Lots of Room for Development

Apr 25, 2013

A lot of record awaits development at Monterey's Del Monte Beach.
Credit Krista Almanzan

Lack of water has slowed development on the Monterey Peninsula.  But California American Water’s proposed water supply project includes some new water that could change that.  It would create water for so-called lots of record

In some of the most desirable places to live on the Monterey Peninsula, pieces of land sit empty, many with overgrown weeds and some next door to multi-million-dollar homes.   These are the Peninsula’s lots of records.  Land that is buildable, but right now, does not have access to water.  “Very hard to sell, very hard to sell,” said Bert Aronson, Broker at Keller Williams Realty in Carmel, “there are several lots in Carmel over the years that have stagnated on the market. People would love to buy them and build on them, but if you can’t get water, you can’t do anything with it.”

Development started to slow on the Monterey Peninsula about a decade ago as cities used up their allotments of water.  But it wasn’t until 2009 that any hopes of developing these empty lots were effectively quashed. That’s when the California Public Utilities Commission issued the Cease and Desist Order against Cal-Am to stop over pumping the Carmel River and to stop issuing new water connections.  That moratorium left many property owners high and dry.

“We get a lot of calls from elder people who may have purchased a property in Carmel planning to retire here, and at this point found that they cannot build on their property,” said Stephanie Pintar, Water Demand Manager for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, a Cal-Am regulator.  But that could change.  Cal-Am’s proposed Water Supply Project not only includes the water needed to maintain the level of service it currently provides on the Monterey Peninsula, but new water for these lots.  “The district’s recommended sizing for the project that included approximately 1181 acre feet for legal lots record and remodel, and so you would see that that would cover construction for many years to come,” said Pintar.

“With a couple hundred acre feet of water, the City would be in really good shape,” said Chip Rerig, Chief of Planning, Engineering and Environmental Compliance for the City of Monterey. On the coffee table in his office, he sets down a list with 36 projects on it.  This is the city’s water waiting list.  “So we have people that were approved ten years ago for a new single family dwellings.  We’ve not had any water to allocate to them, so they are basically on the list if water, when and if water becomes available, they will be allocated this water on this waiting list basis,” said Rerig. While he doesn’t expect a flood in development if the water supply grows, he says interest in Monterey is far greater than just the wait list.   “We’re not inland somewhere.  We are a coastal California, so there is a desire and a need for people to be in our commercial areas. It’s kind of a Mecca.  People want to be in Monterey,” said Rerig.

And while an expanded water supply would  also open up the real estate market, Broker Bert Aronson doesn’t anticipate a sudden rush to buy empty lots, yet.  “We’ve had water restrictions for a long time. We’ve been looking for new water sources for a long time, so I think it will have to be a reality before it has a significant impact,” said Aronson.  If the Public Utilities Commission approves the Cal-Am Project as proposed, it could be up and running with additional water for the Monterey Peninsula by the end of 2017.