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

Pedestrian Safety Hazard in PB

The community of Pebble Beach was designed as a semi-rural area to preserve the natural beauty and forest environment. There are no sidewalks or street lights, and the streets are quite narrow and often winding. There are many blind curves.

Ortega Rd. between Congress & Forest Lodge

Ortega Rd. between Congress & Forest Lodge

In short, it can be a dangerous place to walk, and many walkers are elderly. (In fact according the the last census 54% of households in the Del Monte Forest have members 65 years or older.) Exacerbating this hazard is the fact that many people going to and from work at the hotels, golf courses, etc. use narrow residential streets as “short-cuts”.

Ortega Rd. near Forest Lodge

Ortega Rd. near Forest Lodge

Continue reading

PB Co.argues AGAINST on-site inclusionary housing

” … PBC has planned 90 lots to meet the relative market of Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest without any onsite inclusionary housing units.”

…increased density in the development areas would upset planning, environmental, and market objectives. Lot sizes were selected to maintain consistency with the neighborhood standards and expectations…” Continue reading

PB Co. argues FOR on-site inclusionary housing

“We think this is a really, really ideal site for affordable housing rental project for our employees,” Mark Stilwell, Pebble Beach Company Executive Vice President of Real Estate, speaking at the Monterey County Housing Advisory Committee Meeting, January 8, 2014 Continue reading

Forest & neighbors lose out in Dave Potter’s horse-trading

We believe “horse-trading” by Dave Potter and PB Co. executives led to the targeting of native Monterey pine forest for destruction to make way for high-density “inclusionary” apartments. Pebble Beach Company executive, Mark Stilwell, was quoted in the Monterey County Weekly as citing  “political pressure from county leadership” as the reason the Company proposed the” Area D” site rather than paying the in lieu fee. To see for yourself, watch the following video (derived from the June 19, 2012 Board of Supervisor’s meeting) where they refer to their discussions. (Incidentally, watching this video is the best way to get up to speed on this complex issue.) This current debacle only serves to further tarnish Dave Potter’s poor environmental record. For more information, please refer to our post The Dave Potter Connection.

The Dave Potter Connection

By Peter Mathews

When something doesn’t make sense, it usually means you don’t have all the information. That is certainly the case with the inclusionary housing arrangement between the County Board of Supervisors and the Pebble Beach Company. The PB Co. originally wanted to pay an in-lieu fee of $5 million rather than build rental apartments in the Del Monte Forest.

Then an agreement was made for the County to hold the $5 million in escrow until the apartments were built “somewhere” on the Monterey Peninsula, with an additional $2 million penalty to be imposed if no inclusionary housing was built within 5 years of the agreement. The County would then have $7 million to build inclusionary housing wherever they deemed appropriate. So far, the agreement makes sense.

But then at the June 19, 2012 Supervisor’s meeting when the Del Monte Forest build-out plan was approved, Supervisor Dave Potter unexpectedly launched into a monologue/history lesson about when he was on the Monterey City Council in 1991. He brought up a mysterious “MOU” (Memorandum of Understanding) between the City of Monterey and the Company that had been “put in escrow and there it sat” (Potter’s words). He said the MOU pertained to the “Old Capitol” site, 135 acres of undeveloped land across the freeway from the Del Monte Shopping Center. Potter then alluded to recent conversations about it between himself and Mark Stilwell, VP Real Estate for the PB Co. And then things got very murky.

Continue reading