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Monterey County Herald, September 15, 2000

Move could end tradition of [horse] shows

By Kevin Howe
Herald Staff Writer

Relocating the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center to Sawmill Gulch may end a 53-year tradition of playing host to world-class horse shows--and threatens to trigger a neighborhood squabble between the Pebble Beach Co. and residents of Pacific Grove's adjoining Del Monte Park neighborhood.

The Company is committed to having a new equestrian center in place before the old one is torn down to make way for a new 18-home golf course, developer Alan Williams told a meeting of Pebble Beach residents, horse owners and borders at the center Tuesday evening. But that's only if Measure A, the land use measure placed on the Nov. 7 ballot, is passed by the voters countywide, he said.

Measure A would amend the Del Monte Forest Area Land Use Plan and the county Coastal Implementation Plan, Zoning Plan and Housing Element.

Williams, president and owner of Carmel Development Corp., represented Pebble Beach Co. both at Tuesday's meeting and a meeting Monday of the Del Monte Forest Property Owners Association board. Williams sought support for Measure A to pave the way for the company's planned expansion of golf and hotel operations and downsizing of residential development.

The company is proposing construction of four 16-horse barns, a covered riding arena, barns, stalls and corrals, four outdoor arenas, a hunter course, a clubhouse, manager and staff housing, dormitories for campers and other amenities.

The presence of wetlands in the middle of the site could curtain use of some land for riding, Williams said, adding that it is likely the new facility won't be able to handle the major top-grade, Class A horse shows like the Pebble Beach Summer Horse Show, which saw its 53rd year this year and has been a venue for Olympic and world-class dressage, jumper, hunter and three-day event riders.

The company plans to apply for a permit for a covered arena rather than an enclosed, indoor arena, Williams said, to assuage concerns by neighbors about the mass of the building. Temporary enclosures could be rigged during special events, he said, and permanent walls could be added at a future date if residents agree and the county is willing to issue a permit for it.

The company projects spending $5 million to $6 million on the center, he said.

The wetlands, Williams said, might be "mitigated" in the future, since they resulted from sand mining and quarrying that went on years before in Sawmill Gulch, and are not natural formations.

The Pebble Beach Co. is committed, he said, to making it possible for people to move their horses directly from the old center off Stevenson Drive to the new center.

But Measure A's failure could force the company to choose between q golf course and an equestrian center, he said, and since the company "is in the golf and hotel business," the choice would be obvious. Passage of Measure A, he argued, would preclude court challenges or referenda by opponents of future projects who would attach them on environmental grounds.

Riders at the meeting expressed concern that the Sawmill Gulch site has a 100-foot drop from one end to the other, and questionable footing. Williams said the land would be terraced. The site was chosen, he said, to allow easier access to the center from outside Pebble Beach through the "fifth gate" off Holman Highway, since two-thirds of those who board horses at the center don't live in the forest.

In June, the Pacific Grove City Council asked the county Board of Supervisors to put the matter to a vote, and also approved a resolution opposing Measure A, City Attorney George Thatcher said.

A number of citizens approached the City Council with their own concerns about having the equestrian center next door, he said.

Del Monte Park residents are worried that Holman Highway will be congested during major horse shows, that the Pebble Beach Co. is reneging on a promise to leave Sawmill gulch as open space in return for operating the conveyor belt that moved sand from the quarry to Spanish Bay for that new golf course in the 1980s and that the project will endanger the wetlands, said Helaine Clark of Pacific Grove.

"Horses are fine, but when they bring in several hundred, it's gonna smell beautiful," Clark said.

She and neighbor Carol McCarthy said the center is being placed in an area the company had promised to reforest and which is used often by Del Monte Park neighbors.

"It's a very beautiful, scenic area," McCarthy said. "You can hear frogs croaking in the wetlands." The site is located in very rugged terrain that she doubts will be suitable for riding horses.

If massive building go in, she said, the project could endanger the nearby S.F.B. Morse Botanical Preserve.

Both she and Ted Hunter, a former president of the Del Monte [Forest] Property Owners Association and a organizer of Concerned Residents of Pebble Beach, feel that approval of the measure will open the door to expanded hotel and golf development in the forest.

It is "unbelievably wrong," Hunter said, "to change the zoning in a small part of the county and have the whole county vote on it. It's absolutely the poorest land use management I can imagine."

Hunter also contended that the company is "misleading" in its threat that if Measure A fails, there won't be an equestrian center.

The Pebble Beach Co., he said, would ask for rezoning for the center without a ballot initiative.

"It's the wrong way to change zoning in the forest and amend the Land Use Plan."

Another meeting on the Pebble Beach Co.'s plans and Measure A is scheduled Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Pebble Beach Community Services District conference room, Forest Lake and Lopez roads, sponsored by Concerned Residents of Pebble Beach, Hunter said.

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