May 24, 2013 In News

Sand City Resort Project May Get Another Hearing Before California Coastal Commission

By: Larry Parsons Monterey Herald Staff Writer

A San Francisco judge Friday ordered the state Coastal Commission to again consider a long-pursued permit for a beachfront hotel-resort in Sand City.

Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn ruled in favor of developer Ed Ghandour, who has pursued the project on 39 acres once used for sand mining for 20 years.

The ruling marks the second time Ghandour has won a court order for a new hearing after being denied a coastal permit for his Monterey Bay Shores Ecoresort. The project calls for a 161-room hotel, 180 visitor and residential condominiums, a restaurant, conference facilities and a spa.

“We were expecting (a ruling in Ghandour’s) favor. We were sorry that it took so long,” said Thomas D. Roth, attorney for Ghandour’s real estate development company, Security National Guarantee.

The commission could appeal the decision or rehear the long-contentious project. Roth said, “We will have to wait and see. That’s a commission decision and their attorneys will have to advise them.”

In 2008, the 1st District Court of Appeal ordered the commission to rehear the project, and the coastal panel again turned it down. In the meantime, Ghandour won an appellate court ruling in 2012 that rejected a Sierra Club petition to block a water distribution permit for the resort project.

Ghandour originally proposed a much bigger project with 495 hotel rooms and condos on the site at the northern edge of Sand City, but he scaled it back around a design with buildings terraced into the dunes.

The case has reached voluminous proportions. Kahn noted that the administrative record has grown to 80 volumes, and he held six hearings before reaching his decision.

His 10-page decision goes through seven issues cited by the commission for rejecting the permit, including water, coastal hazards, dune protection and traffic.

But Kahn said a “coastal peace accord” and Sand City’s local coastal plan envision “significant development” at the site.

“To some degree I agree with (Security National Guarantee) that the commission’s denial of the permit appears to be based in part on apparent hostility by some commission members and staff to development of any kind at the site,” the judge wrote.