October 2, 2012
A complaint to the Monterey County Building Services Department alleges Esalen Institute has undertaken 27 construction projects without the proper permits—projects like building remodels, bathroom additions and new yurts.
The complaint, which lists each alleged violation and a map of the projects, was provided to the Weekly with the complainant's identifying information redacted. Esalen's top decision-makers have come under fire, particularly over the past year, as some members of its worldwide "community" voice concerns about recent administrative decisions.
Mike Novo, the county's director of planning services, says the county is investigating. Any confirmed violations will be written up and made public, he adds.
But Esalen President Gordon Wheeler says the institute follows the rules. “Our commitment is always to exceed county regs and industry standards in everything we do—even if it's just repurposing a storage facility to house a desk station,” he writes by email.
“Our goal is a model green campus that is itself a sustainability teaching lab—and we are working steadily toward that goal, project by project. For much of this work we pull county permits—not only for building issues per se, but also biological, water and septic, archeological, sightline and slope issues, etc etc. Other projects, including many on [the complaint], are just refurbishing and do not require a permit.”