* Monterey Pine Forests Win !!!
* California’s Coastal Commission votes 8-4 to reject Pebble Beach Co.’s Rezoning effort.
* Fifteen year long Forest vs. Golf Course battle seemingly over.
* Supervisor Dave Potter reveals his ugly political face – as Quarterback for Clint Eastwood and Pebble Beach Company Chainsaw Massacre.
We Won. We WON – WE WON !!!!!!!!!!!!!
June 13, 2007.The magnificent dark green cloak covering our Monterey Peninsula is saved from Clint’s and Pebble Beach Company’s Chainsaw Massacre.
Yet it happened in near silence.
Sounding somewhat like being in the forest itself, the cavernous room, bristling with high powered lobbyists, an 800 pound gorilla called the Pebble Beach Company lead by International Celebrities Clint Eastwood and Peter Ueberroth, the national media, determined and organized environmental protection advocates, and California’s most powerful land use agency staff and officials, was almost perfectly quiet.
The only sound was the soft voice of the clerk reading off names of the Coastal Commissioners so they could vote on the rezoning of Pebble Beach Company’s (PBC) properties; and the Commissioners single word responses – yes or no.
When I heard the 4th “No” I realized we had won.
Forests had won. We needed six votes, and earlier debate had shown that we had at least two more from those who hadn’t been called yet. … No, No, Yes, No and No. That did it.
Pebble Beach Company’s Reality Check bounced.
The final vote was 8 to 4 to save 17,000 trees in our priceless, irreplaceable, imperiled Monterey pine forest from being bulldozed into yet another water wasting, pesticide using, natural landscape destroying golf course.
The visceral magic of Forests had beaten back the most determined effort of some of the world’s most influential men, and a billion dollar corporation that had the audacity to fantasize and baldly lie “We are not developers.”
But even after the result was announced the huge room stayed silent. I got up and started hugging people, but still no one was talking, or even moving. Perhaps they didn’t understand or were giving spiritual thanks.
It wasn’t as though they were stunned, just oddly silent.
I had to leave the room and close the door behind me to let out a whoop for joy. (I heard later that broke some of the ice and some people began speaking.)
So What Happened?
The Commission voted down Pebble Beach Rezoning, called Measure A (from year 2000, not the recent General Plan Measure A). The Eastwood Forest Destruction Project which showed up 4 years later was never in front of voters.
Funny how the Pebble Beach Co. never made public until four years after the vote on its zoning, that 17,000 trees would be destroyed for a golf course. Nevertheless, when the zoning was rejected, the project was flushed as well.
It wasn’t as though the Billionaires (Eastwood etc.) weren’t warned. The Commission staff had advised PBC over and over for years to get the rezoning (Measure A) Plan up to them before they spent time and money on their project. But the company was determined to ram both past the Commission at one time. So Monterey County “Planners” colluded with (Choreographed by Tony Lombardo and strong armed by Supervisor Dave Potter) Pebble Beach Co. to keep the zoning from getting voted on for 7 years.
HOPE had strategized from the beginning to not waste time and money campaigning against Measure A at the ballot box because it was so fundamentally and grossly illegal. We decided to wait and save our money to overturn it in Court. We had no idea we would have to wait 7 years to file that suit.
The Commission debate was a cliff hanger. Even though PBC wouldn’t have let the Commission vote on it if they weren’t confident they had the needed 7 votes (we only needed 6 to block it) no one really knew where it would end up. (OK I had an advantage, because I had HOPE ;-) .) During the Commissioner’s debate, the sentiment swayed back and forth several times with Potter shamelessly leading the forest destruction and intentional misrepresentation side.
Yes, Supervisor Dave Potter (the contractor who bought the notorious land use Attorney Tony Lombardo’s mother’s home) flagrantly showed his true colors by forcefully trying to get the Commission to approve massive forest destruction.
Potter stayed right on form as he did when winning the 2005 “Pants on Fire” award arguing it didn’t make any difference if they approved this Zoning now, because the Commissioners could always reject the project later. Commissioner Sara Wan carefully explained how Potter’s opinion was not just wrong, but exactly backwards.
Thankfully the Herald article finally made it clear that Potter is not just on the bad side he’s the Quarterback for the forest destroyers!
Well, we were all in for another surprise.
A few months ago the governor fired one of the fairest and most expert Coastal Commissioners we’ve ever had, Meg Caldwell, who runs Stanford’s Environmental Law program.
