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

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.

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

Public misled about the scope of residential development in the Del Monte Forest

Which is it, Mr. Stilwell? Are the 90 new estate lots currently being advertised, the last lots the Company will develop in the Del Monte Forest, or aren’t they?

The Overview

The public has been told over and over that the “final” Del Monte Forest Build-out allows the creation of 90 to 100 new single-family residential lots.Equipment (To view examples of media coverage, click here.) But now, as bulldozers clear vast swaths of forest to make way for spacious half acre and one acre lots and  the PB Co. is running ads saying “These 90 estate lots are the last ones that Pebble Beach Company will develop in Pebble Beach”, comes a surprise. In reality more homes may be allowed in a previously unmentioned 13 acre tract of native Monterey pine forest called “Area D.” Continue reading

Nonsensical to pit housing project against forest

By Cosmo Bua

The following was published in the Monterey County Herald on September 6, 2014.

There could hardly be a clearer example of a company – not even a municipality, but a company – shoving people it doesn’t want into an area it doesn’t care about on the edge of town… segregating inclusionary housing away to where it will be less safe and less livable for the residents.

Proposed project site

Proposed project site

The EIR process is already very troubling, because it is starting from a manufactured falsehood – which is the pitting of the need for affordable housing against the survival of a beloved local forest. This is a nonsensical formulation. In reality, there is absolutely no conflict or reasonable connection what-so-ever between this housing and this forest.

There is a moral imperative here and that is the basic issue the County is facing. It is known that it is wrong to destroy a forest. In this case, where there are numerous clear, viable, and even obviously preferable alternative sites for accomplishing this housing goal, it is ludicrous – or even insane. Continue reading