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Pebble Beach Co, Coastal Commission reach agreement

- Hotel rooms, homes and open space — but no golf course

Published: January 1, 2010

   A 10-YEAR battle over the future of hundreds of undeveloped acres in Del Monte Forest may be over, as Pebble Beach Company officials and a former coastal commissioner confirmed Wednesday that an “agreement in principle” has been reached on what can be done with the land.
   In response to questions from The Pine Cone, P.B. Co. CEO Bill Perocchi said the agreement, reached between his company and coastal commission executive director Peter Douglas, provides for “preservation and protection” of more than 635 acres of forested open space, including large stands of native Monterey pines. It also envisions a small hotel adjacent to the Spyglass golf course, up to 80 new hotel rooms at The Lodge and 60 at the Inn at Spanish Bay, and 90 single-family homes, but no golf course.
   “The commission staff and Pebble Beach Company have been working to develop a project which we could both support,” Perocchi said. “We are very pleased that, together, we have been able to achieve that goal.”
   Perocchi was also careful to characterize the agreement as preliminary, pending environmental analysis, public hearings and permit approvals.
   “We are just at the beginning of the public process,” Perocchi said. “We still need to go through the required approval process before both Monterey County and the coastal commission. As we proceed, however, we will know we have the full support of Peter Douglas and his staff for the project.”
   No one at the coastal commission’s offices in San Francisco or Santa Cruz was available to discuss the agreement.
   But former coastal commissioner and Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter confirmed the deal had been reached and said all sides should be proud of it.
  “ There’s still a process to go through, and anything can happen,” Potter said. “But the way the project is designed now really makes environmental and economic sense, and it will be nice to see the whole thing brought to a close.”
   Potter also said that as the negotiations continued — with the direct participation of Perocchi, P.B. Co. Executive Vice President Mark Stilwell, coastal commission senior deputy director Charles Lester and, on at least one occasion, Douglas himself — everyone involved seemed to try to be cooperating.
  “ When all was said and done, both sides realized that differing minds can agree,” Potter said. “At one point during the negotiations, when all the principals had been sitting down together, Peter [Douglas] even said to me, ‘this is a really productive process, and it makes sense to do it this way.”
   The agreement seems to end a bitter fight over undeveloped land in Del Monte Forest that began in the 1980s when the coastal commission zoned the forest’s unbuilt land for almost 900 homesites. When the P.B. Co. was owned by a Japanese golf resort company, it seemed to concentrate on developing some of those homesites.
But after Arnold Palmer, Richard Ferris, Clint Eastwood, Peter Ueberroth and other investors bought the P.B. Co. in 1999, they announced with considerable fanfare they were abandoning most of the homesites in favor of a new golf course and a few new hotel rooms. And the company promised to put the most valuable pine forest in Pebble Beach into an open space preserve.
  “We are downzoning ourselves,” Eastwood told The Monterey County Board of Supervisors in June 2000.
But the plan was met with vehement opposition by some environmentalists and, in particular, by Douglas, who made no secret of his intention to declare the P.B. Co.’s pine forest “environmentally sensitive habitat,” which would put it off-limits to almost all development.
   Seeking to demonstrate the public support for its project, the P.B. Co. put the rezoning needed to fully implement it before the voters. In November 2000, they concurred that the changes were a good idea, supporting the P.B. Co.’s ballot measure 62 percent to 38 percent.
   That was quickly followed by a similar approval by the board of supervisors, which also supported the P.B. Co. plan.
   But despite the solid support of Monterey County residents and elected officials, things ground to a halt when the project’s rezoning reached the coastal commission in June 2007. Heeding the advice of Douglas, the commission voted 8-4 to declare most native stands of Monterey pine as ESHA, and to reject the ballot measure that cleared the way for the P.B. Co. to build its golf course, on which the company had undoubtedly spent millions.
   Since that time, little has been heard about plans for the undeveloped land in Del Monte Forest.
   Despite all the fruitless effort and expense that went into the earlier project, Perocchi was conciliatory.
  “I want to thank Mr. Douglas and his staff for their cooperative and constructive dialogue with us, and look forward to continuing to work with them as we proceed through the approval process,” he said