Coast Highway Management Plan

October, 2004 update to this page

The Coast Highway Management Plan steering committee voted to adopt the final draft of the CHMP in March of 2004. Some of the changes requested by CPOA and the Big Sur community were included in the final draft, but many were not.

If you have a fast connection you can download the final draft here.

CalTrans did not reproduce for the steering committee public comments submitted on the CHMP by dozens of people from Big Sur, saying they were repetitive of CPOA's position and therefore did not justify separate acknowledgement. Over 70 Big Sur citizens took the time to submit detailed comments, and CPOA thanks you for your support.

One significant change requested by the local community which was not included in the final CHMP is that the future byways committee be comprised of a majority of residents of the areas through which the Big Sur All American Road passes. This is critical because the committee will be responsible for implementing the CHMP.

Many byways committees around the country are comprised almost entirely of local residents. CPOA believes the same should be true for the byways committee overseeing implementation of the CHMP.

CalTrans has said they will let the Big Sur Multi-Agency Advisory Council decide the composition of the byways committee. CPOA has requested that when the issue is addressed, a special meeting be held during non-working hours so residents can attend.

CPOA will inform the community by e-mail when this important issue is to be addressed. If you are not currently on our e-mail list, you can be added by e-mailing


The following was originally posted in February, 2004


In 1996 a handful of people worked to have Highway 1 through Big Sur designated an "
All American Road". Check out the Federal Register (pdf file) for the National Scenic Byways Program which defines this designation. The Big Sur All American Road now runs from the Carmel River on the north, to a few miles south of the San Luis Obispo County line on the south.  Or perhaps further.  

On February 11th, 2004, after repeated requests from the Coast Property Owners Association that CalTrans provide a map of the Big Sur All American Road boundaries, CalTrans posted a map on its Coast Highway Management Plan (CHMP) web site.  The map appears to show the northern boundary of the Big Sur All American Road "corridor" extending as far north as the uppermost ridge line on the north side of Carmel Valley.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  Here is more background before we move on.

All American Roads are part of the National Scenic Byways program administered by the Federal Highway Administration.

There are good reasons to believe that
this section of Highway 1 should not have been designated an All American Road.  For example, designation of All American Roads are typically sought to obtain federal funding to allow the carrying capacity of a road to be increased (e.g., by adding lanes) and then to market the road to attract more visitors to increase tourist based income.

However, California Public Resources Code section 30254 precludes adding lanes to increase the capacity of Highway 1 through Big Sur.  Moreover, peak use of Highway 1 in the Big Sur area is already at or near capacity. Marketing to increase visitation would only jeopardize the quality of the experience for the millions of visitors who currently find their way to the area each year.

Nevertheless, some 75 miles of Highway 1 are now designated the Big Sur All American Road.  

Nomination of an All American Road requires that the proponents list "intrinsic qualities" of the road and designation requires that a "
Corridor Management Plan" be prepared with a vision of how the intrinsic qualities will be maintained or improved.

About 1999, the California Department of Transportation began developing the
"Coast Highway Management Plan" (CHMP).  The CHMP serves two roles. First, it sets out a plan for how CalTrans will maintain the Highway 1 right-of-way through the Big Sur area (the right-of-way is CalTrans's area of responsibility) including such things as dealing with storm damage.  

The CHMP's second role is to serve as a Corridor Management Plan for the Big Sur All American Road.  In that role, it expresses a vision for the Big Sur All American Road "corridor".

CalTrans began the CHMP drafting process by forming a steering committee of stakeholders, comprised of representatives from various organizations. CPOA is one of the participants on the CHMP steering committee.

Over time, the steering committee developed guiding principles for the CHMP and CalTrans drafted specific language.  

The CHMP is organized into 4 documents.  The primary document is the Corridor Management Plan.  There are several sub-documents, called guidelines, that focus in detail on various subjects; namely, the Guideline for Corridor Aesthetics, the Guideline for Vegetation Management, and the Guideline for Landslide Management.

In October, 2003, CalTrans printed a draft of the CHMP and made it available for public comment (the October '03 draft).  
CPOA and numerous citizens in the Big Sur area submitted comments asking for changes.  Most of those changes were effectively ignored by CalTrans and the rest of the CHMP steering committee.

