requiring that a resident who feels that a property owner is engaging in a short-term rental must provide the city with the actual advertisement that the property owner is using.
#2 Downtown Cleanliness (83 percent)
The city ascertained that they could use non-potable water to power wash the sidewalks, and did so just before Car Week 2017. It had been a long time prior to that, that the power washing had been done. The committee feels that the city should power wash the downtown sidewalks on a quarterly basis.
Also, we would like the city to send notices to downtown property owners requesting that they maintain their roofs in good condition. Many have an abundance of moss or appear to be in need of repair, causing a shabby appearance.
It was noted that many merchants sweep outside their establishments and add attractive plantings. The committee recommends that all merchants be required to sweep outside their stores/restaurants on a daily basis.
#3 Commercial Traffic (80 percent)
There was no action recommended on this since it is an enforcement issue. The board could address the matter of enforcing the ‘no double-parking during business hours’ rule, as well as speeding issues with the police department.
#4 Major Public Events (66 percent)
The CRA Board should encourage the city council to follow the policy on fees and this might control the number of events. Other than that, there seems to be no desire on the part of the council to limit or cap the number of public events.
D. NO ACTION OR FOLLOW-UP RECOMMENDED FOR THE BOARD
#1 Touting (87 percent)
While this was an important concern for residents (#3 of the 18 issues), the committee does not feel that the CRA’s energy would be wisely spent pursuing this with the city, as the city attorney has stated that touting from inside the threshold of a store is permitted and protected by freedom of speech rights. If the touter crosses the threshold, however, then the committee recommends that residents take a photo of the merchant or employee in action and report it to the city. The city going forward will be issuing conditional use permits to business owners and complaints can be filed against these permits. With enough complaints, conditional use permits can be withdrawn if it is proven that the business owner and/or his/her employees are causing a public nuisance and/or threatens public health or safety.
#2 Expansion of Wood-Fueled Fires Along the Beach (80 percent)
Such expansion does not appear to be a threat at this time. The board may wish to revisit this should there be any move in that direction if the city replaces wood-fueled fires with smoke-less fires. This still may not be an issue for residents, but asking them how they feel about that, should the time come, would be recommended.
#3 Traffic Impact from Special Events (65 percent)
No action is recommended, as it is not likely that we can get the city to reduce the number of special events. As a special event is brought up at the city council, we should recommend that residents speak at the meeting to voice their concerns. It is appearing that this is an enforcement issue.
#4 Behavior of Tourists (61 percent)
No action recommended. This appears to mostly concern a few residents on Scenic Road.
February 4, 2018
Committee Chair: Georgina Armstrong
Committee Members: Dick Stiles, Ann Pendleton, Jon Wolfe, Lauren Banner