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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

Sierra Club
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county
Club involvement greens up Marina development
March 2008
by Steve Zmak

Marina Station is a 320-acre, 1,360-home Creekbridge Homes project on Armstrong Ranch north of Marina and adjacent to the east side of Hwy. 1. The project includes retail, light industrial, residential over retail, and commercial components. The new urbanism design exceeds Marina's park-to-residents ratio threefold, includes three town centers within a five-minute walk of most residents, solar power for all the single-family homes (60% of the residential component), rain gardens that filter storm water runoff and pump it back into the aquifers, and a number of other green design and building practices that give it Silver and Gold LEED ratings.

Phase 8 along the east side of Hwy. 1 contains the highest concentration of critical habitat, including two vernal ponds, which will form the 25-acre cornerstone of onsite restoration connecting to 83 additional acres of restoration to the north. Marina State Beach is just out of frame to the west (left). Photo by Steve Zmak.

This is just the type of project the Ventana Chapter has been seeking to use as a environmentally-sensitive model of community development. The catch is that the project requires the transplanting of 51 acres of federally-endangered Monterey spineflower (1:1), 33 acres of coastal dune scrub (2:1), and 21 acres of native grassland (2:1) for a total of 108 acres to be restored.

The Ventana Chapter presented Creekbridge Homes with the following criteria that would have to be met for us to possibly endorse the project. The California Native Plant Society concurs.

1) No net loss of sensitive habitat.
2) Sensitive habitat is kept in or adjacent to the City of Marina.
3) Sensitive habitat is contiguous, not broken up.
4) Hwy. 1 scenic views are preserved.

Marina City Councilmember Ken Gray proposed the purchase of an additional 125 acres by Creekbridge Homes adjacent and north of the project from the Armstrong family to create a regional park and restoration site, for which we advocated. That idea has evolved into negotiations among the Ventana Chapter, Armstrong family, Creekbridge Homes, and a number of other local environmental and conservationist organizations to create an 83-acre conservation easement.

This, along with the 25 acres of onsite restoration, would allow for the 108 acres of restored habitat to meet the first three points of our criteria.

Creekbridge Homes has agreed to redesign the western-most element of the project (Phase 8) to eliminate approximately 20 homes to preserve scenic views from Highway 1, and allow for the preservation and restoration of two vernal ponds that would have otherwise been graded over. Phase 8 contains the highest concentration of critical habitat that will form the 25-acre cornerstone of onsite restoration.

On March 4, the Marina City Council approved the project with conditions of approval addressing the criteria that were agreed upon by the Ventana Chapter, LandWatch, Councilmember Gray, and Creekbridge Homes. The next step will be for city staff to analyze the changes to Phase 8, hold public hearings in the Planning Commission and City Council, and approve the amendments. Stay tuned.

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