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CPOA Newsletter June 2008


Environmentally Sensitive Habitat... In theory rare, but according to the CCC, everywhere in Big Sur!

- By Butch Kronlund and Michael Caplin
A recent ruling by the California Coastal Commission effectively broadened the definition of the “central maritime chaparral” plant community (CMC) and declared CMC to be environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA). This decision has the potential to dramatically affect a wide range of activities in the Big Sur coastal planning area. Everything from the issuing of building permits for otherwise appropriate uses, construction of the California Coastal Trail, brush clearing for fire suppression and creating safety turn outs on Highway 1 stand to be made far more difficult to implement.

The California Coastal Act defines environmentally sensitive areas (ESHA) as:

[A]ny area in which plant or animal life or their habitats are either rare or especially valuable because of their special nature or role in an ecosystem and which could be easily disturbed or degraded by human activities and developments.

Court decisions have interpreted Coastal Act ESHA provisions as requiring that ESHA be protected from development, limiting ESHA to uses such as restoration and nature study. Land use attorneys consider land designated as ESHA as being generally unusable.

In January of this year, during an appeal by the Coastal Commission of a coastal development permit that the County approved in the Palo Colorado area, Coastal Commission staff proposed that the CMC plant community be declared ESHA. The rationale was apparently that the California Department of Fish and Game has said that CMC is rare.

Coastal staff had a problem however. The chaparral on the applicant's property did not meet the generally accepted definition for CMC. So, coastal staff redefined CMC to include dramatically more different plant combinations. According to the permit applicant's chaparral expert, coastal staff's new definition for CMC would include all chaparral in Big Sur, and vast areas statewide.

Following their staff's request, the Commission voted that CMC is ESHA, and applied the new, broad definition to find that the chaparral on the applicant's property is CMC.

The Big Sur Local Coastal Program does not declare CMC to be ESHA. It doesn't even mention CMC. An appellate court recently held that the Coastal Commission does not have the power to effectively amend local coastal plans by changing ESHA provisions during appeals on individual coastal development permits.

After discussion at the last meeting of the Big Sur Multi-Agency Advisory Council (BSMAAC), it was decided that a letter should be sent to the Coastal Commission objecting to their actions on this issue. CMC will be on the agenda at the next BSMAAC meeting. You may want to attend and express your views. The next BSMAAC meeting is June 20, 2008 at 10 am, in the Big Sur Lodge Conference Room in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Fire Brigade Honors Founder Gary Koeppel

- By Paula Walling
I did not know Gary Koeppel well until I had the chance to work with him on the Incorporation Committee that LAFCO predictably neutered, much as it tried to do in Carmel Valley recently. Big Sur had as many resources as Carmel Valley to bring to the town-formation table (if not more), but did not have the population or political muscle to defend itself against what's become a virulent federal land expansion, one that results in single corporate concessionaire ownership of commercial buildings within Park and Forest designations- too many such places now to name.

I mention this because it led to a bitter, protracted battle that placed citizens in our peaceful community against one another. For most of us the rancor of the day is long gone. The lessons need to remain fresh however. I carry about an equal amount of guilt and pride for having asked, then begged, Gary during those incorporation meetings to start a Big Sur newspaper. To survive, the community needed voice, one the Pine Cone and the Herald could not provide from a distance. When we shook hands on the deal in the Coast Gallery parking lot July 11, 1978, it was with the question (Gary's), are you sure you can do this?

It was summer. School was out. Yes, I said. That whirlwind month until the Gazette publication celebration dinner at Rocky Point on August 18, 1978, introduced me to so many wonderful aspects of our complex community, so many wonderful people. An unforgettable month. With Gary's support and encouragement, the effort began to take shape. Good grief! A newspaper. That meant events, photos, advertisers, columns, cartoons, literary articles, features, editorials, establishment of specs for letters to the editor, birth announcements, obituaries, fund raisers, movie listings (yes, movies), school announcements, arts, entertainment, the environment, non-profit news and free ads, history, fire and ambulance emergency calls, public service announcements, recipes, classified ads. Who knows how, but all that appeared in the first modest 12-page issue.

It looked like fun--and was--but it was non-stop, ever-vigilant work, never without a pad, pencil, and camera. Not like you had a laptop and email. All typeset by hand--and in my case, hand-written, then typed. That got us started. It was Gary Koeppel though who paid the price of printing, took the political hits, and sustained that fledgling free press that complemented the wonderful Big Sur Round Up (that I predicted to him would outlast our effort). As it turns out, both papers survived; the Round Up in its original and current form, and the Big Sur Gazette, through evolution, as the Coast Gazette, Coasting, Coast Weekly, and now Monterey County Weekly. The paper delighted, informed, and sometimes infuriated readers from here to Washington, DC. It's another story worth the telling, and it introduces the man who had the faith to make it happen, and who, with friends, made the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade happen.

