A field guide to Pebble Beach Development


Few are aware that a massive $200 million development project is currently under way in Pebble Beach, which because of its demands on water, traffic capacity, and forest resources, will affect the entire Peninsula.Equipment-2

The only part of the Pebble Beach Co. project most people seem to know about is the new 285 space parking lot at Spanish Bay which was carved out of forest adjacent to the Rip Van Winkle Open Space. And almost invariably, they are appalled that so much native forest was cut down for a parking lot.

This is poignant because while 234 trees were destroyed for the parking lot, a whopping 1,300 robust Monterey Pine and Coast Live Oak trees will be hacked out of prime native forest to make room for only 10 luxury home sites at Indian Village.

An unsuccessful appeal by the Sierra Club to save the habitat near Indian Village :

“… we wish these lots set aside because they are prime ESHA, contain robust stands of rare Monterey Pine Forest, include coastal dune habitat and contain many federally and state endangered and special species native plants and wildlife.” Sierra Club letter dated May 9, 2012 regarding PB build-out.

The full project

Sadly, Indian Village is a mere fraction of the total build-out. The full project will destroy nearly 7,000 trees to build:Monterey Pine Forest

    • A new 100 room hotel with 20,000 square foot spa, meeting space, restaurant, and 300 space parking facility at Spyglass Hill (or alternatively 10 additional estate lots)
    • 100 new hotel rooms in total at the Lodge and Spanish Bay
    • 90 to 100 large new estate lots
    • Expanded meeting facilities and the above-mentioned 285 space parking lot at Spanish Bay
    • A full equestrian center re-do
    • A roundabout and reconfiguration of the main entrance gate at Highway 1 to accommodate the flood of traffic generated by the new development

The last minute low-income apartments (not yet approved)

Although all of the above is a done deal, the inclusionary housing component is not. In a last minute switch, PB Co. proposed to destroy yet another 700 to 800 native trees to build low-income apartments in a forested habitat which is an extension of the delicate Huckleberry Hill ecosystem.

Artist's rendering of proposed apartment building

Artist’s rendering of proposed apartment building

Most disturbing is that this is completely unnecessary. A better site is available on property the Company owns at Sunset and 17-Mile Drive in Pacific Grove, which has already been denuded of trees. Or if a suitable site is not approved by mid-2017, an in lieu fee may be paid.

Enough is enough

Enough is enough. More valuable habitat need not and should not be sacrificed to build low-income apartments. The Del Monte Forest Land Use Advisory Committee and City of Pacific Grove Planning Director Mark Brodeur oppose building the project in this location. Hundreds of people have packed public meetings to speak out against it, petitions in opposition have garnered over twelve-hundred signatures, and a group of neighbors has retained a land use attorney. Please help us stop this folly by exploring the website, signing the petition, getting on our email list, telling your friends and neighbors, and most importantly attending the upcoming public hearings. It is up to us to stop this, and our success depends on you.


Project Description from Board of Supervisors’ June 19, 2012 resolution approving project
Tree Removal Table from Draft EIR PB Buildout

Map of Development Areas (Excluding Low-income apartments) Site Plan Fig 2-2 of EIR

Map of Development Areas (Excluding Low-income apartments)
Site Plan Fig 2-2 of EIR. Click to enlarge.

Quick Bites

Proponents of the proposed income-restricted apartment complex in the forested habitat adjoining the Huckleberry Hill preserve advance a variety of arguments that are misleading and lacking in substance. Be prepared to refute them with confidence! Here is a handy reference. (Also available in PDF.)

The habitat is degraded because neighborhood children built a few bike ramps, there is trash, and some trees are dead.

Rebuttal: Trash is easily picked up and bike ramps dismantled. Despite a few dead trees, the area continues to serve as a vibrant, functioning wildland and buffer for the Huckleberry Hill preserve. During the throes of a historic drought and related massive statewide tree die-off is hardly the time to needlessly destroy rare native forest.

