The CARMEL PINE CONE
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P.B. Co. releases details of new plan

- Environmentalists like what they see

By KELLY NIX
Published: January 8, 2010

   THE PEBBLE Beach Co. has unveiled new details of a plan it forged with the California Coastal Commission that allows the development of a new hotel and homes but also protects hundreds of acres of natural habitat in Del Monte Forest.

Last week, the Pebble Beach Co. told The Pine Cone it had struck a deal with coastal staff on a plan to permanently protect 635 acres of sensitive habitat while also permitting the P.B. Co. to build a small hotel at Spyglass, add rooms at The Lodge and The Inn at Spanish Bay, and create new home sites.

The deal also allows Del Monte Forest hiking paths to be designated part of the California Coastal Trail, making Pebble Beach safer and more accessible to bicyclists and walkers coming from Carmel and Pacific Grove.

Though coastal commissioners and the Monterey County Board of Supervisors must first give the plan a stamp of approval before ground can be broken, getting beyond the scrutiny of coastal commission executive director Peter Douglas was the project’s biggest hurdle.

The coastal commission’s staff and the company “agree that the project strikes a reasonable balance,” according to a press release issued by the P.B. Co. this week.
The plan includes environmental protection for about 246 acres of land in Pescadero Canyon, 120 acres of land near Huckleberry Hill, 42 acres at Sawmill Gulch proposed for an equestrian center and 166 acres previously slated for a golf course and driving range, according to the release.

The plan also features a new hotel with about 100 rooms at the Spyglass quarry site, and the addition of 140 new hotel rooms and expanded meeting room at Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach resort facilities.
A new parking lot adjacent to Spanish Bay resort and a golf driving range near Collins Field will also be built if the project is approved.

A new low-density single-family residential development will include 35 lots on 23 acres at the Pebble Beach Company’s corporation yard, while another 55 lots on 56 acres are planned near Poppy Hills and Spyglass Hill golf courses, according to the P.B. Co.

The proposal was warmly met this week by Mark Massara, a former Sierra Club attorney who fought tirelessly against the original plan and helped convince the coastal commission to reject it in 2007.

“I think I speak for the Sierra Club that the new plan represents dramatic progress in the right direction,” said Massara.

Massara said he was directly involved with discussions with coastal commission staff about the settlement plan with the Pebble Beach Company. Though he said there are still concerns about the “continued disturbance” of sensitive habitat in the forest, Massara said it’s much better than the original version that included an 18-hole golf course.

“It’s certainly heavy on the residential component side,” Massara told The Pine Cone Tuesday. “But I will tell you that it’s pleasing on a lot of levels.”

The head of a homeowners group was also enthusiastic.

“We are very pleased that the coastal commission and the Pebble Beach Company reached an understanding that protects the open space and allows the company to improve its facilities,” Al Budris, president of the Del Monte Forest Property Owners told The Pine Cone. “Because that is a benefit not only to the residents of the forest, but also to the Monterey Peninsula.”

The plan also includes improvements to trails to optimize access for pedestrians, bicycles and horseback riders along Del Monte Forest’s shoreline, including allowing the California Coastal Trail to run through Pebble Beach.

Janet Brennan, program director for the League of Women Voters of the Monterey Peninsula, a group that lobbies heavily on local development issues and opposed the original plan for its impact on traffic and natural habitat, said the new version is improved.

“Eliminating the golf course will address a lot of the resource issues,” Brennan said. “This is certainly moving in the right direction, but we need to see the details.”

Besides approval from supervisors and coastal commissioners, the P.B. Co’s new project will require environmental review, zoning amendments and development permits, which the company expects will take about 24 months.

If county supervisors and coastal commissioners agree with the commission’s staff, it will finalize a decades-old battle over the undeveloped land in Del Monte Forest that began in the 1980s, when the coastal commission zoned the forest’s unbuilt property for almost 900 homesites.

In 1999, the P.B. Co.’s new owners, including Clint Eastwood, Arnold Palmer, Peter Ueberroth and Dick Ferris, announced with they were abandoning most of the homesites in favor of a new golf course and new hotel rooms. And the company promised to put the most valuable pine forest in Pebble Beach into an open space preserve.

But the plan was met with vehement opposition by some environmentalists and, in particular, by Douglas.