On the front page of the August 1978 Gazette, Pat Chamberlain (the Brigade's first Assistant Fire Chief) plays the villain in the Grange melodrama performance of "Fire! Fire! or Virtue Rewarded." On the last page, the caption under Walter Trotter (the Brigade's first Fire Chief) reads: "HAVE NO FEAR, the Fire Brigade is here."

[Note added 12/2013.  Paula Walling, dearly loved and missed by many, has left this Earth.  The historic Big Sur Gazette she speaks of is now available online at http://www.bigsurgazette.com/.  The August 1978 Gazette, #1,  is here.]

The following are the comments of the Big Sur Volunteer's Founding Foreman, Gary Koeppel on May 17, 2008, as he is honored by the current Fire Brigade and the Big Sur community.

Volunteerism is a Way of Life in Big Sur

- Gary Koeppel, May 17, 2008
My thanks to Chief Pinney for his dedicated service as Chief of the Fire Brigade for so many selfless years and his invitation to speak at this eventful Barbecue celebrating 34 years of fire-fighting service—a barbecue, I might add, that would not be a Big Sur Barbecue without a member of the Trotter family doing the cooking. Thanks, Mike!

When Frank invited me here today, he said I wouldn’t be expected to arrive with my slip-on pumper or turn out gear, which I appreciated because the slip-on pumper unit has long since pumped out and I’d look pretty silly trying to fit into my old turn out gear. A few months ago, Assistant Chief Karstens, asked me to record the history of the founding of the Fire Brigade, a copy of which you can read in the library, perhaps online at the Brigade or Chamber websites, or by emailing me at gary@coastgalleries.com.

The Brigade’s first Fire Chief was the legendary Walter Trotter, who was an extraordinary descendant from the Trotter homestead family whose American pioneer values embodied the very values that have sustained this Fire Brigade. His favorite motto was that the Fire Brigade was “Representation without Taxation”, which defines volunteerism in its highest best form. I enjoyed writing the history of the founding of the Fire Brigade from its legal formation, to appointing Walter as Chief, coining the name and designing the logo, outfitting the firemen with used gear at no cost, buying the first engine for one dollar, setting up communications, and so on.

Recalling the many colorful stories about the legendary Walter Trotter was the best part of this walk down memory lane. For those of you who do not know me, which are many if not most of you, I bought Coast Gallery in 1971 which, six months later, was inundated by a mudslide, but with the volunteer help of the Big Sur community, I rebuilt the gallery with Redwood water tanks and reopened it in 1974. In appreciation of the many residents who volunteered to help me rebuild the gallery, I became a community volunteer and co-founded the Chamber of Commerce in 1973 and founded the Fire Brigade in 1974, the Coordinating Committee in 1975, the Citizen Advisory Committee in 1976. I published the Big Sur Gazette newspaper in 1978, to help stop Big Sur from becoming a National Park, which would have removed its residents and condemned their property— a scheme that will be re-hatched by each generation of bureaucrats and eco-crats who do not understand that people in Big Sur have volunteered to live here and protect their rights and property.

Volunteerism on the Coast is a part of the way of life here. Big Sur residents are the voluntary stewards of the land—the best stewards possible. Big Sur doesn’t not need saving—other than from fire, and we have this great Brigade for that— because Big Sur has already been saved by you, the stewards, the unpaid citizen volunteers. How many times has the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade saved lives, saved property and indeed saved the coast? Far too many times to count. The Brigade epitomizes the best qualities of a community organization in America: it is all-volunteer, self-motivated, self-reliant and self-sustaining. The Big Sur Brigade’s 34-year history of selfless service is one of the good news stories of our time. Today we honor and celebrate all of the heroic members of the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade and its Auxiliary members from the day of its founding into the future of Big Sur.

Update on the Big Sur Portion of the California Coastal Trail

- Pam Peck and Michael Caplin
The State legislature has authorized planning the California Coastal Trail (CCT). The CCT is supposed to pass through California's coastal areas from Oregon to Mexico. The route and other details for much of the trail have not been decided. The legislature made the California Coastal Conservancy the lead agency for planning the CTT.

About a year ago the Conservancy announced it had received funding to hire a contractor to write a master plan for the portion of the CCT that runs from the Carmel River to San Carpoforo Creek in San Luis Obispo County.

