Carmel Pine Cone - May 20, 2005

Pebble Beach bringing in the sheriff

If a car speeds in the forest and there's' no one there to catch it, does it break a law?

Some Pebble Beach residents certainly think so, and they filled Spanish Bay's main ballroom Sunday afternoon to voice concerns about fast driving and other matters at the Del Monte Forest Property Owners semi-annual meeting

The streets of Pebble Beach are patrolled by a California Highway Patrol officer fewer than 40 hours each week. Subsequently, alleged rampant speeding has been attributed to an absence of cops.

"Forty mph is too fast to go at any time in Pebble Beach," said DMFPO president Jack Kidder. The speed limit is 25, but "even 25 mph can be too fast if you're going around blind curves and such," he said.

About six months ago, a discovery was made that may solve the problem.

"We found out that the Monterey Count Sheriff's Office also has the legal authority to enforce traffic laws in Pebble Beach," said Kidder.

And when he contacted Ed Lorenzana, station commander for the sheriff's Coastal Station, he learned the services would be free.

"We decided the motor patrol squad was probably the best unit to handle this problem," Lorenzana explained to the crowd.

The motor pool squad, staffed with deputized but unpaid volunteers, will focus its efforts on Sloat Road, Lopez Road and 17-Mile Drive, but other roads will be surveyed as well. The squad started patrolling Monday and will operate on a trial basis for the first couple of months.

Lorenzana emphasized the motor squad's primary goal.

"We are there to deter people from speeding, not to issue them citations." But they will hand out tickets.

And who are the perpetrators of the traffic law violations? Kidder identified "golf caddies, construction workers, ladies late for hair appointments and golfers late for tee times" as all potentially guilty.

Speeding in the forest led the agenda, but vandalism was also a hot issue that residents attribute to the lack of policing in Pebble Beach. And a different sort is suspected in these crimes.

"Most of the vandalism is damage to mail boxes. Sometimes there is damage to vehicles or residences," said Lorenzana. "These crimes are committed by juveniles, with very few exceptions."

So far, 32 cases of vandalism have been reported in Pebble Beach in 2005.

Also addressed was the heavy traffic that tends to back up around the Highway1 gate during rush hour.

Mark Stilwell, executive vice president of the Pebble Beach Company, explained plans for revamping the interchange immediately outside the gate, including the addition of a free-flowing right lane headed toward Carmel and an adjustment to the lanes that will reduce the danger of turning left out of the gate. The plan is awaiting coastal commission approval, Stilwell said.