| Will the Coastal Commission uphold their mandate?
The Coastal Commission will hear the Pebble Beach Company's (PBC) expansion proposal at their June 13 meeting in Santa Rosa. This has been a long road for the Chapter which has been fighting development in this rare, fragile forest for 40 years. The current proposal for lavish homes, hotel expansion, a driving range, and 18-hole golf course would violate the Coastal Act protections for Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA) and coastal wetlands.
The twists and turns of this development have been largely driven by the celebrity status of the owners who wield enormous power in Monterey County and the State. The PBC spent nearly a million dollars on media for the 2000 ballot Measure A campaign claiming it would "save the forest." The initiative says that voters want to increase open space in Del Monte Forest and that any future development would be consistent with the Coastal Act.
When the true project came to light a few years later, it called for cutting down 18,000 trees and building a golf course in the heart of delineated coastal wetlands—actions clearly illegal under the Coastal Act. Voters were shocked and said so.
Desperately trying to get environmental buy-in, the Pebble Beach Company has offered to grant conservation easements on hundreds of acres in Aguajito as mitigation. But this area is not in the coastal zone, so should not be of any interest to the Commission. Especially egregious, the PBC is trying to vacate existing conservation easements in Del Monte Forest that were a condition of approval for the 1986 Spanish Bay project. They certainly cannot be trusted to hold to a conservation easement now.
Another bogus issue the PBC has raised as reason they are entitled to certification of the 2000 Measure A and approval of their development plan is that they could have built more than 800 homes in their 400+ acres of forest. This is a fallacy. PBC has about 40 lots of record left. There is no basis to think the Coastal Commission would approve over 800 new units given Coastal Act restrictions and lack of public benefit.
Finally, the fact that the duped voters approved a ballot measure in 2000 is no guarantee that either Measure A should be certified or that the proposed PBC project is an entitlement. Coastal development is subject to the Coastal Act and general environmental review. The plan is illegal and should be denied. Any other outcome would be politically motivated.
It's important to remember that the PBC pulled a vote on their plan when it was on the Coastal Commission agenda in June 2006. This occurred after a story broke in California papers reporting that Speaker Fabian Nunez's office had tried to replace Commissioner Padilla, Mayor of Chula Vista. The papers linked this action to PBC and suggested this was an effort to replace a Commissioner believed to be opposed to the project with a pro-development person. Red-faced, PBC then requested the vote be removed from the June agenda, which it was.
A surprising reshuffling at the Coastal Commission occurred in February 2007 when Commissioner Meg Caldwell, a well respected law professor at Stanford University, learned she had been replaced by the Governor. Caldwell had been Chair of the Commission and had asked some very tough legal questions about the PBC project.
The California Coastal Commission was founded to uphold the Coastal Act and protect the California coastline from development which would threaten coastal resources. The Commissioners should act on their mandate and deny certification of the 2000 Measure A and this destructive development.
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