Jack Ellwanger thought the Big Sur community should have a greater role in writing the trail plan, so he organized a meeting on the topic at the Big Sur Grange Hall. The meeting was attended by a number of Big Sur residents, representatives from CoastWalk (a statewide organization advocating for the CCT), and a representative from the Conservancy. The outcome was generally positive, but inconclusive as to how the Big Sur community would participate in writing the trail plan.

The Conservancy put out a request for services, asking for bids from potential contractors to head the planning process. It accepted the proposal from LandPeople, a San-Francisco-bay-area trail-planning contractor.

After complaints over lack of community emphasis in the planning process, the Conservancy asked for a proposal from the Big Sur community on how it would like to participate in the planning process. After almost a year of twice-monthly meetings, a trail committee recently completed a draft planning process proposal. The process calls for the trail plan to be written by individuals who are residents or landowners within the area the trail will pass through, with input from the general public and from public agencies that own land in the area.

The community proposal has received strong support from CoastWalk's president, who is enthusiastic about a "community-based" planning process. It was also well received at the last meeting of the Big Sur Multi-Agency Advisory Council, including encouraging comments from Congressman Farr and Supervisor Potter. The general concept is that the resulting trail plan will have the best chance of being non-controversial if people in the area, who will live with the result, have a principal role in deciding where it will go and what it will be like.

Assemblymember John Laird agreed to help broker discussions between the trail committee and Conservancy staff. As a result, the two groups recently met to discuss the community-based proposal. The meeting was not conclusive and another is planned. However, there was general agreement that it would be undesirable to write two plans for the trail using two different processes.

You can read the current draft of the community-based planning proposal, and download it in Adobe pdf format by going to www.pelicannetwork.net/planprocess.htm. The trail committee expects to soon hold one or more meetings in Big Sur to receive community feedback on the proposal. Watch for opportunities to express your views on this community-based process for planning our portion of the CCT.

You can find links to the Coastal Conservancy's request for services and their contractor's response on this web page, www.coastalconservancy.ca.gov/Programs/BigSurCT.htm

How this unfolds depends largely on your participation. You can sign up to receive information via email from the trail committee here, www.pelicannetwork.net/trailcommittee.htm (look for the form down the page).

A Brief History of Acquisitions in Big Sur

- Jeannie Ford and Michael Gilson
Between 1980 and 1986, Senator Alan Cranston, Congressman Leon Panetta and Senator Pete Wilson introduced bills and/or amendments to bills in Congress in an effort to Federalize Big Sur. Though they took different forms, all of the bills would have potentially made possible the eventual acquisition of ALL private land from the Carmel River to the San Luis Obispo county line or beyond. One of the bills clearly provided that private landowners would have one of two options; either sell their land to the federal government or be allowed to live on their property free of cost for 25 years, after which point their land would become government property, with no monetary compensation given. This technique is called a “lease back”. Had this bill passed, there would be no more private land in Big Sur – our community would now be gone. Fortunately, these bills did not pass because local residents put in much effort raising awareness and money to fund flying up to 30 Big Sur residents to Washington D.C. multiple times to lobby Congress.

Big Sur Workforce Housing Update

- Jeannie Ford and Michael Gilson
The Big Sur Workforce Housing Group (BSWHG) is a committee of the Coast Property Owners Association (CPOA). It is made up of interested community members - including employers and employees, landowners and renters – working together to build innovative solutions for creating more workforce housing in Big Sur. Members of the committee include Mike Gilson (Chair), Michelle Rizzolo (Vice-Chair), Rob Carver (Secretary), Ned Callahan, Jack Ellwanger, Thomas Rettenwelder, and Mary Trotter.

Born out of the Big Sur Vision Group, the Big Sur Workforce Housing Project seeks to increase the quantity of affordable workforce housing in rural Big Sur. The project's efforts will incorporate affordability, sustainable building practices, and design principles that are "of the land - not on the land". This will be accomplished with extensive community involvement and respect to the land preservation goals of the local community and property owners.

As development of affordable workforce housing is extremely difficult in general, and traditional workforce housing development models do not apply to an area as unique, expensive, and pristine as Big Sur, this is a complex undertaking. To accomplish our goal will require a extensive web of partnerships, resources, and community and political will. To help facilitate the development efforts, the CPOA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with a non-profit community housing developer called Monterey County Housing, Inc. (MCHI). The BSWHG has also been working closely with employers, non-profits, foundations, and public entities. Our local officials have been supportive and have offered their assistance.

