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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Pebble Beach Company to cut down over 17,000 native trees

The native Monterey pine forest at Pebble Beach would be devastated with removal of over 17,000 pines and native oaks. Additionally, the project would include development within 100 feet of environmentally sensitive habitat wetlands and remnant coastal dune structures. Remnant dune structures can be seen at the top of this photo.
Photo: Ken Adelman

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve extensive development in Del Monte Forest by the Pebble Beach Company. This approval came despite written warnings from the Coastal Commission staff and Chair of the Coastal Commission, Meg Caldwell, a law professor at Stanford University.

In her letter to the Board of Supervisors in December, Caldwell had stated that it was inappropriate for the County to grant final approval for the Pebble Beach Combined Development Plan application until after the Coastal Commission reviewed Measure A for conformance with the Coastal Act. Measure A, which was opposed by the Sierra Club, passed in November 2000. The intent of Measure A was for the Pebble Beach Company to try to get around some of the environmental restrictions built into the 1984 Local Coastal Program.

To build this enormous project, Pebble Beach would cut down over 17,000 rare native Monterey pine trees and protected oak trees. The proposed 18-hole golf course and driving range at Spanish Bay would adversely impact some of the last remaining coastal dunes and wetlands in California. These areas provide habitat for nineteen species of plants considered to be rare or endangered under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), seven of which are state or federally-listed including Yadon's piperia which is only found here. Also severely threatened by this project is the federally-listed California red-legged frog.

Reprinted with permission from Metro Santa Cruz and Decinzo

The plan also includes 33 luxury homes, 160 new hotel rooms, expansion of the Inn at Spanish Bay, 60 new employee housing units and the relocation of the current equestrian center to the Sawmill Gulch site. This last component of the plan would extinguish two scenic easements that were required as mitigation for the earlier Spanish Bay permit that squeaked by at the Coastal Commission in 1984. At that time, the new golf course was touted to be the "last golf course in Pebble Beach."

At the March 15 public hearing, environmental groups including the Ventana Chapter, California Native Plant Society (CNPS), Ocean Conservancy and others spoke passionately against the project citing the decimation of the forest, plants and wildlife. Corky Matthews of CNPS stressed that the proposal to transplant trees as mitigation is not realistic. Proponents for the project included a few residents of Pebble Beach who liked this plan better than the previous one which proposed building hundreds of luxury homes.

This earlier project which was heatedly opposed by residents and environmentalists, may have been created to make the present proposal seem more reasonable. Coastal Commission staff stated in their March 14 letter to the Board of Supervisors that it was misleading for the public to have been told that up to 900 homes could have been built in the proposed project area, since only about 41 developable lots have been certified by the County.

Under the Coastal Act, the Coastal Commission staff contends, the Local Coastal Plan prohibits subdivision within Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA). There is substantial evidence that the undeveloped project lands are predominately ESHA. Furthermore, recent fieldwork by a Coastal Commission biologist suggests there is even more significant dune and wetlands habitat than has been identified by the County to date.

The Chapter and other groups have appealed this project to the Coastal Commission. At press time no date had been set for the hearing.

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