General Meeting October 6th, 2003
The Carmel Pine Cone - October 10, 2003 - by Paul Miller
Concerned that their eclectic, rural communities will be swallowed up in a grand plan to preserve open space and increase tourism in Big Sur, the Coast Property Owners Association invited a prominent property rights attorney and a senior planner from the coastal commission to a forum Monday night at Grange Hall.
Lee Otter, who's been with the commission since 1973, was quick to reassure the homeowners that he's on their side when it comes to protecting their homes.
"There's a section of the Coastal Act that protects special communities," Otter said. "Maybe we could use that to draw some lines to protect the people who live in Big Sur."
Pressed by one homeowner to recognize the negative impact of "allowing hotels with $1,000-a-night rooms, but not allowing any housing to be built for the people who work there," Otter said he agreed "completely" that Big Sur wouldn't be the same without workforce housing, and that the coastal commission should help make sure it is built.
His comments came after a vigorous discussion over the future of Big Sur, with CPOA President Mike Caplin telling property owners their participation in the group would make a big difference toward ensuring they'll be able to "use their land with reasonable limits." Since the county is currently revising its General Plan - including numerous policies that will shape Big Sur's future - it is especially important for them to get involved, Caplin said.
Supervisor Dave Potter, who is running for reelection next year, said his role in getting roads reopened after the storms of 1998, opposing a Navy proposal to use Ft. Hunter Liggett to practice bombing runs, supporting the Big Sur Health Center, getting the U.S. Forest Service to modify plans for Pfeiffer Beach, and alleviating traffic gridlock in Carmel Highlands made him deserving of the community's support. He also said he would try to limit short-term rentals in Big Sur.
"When somebody can rent a place for $2,000 a week, it drops out of the housing market for full-time residents," Potter said. He also promised to "continue to be open and accessible and an advocate for the issues of this very special community."
Another candidate for 5th District Supervisor, Susan Goldbeck, made a pitch for votes from the CPOA. "I intend to bring a fresh approach, and I'll make this my full time job," said Goldbeck, a member of the Pacific Grove City Council.
A third candidate, businessman Steve Collins, couldn't attend the forum because he'd just had minor surgery, according to an aide.
Speaking of the pending constitutional challenge to the California Coastal Commission, Otter told the property owners the commission is "sticking to its story" that the Legislature's fix of the coastal commission's appointment structure last spring - when it gave its own eight appointees fixed terms, while letting the governor fire his four appointees "at will" - was sufficient to cure any constitutional problem at the coastal commission.
But Jim Burling of the Pacific Legal Foundation offered a different perspective. "The coastal commission is extraordinarily powerful," he said. "So powerful, in fact, that putting it under control of the Legislature fits the founding fathers' definition of tyranny."