Facts You Should Know
Mark Massara, Esq.
Director, Sierra Club’s Coastal Programs
Measure A, a Monterey County initiative passed by voters in 2000, is before the California Coastal Commission as Monterey County Local Coastal Program Major Amendment Number 1-05. The first public hearing on Measure A before the Coastal Commission is scheduled for March 9, 2006, at the Commission’s meeting at the Hyatt Regency at 1 Old Golf Course Road in Monterey.
Measure A directly affects over 600-acres of land in two-dozen locations and amends land use and related zoning for 25 distinct areas within the Del Monte Forest area, primarily within Pebble Beach, and involves many Coastal Act (Ca. Pub. Res. Code Section 30000 et seq) resource protection and development policies.
In particular, Measure A would permit multiple development projects by the Pebble Beach Company (PBC), including a new 18-golf course (Planning Areas MNOUV) and related development on 216-acres of land; a new driving range, employee housing and resort development on 29-acres adjacent to Spanish Bay; a new equestrian center on 45-acres in the Sawmill Gulch restoration and Huckleberry Hill Natural Habitat Area (HHNHA); 160 new resort visitor rooms (91 a Spanish Bay, 11 units adjacent to the new golf course, and 58 units at the Pebble Beach Lodge); new conference facilities at the Lodge and Spanish Bay (including 821 parking spaces); 60 new employee residences (12 adjacent to Spanish Bay and 48 units in the PBC Corporation yard area); over 34 new residential mansion lots by subdivision within the Del Monte Forest with associated roads and infrastructure; Highway 1, Highway 68 and 17 Mile Drive interchange modifications and related road and infrastructure development within the Del Monte Forest; and new conservation easements over some 274 acres in the coastal zone
The California Coastal Act in general prohibits development in environmentally sensitive habitat areas (“ESHA”) and/or in wetlands.
ESHA is defined as “any area in which plant or animal life or their habitats are either rare or especially valuable because of their special nature or role in an ecosystem and which could be easily disturbed or degraded by human activities and developments.” Coastal Act, Section 30107.5
The Coastal Act strictly prohibits disturbance or destruction of coastal wetlands in California, except in rare instances. Coastal Act, Section 30121, 30240, 30233.
The vast majority of the world’s remaining native Monterey Pine forest habitat is found only along California’s coast, in just three areas: Ano Nuevo, Cambria and the Monterey Peninsula. MP Forest is classified by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) as 1B.1. 1B indicates a species is rare, threatened or endangered in California or elsewhere. The California Dept. of Fish & Game classifies the Monterey pine as S1.1, indicating that, within California, the species is considered “very threatened” and a “rare community type.”
MP Forest includes not only MP trees, but other pines, oak trees, cypress and also extensive wetlands and other rare plants and animals including the federally listed endangered wild orchid Yadon’s piperia (found only in Monterey Co.), rare and threatened Hooker’s manzanita and Hickman’s onion. In addition, the California red-legged frog, listed as threatened by US Fish & Wildlife Service, has been sighted in at least two locations in the forests proposed for the new golf course. Further, the forest also provides habitat for a variety of raptors and includes rare coastal sand dune systems (which include Monterey Spine Flower, Menzies wallflower, beach layia, Tidestrom’s lupine and sand gilia) previously identified as ESHA by the Coastal Commission.
At least 19 special status plant species are found in the MP Forest.
For these reasons, among others, Coastal staff has recommended that the remaining MP Forests be considered to be ESHA by the Coastal Commission. Coastal staff analysis takes account of the fact that the MP Forest on the Monterey Peninsula is the most significant left in the world, and that it has been dramatically affected by a century of rapid development, fragmentation and disease.
Piece by Piece
1. New Golf Course and 24 Golf Suites (Planning Area’s M,N,O,U,V)
PBC’s latest golf course proposal (which would be the 8th golf course in the Del Monte Forest and the 5th owned by PBC) would eliminate the existing PBC equestrian facility and destroy 116-acres of native endemic Monterey Pine Forest habitat, including some 63-acres of forest and over 10,000 individual trees (remaining, fragmented trees would serve as fairway, golf course and landscaping ornaments).
In the golf area alone, Measure A would destroy some 36,000 Yadon’s piperia orchid plants, or approximately 21% of the entire known population of this endangered species.
Overall (and including wetlands and sand dune habitat to be lost), the golf course would destroy approximately 145-acres of ESHA.
2. Driving Range and Employee Housing (Planning Area’s B, C)
Planning Area B & C includes 53-acres of land, and Measure A would allow construction of 12-units of employee housing, a parking lot and a driving range.
The Driving Range (Area C, 29-acres) would destroy ESHA consisting of 17-acres of MP Forest habitat and almost 2,000 individual trees.
3. Sawmill Gulch
Sawmill Gulch is 45-acres and is proposed to be developed by PBC with a new equestrian center. It is composed entirely of ESHA.
4. Residential Subdivision (Planning Area’s PQR)
Approximately 158-acres adjacent to the Pescadero Canyon planning area (entirely forested) in which PBC proposes to create “7 lots located on approximately 15-acres” on which new zoning would allow approximately 8 new houses.
5. Residential Subdivision (Planning Area F)
Area F is approximately 47-acres (entirely forested) in which PBC proposes zoning which would allow 37 new houses, but in which PBC claims it hopes to construct “16 residential dwellings.”
6. Residential Subdivision (Planning Area I)
Area I is approximately 50-acres, entirely forested, of which PBC proposes zoning which would allow 75 new houses, but in which PBC claims it construct “11 lots for residential dwellings.”
7. Residential Subdivision (Planning Area J)
Area J is approximately 10-acres (entirely forested) on which PBC proposes zoning that would allow 22 houses.
