It was reported in the Monterey Herald today that the Seaside City Council approved a six-month extension of negotiations for an In-N-Out Burger joint on Del Monte Avenue next to Laguna Grande Park. All I can say is "Sigh."
The City of Seaside is notorious for setting its sights impossibly high then settling for the ridiculously low. The property in question was zoned for a hotel. When they couldn't find a suitable developer they decided to settle for a hamburger stand.
Isn't there something between those two extremes that would be both economically viable and appropriate for the site? I would suggest a nice locally-owned family restaurant, designed by a local architect so as to be aesthetically compatible with the lakefront setting. It might incorporate outdoor seating, perhaps on an upper deck, to allow diners to gaze across the water and view the waterfowl. Anyway, that's just one idea that pops off the top of my head. You'd think the planners at city hall would have some other good ideas at their disposal. You'd think.
You'd also think that Seaside, being the gateway to some of the most beautiful communities in California, would have developed some sort of aesthetic sensibilities when it comes to land use. Instead, the city has allowed itself to be defined by cookie-cutter corporate buildings where the dominant architectural feature is the parking lot. Chili's restaurant, which also fronts Laguna Grande, is a good example of this problem. (Incidentally, Chili's was supposed to have outdoor lakefront seating, but the city let that slide by, too.)
Nearby, the city planned to build a train station, but settled for a Starbucks. The beautiful building at Broadway and Fremont has the aesthetic part right, but that corner needed a major anchor tenant, such as a department store, to encourage smaller businesses to move in around it in accord with the Broadway "downtown" plan. Instead we got a pizza parlor, a Kinkos, and a Starbucks that fizzled along with the neighborhood.
Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against fast-food chains. I patronize them myself. Cities like Pacific Grove that ban them altogether are unreasonably extreme. So I have no problem having an In-N-Out Burger somewhere in Seaside, just don't put it in front of our lake! There are better uses for such prime real-estate.
Seaside desperately needs better leadership, people with good economic sense, combined with an appreciation for the city's appearance and genuine concern for our reputation as part of the larger Monterey Peninsula community. Our Mayor, Ralph Rubio, talks up a storm about civic "pride," but he hasn't given us much, aside from some free music on city hall lawn and the occasional parade, to get excited about. Meanwhile, our major commercial neighborhoods still look like hell when compared to the rest of The Peninsula. And yet he still wonders why we get no respect.
It is for these reasons, and many others, that I am supporting Felix Bachofner for Mayor of Seaside. I have known Felix for twenty years, and can personally vouch for his integrity and good sense. As a former Seaside Planning Commissioner he has a good grasp on proper land-use policy, which will help make Seaside more attractive and more prosperous. See www.felixforseaside.com to learn more.