Few public interest experts expected a good replacement, since Clint is good friends with Governor Schwarzenegger (he introduced us once at a Carmel City event) and was reported contacting him before the appointment. I recently told the governor that he made a mistake in firing Meg.
Arnold replied “You just wait to see what we’re doing.”
In her stead the Governor appointed Steve Blank who teaches entrepreneurship. Steve Blank gave perhaps the most rational and complete explanation for a vote (later described as a dissertation) that I’ve ever heard.
He carefully described every step on the path to his vote to find the Coastal Act requires that Environmentally Sensitive areas are dynamically realized (as understanding and science advances, not static and fixed in stone as PBC and Monterey County insisted). That meant the Commission must protect the forest and other EHSA.
What a treat when we realized he was voting for the forest. While I’m sceptical, if this is what the Governor meant – I owe him an apology. (However Blank showed his real values when the following day he unsuccessfully tried to get the Commission to do a revote. I can just imagine the “lobbying” on Blank by Pebble Beach Company the night after they lost this vote.)
While many Commissioners voted against the golf course for its enormous environmental harm, the votes that padded the forest victory were those Commissioners who were concerned that Coastal Plan Initiatives permanently takes away the Commission’s ability to “futz” (technical term) with the details.
Potter tried to confuse this, but finally the Deputy Attorney General made it clear saying – if you approve Measure A – you (the Commission) never again get to make even small changes to this Land use Plan – ever. Any changes have to go back to the voters.
With that made clear Chair Mary Schallenberger called for a vote and Potter’s effort (motion) to destroy the forest was rejected.
After the vote Potter joined the huddle with Pebble Beach Company executives, Mark Stillwell, Mark Verbonich, notorious Land Mis-use attorney Tony Lombardo, Alan Williams, and PBC’s paid science mis-representer Andrew Storer.
So in the end Pebble Beach Company had only themselves to blame. Their blind greed to destroy highly protected forest – raised half the Commission votes against them. Then by putting the rezoning on the ballot to remove all Coastal Commission changes – gave the forest a comfortable margin of victory.
So why did Pebble Beach Co. put it on the ballot?
Remember back to the landmark surprise victory we had with Rancho San Carlos (RSC) in 1995? PBC was in close contact with RSC principals during the signature gathering and saw a few things.
1. The horrible publicity RSC developers got for hiring goons to interfere with adorable grey-haired women trying to gather signatures, and maybe more importantly –
2. They lost. (Well partly. We stopped the RSC rezoning – which could only stop the commercial parts. Sadly it didn’t stop the golf course or the mansions.)
3. PBC always knew I was leading the battle to stop their Clint Eastwood Chainsaw massacre, and it was hard to ignore how I was also helping lead the battle to halt the Rancho San Carlos project.
So in a semi-clever attempt to prevent us from overturning their upcoming Pebble Beach project with the voters, they went on the offensive (pun intended) and put it on the ballot first. That was their mostly unopposed million-dollar and painfully deceptive campaign “Save the Forest for Clint.”
This would have allowed them to do things their rented County Supervisors couldn’t get away with. Like change zoning to allow a Golf Course and just as importantly, get rid of the obscure B-8 zoning (which admits there isn’t enough road, water or sewage capacity in Del Monte Forest) without an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
So forests have won. What’s next?
PBC has two options now.
1. While Dave Potter claims they can ask the Commission to revote (called reconsideration) legal experts dispute it saying a revote isn’t allowed for Land Use Plans – only for permits.
2. PBC could sue the Commission.
While both have a faint possibility of success, (and would make their lawyers considerably richer). However, with such a lopsided vote against them a revote would cause bad will for a subsequent project; and with such a huge, clear pile of evidence against them – a suit is bad bet; a very expensive, time consuming, bad bet.
Nevertheless, HOPE will be watching carefully and participating as will many others. Eternal Vigilance is what will save our priceless forest. Our hope is that the majority of the 72 PBC owners will be annoyed that their money has been wasted and insist on a project that doesn’t violate any laws, and genuinely protects this breathtaking imperiled forest.
For more info:
Thanks to Many
Forest Protection Heros —
To name just a few who helped protect our fabulous forest: The eloquent and elegant Janice O’Brien (with the Forest Committee) and exquisitely precise Corky Matthews (of CNPS) have also worked long and hard to protect this priceless, irreplaceable, imperiled forest.
If it wasn’t for Mark Massara, the Sierra Club wouldn’t have been at the Coastal Commission meeting at all. In March 2006 Mark organized dozens of speakers to go to the Monterey meeting and led a well reported hike in the forest. Among other invaluable acts Mark coordinated a Christmas tree giveaway of baby Monterey pines to the Commissioners at their recent December meeting.
