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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Fight to save Monterey pine forest continues - Coastal Commission likely to rule on Pebble Beach development in June

April 2006

Yadon's piperia
The endangered orchid, Yadon's piperia, grows where the Pebble Beach Company wants to develop yet another golf course.

Sierra Club activists from around California joined Ventana Chapter members at the 13-hour long Coastal Commission meeting on March 10 in Monterey. Nearly 300 people (150 of them Sierra Club members) crowded into the conference room where the meeting was held and listened to over 100 speakers. Members of many other environmental groups also were present.

The day before, the Commissioners had toured the Pebble Beach property to see for themselves just what the development plans would entail. Club activists were on hand to point out the destruction of habitat and threats to 19 species of special concern including the California red-legged frog, the beautiful Monterey ceanothus and the rare, delicate Yadon's piperia.

At the Commission meeting the next day, the Sierra Club's attorney, Tom Lippe deftly dueled with Tony Lombardo, representing the Pebble Beach Company. Incredibly, Lombardo described the development plan which includes cutting down 17,000 trees as a "protection plan for the forest."

Photo: Linda Smith
The blue-flowering Ceanothus rigidus is one of the plants of special concern on the Pebble Beach property. Photo: Linda Smith

Lippe, an expert on coastal law, criticized Monterey County for not complying with the Coastal Act and affirmed that the properties earmarked for development are Environmentally-Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) and as such, subject to protection. "It's rare to see a project in which there is such a wide gap between the proposal and what the law requires," he responded to Lombardo's assertion of protection.

Many speakers from both sides addressed the Commission on various aspects of the plan. Proponents for the project said that Measure A was endorsed by the voters. Opponents pointed out that Measure A was never attached to a specific plan. Many testified they felt "duped" when they learned that Measure A and the plan would in fact cut down over 17,000 trees and destroy one fifth of the remaining native Monterey Pine Forest in the world.

Photo: James McGrew
Sierra Club members protest the Pebble Beach Company’s plan to cut down a total of 17,000 trees for the 21st golf course in Monterey County. Photo: James McGrew

Four is enough

In 1985, when the Coastal Commission approved the Spanish Bay golf course and resort at Pebble Beach on a 6-5 vote, the Pebble Beach Company assured the Commission that four golf courses would be all that the Company would ever need or ask for.

In 1990, the Pebble Beach Company, then owned by Sumitomo Bank of Japan, abandoned those assurances, proposing a fifth golf course. Since actor-turned-real-estate-developer Clint Eastwood and a consortium of golf and business notables purchased the Pebble Beach Company in the late 1990's, they have continued to lobby furiously for approval of this fifth golf course.

Commission Tour Map
Commission Tour Map

The 1985 approval of the Spanish Bay project had numerous binding conditions including conservation easements on the Sawmill Gulch site. The current plan calls for removal of those conservation easements to build a high intensity equestrian recreation site that would severely impact the adjacent fragile Huckleberry Hill Preserve. There was also to be restoration of sand dunes and forested areas and the existing Haul Road was to be closed. These promises were never kept.

The Coastal Act, of course, prohibits the wholesale destruction of environmentally-sensitive coastal habitat and resources for golf. The Coastal Act requires balance, and implicitly recognizes that humans cannot live on golf alone. Native Monterey pine forests, on the other hand, are a rare and increasingly threatened ecosystem.

Commission Touring
Commission Touring

How to help

o If you have not already done so, please write the California Coastal Commission and ask that they protect the genetically-diverse native Monterey pine forest ecosystem for future generations. Golf can be played anywhere; once the native Monterey pine forests and the plants and animals they shelter are gone, they are gone forever. Mail your letters to California Coastal Commission, 725 Front Street, Suite 300, Santa Cruz, CA 95060-4508.

o Consider attending the Coastal Commission meeting in June in Santa Rosa where the final decision on this issue will likely be made. For more information contact Coastal Chair D'Anne Albers, 375-1389.


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