8. Residential Subdivision (Planning Area K)
Area K is approximately 7-acres (entirely forested) on which PBC proposes zoning that would allow 18 houses and golf related development.
9. Employee Housing (Commercial Yard Area)
The Commercial Yard Area is about 34-acres in which PBC proposes zoning to allow employee housing.
10. Preservation Sites (Planning Area’s G, H & L)
In addition to the above-proposed developments, PBC also proposes to establish “preservation sites” totaling approximately 35-acres (G), 24-acres (H) and 18-acres (L).
11. Misc. Measure A Provisions
In addition to the above developments, Measure A also proposes to eliminate existing caps on resort rooms at Spanish Bay (270) and Pebble Beach Lodge (161), in order to facilitate future (and potentially unlimited) resort development.
Further, Measure also purports to establish limits on residential development areas on property located within the Del Monte Forest not owned by PBC. Planning Area Y would allow “20 additional residential dwellings and Planning Area X would allow “23 additional residential dwellings.
Coastal Staff Analysis & Preliminary Recommendations
The staff of the California Coastal Commission has released a report and preliminary recommendations regarding Measure A, dated February 24, 2006. It can be downloaded at www.coastal.ca.gov/epacket/2006/3/Th8b-3-2006.pdf
Because the wetlands complexes in Area MNOUV (proposed for the new golf course) have been dramatically underestimated by PBC, coastal staff is requesting additional wetlands delineations and makes the following recommendations with that caveat:
The MP Forest, wetlands and sand dune complex in Planning Area MNOUV (proposed golf course) is very high quality ESHA, which includes endangered plants and animals.
The MP Forest and wetlands in Planning Areas B & C (proposed golf course driving range and employee housing) is ESHA in its entirety (all 29-acres is densely covered MP Forest).
Sawmill Gulch (proposed for new equestrian center) is 45-acres within the Gowen Cypress planning area, which encompasses the Huckleberry Hill Natural Habitat Area (HHNHA) and is almost entirely undeveloped. It contains some of the most important ecological systems on the Monterey Peninsula, and sensitive species such as the “pygmy” Gowen-Cypress forest, Eastwood’s goldenbrush, Hooker’s manzanita, sandmat manzanita, Pine rose and Monterey ceanothus chaparral. Also present within the MP forest at Sawmill Gulch are Bishop pine and Yadon’s piperia orchids, as well as creeks, wetlands and riparian areas.
Sawmill Gulch is divided into upper (18 acres) and lower (27 acres) segments. Historically both segments were mined for sand, and were degraded. The Coastal Commission allowed further mining in 1985 in conjunction with construction of the Spanish Bay Resort and Golf Course.
As mitigation for forests lost and adverse environmental impacts resulting from the Spanish Bay Resort and Golf Course, the Coastal Commission required that PBC restore and reforest both the upper and lower Sawmill Gulch areas following construction of Spanish Bay. PBC has now opened and operated Spanish Bay for 20 years, but has failed to complete the Sawmill Gulch restoration. As directed by the Coastal Commission, PBC did place conservation easements on both upper and lower Sawmill Gulch in order to insure the area would be protected in perpetuity. Now PBC proposed to build a horse center in Sawmill Gulch.
For its environmental importance, Sawmill Gulch is considered by coastal staff to be ESHA. Because it is specifically protected in perpetuity as mitigation for environmental damage associated with construction of Spanish Bay Resort & Golf Course in 1985, Sawmill Gulch is not appropriate for development now.
Planning Areas PQR (residential subdivision) are located at the top of the Pescadero watershed and are part of one of the largest unfragmented native MP forest areas within the Del Monte Forest. Thus, the PQR planning area is ESHA.
Planning Areas F, G, H, I, J, K & L (residential & preservation sites) consist of relatively large tracts of MP Forest (and other sensitive species), and should be considered to be ESHA.
Commercial Yard (employee housing) is located in the Huckleberry Hill planning area and is approximately 34-acres. Although the land is within the HHNHA, and is habitat for California Red Legged Frogs, further environmental analysis is needed.
Measure A would eliminate limits on the number of resort rooms at both the Pebble Beach Lodge and the Spanish Bay Resort. Additional analysis is necessary, although the proposal is on its face lacks planning reliability.
What Does PBC Really Own & What, Realistically, Could PBC Develop if Measure A is Denied?
PBC claims that Measure A permanently protects MP Forests, and that the 1984 Monterey County Del Monte Forest Land Use Plan (LUP) allows maximum zoning development of over 849 units.
PBC neglects to mention, however, that zoning creates maximum entitlements, not legal entitlements, and that all other resource protection policies (ESHA) must be ensured prior to any development. In addition, the old age of the LUP (1984) and intervening circumstances regarding new science and understanding of the critical environmental importance of the MP Forests must also be considered in any development analysis.
Most importantly, none of the undeveloped MP Forest lands owned by PBC are currently subdivided, and PBC only owns, at most, 18 legal lots in the Measure A planning area (and, at most, only 41 legal lots in overall Pebble Beach area).
Thus, PBC is legally entitled to up to 18 residential development projects within the MP Forest (assuming no resource damage would result) and perhaps as many as 41 in the overall Pebble Beach area, not 800 or more houses as previously claimed, and certainly not a new golf course, driving range, hundreds of resort rooms, conference facilities, employee housing and mansions as allowed by Measure A.
Moreover, PBC already owns and operates numerous successful, profitable golf courses and resorts within the Del Monte Forest.
Last, the Coastal Act explicitly protects ESHA resources, and since virtually all the development proposed under Measure A would occur within ESHA, Measure A must be denied.