Thursday, March 8, 2012
After four decades following Pebble Beach Company’s contentious Del Monte Forest local coastal plan, Joyce Stevens of Monterey Pine Forest Watch never thought she’d see this level of consensus.
“They did what we asked them to do,” she says. “They stayed out of the wetlands, they protected the pine forest in a much better way, they didn’t get their golf course, and they transferred from housing units to lodge rooms.”
Stevens was among the labor leaders, residents and conservationists who vouched for the latest Pebble plan at the Board of Supervisors meeting in January.
That wide-ranging support is the result of two years of negotiations between Pebble and California Coastal Commission staff. In 2007, the commission rejected Pebble’s last development plan on environmental grounds.
The proposed changes would reduce the number of residential lots from 890 to 90, preserve 635 acres of Monterey pine forest and drop a new golf course. In exchange, Pebble would add 240 lodging units, build a new hotel and renovate an equestrian center and driving range.
Pebble proposes to pay the county about $4.5 million in in-lieu fees, which the county could then use for its own affordable housing programs, rather than build 18 affordable units in Pebble.
In a letter to the county, Pebble Executive Vice President Mark Stilwell suggests part of that in-lieu fee could be met by trading some of Pebble’s water rights at $250,000 per acre-foot.
That’s one of several points of contention in a letter from The Open Monterey Project, which notes the absence of inclusionary housing in the county’s coastal zone (outside North County).
Other public comment letters identify additional sticking points. Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment issues a half-dozen challenges, including water rights and traffic. Monterey resident Robert Hale objects to potential impacts on endangered species habitat. LandWatch argues the Del Monte Forest Plan should be processed together with the Poppy Hills Golf Course project, which together would remove more than 7,000 trees.
But Dan Carl, Central Coast director for the Coastal Commission, says the new proposal is a stark contrast to the last Pebble plan. “We’ve made great progress to come up something that’s head-and-shoulders better,” he says. “We can get to an endgame where everybody’s satisfied.”
Stilwell agrees: “I think we followed the right process in working with Coastal Commission staff to get their support.”
The county Planning Commission endorsed the changes in December, and in January the Board of Supervisors unanimously concurred. The amendments are tentatively scheduled for a Coastal Commission hearing in April; if OK’d, they’ll return to the supes for final approval. The county will also consider Pebble’s development permit and environmental impact report, which is due for release this spring.