Failure to address CPOA and citizen comments on the October '03 draft was the subject of a Big Sur Multi-Agency Advisory Council discussion, and as a result, CalTrans agreed to make changes to the CHMP.  The steering committee asked CPOA to provide detailed proposed language changes.  CPOA complied with 24 pages of proposed changes to the October '03 draft.

In January of 2004, CalTrans released a "preliminary final draft" of the CHMP (the January '04 draft).  
That document also fails to incorporate most of CPOA's proposed changes.  The January '04 draft will be in its 45 day public comment period until 5:00 pm, March 5th, 2004.  You can request print and CDROM copies of the CHMP documents by phoning Aileen Loe, CalTrans project manager at (805) 549-3103, or email her at  You can also download the documents from or review them in libraries (see for a list of libraries).

On February 11th, 2004, with less than half of the public comment period remaining, CalTrans posted a map of the Big Sur All American Road corridor, showing part of Carmel Valley, all of the Carmel Highlands, and essentially all of Big Sur as being within the Big Sur All American Road corridor boundaries.

General Concerns CPOA has with the CHMP

CPOA's present concerns related to the CHMP can be grouped into four general areas.  

CPOA believes that the corridor boundaries as shown on the corridor map exceed the area intended to be included within an All American Road corridor. Federal regulations define the word "corridor" when used in the context of the Scenic Byways Program:  "Corridor means the road or highway right-of-way and the adjacent area that is visible from and extending along the highway."  Federal Register, May 18, 1995, Vol. 60, No. 96 page 26759.  The map provided by CalTrans includes areas that are not adjacent to the highway, areas that are not visible from the highway, and areas that are neither adjacent to nor visible from the highway.

CPOA also believes that due to the failure to include a proper map with the CHMP when circulated for public comment, the January to March 5th public comment period on the CHMP is defective.  Federal regulations require that Corridor Management Plans include a map showing corridor boundaries:  "The corridor management plan must include at least the following:  (1) A map identifying the corridor boundaries and the location of intrinsic qualities and different land uses within the corridor."  Federal Register, May 18, 1995, Vol. 60, No. 96 page 26761.

CPOA is concerned about the effect the CHMP will have on communities near the corridor, particularly the Big Sur community.  The CHMP expresses a bias against private residences visible from the highway.  CPOA wants to ensure that the CHMP does not encourage the continued buy out of private land in the Big Sur area.  Over one third of the private land remaining in Big Sur has been acquired by public and quasi-public entities since 1986.  The Big Sur community has existed since before California became a state, but is being disappeared parcel by parcel and ranch by ranch as public agencies and quasi-public organizations buy up an average of about 1,000 acres of private land per year.  CPOA is working to end this process.  

CPOA is also concerned about the effect the CHMP will have on the quality of the visitor experience for the millions of people who visit Big Sur each year. Big Sur is one of the few places of its kind left where visitors are not overly managed, but are free to discover and explore on their own.  CPOA believes the informality of the Big Sur experience should be retained.  Similarly, CPOA believes it is critical to avoid overcrowding on Highway 1 and that the best way to do that is to not over-promote the area or substantially reduce the carrying capacity of the highway.

Specific Issues and What You Can Do

CPOA is currently reviewing the January '04 draft of the CHMP.  Given that CalTrans failed to adequately address most of CPOA's proposed changes to the October '03 draft, CPOA's detailed comments on the October '03 draft may be used as a guide to concerns with the January '04 draft until review of the January '04 draft is completed. Please check out CPOA's detailed comments on the January '04 draft.

If you have not done so already, we urge you to provide CPOA with your email address so we can email you CPOA's recommended changes to the CHMP when they are completed.  You in turn can then email your feelings to CalTrans.  Time will be short, and email is our most efficient way to communicate.

Until such time as CPOA's review of the January '04 draft is competed, we urge you to contact CalTrans and tell them that:

  • A proper map must be prepared that shows boundaries of the Big Sur All American Road corridor and land uses within the corridor, and that the corridor must include only those areas that are visible from and adjacent to the highway (CPOA proposes a 400 foot wide corridor for aesthetic purposes), and

  • A new 45 day public comment period must be provided commencing after the new map is included within the CHMP that is circulated for public comment.

You can contact Caltrans by writing them a letter, or by email.

Send emails to:

Mail letters to:

  Aileen Loe  
  California Department of Transportation  
  District 5  
  50 Higuera Street  
  San Luis Obispo, CA  93401-5415  

You can phone Aileen Loe, CHMP project manager at (805) 549-3103.


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