Looming opposition to proposed development

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From the Monterey County Herald
Serving Monterey County and the Salinas Valley

October 14, 2002

Looming opposition to proposed development



The Pebble Beach Co. is about to embark upon its final phase of development, building out its world-class resort to accommodate more hotel rooms, more parking and, of course, more golf.

The ambitious project will provide the gated, woodsy community with another top-notch golf course, a new equestrian center, improved roads, 100 more guest rooms, 33 more single-family homes and about 60 employee housing units.

The project was born 10 years ago and was tweaked in the late 1990s, when the Pebble Beach Co. was acquired by a group headed by Arnold Palmer, Clint Eastwood and Peter Ueberroth. Then, two years ago, the plan was locked in when voters passed Measure A, which shaped the development and put it on the map in county land-use records.

Now, planners are ready for a phase that Measure A opponents aggressively argued wouldn't happen: the public scrutiny phase.

"It's exactly in the environmental process we said it would be in," said Alan Williams, president of Carmel Development Co., which designed the project and introduced the measure, which was promoted as a way to protect Del Monte Forest, which envelops Pebble Beach.

"The plan was submitted identical to Measure A. We haven't diverted from that one bit," Williams said. "This is exactly what we promised the public we would do."

That won't stop some Pebble Beach residents from protesting. They say the project amounts to too much development, too much traffic in their pricey, peaceful community.

"We really aren't anti-Pebble Beach Co.; the company has done a great deal of good things for the neighborhood, and the residents are appreciative of that," said resident Ted Hunter. "But this is a bigger project than anybody can stand."

Hunter and Carl Nielsen are members of Concerned Residents of Pebble Beach and Monterey County, a grass-roots organization formed six years ago to fight development at the resort community.

Nielsen said trucks that "go beep, beep, beep when they back up" will roll through the neighborhood during construction. On completion, more tourists will ride through the quiet streets every day for golf and special events, creating even more noise and traffic, he said.

"The other question is, of course, do we really need another golf course?"

Monterey County planner Thom McCue said the project is actually a "downscaling of residential development" because landowners originally had planned to build more than 300 more homes.

But that doesn't pacify Nielsen.

Construction, even if it's not as intense as it might have been, is a "very noisy, dirty operation," he said. "It's very distracting to the neighborhood."

Nielsen and Hunter are careful to say they don't view their opposition as NIMBYism, a "not-in-my-back-yard" position.

"It has the sound of exclusivity," Nielsen said, "but you'll find that there's a whole range of people who live here. It's not ... nothing but millionaires who live here."

"Meals on Wheels has just as many visits inside our gates as they do outside," Hunter said.

The developers hope to assure residents that noise will be kept to a minimum.

"The construction trucks are short-lived. They'll be in and out," Williams said. After all, he said, noise and dirt won't make for good business.

"The company's intent to stay in business and to keep the quality of business they have now is probably the best guarantee residents can have that we really want to have the least impacts as possible," Williams said.

The company submitted its application to county planners last year. The county held its first public meeting about the project last month as a precursor to drafting a report of the environmental impacts. The draft is expected to be made public by year's end.

The project could be scheduled for a public hearing before the county Planning Commission by next July. Once it is approved, construction will last at least two years, Williams said.

The project includes:

  • two three-story buildings with 86 guest rooms, as well as an underground parking garage, a conference facility and a dozen employee housing units at Spanish Bay Resort;
  • two underground parking garages, a meeting room and more than 60 guest rooms at the Lodge at Pebble Beach;
  • 33 single-family home lots and 48 employee housing units at the corporation yard;
  • improvements to Holman Highway, Highway 1 and 17-Mile Drive;
  • 275 acres of preserved forest land.

John Forney, a 17-year resident, said that though he's "unabashedly a private-rights guy," he's concerned about whether the project can be thoroughly reviewed in the amount of time being allowed.

Seven-year resident Joseph Lee said Pebble Beach Co. executives haven't completely listened to residents' concerns.

"We should at some point let the Pebble Beach Co. know we are real live people, we have problems and we should share them before we get into a fight," he said.

Hunter said it will take years for the company to earn consent from residents.

"All are very upset about the size of this development. They have concerns about how this whole general area is going to change dramatically," Hunter said. "It's going to be many years, I think, before this project is actually built."

Environmentalists have argued that the plan ignores sensitive habitat and endangered species, such as the Monterey pine, but Williams said a strict habitat preservation plan will protect the area's native plants.

"Our desired effect is to take the forest back and bring it back to its natural state," Williams said. Under the plan, non-native plants such as iceplant would be replaced with native coastal grasses and pine trees, he said. The plan also includes a forest management plan to preserve the trees.

The plan has been tinkered with at least a dozen times, as ownership has changed over the years, Williams said. He said there is no exact figure of the project's costs, but said, "We're talking about a lot of money, there's no question about that. We're talking millions of dollars."

Such an investment should be thought-out thoroughly and presented to the community fairly, Hunter said.

"I can't blame them for wanting to build something to get their money back," he said, "but it's going to change the whole atmosphere here."


Victoria Manley can be reached at 646-4478.

Copyright (c) 2002, The Monterey County Herald, 8 Ragsland Drive, Monterey CA. 93940
A Knight Ridder Newspaper

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