From the Monterey County
Posted on Fri, Mar. 19, 2004
TO PINES DEBATE TOPIC
By VIRGINIA HENNESSEY
"Pebble Beach needs to be preserved in a very special way to allow people to enjoy it," he said.
Mark Stillwell, the company's executive vice president, detailed for commissioners how the development plan had changed from 500 acres zoned for 890 homes to the plan approved by voters as Measure A in November 2000, which rezones several hundred acres to protected open space and recreational uses, and relocates 38 existing home lots to "less critical habitats."
And Zander challenged the science the commission's staff used to reach its conclusion that undeveloped areas of the forest should be declared "environmentally sensitive habitat areas," or ESHAs, to protect the trees from extinction due to development and pine pitch canker.
In reality, Zander said Thursday afternoon, development in the forest has been relatively limited since the late 1980s. Recent studies, particularly by researchers at the University of California at Davis, have found that pitch canker is less a threat than originally thought, he said.
While there was a rapid die-off of the trees at the beginning of the canker crisis, he said, researchers are now finding that many once-infected trees are now disease-free.
"We believe the need to designate the forest as ESHA is unsubstantiated and contrary to the public mandate (expressed) in Measure A," Zander said.
The company's development partner, Alan Williams, said Thursday afternoon that the commission is advancing an anti-development political agenda.
"We feel very strongly that the Coastal Commission is trying to apply some kind of political position versus proper science for the protection of the pine forest," he said.
For every person who spoke against the commission's recommendations, another spoke in support, including representatives of Monterey Pine Forest Watch, the Native Plant Society, the League of Women Voters and numerous Pebble Beach residents. All of them supported designating the entire remaining forest as protected habitat.
David Dilworth of Helping Our Peninsula's Environment challenged Zander's assertions concerning recent science on Monterey pines and accused Monterey County and the Pebble Beach Co. of "colluding" to keep Measure A from coming before the Coastal Commission for consideration.
"In 1986, 10 years before we knew what pitch canker was, the United Nations declared the Monterey pine an endangered species," he said. At that time it was designated a class 1-B species, one step below 1-A, the designation given to dinosaurs.
"He has absolutely no credentials to take any position on anything," Pebble Beach developer Williams retorted.
Commission Chairman Michael Reilly said he did not want to get into a situation of "dueling scientists," and directed staff to get the best and most recent research on the issue before the commission votes on the matter.
Also on Thursday:
The commission heard heated testimony from Big Sur residents objecting to proposed regulations that would, among other things, limit construction visible from "critical view sheds." The regulations would cover areas that can be seen from public trails and boats sailing off the coast.
Alan Perlmutter, owner of the Big Sur River Inn, said the proposed regulations were "offensive" to the community's residents. Others called the recommendations "absurd" and "Draconian" and said the community previously worked with the commission to establish the Big Sur Coastal Plan. The plan, he said, was still working.
The residents bemoaned the fact that one-third of Big Sur property was now owned by public entities or land trusts and expressed concern that further regulation would choke the fiercely independent and historically funky community.
"We are literally being protected out of existence," said Mike Kaplan.
Commissioner Potter said he supported leaving the Big Sur Coastal Plan untouched.
"Why would we want to go back and open up the Bible and rewrite it? I'm not sure," he said.
Steve Leonard, local general manager and vice president of California-American Water Co., spoke against the commission's recommendations that ownership of desalination plants be limited to public ownership. Cal-Am is teaming up with Monterey County to develop a new water supply, most likely a desalination plant in Moss Landing.
"We think each desalination project should stand on its own merit," he said.
Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 753-6752.