Trinidad Rancheria Unveils its Revised Hotel Proposal

From the North Coast Journal, March 18:

An artistic rendering of the proposed hotel project at Cher-Ae Heights Casino off Scenic Drive south of Trinidad, as submitted to the North Coast Journal.
An artistic rendering of the proposed hotel project at Cher-Ae Heights Casino off Scenic Drive south of Trinidad, as submitted to the North Coast Journal.

“The Trinidad Rancheria recently presented its revised concept of a 100-room hotel on the bluffs of Scenic Drive but it aroused little enthusiasm from the residents of Trinidad.

David Tyson, CEO of the Trinidad Rancheria Economic Development Corporation (TREDC), gave the presentation during the March 13 meeting of the Trinidad City Council to an audience of about 40 people. Tyson said the Rancheria had reviewed the hundreds of comments received last October about the planned five-story Hyatt hotel and tried to address the concerns expressed. TREDC has hired a new developer, architect and hotel operator. Nonetheless, the plans still depict a five-story building, which is considerably larger than any other structure on the Trinidad coast.”

Jennifer Kalt of Humboldt Baykeeper stated on Facebook, “The inherent uncertainties in studying the city’s water supply is a puzzle consisting of three pieces: 1) how much water would be needed when all the land within the city limits is built out; 2) the capacity of the water treatment plant; and 3) how much the entire watershed could support, especially considering climate change and drought.”

Ted Pease, of the Humboldt Alliance for Responsible Planning (HARP), posted the following summary on HARP’s public Facebook page on March 14:

“The Trinidad Rancheria presented its update on the hotel project to the Trinidad City Council last night and took questions and comments from the Council and the public.
Some key bits from the presentation by Dave Tyson, the interim executive director for the Trinidad Rancheria Economic Development Corporation (TREDC):

• Size: The hotel is still 100 rooms, now 5 stories (down from 6) including suites, a fitness center, a pool, conference space, a 5th-floor “community area” with an outdoor patio for wedding receptions, etc.

• The design is still a vertical box, attached to the west side of the casino, 69 feet above the casino/restaurant floor (three stories taller than the casino). This is all a little confusing, but the new design is about 12 feet smaller than the previous design. The exterior is no longer desert-toned stucco, but rather “clad” in wood and stone for an “architectural aesthetic of the Northwest, similar to the Casino.” See image.

• Water demand: The Environmental Assessment last Fall estimated a daily demand of 19,000 gallons per day. The new estimate is 3,000-3,500 gpd. Questioned on how this could be, Tyson acknowledged that he is “no engineer.” National stats on hotel water use range from 53-400 gpd. At 100 gpd and 100% occupancy, the hotel would need 10,000 gpd for guest rooms only, not counting kitchens, the pool, the fitness center, etc. Laundy would be moved off-sire to reduce that demand for water and on the wastewater facility. (See attached document on estimating hotel water use.)

• Wastewater: Studies are still ongoing, but little change beyond “minor upgrades” is anticipated in the existing septic and leach field system, Tyson said.

• Traffic impact: a one-day traffic study in January concluded that, “Trinidad Rancheria hotel has little or no impact on existing transportation network and traffic patterns.” Again, Tyson acknowledged that this is outside his area of expertise, and so could answer no questions. This seems odd, since there is no hotel traffic to measure when the “study” was done, and during January, all Trinidad-area roads carry much less traffic than during the peak summer season. It is hard to see how 100 potential hotel guests driving 100 additional cars to and from the Rancheria wouldn’t increase traffic. Perhaps the engineers were assuming that most of the traffic would be absorbed by the new Highway 101 interchange the Rancheria wants as part of its overall development plan.

Comments by about 10 residents commended the Rancheria on its presentation, but again raised concerns about what this project as envisioned will do to Trinidad. As one resident pointed out, if this hotel were proposed by any other entity — billionaires, hotel corporations, environmentalist groups — it would not have seen the light of day. Other commenters called on the City Council to step up to think carefully about how this project will forever change Trinidad and the coastline.

Concerns about water remain; the city’s two engineering studies are still in process. The studies looks at water resource availability from Luffenholtz Creek, and the water plant’s capacity, along with expected city demand for projected residential growth.

Meanwhile, the BIA on behalf of the Rancheria hotel developers have already asked the California Coastal Commission for a hearing on the BIA’s finding that the project is consistent with coastal regulations for development. Commission rules require a hearing on the consistency determination within 90 days, but the Commission staff has asked the BIA to delay the hearing until August, with the Commission’s hearing is scheduled in Eureka. This in order to permit local residents to attend the hearing and express their opinions. The BIA does not have to agree, in which case the hotel consistency determination hearing will be at the next Coastal Commission meeting in Salinas in April.

At least this, as Trinidad Mayor Steve Ladwig said, is 500 miles nearer than last week’s Commission hearing on the Rancheria’s request to place Trinidad harbor land into trust (The commission unanimously approved that on an 8-0 vote.)

The Coastal Commission staff has said it will release its staff report on the hotel matter on Friday, March 22.

This tight deadline has the City Council is scurrying to put together a letter to the Coastal Commission urging a delay in the consistency hearing because the city doesn’t have enough information yet, including results of its own water studies, and responses from the BIA to comments and concerns from the city and the public.

The city has requested copies of the Rancheria’s studies on its water use, wastewater treatment, bluff stability, traffic, etc., to get everyone on the same page.”

Click here to read the full article from March 18 on the North Coast Journal website.

Click here to view the original March 14 HARP Facebook post, including attached document.