Ted Hunter (who joined our side after originally supporting the project as President of the Del Monte Property Owners Assoc.), Carl Nielsen and Bruce Belknap organized many Pebble Beach residents to oppose the golf course.
Thanks to Pacific Grove City Council too. Thanks actually to Carol McCarthy who got the PG Council to oppose Measure A in 2000 and reaffirm it in 2007.
(Outrageously, the City of Monterey sent an employee to Santa Rosa to tell the Commission that Monterey still supported Measure A – even though the city has never taken a position on it !!! In Pacific Grove it is a crime for a staff person to lie about city business. Monterey owes the Commission an apology.)
One of the more amazing things involved the Monterey County Herald. The Herald supported Measure A when it was on the ballot in 2000. Which was no surprise as the Herald had supported every other controversial development. And as far as we know they had never changed a position on any subject.
But the Herald reversed their position in 2006 and opposed the forest destruction rezoning suggesting the PBC strategy was bait and switch. Good move.
Thanks also to HOPE’s trustees (especially Vienna, Terrence, Ed, Dena, and Holly), our members, volunteers and donors (especially Joel Dilworth) for solid persistent support. (As always HOPE again had the largest organized serial presentation for the Commission including Ben, Nancy, Arwyn, Maggy, Rebecca …)
The Coastal Commission staff has to be commended for their standing up to the relentless lobbying of the Pebble Beach Company with their award winning fish stories and “whoppers.” The staff were attacked by the extreme pro-growth media for merely doing an objective report on the science and law of this proposal. Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas calmly told the Commission they could not approve this because it was indefensibly illegal. (Yet PBC “Quarterback” Dave Potter tried to force it anyway.)
Sadly, we’ve lost a few wonderful supporters on the way including the lively Dee Olivetti and the noble gentleman, and my father, Joel Dilworth.
I helped a bit. It was 15 years earlier when I went to the first meeting on the forest destruction golf course project at the Pebble Beach Church in the Forest.
I was amazed that anyone could demand to destroy a priceless forest for a golf course. I knew how special the forest was since I’d grown up playing in it as a youth.
Since that first meeting in 1992 I’d led some 800 people on hikes in the unspoiled native forest to teach them about the native Monterey pine forest ecosystem (believing that once you see it, you’ll love it too.); and collected thousands of signatures to protect the forest.
I’d attended every one of the dozens of official hearings and hundreds of other hearings (except the two where the County deliberately hid the action items from the agenda).
I’d written extensive comments on the 3 projects (the first one for the Sierra Club) and provided hundreds of pages of the best available science for the three EIRs. I’d coordinated and helped write the only lawsuit on the project, HOPE’s.
I organized international concern; organized protests during the golf tournaments, and hired “Mark Twain” (aka the amazing Taelen Thomas) to explain to the Commission the value of California red-legged frogs that would be killed by the golf course project.
HOPE even commissioned a song called “Monterey pine” that was sung to the County Supervisors by the inimitable Pat Clark of the Cachagua Playboys, which had as much effect on the rented Supervisors as a butterfly in Tibet.
In the intervening years my formal Appeal to the Coastal Commission stopped Pebble Beach Company when they tried to expand their driving range. Their tactic then was to withdraw that project so it wouldn’t be voted down. The ESHA issues on the driving range were identical to the bigger project.
I’d essentially put my life on hold for 15 years to protect this forest. But what an eminently worthwhile investment of my life !
But I sure as heck do not deserve all the credit bestowed on me by Paul Miller’s amusing Pine Cone editorial “The Dilworth Phenomena” that came out later that week (Warning for those with weak stomachs: Miller is a bitter enemy of our environment and fawns over Eastwood) .
But the biggest thanks must go to the voters of California who set in motion what we now call our Coastal (Protection) Act of 1976.
Without this powerful law, California’s coast would be paved over by now and our magnificent native Monterey pine forest would be scheduled for wholesale chainsawing. But instead we get a nice dose of …
Now that I reflect on it, what a respectful way to acknowledge protection of a dear forest.
HOPE will be organizing a couple of not so silent parties to celebrate this landmark victory. (One may involve tree hugging) If you do NOT want to be invited, just let me know.
with all my best wishes,
David Dilworth, Executive Director, Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment
NOTICE: This article is newly transferred here from HOPE’s basic website as of Nov 2013