CARMEL PINE CONE
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May 18-24, 2007
Pebble Beach project heads back to coastal commission
By KELLY NIX
ONE YEAR after the Pebble Beach Company withdrew its application for a new golf course, equestrian center and 160 hotel rooms in Del Monte Forest, the California Coastal Commission is expected to revisit the ballot measure that cleared the way for the development and put hundreds of acres of Monterey pine forest into open space preserves when voters approved it in November 2000.
The coastal panel could let the ballot measure go into effect, or it could overturn it.
When the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, at the request of the Pebble Beach Co., had the application withdrawn in June 2006, Mark Massara, an attorney for the Sierra Club, which opposes the P.B. project, accused the company of pulling the item at the last minute in order to “shop for an accommodating commission.”
“I think it would be correct to say that [the Pebble Beach Co.] thinks they have a better chance now,” Massara said Wednesday.
In March, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fired coastal commission vice-chair Meg Caldwell, a Stanford professor and staunch conservationist, and replaced her with Steve Blank, a teacher at UC Berkeley and Stanford.
Several other commissioners have come onboard since the Pebble Beach Co.’s application was withdrawn.
A representative with the Carmel Development Co., which is handling permits for the project, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Pebble Beach Co. contends the development, officially named “The Del Monte Forest Plan: Forest Preservation and Development Limitations,” would provide unprecedented protection for the most vital parts of the pine forest because it places more than 900 acres (nearly 500 within Del Monte Forest) of pine forest and other land into conservation areas. In addition, the company would forego development of hundreds of homesites allowed under the zoning that existed before the ballot measure was approved.
Many environmentalists oppose the new golf course because it would require the removal of thousands of pine trees and affect other native species. Their campaign against the P.B. Co. project has been led by coastal commission executive director Peter Douglas, who says Monterey pines warrant special protection under the Coastal Act, even though the tree is one of the most common in the world.
The project includes 160 hotel rooms, underground parking at the Lodge and Spanish Bay, 60 new employee residences, 34 residential lots, and road and infrastructure improvements.
The Coastal Commission meeting is June 13-15 at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa, 170 Railroad St., Santa Rosa.