T H E H E R A L D ' S V I E W
Pebble Beach Co. plan has its merits
The Monterey County Herald
Some environmental activists will grumble about the Pebble Beach Co.'s latest expansion plan, which would add hotel rooms and some 190 homes to Monterey County's premiere resort. Any proposal to build anything of substance that close to the ocean and amid so much natural beauty requires special attention, and this plan should and will receive plenty. But it is such an improvement over the oversized and environmentally insensitive plans the company previously tried to push through the Coastal Commission that it may, in fact, be worthy of community support and, perhaps, even from the environmentalist camp.
Perhaps the most compelling feature of this latest plan is something that is not there. A new golf course.
The overly ambitious plan that the commission was compelled to reject in June 2007 called for another golf course, one that would have required removal of more than 15,000 Monterey pines and would have created cart paths where endangered plants now exist.
The golf course was eliminated as Pebble Beach Co. officials negotiated with Coastal Commission staffers in recent months, discussions that commission representatives say produced more areas of agreement than disagreement. Key to easing the staff concerns is that much of the work is proposed for areas that already are fairly heavily developed, so the threat to significant habitat is greatly reduced.
It still will require public hearings and environmental review, coastal plan amendments and development permits. It is a process that could take two years or longer.
The company says the new plan will preserve 635 acres of sensitive forest habitat, including the 137 acres that were proposed for the new golf course. Under the new plan, the Pebble Beach equestrian center would remain at its current location, preserving 42 acres near Sawmill Gulch.
The new housing allowed under the plan would be on large lots, averaging close to an acre each, and the company promises that it would enhance public access to the forest and the shoreline.
Three years ago, The Herald joined with environmental groups and others to vigorously oppose the earlier plans, mostly because they clashed so dramatically with the letter and intent of the Coastal Act. At the time, the only way the Pebble Beach Co. could have won approval would have been through heavy reliance on lobbying and politicking, and even then there seemed almost no chance those grand plans could have withstood legal challenge.
The company now seems to have found a more appropriate path to the expansion it needs to protect its business interests — interests that can have a profound impact on the economy of the region.
It is too early to endorse the project, but it does look promising.
Correction: The editorial on Sunday and an article on Wednesday should have said that the Pebble Beach Co. expansion plan calls for an additional 90 homes, not 190.