Over the last year, in addition to formalizing the structure of the committee within the CPOA, the BSWHG engaged over 500 Big Sur community members (approximately 1/2 of the total population). The group is currently in the process of completing a community housing needs assessment to identify actual housing needs from both employers' and employees' perspectives. The BSWHG will host larger community meetings when a feasible site has been identified.

In addition to the education and information gathering, the Group has actively pursued several potential sites in the Big Sur Valley area to evaluate site feasibility. Through this pursuit, the land acquisition strategy has been refined to include the use of creative partnerships that allow the cost of the land to be removed from the development costs – in essence providing the BSWHG with "free" land. Some potential partners in these creative strategies include public entities, non-profits, and employers to help facilitate the acquisition or site control of an appropriate parcel in order to develop community workforce housing.

The BSWHG is committed to continuing a vital community in Big Sur through our workforce development efforts. We welcome your ideas, feedback, or offers of free land. You can contact us through our website www.bigsurworkforcehousing.com.

Big Sur Workforce Housing Update

- Jeannie Ford and Michael Gilson
The Big Sur Workforce Housing Group (BSWHG) is a committee of the Coast Property Owners Association (CPOA). It is made up of interested community members - including employers and employees, landowners and renters – working together to build innovative solutions for creating more workforce housing in Big Sur. Members of the committee include Mike Gilson (Chair), Michelle Rizzolo (Vice-Chair), Rob Carver (Secretary), Ned Callahan, Jack Ellwanger, Thomas Rettenwelder, and Mary Trotter.

Watch for the NEW 2008 Big Sur Phone List!

CPOA’s Big Sur Phone List goes on sale at businesses along the coast at the end of this month.

Manzanita Berry Sun Tea*

Fill a one-gallon glass jar with water.
Add 3/4 cup fresh or dried crushed Manzanita berries.
Let sit in direct sun for a couple of hours.
Add honey and lemon to taste.

Pour over ice and enjoy this rare treat!

*This tea is guaranteed to be high in vitamin C.

Update on CPOA and Board Activities

- Lisa Kleissner
2008 has been a busy year for our board. Our ten board members meet once a month to discuss and track these Big Sur Community topics: Workforce Housing, Highway Safety, Regulatory Impacts to Big Sur, community work on the Big Sur Section of the California Coastal Trail, the Big Sur Community Park committee, and an ongoing project of the board, the scanning and uploading to the net of the Gazette. Also, many of our board members are also active in other community efforts including Workforce Housing, the Big Sur portion of the California Coastal Trail, Big Sur PowerDown, and the Big Sur Charter School. CPOA also has a seat at the table of the quarterly BSMAAC meetings held at the Multi-Agency Facility in Big Sur.

We have received donations from the community in support of our Workforce Housing Committee and the Gazette scanning project. The board thanks those donors who have so generously supported these activities.

To reduce our carbon footprint, we are now meeting via conference call every other meeting. Our meeting schedule (subject to change) for the remainder of the year is as follows: June 30th at the Big Sur Bakery, August 4th Conference Call, September 8th at Rocky Point Restaurant, October 6th at the Big Sur Bakery, November 3rd Conference Call, and our annual meeting for the community will be held on November 10th at the Grange Hall. Our final meeting of the year to elect officers will be held at the Big Sur Bakery, Saturday, December 20th. If you would like to participate in any of the conference calls, please use our call in number which is: 800-406-9170, conference ID 9980258417#. All board meetings are open to the general public.

If you are interested in participating and want to talk to a Board member, we have listed all board members at the beginning of this newsletter.

Spare Ribs and Sauerkraut Best Batch Recipe

4 to 6 pounds Country Spareribs, boneless from pork shoulder, cut into chucks and browned. No flour.

1 Big Yellow Onion, chopped and slightly browned after ribs are browned.

Place ribs and onion into big soup kettle.

Add 2 big cans of whole tomatoes chopped; 3 bell peppers chopped, 2 quarts of sauerkraut, salt, pepper and caraway seeds to taste, a half a bottle of white wine (the other half is for the chef!), 3 or 4 small cans of chicken broth, 4 cups of water or so and maybe a couple of crushed garlic cloves.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours until the ribs are tender.

And when you are done, invite your neighbors over for a feast!

- Courtesy of Don and Barbara Layne

CPOA Membership

If you send your email address to info@cpoabigsur.org, we can better inform you on issues affecting Big Sur or send you a membership form.

Coast Property Owners Association, P.O. Box 59, Big Sur, CA 93920
© 2004 by Coast Property Owners Association