Trees will be replaced in a two-for-one ratio, so the forest will be better than before.

Rebuttal: Prior PB Co mitigation efforts have failed abysmally. One needs only to look across the street at the pitiful state of the Sawmill Borrow after more than twenty years of “restoration”.

Sunset and 17-mile Drive (which has already been denuded of trees) is not an acceptable alternative because it is zoned commercial.

Rebuttal: The City of Pacific Grove zoning code already allows both commercial and residential use by right in this particular zone. No re-zoning would be required to locate the project there.

Continue reading

Water Rationing & the Pebble Beach Lots

Two years from now, will you have enough water to take a shower, wash your clothes or flush your toilet? Maybe not if you live on the Monterey Peninsula.Parched Earth

The State Water Resources Control Board has ordered a 70 percent cut in pumping from the Carmel River, the source of most of our water. We have been given an ultimatum. Find a new water source or face deep rationing after 2016. Make no mistake. This will impose genuine hardship. Residents may be required to get by on a mere 35 percent of current use.(1) This will be particularly grim since per capita water use on the Monterey Peninsula is already the lowest in the state.

In the face of the looming water crisis, Pebble Beach Company has embarked upon a $200 million development project in the Del Monte Forest. The project includes a new 100 room hotel and spa at Spyglass Hill, another 100 new rooms at the Spanish Bay Inn and the Pebble Beach Lodge, a new conference center, 90 new residential lots, a new driving range, an equestrian center re-do, and a 24 unit low-income apartment complex. Continue reading

Draft EIR Draws Fire from P.G. Planning Director

“Please revise the EIR to produce definitive analysis demonstrating how development of a vacant forested parcel is less environmentally consequential than the previously developed parcel at 17th and Sunset.”

The draft EIR for the Pebble Beach apartments drew fire recently from the City of Pacific Grove. In a letter dated June 18, 2015, PG planning director, Mark Brodeur, observed that “the housing project constitutes a fundamental change to the character of the immediate neighborhood, both in Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove” and therefore “the EIR could better address a number of project-related impacts and burdens on residents of both communities.”


Among the areas Brodeur found inadequate were, aesthetics, biological resources, land use and recreation, public services and utilities, transportation and circulation (including pedestrian impacts), and alternatives.

Brodeur ended his letter with a strong challenge to the selection of Area D as the environmentally superior alternative, writing:

The City of Pacific Grove suggests that not enough compelling analysis has been presented in the DEIR to disqualify the 17th and Sunset site from consideration. Please revise the EIR to produce definitive analysis demonstrating how development of a vacant forested parcel is less environmentally consequential than the previously developed parcel at 17th and Sunset.”

The full letter may be viewed here.

Conflicts with Neighborhood Character

The general character of the surrounding area in the DMF is defined by the consistent implementation of visionary, environmentally sensitive land-use policies for nearly a century. This project is thoroughly incompatible. Claims by proponents that only passing motorists will be affected or that acknowledged aesthetic degradation will be covered up by “native plantings” are spurious, particularly given the poor results of prior mitigation. Long-standing design and land use standards, which apply to every other development in the DMF, should not be so frivolously disregarded.

Surrounding land use and general character of the area

Single family homes on Ortega Rd. near project entrance

Single family homes on Ortega Rd. near project entrance

This DMF neighborhood is semi-rural consisting entirely of single-family homes on large lots (one quarter acre or more) dispersed throughout a forest. Most homes are owner-occupied. Roads are narrow and winding without sidewalks or streetlights, and the night time sky is dark. By deed restriction all properties since the 1920’s have been developed under strict design standards, a primary purpose of which is to ensure compatibility with neighboring properties and the community in general. Carports are prohibited and exterior lighting is discouraged as are structures which are in strong contrast or out of scale with neighboring residences. These standards are codified in the Architectural Standards and Residential Guidelines for the Del Monte Forest*

Project Incompatibility

Artists rendering of apartment building

Artist’s rendering of one of the four apartment buildings

The Project, on the other hand, is completely incompatible with existing land use and the general character of the area. It will introduce high-density, attached multifamily dwellings exclusively for rental use into an area where all homes are single family and most are owner-occupied. With a footprint of approximately 65,0000 square feet, it will occupy the space of eight quarter acre lots and is completely out of scale with the existing neighborhood. Due to mandatory minimum occupancy requirements, the project will likely generate a higher level of human activity and commotion relative to the tranquil environment of the surrounding area. It will also introduce light pollution to the dark nighttime sky, unacceptable levels of traffic, and prohibited carports.

