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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Chapter Chair's Column
Activists successfully defend Del Monte Forest
August 2007

The Pebble Beach Company lost its bid to cut down nearly 18,000 trees and fill in some of the last remaining coastal wetlands in California when their 2000 Measure A and the project came before the California Coastal Commission in June. The massively destructive plan which included a golf course, driving range, luxury homes and commercial space was resoundingly denied by an 8-4 vote. The Chapter was represented by our attorney, Tom N. Lippe, and Sierra Club California Coastal Program director, Mark Massara. Many club members attended the 10-hour hearing in Santa Rosa.

The Coastal Commission staff gave a compelling synopsis of their 200-page report describing the rare and protected habitat that exists in this Monterey pine forest—one of only five remaining in the world. This ecosystem contains three to four dozen special status species including some which are so rare that they would qualify for ESHA (Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area) on their own. The forest contains two federally-endangered species, Yadon's piperia and the California red-legged frog as well as significant areas of delineated coastal wetlands, maritime chaparral, and coastal dunes.

This project was viewed by a majority of the commissioners as too destructive and illegal under the Coastal Act. Commissioner Sara Wan noted, "In my 20 years of attending the Coastal Commission's meetings, this is the most egregious example of development trying to circumvent the Coastal Act. It amounts to wholesale destruction of the environment and destroys the essence of the Monterey pine forest."

The 2000 Measure A was opposed by the Chapter at the time. To promote the measure, the Pebble Beach Company featured Clint Eastwood in TV ads claiming a yes vote would "save the forest." When in 2004 the plan was revealed to include cutting down 18,000 trees, filling in wetlands, and wholesale destruction of habitat, voters felt they had been duped, and there was a firestorm of protest over the deception. Another troubling aspect of the project was that the Pebble Beach Company wanted to disregard an existing conservation easement that was a condition of approval of Spanish Bay in 1986.

Thanks to all who contacted the Coastal Commission to express your support for preserving this critical habitat.

—Rita Dalessio

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