ABSTRACT: The Flanders Foundation, a non-profit corporation “whose mission is to restore and maintain the Flanders Mansion,” presents “THE ISSUE IS” and “THE FACTS ARE” about the Flanders Mansion Property and the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea. All of the issues and facts support the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s retention of the “irreplaceable” National Register of Historic Places Flanders Mansion for reasons of maintaining the “integrity” of Mission Trail Nature Preserve, honoring the goals, objectives and policies of the City’s General Plan and Coast Land Use Plan, et cetera.
THE ISSUE IS: Since the court ruled that the Flanders Property IS in fact parkland, the New Draft Environmental Impact Report has stated the City Council's new reasons for selling it.
The City of Carmel now asserts that its primary purpose for the sale of the 1.25 acres of Parkland involving the Flanders Property is to “divest itself of property which is in need of significant short term and long term repair and rehabilitation.” The City never proves that it can’t afford to keep it. Our responses follow.
The City of Carmel also identifies the following 6 Secondary reasons for sale:
l. To ensure that the Flanders Mansion is preserved as an historic resource.
Our answer: Who could guarantee this better than the city through its laws, enforcement powers and clout to obtain grants and donations?
2. To ensure that the Mansion building is put to “productive use.”
Our answer: The city never explains what this means. However, to us, we believe that the greatest productive use is to open it to the public for an educational, cultural and natural history museum and retain the park as a whole, intact open space for the immense enjoyment of the public.
3. To ensure that the future use of the property will not cause significant impacts to the adjacent neighborhood.
Our answer: We say that the City is the best party to accomplish this through its conditions and permitting process and a long term lease.
4. To ensure that the future use of the park will not significantly disrupt the public’s enjoyment of the park and arboretum.
Our answer: This can best be achieved if the property is not sold and remains an intact park. The city should implement its Mission Trails Nature Preserve Master Plan which states that the Flanders property should be preserved consistent with its status as a National Register Property.
5. To ensure the protection of the parks environmental resources.
Our answer: The best way to achieve this is not to sell to a single family, but to keep the park whole and to maintain the entire park properly through carrying out the Mission Trails Park Master Plan.
6. To ensure as many park benefits as “practical.”
Our Answer: What does this really mean? Why should the public be asked to accept in its own park “only as many park benefits” as are “practical?” Rather than accept this we must tell the City to retain this property and thus ensure the integrity of the entire park.
Views, trails, tranquility, accessibility, all will be preserved as they are today.
THE FACTS ARE:
1. This sale is about the loss of a very valuable community asset, parkland, and “environmentally sensitive habitat.”
The Flanders property is irreplaceable. Open land in Carmel is very scarce and extremely expensive. Thus, there will be little City desire or money in the future to replace it. Once this parkland is sold, it’s gone forever.
This property is "in the center" of our largest open space/park.
When the Flanders property was purchased in 1972-73 by the City and combined with the Doolittle property, the City Council envisioned the Mission Trails Nature Preserve/Park to be for Carmel what the Golden Gate Park is to San Francisco. Would the City of San Francisco carve up Golden Gate Park? We don't think so!
2. This sale would set a very dangerous precedent. To sell the Flanders Property, part of Carmel’s largest park/open space, an environmentally sensitive habitat, puts the Native Plant Garden/Arboretum at risk of sale.
The arboretum consists of 9-11 already subdivided lots. The City has again recently made overtures about moving the arboretum/garden to enhance the sale of Flanders.
Once the City starts to sell off parts of the park, where will it end?
3. The City has spent over $560,000 of taxpayers’ money, plus countless hours of staff time fighting this issue.
The City would rather pay outside attorneys and consultants than to make repairs and seek outside grants and allow the public to enjoy this outstanding public asset as an educational, natural history, and cultural venue.
4. The city does not lack the money to repair and maintain its parks.
It has over $10 million in Reserve Funds.
The past City budget was approximately 1.2 million in the black!
The Transient Occupational Tax monies provided for in the ordinance were to go for "parks, public facilities and municipal structures." Thus, there should be funds available for this parkland property.
In 10 years in spite of good times, the City has claimed that it needed revenues; however, it did NOTHING significant to raise new revenues to protect the city in an economic downturn and provide essential services. Instead, it chooses to raid Reserve funds to pay for its many hired consultants and part time/contract employees.
Also, in 10 years, the City has not sought out available grants to rehabilitate the park and restore the Flanders property. Further, it has rejected offers by outside entities to assist in performing the needed restoration at no city expense.
The City Council has a long history of failing to maintain public property, our community assets: Flanders and Mission Trail Nature Preserve, Forest Theatre, roof of the Public Works Office, Scout House, the Park Branch Library basement where the city’s art collection has been stored for years and until recently the Fire Station.
5. Environmental Concerns: The sale will create:
A private in holding in the park which will result in conflicts in use between park visitors and single family residents who desire privacy.
A disruption in the trail system and public use of the central part of the park.
Will destroy the park’s integrity and the public’s enjoyment of unfettered open space.
Will disrupt the extensive and unique flora and fauna.
The loss of Park views and view shed which are irreplaceable.
A separation of the arboretum/Native Plant Garden from the Flanders property and the remainder of the park.
Eliminate a major accessible area for the handicapped.
6. The project (i.e., the sale of Flanders Parkland) conflicts/violates many of the City’s General Plan and Coastal Land Use Plan goals, policies and objectives.
There are significant unavoidable impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act as stated in the 2005 Draft Final Environmental Impact Report, as well as the 2009 Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report.
These goals and policies and objectives are:
To avoid impacts to parkland and ensure that park benefits are preserved and enhanced.
City to protect, preserve and acquire parks and open spaces (not sell them).
City to protect and preserve park views and view sheds.
City to preserve park access, the passive enjoyment of the park and optimize the use of the parks.
Preserve and enhance our forest, protect, conserve and enhance the unique natural beauty and irreplaceable natural resources of Carmel.
Preserve and protect areas within Carmel which due to their outstanding aesthetic quality, historic value, wildlife habitats or scenic view sheds should be maintained in permanent open space to enhance the quality of life.
Conflicts referenced: P5-46; P5-139, P5-107, P6-8, P7-3; O5-21, O5-32, O5-41; G5-6, G5-4, G5-8, G5-3, G5-13 (See General Plan/Coastal Land Use Plan).
7. In the last 10 years, the City has not once tried to find an adaptive use for Flanders. It continues to talk about City efforts 11-30 years ago, but they themselves have done nothing in spite of repeated offers by the Flanders Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to work with them.
8. In the past, the City has also failed to work with individuals who were capable of refurbishing the property at no cost to the city and who were desirous of a long term lease. The city would retain the parkland and receive the property back at a later date. The City was not interested even when a family was offering to donate an extensive art collection to the community at the end of their lease.
9. For 10 years the City's goal has been nothing other than the sale of this parkland. Their eagerness to sell in an economic down turn makes this sale even more irresponsible and incomprehensible.