* Architectural Standards and Residential Guidelines for the Del Monte Forest, Pebble Beach Company Real Estate Division.

Draft EIR released: Now your turn

EIR Commenting FlatWHAT: The draft  EIR for the PB apartments has been released for public comment. Our success depends upon your input, so now is the time to step up. Don’t worry; EIR commenting is not rocket science. Anyone can do it, but there are some important rules. Below you will find everything you need. Written comments are currently sought. Public hearings will be held later.

WHEN: Comment period April 30 through June 19, 2015


WHERE: Submit your written comments to:

Email : CEQAcomments@co.monterey.ca.us

An e-mailed document should contain the name of the person or entity submitting the comments, and contact information such as phone number, mailing address and/or e-mail address and include any and all attachments referenced in the e-mail. To assure your comments are included, the RMA recommends obtaining a confirmation of receipt.


Joseph Sidor, Associate Planner
Monterey County Resource Management Agency – Planning
168 W. Alisal St., 2nd Floor
Salinas, CA 93901
Phone: (831) 755-5025/5262
E-mail: SidorJ @co.monterey.ca.us

The Myth of Mitigation

When forest is cut down to make way for development, we are told that trees will be “replaced”. Often, this so-called mitigation offers a “two-for-one” replacement ratio. On the face of it, this sounds like a good deal; getting two replacement trees where one was destroyed. In reality, a mature Monterey Pine or Coast Live Oak cannot be “replaced”.

Even if it were feasible, a mature tree would have to be taken from another location, leaving that place degraded. The only alternative are seedlings grown in a nursery.
Can a seedling really replace a mature tree? Given that the length of time it takes for these trees to mature is 40 years or more, the answer is no. Proponents of mitigation argue that while it takes time, future generations will benefit from a more robust forest. But is that really true? To answer this question, one needs to look at the mitigation projects that were undertaken decades ago. And here in the Del Monte Forest, we can do just that.

The protected Sawmill Borrow after over twenty years of mitigation

When the resort and golf course were built at Spanish Bay, vast amounts of raw material (soil, sand and rock) were removed from Sawmill Gulch (sometimes referred to as “Sawmill Borrow”, implying that what was “borrowed” would somehow be returned). The amount of earth removed from the borrow was so enormous, a new road was constructed for this purpose (S.F.B. Morse Drive). In exchange for allowing this huge development in the Coastal Zone, the California Coastal Commission stipulated that the damage to this area be mitigated. Has that promise been kept? Sadly, no. In fact, the Pebble Beach Company has argued since that time that because of the degraded state of Sawmill Gulch, it should be used for an equestrian center or, alternatively, a sewage pond.

Although a recent flurry of activity has improved the area somewhat, it seems a half-hearted effort at best, and decades after a legally binding commitment was made. What spurred this recent public relations campaign? In my opinion, harsh criticism and a desire to assuage concerns about the latest round of development. What is perhaps most notable about the recent effort to improve the perception of mitigation is the concentration of work adjacent to vehicle traffic. A bucolic buffer zone has been created where it is most visible. But one need only take a short stroll beyond the roads to find the truth of the matter; that the area is far from its natural state and little effort has been expended to repair the damage.

Given the nature of mitigation, the lack of follow-up monitoring, and the history of broken promises, we should not be fooled by assurances of forest restoration and protection that never seem to materialize.

By Peter Mathews